Introduction to Decolonisation

Module Guide: Assessment

As the main assessment for this module, we recommend that students keep a self-reflective journal in which they regularly reflect on what they have learned. This can be a physical or digital journal, in writing, painting, drawing, or recording. There will be visual, written or audio prompts that can inspire and guide self-reflection. Convenors should invite students to make connections between anything they have read, heard, or learned in the course of the module, with their own lived experiences, thoughts, and feelings. They can make it personal, but should be aware that by the end of the module, they will need to submit three pieces/entries of this journal to the module convenor. The convenor should encourage students to write something every week to build a regular practice that supports them on their learning journey.

Guidelines for students

The self-reflective journal is a document that you will create over the duration of the module. At the end of the module, you will submit three journal entries to the convenor for assessment. We strongly encourage you to document something every week to build a regular practice that supports you on your learning journey. Journal entries should not exceed 550 words and can be submitted in a number of formats; examples may include audio recordings, mind maps, or written entries. Each week there will be a prompt that can inspire and guide your self-reflection. There are no requirements to include academic references or a bibliography, but the format of your journal submission should be agreed with the module coordinator prior to submission.

Unlike a conventional essay, the self-reflective journal is a space for you to engage with your emotions, ideas, and interpretations of the reading. Reflections should also build upon the discussions held in class and reference to real life situations or experiences. This form of assessment will allow you to reflect personally on the learning process and to explain the connections and ideas you have formed over the duration of the course. We encourage you to be radical and critical in your ideas and to supplement your knowledge with many of the key thinkers and concepts covered each week. Reflexivity is a core aspect of decolonial thought and for this reason we encourage you to discuss your ideas in the first person.

The reflective journal is also a space to question existing cultural norms and structures (both within and beyond academia), we also encourage you to explore whether your understanding of decolonisation has changed during the course and to interrogate why that may be.

Prompt list

  • Week 1: Why can’t the master’s tools dismantle the master’s house?
  • Week 2: Reflect upon the process of creating the poster on a key scholar (in-class activity). Think about the materials and design of poster you created, alongside a wider engagement with the ideas of the key scholar.
  • Week 3: Reflect upon a historic example of settler colonialism outside of the examples studied in class. List of case studies include: Hawai’i, Algeria, Western Sahara, South Africa, Ireland, or a settler colony of your choice. Question why these examples are frequently omitted from the dominant literature.
  • Week 4: What does intersectionality mean to you?
  • Week 5: Reflect upon the museum labelling activity and build upon your experiences from this task to answer the question: Is it possible to decolonise curatorship?
  • Week 6: Reflection week
  • Week 7: Can science and medicine be decolonised?
  • Week 8: Is a ‘Third University’ possible or is it perpetually a ‘colonizing machine’ that cannot be changed?
  • Week 9: Who owns the tools for producing knowledge? Does this influence how you learn?
  • Week 10: Trace the history of a commodity that belongs to you; reflect upon the role of personal ownership and trade.
  • Week 11: Are climate change and colonialism the same issue?
  • Week 12: Reflection week

Example of a reflective journal entry

Week 2: Introduction to key thinkers and theoretical debates

This week, I want to discuss the idea of ‘identity’. Especially, how postcolonial theory has often omitted a range of colonial identities and geographies within its core texts. As a student, it is necessary for me to reflect upon the ways in which history and the establishment of knowledge have come to shape my understanding of identity. For example, the concept of the ‘self’ is heavily connected to a binary form of thinking and the repetition of cultural norms. In the context of colonialism, Edward Said argued that the construction of the rational Western identity was problematically defined and made meaningful against the framing of the Middle Eastern identity as an exotic “other”.

When reading through the works of Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak, I was struck by how the label of the “other” was often applied homogenously to a range of colonised peoples. As a critical approach for studying identity, ‘othering’ is widely used by a range of academics to study the marginalising impact of language. However, it requires the scholar to articulate the diversity of difference among groups within a binary framework, with a range of social groups and geographies classified as the colonised ‘other’. This label feels too simplistic to me and may end up reproducing many of the over-simplified assumptions attached to colonised groups. When studying political theory, I think it is important to focus on the individual and their experiences, this is something we engaged with in the Crenshaw reading, which made me consider how identity is made up from intersecting social categories, such as race, sexuality, and gender. Consequently, the experience of colonisation is also shaped by the individual’s gender, sexuality, and class; and cannot be reduced to a simplified binary. For this reason, it is necessary for me to reflect upon the ways in which identity informs how history and knowledge are recorded, alongside how this also informs my own understanding of my identity (and what biases may be attached to this).

When reflecting upon the Bhambra reading, I was struck by how decolonial theory developed in response to postcolonial theory and the exclusion of voices from the Caribbean and South America. Decolonial scholars argue that the label of the “other” was coined to theorise the relationship between the ‘occident’ and the ‘orient’ during the 18th century. This label, however, would later be applied to colonised groups across the globe. This was the first time that I was confronted with the fact that many of the ‘key thinkers’ of postcolonial theory often ‘spoke for’ marginalised identities with a different colonial experience. For example, in South America European colonisation began much earlier (14th century) and produced different forms of subjugation. Studying colonisation in South America with tools created by Middle Eastern scholars feels inaccurate and unethical to me, for this reason I began to engage with some of the decolonial literature published by South American and Caribbean scholars (such as Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua and Stuart Hall). Their approach highlighted to me that the academic hierarchy of ‘core thinkers’ often marginalised the work of other geographic identities, which is itself a colonial legacy. Going forward, I intend to engage with a wider range of literature when studying colonisation, researching the voices of those from the impacted community and foregrounding their literature in my work.

Assessment criteria