Is decolonising philanthropy making headway?

Allyne Andrade E Silva and Graciela Hopstein

The colonial mentality has infected the practice of philanthropy in Brazil, but there are transformative ways to overcome it

Philanthropy has traditionally been framed around a colonialist extractive rationale. Coloniality of power is a term coined by Anibal Quijano to characterise the typical pattern of global domination in the modern capitalist system, the origin of which lies in the European colonialism of the early 16th century. Throughout the colonial process, Europe adopted the pretension that it was a centre of civilisation, more advanced in the development process not only of politics and economics but also of the human species itself.

This Eurocentric and colonising view is expressed in hegemonic philanthropy in different ways. Firstly, there is an enormous disconnect between those who make decisions on funding and those who receive donations/grants.

According to Quijano, this is also experienced in the domination ‘of the models of control of subjectivity, culture and especially in the production of knowledge’. Quijano identifies the following as the most important elements of Eurocentrism: a) a particular articulation of dualism (precapitalist/capitalistic, non-European/European, primitive/civilised, traditional/modern etc) and a linear, one-directional evolution from a state of nature to modern European society; b) the rationalisation of the cultural differences between human groups by means of the idea of race; and c) the distorted-temporal view of all those differences by seeing non-Europeans and their culture as anachronisms.

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