UP CIDS Decolonial Studies Program

Dr Nassef Manabilang Adiong, Ms Frances Antoinette C. Cruz, and Mr Kebart P. Licayan are excited to be working with the Decolonial Studies Program, a new program of the University of the Philippines’ Center for Integrative and Development Studies.

UP CIDS Decolonial Studies Program

The term modernity/coloniality (Quijano 2007; Mignolo 2007) is often used with reference to continuing and often deleterious processes, conditions, and attitudes brought about by the colonial period, which Quijano and Mignolo argue is inextricably linked to the epistemology of modernity. Interrogating coloniality therefore involves identifying those aspects of Western modernity in postcolonial states and involves a critical engagement with colonial-era texts, collective memory and the use of both colonial and local languages.

The Decolonial Studies Program focuses on five different dimensions of coloniality/modernity that continue to impact institutions in the Global South in ways that often hinder them from achieving their liberating potential: religion, law, English Studies, European Studies, and Southeast Asian Studies. The program does not intend to limit itself to area studies and seeks to involve comparative cross-disciplinary analyses in various Global South regions. In addition, its disciplinary scope may expand over the years as potential Global South scholars from humanities, philosophy, social sciences, and natural sciences will join the program.

The first two fields present both epistemological and ontological challenges due to the sheer divergences of experience and worldviews between colony and colonizer.  Issues of translation, hybridization, and localization have led to various contradictions and deviations from European expectations without necessarily capturing local needs, realities, and belief systems. The latter three fields are closely linked to educational policies and a supposedly non-biased construction of disciplines or areas of study. Their proponents strive to identify which approaches or practices in the Global South, Southeast Asia, or the Philippines in particular, can help cultivate an environment more conducive to critical and reflexive thought.

DSP envisions to submit the deliverables (e.g. discussion papers and policy briefs) within one year of commencement of the program. These documents will be drawn from the roundtable discussions that will be held between May and August. The convener is M.A.J. Villaceran, the co-convenor is F.A.C. Cruz, and the project leaders are N.M. Adiong, D.B. Gatmaytan, and R. Guillermo. The program produces scholarly works that decolonize selected bodies of knowledge in the Philippines. Each of them will head a research project that constitute the entirety of DSP.

  1. Decolonizing Religion in the Philippines by Asst. Prof. Dr. Nassef Manabilang Adiong, Institute of Islamic Studies, UP Diliman;
  1. Decolonizing Law in the Philippines by Professor Atty. Dante B. Gatmaytan, College of Law, UP Diliman;
  1. Decolonizing English Studies in the Philippines by Asst. Prof. Dr. Marie Aubrey J. Villaceran, Department of English and Comparative Literature, College of Arts and Letters, UP Diliman;
  1. Decolonizing European Studies in the Philippines by Asst. Prof. Frances Antoinette C. Cruz, Department of European Languages, College of Arts and Letters, UP Diliman;
  1. Decolonizing Southeast Asian Studies in the Philippines by Professor Dr. Ramon Guillermo, Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature, College of Arts and Letters, UP Diliman.

  1. Decolonizing Religion by N.M. Adiong

There is no common understanding of the meaning of religion whether in social sciences, theology or philosophy. Some may perceive religion as the fundamental force or energy of the cosmos, while others conceive it as the singular and central invisible force that drives and moves people. It thus far gives meaning of what it really meant to become a human being which feeds the mind, body and soul of a human. There are two basic ways that religion can affect the world: by what it says and by what it does. The former relates to religion’s doctrine or theology, the latter refers to its importance as a social phenomenon and mark of identity. This can work through a variety of modes of institutionalisation, including church–state relations, civil society and political society. Religion or ‘religions’ are actually modern inventions that are made to appear ubiquitous, in a sense that it is present everywhere, and have been marginalized and privatized because it construed to be only serving the mystification of the supposed natural rationality of the secular (e.g. the modern nation-state and the capitalist systems). To decolonize religion in the Philippines, it is essential to go back to the obsolete spiritual customary laws of a pre-colonial Filipino society and how colonial religious inscriptions changed and were adapted within the traditions, customs, and norms of present-day Filipinos. This project is divided into two parts, one is deciphering decolonial constructs of Christianity, the other, of Islam. Bulk of studies will focus on religious influence to policy making and public opinion.

