Decolonising the Academy

Recently the movement to ‘decolonise the academy’ has been gaining traction and support from within with academy as well as more broadly in the public domain. Having studied at Leeds University, and now researching at the same institution I have noticed an increasing awareness and willingness from academics and students alike to address the issues facing the academy and discussions on and off campus to confront them.

In 2015, Leeds University Union (LUU) launched a campaign, led by their education sabbatical officer Mel Owusu, called ‘Why is my Curriculum White?‘. The campaign aimed to “decolonise and critically challenge course content and perspectives offered through the accepted Western white canon of knowledge” and bring these concerns to the attention of students and academics alike. The campaign and associated events created an exciting and dynamic conversation on campus and encouraged different Schools within the University to act.

As a result of increase awareness and interest from students and staff at the university (and more broadly across academia), a group of researchers from across the Arts, Humanities and Cultures Faculty began a series of research workshops entitled ‘Creating/Curating the Decolonial Classroom’. Through a variety of session, the researchers have sought to answer the question: “How can we centre subalternised and silenced knowledge systems in our research, and facilitate broader engagement with these alternative epistemologies within and outside the university setting?”

The most recent workshop, ‘Decolonising Historical Research‘ took place on 18 March and sought to “interrogate and reflect on current academic practices in the discipline of history, especially those that take into account non-western epistemologies or methodologies.”

Encouraged by these development within my own institution, I have been increasingly discussing the concept of ‘decolonising’ the academy with colleagues. Recently in our Global History Reading Group we read a fascinating blog written by William Jamal Richardson entitled ‘Understanding Eurocentrism as a Structural Problem of Undone Science’ published in 2017. It is an excellent introduction to the topic, and a very thought provoking piece.

Richardson had recently published the piece in an edited collection ‘Decolonising the University’  edited by Gurminder Bhambra, Dalia Gebrial, and Kerem Nişancıoğlu. The collection is Open Access and I encourage you all to take time and read it.


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