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date: 25 June 2022

Decolonial Perspectives on Psychology and Developmentlocked

Decolonial Perspectives on Psychology and Developmentlocked

  • Glenn Adams, Glenn AdamsUniversity of Kansas
  • Annabella Osei-TutuAnnabella Osei-TutuUniversity of Ghana
  •  and Adjeiwa Akosua AfframAdjeiwa Akosua AfframUniversity of Ghana


Standard constructions of history pose a celebratory narrative of progress via modern individualist development. In contrast, decolonial perspectives emphasize the coloniality inherent both in Eurocentric modernity and in the individualist selfways associated with Eurocentric modernity. The coloniality of modern individualist selfways is evident not only in the racialized violence that enabled their characteristic experience of freedom from constraint, but also in the epistemic violence that results from the imposition of these ways of being as a developmental standard. Research in West African settings illuminates these forms of epistemic violence. Standard accounts tend to pathologize West African ways of being as immature or suboptimal in relation to a presumed universal developmental pathway toward psychological autonomy. A decolonial response, rooted in decolonial perspectives of Southern theory or epistemology, follows two analytic strategies that disrupt standard accounts. One strategy draws upon local understanding to illuminate the adaptive value of West African patterns. Rather than manifestations of backwardness on a trajectory of modern individualist development, these ways of being reflect developmental trajectories that emerged as an adaptation to cultural ecologies of embeddedness. The other strategy draws upon West African settings as a standpoint from which to denaturalize the modern individualist selfways that hegemonic perspectives regard as just-natural standards. Rather than naturally superior forms, the widespread promotion of modern individualist selfways has harmful consequences related to the narrow pursuit of personal fulfillment and corresponding disinvestment in broader solidarities. With the growth orientation of modern individualist development pushing the planet toward a future of ecological catastrophe, decolonial perspectives direct attention to West African and other communities in the Global South for ways of being, rooted in Other understandings of the past, as a pathway to a sustainable and just future.


  • History and Systems of Psychology

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