Recent calls to decolonise the university in South Africa culminated in the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town and breathed new life into student-led campaigns around the world to rethink the curriculum. Challenging the colonial roots and Western biases of universities is, of course, not a twenty-first century phenomenon. However, in its latest iteration, the need to decolonise the university has been more clearly connected to the lived reality of the corporatised university as a distinct feature of the neoliberal era. Bringing debates on neoliberalism into closer conversation with a consideration of how neocolonialism is expressed in institutions of higher education has allowed for closer scrutiny of what ‘transformation’ actually means.
It has become abundantly clear to many of those who work and study in higher education, that the more things change, the more they stay the same. While the language of transformation has been woven into policies that have widened access to previously marginalised groups (including black and minority ethnic groups, women, indigenous and mature students), institutions of higher learning have a long way to go to dismantle the barriers to success that these groups face once inside the institutions.
My Identities article, ‘Rehumanising the university for an alternative future: decolonisation, alternative epistemologies and cognitive justice’, supports the view that substantive transformation of higher education requires an appreciation of other ways of knowing the world beyond Western epistemologies. Following the work of Portuguese sociologist, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, I argue that we need to complicate the lens through which we look at the world in order to reveal alternatives that are hidden in plain sight. Here, I am using the word ‘complicate’ to suggest a more expansive and intricate set of lenses that, when brought into the same frame, allows us to conceive of a reality that cannot be imagined through a single Western paradigm.
Santos speaks of an ‘ecology of knowledges’ to suggest that different approaches to knowing the world are incomplete in different ways and, therefore, potentially complementary. Inspired by this idea, I use the metaphor of a knowledge kaleidoscope, first, to signal the possibilities that come into view with a slight adjustment of the lens through which we look at the world. Second, the idea of a kaleidoscope will hopefully remind readers of being young and filled with excitement at the thought that the slightest turn of the tube reveals a pattern more fascinating and colorful than the last. Ultimately, my article is intended to cast a more optimistic gaze upon the neocolonial, neoliberal university than is presently the case across much scholarly writing on these topics.
If we were to think of language as one lens that we use to understand the world, it follows that the privileging of the English language in academia deprives us all of having access to multiple perspectives on the world. Relying on Fanon’s account of violence in the colonies, I argue that the marginalisation of indigenous and many other languages from the curriculum and scholarship in general is profoundly dehumanising. I ask what might become possible if we had the tools to conceive of reality in different ways.
For instance, in te reo (the language of New Zealand’s indigenous people), the word for land or territory is whenua. This very same word is used to denote placenta or afterbirth. If, in the Western world, we conceived of the land as a placenta, I wonder whether the ethic of extractivism that fuels the capitalist economy would be so unimaginable as to be absurd. A more considered integration of multiple languages (and the complexity of meaning that these bring) into our theoretical conceptions of social phenomena arguably would go much further in the quest for decolonisation than the occasional sign on a university building or translated email signatures or letterheads.
Questioning whether indigeneity has been side-lined in favour of internationalisation, my article explores the latter as a dimension of neocolonialism. It examines whether internalisation agendas that are being pursued quite aggressively in many universities in New Zealand and elsewhere are exclusively about raising the incomes and global standing of universities or whether – with some input from a wider range of stakeholders, including students – they can be adjusted to respond to the decolonisation imperative.
Blog post by Marcelle C. Dawson, University of Otago, New Zealand
Read the full article: Dawson, Marcelle C. Rehumanising the university for an alternative future: decolonisation, alternative epistemologies and cognitive justice. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1611072
It may be a truth not so universally acknowledged that editing a special issue of a journal can often be a nerve-wracking affair. Guest editing a forthcoming special issue for Identities titled 'Archives of Coloniality and Solidarity: Kashmir and Palestine, in medias res', goes beyond this experience. The razored concertina wires, the militarised checkpoints, the open brutality, the violence against the living and the dead, and the permanent warfare against entire populations that characterise the experiences of Palestinians and Kashmiris permeate this special issue. These experiences may not be exceptional to those editors and authors working on state violence and occupations. However, the experience itself must be acknowledged.
Author emails in the summer of 2019 demonstrate the porous ways in which the occupations of Palestine and Kashmir have pervaded this guest editing process.
Two months into the Kashmir siege — a complete communication blackout and a military blockade imposed on the 5th of August by the Indian state — a friend of an author who had visited Kashmir informed us that the author would be sending the paper via pen drive. As we write, 8–9 million people of the Kashmir Valley remain under siege, caged by a million Indian forces. Thousands of civilians including minors have been arbitrarily detained, including politicians, business leaders, clergy, university lecturers and students. Those not under detention face the brunt of India’s army and paramilitary forces who are marauding homes in night raids, molesting women, torturing ordinary people and harassing journalists. India’s political leaders, successors of Nazi-inspired fascism, deem this the new normal in Kashmir.
