Haji Mohamed Idris

Claude Alvares

Gustavo Esteva

Anwar Fazal

Ashis Nandy

Vinay Lal

Shilpa Jain

Website created by:
Vinay Lal, Associate Professor of History, UCLA, USA

All material on this site is coyrighted:
Vinay Lal, 2005.

Authors of individual pieces hold the copyrightto their own pieces. However, all material may be reproduced freely, without
permission, though it is requested
that proper acknowledgment be made to the author(s) of the pieces being


Website created by:
Vinay Lal, Associate Professor of History, UCLA, USA

All material on this site is coyrighted:
Vinay Lal, 2005.
Authors of individual pieces hold the copyright
to their own pieces



Redesigning Social Science Curricula: The Second Multiversity Conference
Penang, November 2004

by Vinay Lal


The core members of Multiversity (S. M. Mohamed Idris, Claude Alvares, Anwar Fazal, Ashis Nandy, Yusef Progler, and Vinay Lal among those who were present at the first meeting as well), and about thirty invited participants from India, Pakistan, Malaysia, the United States, Peru, Zimbabwe, and a few other countries gathered in Penang for Multiversity's Second Conference on "Redesigning Social Science Curricula". Intellectuals, scholars and activists all over the global South are deeply aware of the fact that the humanities and social science curriculum in their countries at all levels of education, but especially in secondary schools, colleges, and universities, has been adopted lock, stock and barrel from the West. Nowhere is this problem more acute than in the social sciences, particularly in those disciplines, such as economics, which purport to be 'scientific' and have remained willfully oblivious to all criticism. Notwithstanding the regimen of textbooks which reflect the nationalist ethos in every country, students often are more likely to learn about the Tudor and Stuart periods of English history than about the history of their own countries. The familiarity that students have with their own literatures is woefully inadequate, and not merely because the Harry Potter novels have now become synonymous with "literature". Other pathetic instances of these forms of homogenization of what counts as literature, history, or knowledge more broadly can be multiplied ad infinitum. A more elaborate narrative on the globalization of knowledge systems is available elsewhere on the pages of this website.

It is to discuss these issues that a meeting was called in Penang. Formal presentations were complemented by lengthy discussions. A number of documents emerging from that meeting furnish some clues as to what transpired and the initiatives that members of Multiversity are inclined to take to decolonize the formal educational systems and frameworks of knowledge which have been inherited by the peoples of the south. The following brief documents can be consulted, though readers are also invited to consult the papers published in the special issues of the journals "Humanscape" (April 2005) and "Third World Resurgence" (January-February 2005):

Claude Alvares, "Redesign of Social Science Curricula", advance note on the meeting.

Claude Alvares, "Multiversity: Its Idea, Task, and Future", introductory speech.

S. M. Mohamed Idris, "Away with the Captive Mind", Inaugural address.

Ashis Nandy, "What Is To Be Done?", a draft note circulated at the meeting's conclusion.


At a Glance:
Mulitversity Related

Recapturing Worlds:
The Original Multiversity

Penang 2002: The First Conference on the Deconstruction
of Knowledge

Dissenting Knowledges Pamphlet Series (ed. Vinay Lal)

Radical Essentials Pamphlet Series (ed. Yusef Progler)

Penang 2004: The Second Conference on Redesigning Social Science Curricula

Special issue of Humanscape on Multiversity (April 2005)

Special issue of Third World Resurgence (2005) on Multiversity

The Dissenter's Library
Essays, Articles, Papers
Kamirithu: The Newsletter of Multiversity
Readers in the Disciplines