Call for Papers: (Un)learning Europe through a decolonial lens: Epistemologies, theories, praxes

Special issue for Politique européenne

Special Issue co-editors: Alvaro Oleart (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Margriet Van der Waal (University of Groningen), Astrid Van Weyenberg (Leiden University)

The academic field of European Studies[1] has been historically dominated by a pro-European centrist consensus that appears to be ‘neutral’ and ‘non-political’. This has complicated the publication in mainstream journals of more critical analyses of the European Union, as the borders of what is conceived to be ‘acceptable’ arguments and epistemologies have been, and continue to be, heavily policed. An interesting caveat of mainstream European studies, for example, is the sidelining of Algeria as part of the first European Economic Community, as a dependent colonial territory of France (see Brown, 2022). The same can be said of failing to keep in mind that the borders of some European member states extend into Africa, the Indian ocean, the Pacific, South America and the Caribbean (Bhambra, 2009: 71-72). Relatedly, while European Studies still today often references Europe’s past to make sense of European integration as a process of ‘peace’, it not only tends to sideline colonialism from Europe’s collective memory (Sierp, 2020) and heritage, but omits the central role that colonialism has had in the political unification of Europe (Hansen and Jonsson, 2014; Beuttner 2018). African colonial sites continue to be seen as opportunities for commerce and providers of natural resources to European integration with no meaningful political agency, which has incentivised competition between European countries concerning access and influence in (former) colonial territories. In other words, “colonialism never left Europe unaffected and is still part of European reality” (Kinnvall, 2016: 153). And yet, even when racism within the EU is discussed, it is rarely done so in the context of global European colonialism. Critically decoding European institutional narratives (Van Weyenberg, 2019) to reveal the postcolonial conundrum remains an urgent task, and so does providing avenues for decolonial epistemologies, theories and praxes.

There is, then, still much to do in terms of the democratisation and decolonisation of the academic field in general (Bhambra et al., 2018), and European studies in particular. There is an emergent strand of literature that looks at European studies from a decolonial perspective (Bhambra, 2022; Orbie et al. 2023), but much of mainstream academic scholarship remains cautious of acknowledging the normative and political role of our work, a necessary step to contribute to expanding political discourse and debate on the EU beyond specialised circles. There is an evident tension between academic work and activist spaces, as academic codes often make it an exclusive club that appears impenetrable. This is particularly relevant when considering the links between, for example, (de)colonisation and climate change (Death, 2022), or and institutional inclusivity and diversity policies within academia.

Some academic colleagues view decolonial approaches as driven by ‘ideology’. They are right. While critical approaches have emerged in recent years, the dominant way in which mainstream European studies scholarship has approached EU studies has primarily reinforced the ‘status quo’ – for example by taking a normative liberal approach to the meaning of “democracy”. By contrast, decolonial approaches not only analyse political reality, but also provide conceptual tools to make sense of this reality and contribute to changing it. We academics, particularly in the social sciences and humanities, are political actors insofar our arguments, even if they are meant to be purely ‘descriptive’, have strong ideological and political implications. For academics, the question is not whether we stay out of ‘politics’ or operate as political activists. Instead the key question is to which political purpose are we orienting our work?

Following up on previous special issues (Oleart & Van Weyenberg, 2019; Van der Waal, Van Weyenberg & Volk, 2022), this Special Issue explores the epistemological perspective with which knowledge production processes and decolonial approaches are deployed in the context of European studies. Consequently, it invites theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions that develop decolonial theories and present such praxes within European Studies. It is our goal that these approaches will contribute to ‘unlearning’ Europe.

