Our Mission

Diversifying and Decolonising Economics (D-Econ) is a registered charitable organisation that aims to decolonise and diversify the economics field, both in terms of its academic content and its institutional structures, in order to ultimately support movements and struggles for global justice and achieve a more just society. We are working to promote an economics field free of discrimination, including sexism, racism, elitism, and discrimination based on approach and geography. We are also working to challenge Eurocentrism in the economics discipline, both in its theories and practices. This involves promoting inclusive practices at sites that determine what legitimate knowledge is, including conferences, workshops, journals, editorial boards, boards of economics organisations, syllabi, economics departments, and classrooms. It also encompasses interrogating and challenging the ways in which the economy itself is sexist, racist, and colonial, and the consequences of an economics field that fails to acknowledge  this. We locate the struggle to change the economics field within the broader material struggle against racism, sexism, elitism, and imperialism in society at large.

We take a holistic approach, as our mission involves three related, yet distinct, goals. These are:

  1. Decolonising economics by tackling the historically produced Eurocentrism in our field and its claim to neutrality and universality,
  2. More openness in terms of theoretical and methodological approaches, and
  3. Tackling structural exclusion in the economics discipline in order to remove barriers to equal representation in terms of identity.

Progress on these three fronts has the potential to nurture a field that is an open and inclusive space for thought and inquiry, which is more likely to generate knowledge and debate about issues relevant to the majority of the world than what is currently the case. Such a holistic approach would also benefit the general public, given the influence economists have on public policy and political discourse. The current homogenous composition of the profession is no accident, but a result of historical and systemic exclusion. Hence, we also consider it to be a matter of fairness to work towards a more inclusive field.

Our holistic approach distinguishes D-Econ from existing initiatives promoting diversity and pluralism in economics. We strongly believe that any approach that focuses exclusively on only one of the above-mentioned three elements runs the risk of being insufficient, as it ignores other key aspects of marginalisation in the field. For example, diversity in identity is not enough to reverse the biases in the field if the dominance of the current paradigm and its current take on race and racism are also not challenged. Diversity is important for its own sake as well as for  intellectual reasons. A narrow, largely white, and/or largely male curriculum is intellectually unsound and a form of “unmarked narrow identity politics”. But equally, diversity is not decolonisation and can, in fact, undermine decolonisation if it allows orthodoxies to remain unchallenged and centre stage. Taking a holistic approach to decolonisation and diversification means to recognise and address “multiple social forces, social identities and ideological instruments through which power and disadvantage are expressed and legitimized”. It also means recognising that discrimination in academia – be it due to race, gender, class, geographical location, and/or approach –  is not divorced from broader struggles, as social movements have long acknowledged. We believe it is imperative to work with organisations and activists across the world that have similar missions in order to achieve our common goals.

D-Econ welcomes members of all identities and from all geographical locations. We are convinced that we are all responsible for challenging and fighting the racism, sexism, and colonisation of and within the economics field, the university, and society more broadly, regardless of where we are located, the colour of our skin, our gender, and our class background. Just as women alone cannot be solely responsible for challenging patriarchal structures, people in the Global South alone cannot be solely responsible for challenging colonial structures. Just as people of colour cannot be solely responsible for challenging racism, people from the working class cannot be solely responsible for challenging elitism. We must build broad coalitions where people with privileges based on issues such as their location, race, gender, or class background also fight against structural discrimination. After all, inclusivity, diversity, and equality are not only in the interest of the excluded but in the interest of everyone who wants a better and more just economics and society. D-Econ’s mission is about creating – not taking – space for marginalised scholars and scholarship. We are therefore committed to using our platform and resources as best we can to elevate the voices and struggles of marginalised scholarship and scholars, and to build partnerships with other groups across the world that have similar missions to ours.

We explain our mission further below.

Decolonising what economics is and how it is done

Economic theories, like other social theories, are influenced by the context in which they are produced, and they might express certain privileged perspectives. Economic theories produced in the Global North – that dominate economics textbooks globally – may, therefore, not be particularly relevant for understanding global problems or economies with different institutional structures, for example, due to their colonial past or peripheral position in the global economy.

Historical processes of colonisation and imperialism have led to a limited understanding of what counts as expertise and who counts as an expert, discriminating against ideas and scholars from outside the Global North. We believe decolonisation of economics necessitates: 

  1. Recognising the historically produced Eurocentrism in our field, 
  2. Working towards identifying and breaking down the barriers that exclude scholars and ideas from outside of the Global North, 
  3. Reconsidering economics’ claims of merit, neutrality, and universality, and 
  4. Situating economics within and creating a discipline that can support the material struggles of decolonisation. 

