Building upon the critique of the WSSR in Session Three, the fourth session of the day was dedicated to alternative curricula and methods. Farid Alatas, professor of sociology at the National University of Singapore, began by noting that there is a general neglect of ideas that originated from the non-West. He gave the example of Ibn Khaldun, who is often seen only as a source of knowledge but not as a source of social theory. He outlined two interrelated tasks. First, a step toward decolonizing Eurocentrism would be to ask what of Marx, Durkheim, and other Western thinkers can be salvaged. He suggested that the goal should be to critique but not abandon, and that there can be a focus on aspects of Western thinkers that are neglected in Europe and America, such as the views of Marx and Weber on Islam and Asia. Second, the Global South needs to introduce non-Western thinkers of the same period, such as Jose Rizal of the Philippines, whose works are virtually ignored in the region but who was doing a critique of Eurocentrism before it was recognized as such. He blamed the structure of 'academic dependency' and the 'captive mind' for not moving from critiques to concrete reforms. Most importantly, he urged participants to recognise that besides imperialism there are problems in the Global South that need to be addressed, such a lack of standards or government interference in curricula. He concluded by asking what social scientists are doing to fight the abuses and corruption in their own countries and whether the social sciences can confront the problems of Asia today.
[This report was written by Multiversity co-creator Yusef J. Progler, who was a participant in the Penang conference and who presently works as professor of Society, Culture, and Media at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan. Part two of the report, featuring notes on Day Two and Three of the conference, is available here.]