The Decolonising SOAS Working Group was set up in 2016 in response to student interest in ‘Decolonising the Curriculum’, which was led by student sabbatical officers at SOAS, and student-led Decolonising Our Minds Society. But this project is also part of an ongoing global decolonisation movement taking place across university campuses and public spaces from South Africa to Norway.
There is no one meaning of ‘decolonising’ – we recognise that it is a contested term – but we understand it as the effort to interrogate and transform the institutional, structural and epistemological legacies of colonialism. These legacies create injustices within higher education and barriers to knowledge and understanding, in particular racialised attainment and inclusive pedagogy. Decolonising SOAS 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
Therefore, decolonising the education system means reexamining what we teach and how we teach. It also means looking at how our institutions function, how we conduct and explain our research, as well as examining how we engage with people inside and outside of the university. Decolonisation does not deliver a set of rules to follow but suggestions and ideas for colleagues and students to think through, individually and collectively.