Possible themes and topics of contributions (the list is orientative, other topics related to the special issue focus are welcome)

1. Knowledge making of ‘Europe’ from a decolonial approach

2. Coloniality and Eurocentrism in mainstream European studies

3. Renegotiating the history of the European integration project

4. Literary approaches to unlearn ‘Europe’

5. The entanglement of racism and colonialism in the EU context

6. Political theory on the tension/relationship between academia and activism

7. (Un)learning ‘Europe’ from Global South and Global East perspectives

8. Intersectional scholar-activism: feminism, gender, decolonisation, class

9. Indigenous struggles and indigeneity in relation to ‘Europeanness’

10. Migration and (de)colonisation

11. Decolonising teaching methodologies and practice

12. Critical and dissonant heritages

13. Decolonisation and climate change

Practical details

Proposals should include a working title, an abstract (200 words max.) and a short biographical note (100 words max.) and are due by 6 October 2023. Send your proposal to Alvaro Oleart (, Margriet Van der Waal (, and Astrid Van Weyenberg ( Please send the abstract in English, but note that the articles can be written in English or French.

The editors of the Special Issue will notify authors of provisional acceptance or rejection by early November. We plan to organize a (hybrid) writers’ workshop with all authors of selected contributions by the end of January/early February 2024. A first draft should be ready by half March, for feedback by the editors, and final drafts should be ready for submission to the peer review system by the beginning of June 2024. Final versions of the contributions should be ready in the autumn of 2024.

Please note that Politique européenne requires articles between 7000-8000 words, including tables, references, figure captures, and endnotes. Please also note that final acceptance is conditional upon the outcome of assessment by the peer reviewers, and the final acceptance by the journal of the Special Issue as a whole. Specific instructions and journal requirements will be sent to authors whose proposals have been accepted by the editors of the Special Issue.

You can download this CfP in .pdf here.


Bhambra, G. K. (2022). A Decolonial Project for Europe. Journal of Common Market Studies, 60(2), 229-244.

Bhambra, G. K., Gebrial, D., & Nişancıoğlu, K. (eds.) (2018). Decolonising the university. London: Pluto Press.

Bhambra, G.K. Postcolonial Europe, or Understanding Europe in Times of the Postcolonial. The SAGE Handbook of European Studies, edited by Chris Rumford, 69–85. London: SAGE, 2009.

Brown, M. (2022). The Seventh Member State: Algeria, France, and the European Community. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Buettner, E. (2018),. “What–and who–is ‘European’ in the Postcolonial EU?  Inclusions and  Exclusions in the European Parliament’s House of European History,” BMGN-Low Countries Historical Review 133.4,132-148.

Death, C. (2022). Climate fiction, climate theory: Decolonising imaginations of global futures. Millennium, 50(2), 430-455.

Hansen, P., & Jonsson, S. (2014). Eurafrica: The untold history of European integration and colonialism. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Kinnvall, C. (2016). The postcolonial has moved into Europe: Bordering, security and ethno‐cultural belonging. Journal of Common Market Studies, 54(1), 152-168.

Oleart, A., & van Weyenberg, A. (Eds.). (2019). Narrating” Europe”: a contested imagined community. Politique Européenne 66(4).

Orbie, J., Alcazar III, A. S. M., Bougrea, A., Nagy, S., Oleart, A., Paz, J. C., Sebhatu, R. W., Williams, T. G. & Wodzka, I. (2023). Decolonizing Rather than Decentring ‘Europe’. European Foreign Affairs Review, 28(1), 1-8.
Sierp, A. (2020). EU Memory Politics and Europe’s Forgotten Colonial Past. Interventions, 22(6), 686-702.
Van der Waal, M., Van Weyenberg, A., & Volk, S. (2022). Introduction: Heritage and the making of ‘Europe’. Journal of European Studies, 52(3-4), 163-169.
Van Weyenberg, A. (2019). “Europe” on Display: A postcolonial reading of the House of European History. Politique européenne, 66(4), 44-71.

[1] With European Studies we refer not only to EU Studies (the evolution and dynamics of EU institutions and European integration), but also to the broader inquiry into the societal effects of European integration and Europeanization as it is studied in a broader range of fields including, among others, sociology, history and cultural studies.