A co-authored photo essay, due on the 5th of August (the day the siege was imposed), is yet to be submitted. The Palestinian co-author sent us an anxious email about not being able to reach her Kashmiri counterpart: 'She doesn’t have Internet, the situation in Kashmir is very bad right now. I don’t know if we can submit it later'. Her mention of not knowing if they would be able to turn it in at all sums up the uncertainty and the injustice of life under occupation. Their photo essay is about gendered resistance and memory in Kashmir and Palestine. We continue to hope they will be able to submit soon.
For Ather Zia, co-editor of this special issue and a Kashmiri, the siege has been doubly fraught since she was not been able to reach family for a couple of months. The so-called ease on landline restrictions by the end of August was erratic. As we write this blog, only post-paid mobiles have been allowed to function. The Internet remains shut. Speaking and writing about Kashmir is part of the war against the ‘normalcy’ lie of the Indian state.
Scholarship on Palestine and Israeli settler-colonialism continues to proliferate. Yet, authors Nadera Shalhoub Kevorkian and Teodora Todorova illuminate some fresh aspects in this special issue. This summer Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian wrote to us of the incarcerated body of ‘a 14-year old child, Ezareyyeh Nassim Abu Roumi, allegedly accused of stabbing, shot and killed by the police on the 15th of August 2019. Shalhoub-Kevorkian said ‘his body had been withheld by the authorities for over two weeks’. In this special issue, her article extends the necropolitical dimensions of Israeli settler-colonialism to examine its new modes of power through ‘necropenology’, where the dead themselves are captive, on trial, colonising not only death itself but the affective and political space of mourning. Todorova’s article, 'Vulnerability as a politics of decolonial solidarity: the case of the Anarchists Against the Wall', examines the Butlerian concept of vulnerability as a decolonising politics through the expression of solidarity.
The Israeli state was carved through the violence of a settler-colonial project; the Indian state has now set the stage for settler-colonialism in Kashmir, transforming the nature of its colonial relationship with Kashmir that has existed since 1947. Ajit Doval, India’s National Security Advisor, and the architect of the transformation of India’s relationship with Kashmir from that of puppet colonial rule to a settler-colonial one, is credited with the policy of an Israeli-style creation of ‘facts on the ground’ when the facts on the ground do not suit the colonial power. The annexation of Kashmir on the 5th of August has also meant the abrogation of Article 35-A, a clause of the now-revoked Jammu and Kashmir constitution which protected Kashmiri ownership of land. Thus, the threadbare vestiges of Kashmiri autonomy that protected indigenous Kashmiris and their land ownership rights from Indian settler ownership has vanished overnight. Kashmir is now saleable by the colonial state ostensibly for developmental purposes though an old Hindutva vision of a demographic change, or ethnic cleansing, from Kashmiri to non-Kashmiri, from Muslim to Hindu.
While the articles in this forthcoming special issue of Identities were written before the 5th of August military siege of Kashmir, they indicate the ways in which Kashmiris have been living under Indian colonial occupation since Jammu and Kashmir’s Maharajah hurriedly acceded to India in 1947, with the proviso that Kashmiris would one day determine their own future. The complex story of the accession may be gleaned from the essays themselves as from recent scholarly sources. Farrukh Faheem speaks of the difficulty of accessing archives in the context of secrecy and state violence, and comments on the nature of what may be constituted as an archive in an occupied zone. In the article, 'Counter-maps of the ordinary: occupation, subjectivity, and walking under curfew in Kashmir', Mohamad Junaid explores through ethnographic work ‘counter-maps of the ordinary’, or the spatial dimensions of walking and stone-throwing as resistant practices, part of Kashmiri aspiration for freedom.
Kashmiri longing for freedom can be witnessed in their historical solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Ather Zia’s article (forthcoming) traces the resonant and affective solidarity of Kashmiris for Palestine. In the article, 'Kashmir and Palestine: itineraries of (anti) colonial solidarity', Goldie Osuri examines the historical and contemporary routes of anti-colonial solidarity between India and Palestine (state and non-state), arguing for re-routing this anti-colonial solidarity via Kashmir.
As an archive of coloniality and resistance solidarity in Kashmir and Palestine, this special issue of Identities points to another truth that must be acknowledged. The praxis of ‘decolonial solidarity’, as Todorova has described it, is perhaps all that we can hope for in the face of the current maelstrom of the open barbarity of militarised security states, whether in Palestine or Kashmir or elsewhere.
Blog post by Goldie Osuri, University of Warwick, UK, and Ather Zia, University of Northern Colorado, USA
Read the Identities articles from this special issue:
Junaid, Mohamad. Counter-maps of the ordinary: occupation, subjectivity, and walking under curfew in Kashmir. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1633115
Osuri, Goldie. Kashmir and Palestine: itineraries of (anti) colonial solidarity. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1675334
Todorova, Teodora. Vulnerability as a politics of decolonial solidarity: the case of the Anarchists Against the Wall. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1647663
Read related Identities blog articles:
Decolonial solidarity in Palestine-Israel by Teodora Todorova
Everyday dilemmas of walking under curfew in Kashmir by Mohamad Junaid
In 2019, Musée d’Orsay held an exhibition on Black Models, and the National Museum of the History of Immigration held a year-long exhibition on the musical contribution of migration to Paris and London. Why do we need a specific show to give black models an identity and an exhibition to demonstrate the contribution of post-colonial migrants to popular music?
