De-colonizing: emphasizing the universality of the university

In this post, Dooshima Lilian Dugguh reflects on the De-Colonizing: Past and Present Workshop held on 13 May 2019 in the College of Arts and Law. This two-day multi-disciplinary workshop examined de-colonization in relation to both research and school curricula.

Reading the workshop title “De-colonizing: past and present”, I am sure that several participants had a rough guess that it was centered around discussing historical realities of colonized nations. But I am also certain that many, like me, were amazed at the understanding that beyond the initial idea is a whole new perspective that exports the concept of de-colonization and applies it to academic endeavors such as impactful research and development of academic curricula, giving an opportunity to rethink research and taught patterns of university courses. This workshop underlined two very important aspects: de-colonizing research and de-colonizing curricula.

De-colonizing asks us to examine assumptions regarding racial and civilizational hierarchy which in the past informed a lot of thinking about how the world worked, what was worth studying in it, and how it should be studied.  SOAS blog

When the idea of de-colonizing research comes to mind, it essentially reminds the researcher of some fundamental questions regarding the study they are carrying out such as:

  • What is the purpose of the research?
  • Who is the target audience of the research and how do they access and apply the findings from the research?
  • What are the available resources ensuring the success of the research?
  • What are the perceived challenges?

These questions on a wider scale would also cover explanations such as the reason research materials are unavailable and inaccessible, and how academic structures impede the coverage of research.

De-colonizing curricula, on the other hand, involves questioning the already existing content that is taught to the students. Ensuring that emphasis is not laid on some aspects of the curriculum more than, or at the detriment of, others. This is to ensure a welcoming university environment that represents the interests of its trans-global students by:

  • Inclusion of minority cultural histories in curricula.
  • Examining how research can be promoted in these cultural areas putting into perspective interest, financial involvement as well as the role of language in the realization of this goal.
  • Opening discussion forums between staff and management regarding development of curriculum content aimed at embracing cultural studies.
  • Giving students the opportunity to identify their interests in line with what the curriculum offers devoid of stereotypical decision by management concerning the student’s needs.
  • Ensuring student development and satisfaction with regards to what they are taught there by widening the cultural scope of studies.

Attending the workshop, I realized that it was a great opportunity for postgraduate researchers to explore this topic, as well as teaching assistants. Such workshops create avenues for intellectual skill acquisition and development by cross examining the quality of the taught content in university courses as well as creating room for the development of managerial skills.

In the wake of all that has been highlighted, the following questions are therefore up for discussion:

  • Do you think de-colonizing research ensures quality research work?
  • Is it possible to include minority cultural histories in the curriculum? What would be the possible challenges?
  • How can students’ interests be gauged with regards to the study of cultural histories?

In my opinion, de-colonizing academic research and academic curricula in general is fundamental to enhancing inclusivity and universality of the university.

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