Meet the BILT Community, Student Fellow Reflections, Student Voice

Meet the Student Fellows… Adriel Miles

Hello, thanks for reading! My name is Adriel, and I’m thrilled to be researching ‘Decolonizing the curriculum’ with BILT over this academic year!

Decolonization, and specifically decolonizing the university has been a growing passion of mine. My first two degrees are music composition-based degrees, but for my PhD, I’ve pivoted to investigating issues marginalized students encounter on their undergraduate music courses, issues which can be addressed through decolonial and liberatory programme design.

There is a fair amount of confusion about what decolonization is or what it entails. Critics often see it as a desire to violently expunge ‘the classics’ from our reading lists or to randomly sprinkle some scholars of colour (or queer scholars, or scholars with disabilities, etc.) throughout our curricula. Sometimes, decolonization is conflated with the related yet distinct idea of equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), and while it’s true higher education has much to do in this area, decolonization is a separate endeavour that goes beyond celebrating difference.

Beliefs such as these are essentially a distortion of the primary aims of decolonizing higher education: reviving suppressed forms of (global) knowledge, critiquing intellectual thought processes and behaviours that reproduce colonialism, and perhaps most importantly convincing students that they are not subservient to their teachers, and that the knowledge and experience they bring to university are valid and valuable to the community, to academia, and to their own development.

Because of this confusion, my mission over the next year as a Student Fellow of BILT is to really embed a clear understanding of decolonizing within the University of Bristol, an understanding which aligns with these aims. Importantly, students and their experiences must be at the forefront of this process, and I will be working to realize this at Bristol, picking up where previous work at the university has left off. There is no one-size-fits-all blueprint for decolonization; it depends highly on context and the needs and experiences of students, faculty, and society at large. This means students and faculty must think critically about their situation and devise remedies which address their unique problems, while also resisting the urge to remain in the ivory tower of academia.

I hope my efforts over the next year will help Bristol students and faculty design and develop curricula that more accurately reflect globally attuned ways of understanding and knowing. If you have any thoughts or considerations about what’s been mentioned here, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me—I always love talking about decolonization!

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