Decolonising SOAS is the university’s hub for research, collaboration and information on the decolonisation of higher education institutions. This project has been established to take forward this agenda at SOAS, and to provide a forum for debate, resources and toolkits on the decolonising process to connect up with other educational institutions and the wider community.
We understand ‘decolonisation’ as the effort to interrogate and transform the institutional, structural and epistemological legacies of colonialism, specifically where these produce injustices within higher education and barriers to knowledge and understanding. Within SOAS, this project has been established in response to strong student interest in ‘Decolonising the Curriculum’ led by student sabbatical officers, and the student-run Decolonising Our Minds Society, both embedded in a wider history of anti-racist activity at the university. This project is part of an ongoing global decolonisation movement taking place across university campuses and public spaces from South Africa to Norway.
The practice of decolonisation within education has profound implications with regards to the content of the curricula, methods of teaching and research, outreach practices and institutional structures. We however recognise that ‘decolonisation’ is itself a contested term and the subject of scholarly debate. Decolonisation does not deliver a set of prescriptions but a set of suggestions and ideas for colleagues and students to think through, individually and collectively.
Decolonising SOAS is animated by a spirit of critical dialogue within education, and is also connected to wider institutional questions about the principles and practices of good teaching—in particular, racialised attainment and inclusive pedagogy. It begins with the assumption that global histories of Western colonial domination have had the effect of limiting what counts as authoritative knowledge, whose knowledge is recognised, what universities teach and how they teach it. The university, as a privileged space of knowledge production and dissemination, is a key site where the legacy of historical colonial social constructions, imaginaries, practices, hierarchies and violence still resonates within contemporary society.
SOAS is one of the few universities in the UK that has made a formal commitment to delivering a decolonising agenda. This blog aims to provide students, staff and the wider public with a window into how the process of decolonisation is being implemented within SOAS, and to share resources and tools for other educational institutions that are interested in engaging with these issues. In addition to internal processes, the Decolonising SOAS Working Group is also actively collaborating with other institutions of higher education, as well as primary and secondary schools and grassroots community projects.
The Working Group holds regular meetings and events. Please do join us.
We also have a public engagement funding mechanism for supporting collaboration with our local and global communities.
To be in contact with the group please email the Chair, Dr Meera Sabaratnam, at ms140 [at] soas.ac.uk.