Coloniality and the global justice debate
: a decolonial approach to global normative theorising

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (MD)


Global justice continues to be one of the major fields of discussion in political philosophy, political theory, International Relations, and other subfields. While global justice is an academic area with an explicit global outlook, it is in no way a global debate: scholars at the centre of disciplinary theoretical debates do not hear or centre non-Western voices. Prevailing views about the ethics and politics of global justice reflect and continue to reinforce problematic ontological assumptions and unquestioned epistemic privileges aligned with knowledge- and norm-entrepreneurs in the Global North. This thesis advances two specific contributions to global normative thought. Firstly, I develop a decolonial critique of the mainstream global justice literature and contend that the virtually exclusive consideration of Western thought and the marginalisation of, for example, African thought in the global justice debate constitutes an instance of epistemic injustice. This thesis engages extensively with the notion of coloniality in order to understand and analyse the ways in which the global justice debate, as an academic discourse, implicitly reproduces those relations of power that emerged as a result of Empire, colonialism, and enslavement.

Apart from foregrounding and problematising the pervasive, enduring epistemic traces of the colonial encounter in the debate on global justice, this thesis also makes a second, positive contribution, namely by engaging with African ubuntu thought as a constructive decolonial approach to global justice. Looking at the issues of epistemic injustice, global poverty, gender inequality, ecological justice, and the politics of time, I discuss the ways in which ubuntu is a particularly promising starting point for decentring and pluralising the dominant Western ontological framework underlying the debate. As a relational understanding of human existence, ubuntu calls attention to the importance of collective practices of care, community, and solidarity building, with significant potential for making visible and advancing decolonial efforts.
Date of Award29 Nov 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorPatrick Hayden (Supervisor), Anthony F Lang Jr. (Supervisor) & Roxani Christina Krystalli (Supervisor)


  • Global justice
  • Coloniality
  • Epistemic injustice

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 23 October 2027

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