Don’t Throw the Colonial Text Out with Its Ideology!: Recruiting a Colonial Text to Do Decolonial Work on a University Academic Literacy Course


Since 2015, South African universities have undergone a major overhaul, with students nation-wide taking calling for a decolonised institutional ethos, and for curriculum reform to introduce texts and approaches that do not perpetuate colonial ideologies. This presented an opportunity for disciplines to shed untransformed ways of knowing, to consider more relatable ways of knowing. A glance at recent publications in the region reflects this impetus. It is in this climate that our academic literacy course, Writing across Borders, was launched in 2019 to foster critical reading, writing and researching practices, exposing students to diverse texts, including a history textbook prescribed during Apartheid era. Our use of this textbook presently could therefore be questioned. We argue however, that instead of throwing the colonial text out with its ideology, the text can be recruited for decolonial work, to reveal its problematic constructions of race and its contradictions. In this paper, we therefore model some of the class discussions around the history textbook, applying a Critical Discourse Analysis lens to it. This lens allows for a multi-layered analysis of the textbook, looking at its textual, discursive, social practices, and surfacing the asymmetries of power that created the conditions for social injustices in the colonial and post-colonial contexts. The analysis demonstrates that meaning does not reside in the text alone, but in how it is used to achieve its decolonial meaning potential, and to invite us all to unlearn our enduring racial biases. It thus offers us pedagogical possibilities by harnessing colonial texts differently.


Cloris Porto Torquato
Professor, Department of Language Studies, Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa, Paraná, Brazil

Moeain Arend
Senior Lecturer, Language Development Group, Centre for Higher Education Development, University of Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Aditi Hunma
Senior lecturer, Language Development Group, Centre for Higher Education Development, University of Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Literacies Learning



Digital Media


Don’t Throw The Colonial Text Out With Its Ideology!