Dare to think? Dare to decolonize!

(28-01-2022) The podcast “Decolonizing The University” was started at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences , Ghent University, in the first semester of academic year 2021-2022

This podcast arose from the collaboration between master students participating in the course “Community Service Learning” and the new working group “Learning Network on Decolonization”. The podcast aims to encourage people to reflect on the role of the university as an institute of knowledge production. We investigate where, within the university, colonial patterns can be found and how we can frame or even dismantle them. The first episode “Decolonizing the Curriculum, Part 1: the perspective of a higher education expert (with Prof. Azumah Dennis)” launches January 28th, 2022. Listen to the episode -including extra info- on the Ufora page of the Learning Network on Decolonization.

You can also find the podcast on:

Open letter from students leads to the establishment of the 'Learning Network about Decolonization'

 Since the emergence of the BLM movement in Belgium, attention to decolonization also increased within academic circles and university walls. On December 7th, 2020, several Ghent University student associations wrote an open letter “Decolonize UGent”, addressed to the university board. This letter contained concrete proposals for tackling Eurocentric mindsets and structural racism in higher education. This letter inspired students and employees at Ghent University, leading to the establishment of a number of decolonization projects. Students at the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy set up the “Network Decolonization FLW” (Ndeko FLW) working group last academic year. The Faculty of Political and Social Sciences established the “Learning Network on Decolonization”. Both networks organize lectures and workshops to stimulate the learning process of people interested in decolonization.

A collaboration has been established between the Learning Network on Decolonization and students of the course 'Community Service Learning' in which students apply theoretical insights during a concrete social engagement. This collaboration resulted in the English podcast “Decolonizing The University”. Under the supervision of PhD student Anissa Bougrea (GIES), students Lien Steyaert (sociology), Ellen VandenBulcke (sociology) and Fien Pauwels (national politics) initiated, wrote and produced this podcast series.

How do you decolonize your curriculum?

In the first two episodes, listeners are challenged to think about colonial influences on the curriculum. In the first part of the episode we invite Professor Azumah Dennis, a British specialist in higher education, as a guest speaker. She reflects on the reproduction of colonial constructions that takes place in the knowledge transfer in higher education, after which she advises teachers on how to counter this. Moreover, Prof. Dennis explained the importance of situating and contextualizing texts and their authors in education.

 “I would be interested in putting, as people would say, the classical, the canonical writers in their place. So, when was this person writing? From what position were they writing? […] The idea that anybody can speak from a point of view of neutrality, it doesn't hold anymore. Maybe you have been able to do that in the last few centuries, but the game is up. We now know that you are positioned. You got a race, you got a gender, you got a class. And those things influence what and how you see the world.” (Azumah Dennis, 2021)

 In the second episode “Decolonizing the Curriculum, Part 2: the experiences and reflections of a lecturer”, the students confront Prof. Koen Bogaert, a lecturer at Ghent University, with the advice of Prof. Dennis, to find out how he sets up his curriculum with decolonization in mind. The second episode will be available Tuesday 15th March, 2022. The following quote shows how he conveys the message of decolonization to his students.

 “In order to address these problems, you need to name them as well. So, color blindness doesn't take us anywhere. You need to name the problems. You need to show how racialized temporary problems are, how gendered contemporary problems are and how class-based contemporary problems are.” (Koen Bogaert, 2021).

 Future episodes will take a closer look at the decolonization of HR and recruitment practices, and student culture. These episodes will be published in the course of the second semester (tbc).