  1. Decolonizing Law by D.B. Gatmaytan

President Rodrigo Duterte’s popularity despite his contempt for constitutional rules raises questions about how democratic and republican ideals have not taken root in the Philippines. There are two strands in the legal literature that implicate the transfer of law. Both address the failures of these transfers. There are “rule of law” or “law and development” projects designed to implant western legal concepts to failed states. These studies attempt to address the reasons why adoption of western structures have not allowed States such as Afghanistan to flourish. States created in the image and likeness of the colonizer are seldom accurate copies of the original. The other studies address piecemeal adoption of laws from one state by another. These inquire into the reasons why the transfer of patent laws, judicial reforms, human rights, run into problems in implementation and design. Scholars in this area try to determine why “legal transfers” also fail. Both sets of studies assume the necessity and benevolence of these projects. I suggest, however, that these efforts, however seemingly benign, are the continuation of the subjugation inherent in the colonization processes. I will demonstrate how the US in particular “abandoned a commitment to legal cosmopolitanism and developed a contemporary legal culture both parochial in its resistance to engaging foreign legal experience and universalist in its messianic desire to export American law abroad.” Current “rule of law” projects are tainted with the same unspoken premises. There is a superior system that have to be adopted by other states. Similarly, piecemeal transfers of law are premised on the improvement of laws on the part of the recipient states. The failure to acknowledge the colonial strain in these projects dooms these efforts. A new approach that respects the conditions and demands from recipient states is needed to create a scheme that facilitates the transfer of legal ideas. This study is intended to inform any discussion on constitutional change, hopefully to reorient the discourse away from blind adoption of foreign concepts.

  1. Decolonizing English Studies by M.A.J. Villaceran

English Studies in tertiary education continues to be a site of contestation.  Teaching English in Philippine classrooms is not about an aesthetic appreciation for Anglo-American literary works but is also geared towards acquiring skills that, according to a joint statement by ASEAN education ministers where they include English Language Education as an area, “will help narrow development gaps” (8th ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting, 2014). Concerns about English instruction diminishing a sense of nationalism and marginalising Philippine languages continue to this day. One possible way of bridging this divide or addressing these concerns is through the decolonization of English Language Education (ELE). One recognized method for decolonizing English language teaching in the Philippines is through contextualization by the use of indigenous, local cultural, and experiential resources to generate materials for teaching. A decolonization of English studies involves the inclusion of literatures in English from the non-West and an acknowledgment of how they have enriched and transformed the field of English studies.  Another attempt at decolonization is through the pluralization of English – the acknowledgement that other varieties of English, not just “Standard” English, can be used in teaching as well. This is based on the assumption that Philippine English is a legitimate variety of English and is as intellectualized as any other Englishes (Tupas, 2016).

This proposed research project will: 1) conduct a desktop review study on the presence and purpose of the term “decolonisation” in curricular offerings and syllabi of the English Departments of three major universities in the Philippines to discover its traction in English language instruction and English Studies in said universities, 2) carry out case studies, FGDs on best practice towards a decolonisation of English language skills teaching and English Studies, and 3) recommend new policy-oriented approaches to a decolonised teaching of English skills and English studies.

  1. Decolonizing European Studies by F.A.C. Cruz

This program seeks to empower the role of the academe in formulating policies to disseminate and preserve key texts, such as travel diaries, essays and books, on the Philippines and selected countries in the Global South that were written in foreign languages through translation and digitization. This endeavor is proposed due to the significant risks that fire and other natural calamities pose to valuable historical collections and the country’s collective memory, as well as the need to increase awareness of transnational and intercultural themes in the teaching of European Languages and History. By providing a venue for cooperation with translators and librarians, it aims to collect best practices for a policy that will entail the selection and migration of works to online platforms and formulate translation and selection policies for key works written about the Global South that have been rendered inaccessible due to their lack of English or Filipino translations. These procedures shall include digitizing, translating, creating public access to, and digitally storing French, Italian, German and Spanish travel diaries, ilustrado writings, records, and newspaper commentaries on the Philippines. Secondly, the project shall assess foreign language policies in the country and evaluate the viability of including and didacticizing intercultural and transnational approaches in (non-English) language programs through workshops and FGDs. This will, in the conceivable future, help stimulate the conscious creation of teaching materials that integrate intercultural competencies and may address the gap in cultural and linguistic skills for Foreign Language Teachers in postcolonial societies.

  1. Decolonizing Southeast Asian Studies by R. Guillermo

It might be strange to talk about “decolonizing” something which hardly seems to exist in the first place. However, this study aims, in the first place, to undertake a comprehensive survey of the current state of Southeast Asian (SEA) Studies in the Philippines and neighboring countries, while secondly, making the case that it is precisely the incomplete or unachieved “decolonization” of this particular area of study which has hampered the full development in SEA Studies in the Philippines and its regional neighbours. The longstanding dominance of the Anglo-American and European metropoles in SEA Studies has prevented the development of regional and national centers of intellectual contact and communication within SEA itself, and necessitates a nuanced set of policies that strengthen education about SEA on one hand, as well as identifying which areas of endeavor can reasonably engender deeper social and cultural ties.   The study ends with proposals for overcoming the current hurdles in the construction of a genuinely Southeast Asian SEA Studies.


Mignolo, Walter D. 2007. Delinking. Cultural Studies, 21:2-3, pp. 449-514.

Quijano, Aníbal. 2007. Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality. Cultural Studies, 21:2-3, pp. 168-178.

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