Decolonisation is not simply about providing historical context, but acknowledging that theories from outside the Global North can provide fruitful starting points. Seeking decolonisation may also involve acknowledging that theories produced within the Global North have often been developed in dialogue with scholars in the Global South, even if those dialogues and colonial contexts are not fully acknowledged by authors of ‘classical’ texts. Scholarship from the Global South has, for example, provided important contributions to our understanding of subordination and uneven development. In fact, theories developed in the Global South are increasingly relevant to understand processes that are now taking place in the North, such as informality, austerity, and rising inequality. The adoption and adaptation of Latin American dependency theory to understand core-periphery relations in the Euro-zone is an example of this (see here). What’s more, exploitative conditions established through colonialism in the Global South tend to ‘boomerang’ back to the Global North. Indeed, we cannot understand any part of the world in isolation, given the interconnectedness of social, political, and economic processes today. 

Economics and economists are widely understood as not only describing the world we live in but also shaping that world in line with dominant economic theories. Thus, it is vital to ensure that the world created by economists and economic thought is one in which challenging dispossession, oppression, and domination – and working towards decolonisation – are possible. 

The term ‘decolonisation’ is a weighty one, and we do not use it lightly. Many have rightly criticised the box-checking exercise that decolonisation has been reduced to in many settings (or ‘fake’ decolonisation), especially within academia. For example, Tuck and Yang argue in their article “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor” that: “When we write about decolonization, we are not offering it as a metaphor; it is not an approximation of other experiences of oppression. Decolonization is not a swappable term for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools. Decolonization doesn’t have a synonym.” For them, and many other activists, “decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life,” and no other endeavours should be termed as decolonisation, no matter how well-intentioned. But this does not mean foreclosing on possibilities for acts of radical solidarity that draw together the many struggles of racialised and colonised communities seeking liberation. 

We share Tuck and Yang’s wariness of the carelessness with which the term ‘decolonisation’ is used to refer, for example, to increasing the number of non-white scholars within academia or replacing the writings of white scholars with those of brown and black ones (even though these are both worthy goals that we are also working towards). However, we believe decolonisation must also involve a fundamental change in the material relationships of colonialism of all varieties, with the repatriation of land and reparations for historical injustices at its core. In our view, it is difficult to bring this about without recognising the role of academics, and particularly within economics, in legitimising and maintaining neo-colonial and imperialist relationships of domination. As Andrew Curley and colleagues have recently written, learned colonial habits of thinking “foreclose coalition, solidarity, and the possibility of a present and future that makes space for Blackness and Indigeneity. It is only through dismantling these categories—in conversation with one another—that we can make this future we desire.”

We agree with Bhambra, Gebrial, and Nişancıoğlu in that “dispossession might be the ‘truth’ of colonialism, [but] it is not its entirety. Taking colonialism as a global project as the starting point, it becomes difficult to turn away from the Western university as a key site through which colonialism – and colonial knowledge in particular – is produced, consecrated, institutionalised, and naturalised. It was in the university that colonial intellectuals developed theories of racism, popularised discourses that bolstered support for colonial endeavours and provided ethical and intellectual grounds for the dispossession, oppression, and domination of colonised subjects.” But as Ruth Wilson Gilmore notes, universities can also be places in which people who otherwise wouldn’t meet come into contact, ‘stretching’ space so that those involved in liberation movements can meet and sharpen their ideas and struggles.

Therefore, D-Econ supports the wider movement to decolonise the university with the aim of radically transforming the terms upon which knowledge creation and education are done. This involves questioning shared assumptions and interrogating the relationship between the location and identity of a writer and how they write about their subject. Hence, we aim to think creatively and radically about how we can reverse the marginalisation of ideas and scholars due to the hierarchical and imperialist nature of the field.

Economics has become theoretically and methodologically narrow

Since the 1960s, there has been a narrowing of the field of economics with the rising dominance of Neoclassical Economics. In this process, approaches emerging from different theoretical frameworks and schools of thought, such as Classical Political Economy, Post-Keynesian Economics, Feminist Economics, Marxist Economics, and Institutional Economics, have been sidelined. While these schools often fall under the label Heterodox Economics, they do have their own constructive and active programmes of economic theory, method, logic, ontology, politics, ethics, etc., which are very often interdisciplinary.

We see heterodox economics broadly as the study of production and distribution of economic surplus, where there is a recognition that capitalist economies show destabilising tendencies and are structured by power relations. The different schools of thought within heterodox economics present us with independent alternatives to contemporary mainstream economics – which defines economics more narrowly, as the study of the allocation of scarce resources, how people use resources to respond to incentives, or the study of decision-making (see the AEA definition).

