Knowledge and racial violence: the shine and shadow of ‘powerful knowledge’

03 May 2018

This paper offers a critique of ‘powerful knowledge’–a concept in Education Studies that has been presented as a just basis for school curricula. Powerful knowledge is disciplinary knowledge produced and refined through a process of ‘specialisation’ that usually occurs in universities. Drawing on postcolonial, decolonial and Indigenous studies, we show how powerful knowledge seems to focus on the progressive impulse of modernity (its ‘shine’) while overlooking the ruination of colonial racism (its ‘shadow’). We call on scholars and practitioners working with the powerful knowledge framework to address more fully the hegemonic relations of disciplinary specialisation and its historical connections to colonial-modernity. This, we argue, would enable curriculum knowledge that is ‘powerful’ in its interrogation of racial violence, rather than in its epistemic reproduction of it.