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Decolonising Education from Theory to Praxis – Seminar one: The changing contexts of the decolonisation debate 

January 27, 2022 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

A BILT/CBH/UNESCO Global Chair/Bristol Conversations in Education Seminar series  

This online seminar will seek to situate efforts to decolonise Bristol university within an analysis of the wider socio-historical, political, and discursive context. The seminar will run from 1 – 2:30pm (last 30 mins is for discussion).

This analysis will be undertaken at three inter-related scales of the global, national, and local.

The global context will consider how struggles to decolonise education should be seen in relation to the history of empire and of anti-colonial struggles, as well as in relation to historical and contemporary struggles of indigenous groups, workers, people of colour, women, environmentalist groups for justice and recognition. Therefore, this will include an analysis of campaigns in countries such as South Africa including the anti-apartheid movement, the Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall movements at UCT.

The national context will centre on struggles for racial and cultural justice in the UK against a backdrop of Brexit and austerity, and increasingly hostile right-wing media and politics ostensibly concerned with issues of ‘free-speech’, including around self-professed pro-Empire academics such as Nigel Biggar and Niall Ferguson (Riley, The Free Speech Wars, MUP: 2020). Consequently, the chapter will consider this trajectory towards the so-called ‘culture wars’ of the 2020s, particularly how they flow into discourses of derision against decolonisation that have emerged in recent years. This national context thus includes contemporary struggles to decolonise education within the higher education sector including through movements such as Rhodes Must Fall Oxford (Rhodes Must Fall, Rhodes Must Fall: The Struggle to Decolonise the Racist Heart of Empire, London: Zed Books, 2018), #WhyIsMyCurriculumWhite, and the important impact of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, particularly how these connect to broader debates over empire, slavery, and memory.

The local context considers Bristol’s history as a slave port, its changing demography reflected in increasing diversity, and its history of grass roots activism including the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston in 2020 (Saima Nasar (2020) Remembering Edward Colston: histories of slavery, memory, and black globality, Women’s History Review, 29:7, 1218-1225).

The seminar will locate activity within the University of Bristol in relation to this wider context including the links between the university, the slave trade and colonialism, its historical status as an elite university detached from its local context, the content of curricula, and more recent efforts to decolonise. This seminar will also introduce the context of our case studies which run throughout the book, how and why they came about when they did, what influenced them and how they are responding to these ‘scales’ of context locally, nationally and globally.

Joining the seminar

You will be sent the joining link close to the date, the seminar will run from 1 – 2:30pm (last 30 mins is for discussion)