It is therefore essential to emphasise that diversifying and decolonising economics does not only mean making the field more inclusive of non-white and non-male scholars, but also opening the mainstream of the field up to heterodox approaches and non-Eurocentric approaches. We believe economics – or the study of economic phenomena (a definition in line with Chang 2015) – would benefit from increased theoretical and methodological diversity, just as any other social science.

Diversity in terms of identity and approach are intrinsically connected, as mainstream economics may alienate women and minorities, given its focus on marginal productivity or the idea that people “each receive an income that is directly proportionate to the amount of wealth that they create”” among other things. As pointedly illustrated in a recent Forbes (2019) article: “For whom is ‘you get what you deserve’ likely to strike a chord? Women? People of colour? White males?’’

Economics beyond white men: challenging structural discrimination
The lack of diversity in terms of economists’ race and gender has been well documented. Women make up only 19% of economists on average worldwide (among scholars listed on Research Papers in Economics database). In the US and the UK – where according to mainstream methods of ranking most top economics departments are located  – there are disproportionately fewer members of historically underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups relative to both the overall population and to other academic disciplines. This under-representation can also easily be spotted in the list of Nobel Memorial Prize winners, which represents the ‘top of the field’, as the winners have been overwhelmingly white men (as of 2022, of the 92 winners, 87 were white men). One can see similar patterns in the Global South. For example, in Brazil women are a small minority in the top ranks of academia, while  in South Africa black women continue to be marginalised in academia.

Discrimination based on identity has also been thoroughly documented in economics. Women in economics face higher publishing standards than men;  are less likely to be given credit for their work when they coauthor with men; and are more likely to face a lengthy peer-review process, even while they will having a harder time getting tenure. More generally, in the UK, black female professors face bullying, stereotyping, and institutional neglect; there are no black academics in senior management positions; black students are 1.5 times more likely to drop out; and black academics experience greater scrutiny, are paid less, and are less successful in applying for promotions compared to their white peers.

Marginalisation goes beyond race and gender identity. When devising strategies for an inclusive field, it is necessary to also consider class, ability, sexuality, and other identities that are marginalised in academia, as well as the ways in which these identities intersect (e.g. women of colour will face different forms of discrimination than white women). There are many features of academia that are problematic in general, but particularly problematic for certain marginalised groups. For instance, expectations about working evenings and weekends are not ideal, but this is particularly disadvantageous to those who are expected to take on family responsibilities. Improving diversity in economics must therefore involve also unpacking and addressing these structures that affect marginalised groups disproportionately.

The lack of diversity in the field leads to a lack of attention to issues that specifically affect underrepresented groups, from economic research, to the models employed to understand the world, to public policy decisions. Marginalised groups are more likely to bring in viewpoints that would otherwise be absent or undervalued. Examples include that women were far more likely to recognise and engage with problems associated with excluding household work from GDP. Another example is that female economists are more likely to consider labour market opportunities unequal than male economists are, given their everyday experience with labour market discrimination. Working towards more diverse economics is thus likely to stimulate new insights and debates in economics that monism might stifle.

However, improving diversity in the field alone is not going to help us to advance the economics discipline. While improving diversity in the discipline is a worthy and important goal in its own right, it is often used interchangeably with decolonisation. Yet these two processes are not the same thing. Without seriously addressing the hegemony of mainstream economics, it would not be possible to either improve diversity in the field or decolonise it. We cannot expect that an ‘add marginalised scholars and stir’ approach is going to achieve the adoption of a wider and more diverse methodological framework and dismantle the structural barriers that keep economics a largely Eurocentric discipline. If the methods, training, and professional practices of all scholars continue to be the same, then improving diversity is not going to help decolonise the discipline regardless of their geographical location or the colour of their skin. While we welcome any efforts to improve diversity, we acknowledge that it is only a partial victory unless we are not also working to dismantle the colonial practices within economics.

How do we move forward?

We believe the structural barriers to diversity and decolonisation are due to institutional, political, and historical discrimination, as well as implicit biases. Identifying and addressing these is a core part of our work, in addition to encouraging debate on what needs to be done among diverse voices.

D-Econ’s current and upcoming projects include:

  1. Maintaining the D-Econ Database of scholars marginalised by their identities, approaches, and/or geographies,
  2. Developing guidelines for inclusive practices within organisations and conferences,
  3. Stimulating awareness, debate, and reflection on forms of exclusion, and ways that we can work to diversify and decolonise the field,
  4. Connect and construct a network of international organisations and activists across the world with similar missions, and
  5. Develop, stimulate, and support research and studies on the decolonisation of economics.

To join our effort and support our mission, see here.

D-Econ’s registration number with the UK Charity Commission is 1200723.