The campaign run by the SOAS student union has from the outset been predictably misrepresented by the mainstream media as censorship.
In fact it is quite the opposite: the central demand is not to have these white philosophers removed from the curriculum, but to be able to study them from a more critical, anti-colonial angle, along with the addition of more Asian and African philosophers into the syllabus.
These demands are in line with the aim of SOAS to provide an alternative focus to the dominant Eurocentric approach. ‘Censorship’ has become a buzzword in contemporary Europe, which seems to pop up in almost every conversation concerning racism, as popular resistance to it is framed as the silencing of debate.
This constant emphasis on the dangers of censorship, and the need for free debate on all possible subjects, obscures the importance of the context. SOAS was specifically designed to focus on parts of the world and perspectives which are often neglected in education.
The concern of their student’s union that the school is not fulfilling this aim does not amount to silencing any debates, but rather to ensuring that SOAS is providing a voice for the marginalised.