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Towards Decolonised Futures: An interdisciplinary conference challenging the politics of knowing and being

Wednesday 26th - Friday 28th May 2021
Online via Zoom

From the toppling of slave-trader Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol in early June 2020 to renewed demands to decolonise the (higher) education curriculum, the indignation following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis prompted a global movement aiming at reversing social injustices and inequalities generated by slavery, settlerism and colonialism.

Among scholars, postcolonialism and decolonisation have attracted great interest. From the earlier writings of Fanon and Said, to more recent contributions by scholars such as Quijano, Mignolo or Spivak, academic research has challenged Western dominance over knowledge production and its devaluation of indigenous ways of knowing and being.

This has great relevance for practitioners working in a variety of fields, including education, social work, international development and humanitarian assistance.

This conference aims to further deconstruct and unravel the notion of one universal way of knowing and being, focusing on the different ways of knowing (epistemic plurality) of those who are traditionally silenced and excluded from power – in academic terms often referred to as the ‘sub-altern’ or ‘the historically muted subject of the non-elite’ (Spivak 1999).

We are interested in critical theoretical and/or empirical research that examines how colonial and eurocentric practices and worldviews are reproduced; that decenters the politics of knowing and being; or that explores decolonised futures. We also welcome examples of decolonisation in contemporary practice.

Themes include, but are not limited to, decolonising the curriculum, legacies of slavery, settlerism and colonialism, justice in a postcolonial world, social movements for decolonisation, and the politics of knowledge production.

The conference explicitly welcomes research and good practices from across all disciplines and sectors, encouraging interdisciplinary and nontraditional (presentations of) research and practice.

View Programme

Book of Abstracts

Keynote speaker

Professor Leon Tikly headshot

Professor Leon Tikly

Professor Tikly holds a UNESCO Chair in Inclusive, Good Quality Education for All at the University of Bristol. He is currently involved with colleagues across the University in efforts to decolonise the curriculum. Leon has published widely on issues of decolonisation and postcolonialism. His ideas are informed by research over many years into initiatives to improve the quality of education for disadvantaged learners in Africa and for Black and minority ethnic learners in the UK. He currently directs a large research network in the UK, Netherlands, South Africa, India, Rwanda and Somalia focusing on Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures.

Decolonising Education: From theory to practice

In this keynote, Leon will start by critically considering what we mean by 'decolonising education' in the light of contemporary debates. In the second part of the talk and drawing on his experiences of decolonising efforts in the University of Bristol and further afield, Leon will consider some of the practical considerations involved. In his talk, he will attempt to address the following broad questions. Why decolonise? What is the role of Northern based universities in wider efforts to decolonise? What does decolonisation mean within and across diverse disciplinary contexts? How can we retell the history of the disciplines to take account of the colonial legacy? How can we make the curriculum more relevant for our students? How can we create new ecologies of knowledge that embrace diverse ways of knowing the world and knowledge systems? How can we overcome resistance and embed change?


If you could not attend the ‘Towards Decolonised Futures’ conference or would like to review the panels, you can now watch a range of presentations and discussions.

Please note: at the request of some of the presenters, some panels have not been recorded.

Keynote address by Prof Leon Tikly

Panel 3B: Constructing a Decolonial Space in a UK Higher Education: Reflections on opportunities, dilemmas and challenges

Panel 4B: Decolonising the field of Education and International Development

Panel 1C: Decolonising Criminology and Sociology

Panel 5B: Student movements for decolonisation: Lessons from South Africa & beyond

Panel 1D: Decolonising Modern Slavery Studies

Panel 6B: Co-decolonising the Higher Education Curriculum

Panel 8B: Decolonising the University: Supervising International and Indigenous Students

Panel 3E: The coloniality of being: Disparities in healthcare

Panel 9B: Decolonising Research

Panel 2A: reflections on Southern epistemologies

Panel 3A: Decolonial Gaelic futures? Addressing the Potential for Gaelic epistemology to do decolonial work

Panel 1E: The coloniality of being: Auto-ethnographies

Panel 2E: The coloniality of being: Feminist, queer and trans perspectives

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Wednesday 26th - Friday 28th May 2021
Online via Zoom

Find out more

For more information about this event please contact Dr Line Kuppens (Visiting Fellow):

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