The epistemological underpinnings of knowledge in today’s world were shaped during colonial times for purposes of social control. For the majority of people in the world, particularly those in the global South, what is learnt, understood, and how the world is viewed have been structured by coloniality emanating from the global North – itself a construction. Education was mobilised to sustain colonial empires.
Many efforts to reform have not gone far enough. De-colonising the University Curriculum is a recent radical student movement, which started in South Africa (2011), and challenged this status quo. The Black Lives Matter protests are also a key challenge to white-centric voices and academic coloniality, which have so far silenced and marginalised other epistemological perspectives. The call for equity, and the removal of structural imbalances, both in and outside the academy, is now a global concern, including concern across UK universities. The movement has, in fact, been so important, that it has now become part of the newspeak that is readily regurgitated by university managers, educational strategists, and policy makers in the UK education sector and beyond.
What started as a radical and well-intentioned movement is now, unless we intervene, in danger of being semantically stabilised by the very institution it is aimed at: The University. To quote from Keele University’s manifesto: “The University curriculum will not decolonise itself. This will not happen through the bureaucratised curriculum design reviews. Major curriculum reform cannot be achieved without greater democratisation of the university as an institution, and its relation to wider society. It is not something that happens overnight, it requires a sustained and serious [intellectual] commitment”.
Notwithstanding the importance of this movement, there’s been little engagement, at the level of theory and academic research, with the complex epistemological manoeuvres and knowledge production critique that is necessary in order to sustain a critical and systematic project of de-colonisation. There is a need to recognise that global North academic approaches are incomplete, imperfect and in need of overhaul. Similarly, approaches in the global South were constructed in the colonial era for purposes that are now outdated.
This CAMRI Webinar, and its speakers, use a double critique to unsettle: on the one hand, the university’s attempts at stabilising semantics around de-colonisation and, on the other, the taken-for-granted and quiet certainties that are inherent to the de-colonisation movement, which also have to be disturbed lest they unwittingly re-orientalise the other (black, ethnic, minority, global; South) and thus reproduce theoretically old and obsolete binaries.
Moving beyond facile articulations of ‘curriculum decolonisation’, this CAMRI Webinar enunciates a double theoretical manoeuvre, championing a decolonising task process that is ready to subvert and unsettle both the ‘westernising’ and ‘de-westernising’ processes of knowledge production.
Opening Keynote Speakers:
Dr. Layal Ftouni, Utrecht University
“Decolonising, in solidarity”
Prof. Francis B. Nyamnjoh, University of Cape Town
“Decolonising the Curriculum: Inspiration from ‘The Complete Gentleman’ in Amos Tutuola’s ‘The Palm-Wine Drinkard’
Prof. Aswin Punathambeker, University of Virginia
“Interrupting Global Media Studies”
CAMRI Plenary: De-Westernising Media and Cultural Studies in the Global South
Dr. Andrea Medrado, Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster
Dr. Winston Mano, Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster
Dr. Tarik Sabry, Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster
Dr. Xin Xin, Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster
Closing Keynote Speaker:
Prof. Sabelo Gatsheni-Ndlovu, University of Bayreuth in Germany
“Decolonizing curriculum: What do we do with dominant existing knowledge?”
Chair: The event was chaired by Dr. Roza Tsagarousianou, Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster
Layal Ftouni is an Assistant Professor of Gender Studies and Critical Theory at the Graduate Gender Programme, Utrecht University and a research affiliate at the Institute of Cultural Inquiry (ICON) at the same university. She is the co-founder of the transnational network Arab Cultural Studies and is the editor (with Tarik Sabry) of Arab Subcultures: Transformations in Theory and Practice (I.B.Tauris, 2017). Through her research and teaching, Layal trained transdisciplinarily, working across feminist theory, cultural studies, postcolonial studies and critical race studies. She has recently been awarded the Dutch Research Council VENI grant to undertake three years of research on the poetics and politics of life and death (human and environmental) in conditions of war and settler colonialism, focusing on Syria and Palestine.
Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni is Professor and Chair of Epistemologies of the Global South with Emphasis on Africa at the University of Bayreuth in Germany. He previously worked as Research Professor and Director of Scholarship in the Department of Leadership and Transformation (DLT) in the Principal and Vice-Chancellor’s Office at the University of South Africa (UNISA), South Africa. He was also the 2019 Visiting Professor at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS) at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). He is a leading decolonial theorist with over a hundred publications in the fields of African history, African politics, African development and decolonial theory. His latest major publication is Decolonization, Development and Knowledge in Africa: Turning Over A New Leaf (Routledge, May 2020).
Francis B. Nyamnjoh is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He is recipient of the ASAUK 2018 Fage & Oliver Prize for the best monograph for his book #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa. Equally of relevance to the decolonising the curriculum debate is Drinking from the Cosmic Gourd: How Amos Tutuola Can Change Our Minds. He is: B1 rated Professor and Researcher by the South African National Research Foundation (NRF); a Fellow of the Cameroon Academy of Science since August 2011; a fellow of the African Academy of Science since December 2014; and a fellow of the academy of Science of South Africa since 2016.
Aswin Punathambekar is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. He is the author of From Bombay to Bollywood: The Making of a Global Media Industry (NYU Press, 2013), co-author of Media Industry Studies (Polity, 2020), and co-editor of Global Bollywood (NYU Press, 2008), Television at Large in South Asia (Routledge, 2013), and most recently, Global Digital Cultures: Perspectives from South Asia (Univ of Michigan Press, 2019)