Knowledge Hegemonies and Autonomous Knowledge

Date: 21 Oct 2022
Time: 15:00-18:00
Venue: Mid-size room in Inamori Building, CSEAS, Kyoto University
Zoom Link:
Meeting ID: 846 2569 2565
Passcode: 687952

Speaker: Syed Farid Alatas

With the emergence of the modern social sciences in the nineteenth century came recognition of
the problem of knowledge imperialism both in the imperial centres as well as the colonised world,
understood to be inseparably tied up with the dominant orientation in knowledge production,
Eurocentrism. This orientation is still held to dominate the various disciplines in the humanities
and social sciences. While there is much consensus over this characterization of the problem, the
assumption that the central ideological problem in knowledge production is that of Eurocentrism
is not sound. There are several other hegemonic orientations that affect knowledge production in
the Third World, many of which predate the colonial period by centuries and have little to do with
the colonial experience. These include androcentrism, traditionalism, culturalism,
ethnonationalism and sectarianism. If this is true, then the task of decolonizing knowledge is far
from sufficient. For this reason, scholars in the Malay world speak of the need to generate
autonomous knowledge, that is, knowledge that is autonomous from not only Eurocentric but also
other hegemonic orientations. This presentation discusses the dominant hegemonic orientation in
knowledge production in our times and the response to these in terms of the idea of autonomous

Syed Farid Alatas is Professor of Sociology at the National University of Singapore, and Visiting
Professor at the Department of Anthropology & Sociology at the University of Malaya. He
also headed the Department of Malay Studies at NUS from 2007 till 2013. Prior to joining NUS he
taught at the University of Malaya in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies. In the early

1990s, he was a Research Associate at the Women and Human Resource Studies Unit, Universiti
Sains Malaysia. Alatas has authored numerous books and articles, including Applying Ibn Khaldun:
The Recovery of a Lost Tradition in Sociology (Routledge, 2014), and (with Vineeta Sinha)
Sociological Theory Beyond the Canon (Palgrave, 2017); “Political Economies of Knowledge
Production: On and Around Academic Dependency”, Journal of Historical Sociology 35, 1(2022):
14-23; and “Knowledge Hegemonies and Autonomous Knowledge”, Third World Quarterly
(forthcoming). His areas of interest are social theory, religion and reform, the sociology of Islam,
intra- and inter-religious dialogue, and the study of Eurocentrism.

Caroline Hau (Kyoto University)
Ramon “Bomen” Guillermo (University of the Philippines)

Takamichi Serizawa (Kyoto University)

This workshop is supported by the Future Development Funding Program of Kyoto University Research Coordination Alliance.