In my Identities article, 'The whiteness of cultural boundaries in France', I explore the underpinnings of France’s relationship to the culture of the Other, through the scope of whiteness. I contend that whiteness can be defined as a kind of capital embedded in the routine structures of economic and political life and is therefore a relevant concept to analyse French cultural policy.
I start with the creation of a French Ministry of Culture in 1959 and show that it was not that Culture Minister André Malraux and his colleagues were not interested in foreign culture, but rather that their universalist approach to foreign arts prevented them from considering the cultural dimension of the growing presence of immigrants in France. Over the decades, immigration transformed from an economic phenomenon to a cultural matter, and in this process, French cultural policies became perceived as a useful tool to integrate newcomers. In the 1970s, the French Labour Ministry subsidised the television show Mosaïques that broadcasted images of immigrants’ country of origin, setting a clear boundary between France and the country where they came from. In the 1980s, the French Ministry of Culture marvelled in the creative power of a generation of immigrant offspring and used it to celebrate French cultural diversity.
However, based on an analysis of the archives of the Ministry of Culture and several interviews with administrative officials, I discovered that migration-related minorities mostly have to justify the social benefit of their artistic initiatives. The administration’s reliance on cultural policy to solve matters related to perception of immigration in political opinion shows that cultural policy serves to negotiate boundaries in France.
In defining specific guidelines for the implementation of cultural programmes aimed at immigrant integration, administrative officials treat immigrants and nationals differently. This point is not to be missed by numerous immigrant artists or immigrant groups who criticise this double standard treatment. How is it that when a group of immigrants has an artistic project, they have to meet some specific guidelines that are not based on artistic value but on the project’s implication in terms of social development? The differential treatment due to migration-related artistic projects allows us to identify the privilege embedded in the routine structure of cultural life: the privilege is to be evaluated according to the impartiality of aesthetic criteria, as opposed to having to justify for its social impact. This set a clear boundary between natives and migration-related minorities: the privilege of the majority is to be able to define culture in universalist terms, when minorities are constrained with end goals.
The concept of whiteness can help us reframe the discussion around inequality and difference. Instead of focusing on systems of stigmatisation, it helps us shift our focus on the reverse: the definition of privilege. The lack of clear determination of what culture means in connection with immigration comes through as striking evidence of an asymmetrical relation.
Blog post by Angéline Escafré-Dublet, Université Lumière Lyon 2, France
Read the full article: Escafré-Dublet, Angéline. The whiteness of cultural boundaries in France. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1587906
Canada and the United States are touted as multicultural societies, both formally through multiculturalism policies and informally through cultural narratives and metaphors such as the 'melting pot.' Still, these policies, narratives and metaphors can actually mask persistent inequalities that immigrant populations must navigate through, even for populations that already appear well-equipped to adapt to the host culture.
This is the case for Filipina/os. In my Identities article, 'The centrality of neoliberalism in Filipina/o perceptions of multiculturalism in Canada and the United States', Filipina/o university students in Toronto and Los Angeles discuss their views regarding ethnic identity maintenance and inclusion in their respective environments. The results were a bit counter-intuitive.
Since Canada promotes formal multiculturalism through federally-funded events and support for community-building within various ethnic communities, one might expect Filipina/os in Toronto to have a greater sense of ethnic identity and sense of belonging in Toronto compared to their counterparts in California, mostly because of the absence of multiculturalism policies in the United States.
Instead, it appears Filipina/os in both contexts experience stigma in very similar ways because of their racial and ethnic differences. This inhibits a full sense of belonging. For many Filipina/os, these negative responses to their racial and ethnic differences negate any advantages they experience coming from a country already accustomed to Western values, ideas, cultures, education and institutions — a legacy of former colonisation in the Philippines by Spain and the United States.
While Filipina/os in Toronto were aware of multiculturalism policy in Canada, they remained baffled by the everyday experiences of prejudice and discrimination and the lack of attention to stigma against them. The Toronto interviewees tended to adopt a 'blame the victim' approach that is associated with neoliberalism. Essentially, Filipina/os should be able to overcome any hardship in their lives if they just work harder. The problem with the neoliberal strategy of destigmatisation is that it puts no focus on institutions and social contexts, such as experiences of racism, classism, sexism, etc., as explanations for why some groups could be having a harder time fitting into the mainstream than other groups.
The interviewees in California, by contrast, are more likely to emphasise the role of social institutions in the status hierarchy of Filipina/os in respect to the mainstream. Although the United States has no federally-funded policies for ethnic groups, there is a level of political activism, particularly in higher education, that has led to social change. The Third World Liberation Front and student-led strikes in the Bay Area during the 1960s worked in tandem with many people power movements of the time, which contributed to the creation of a College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University and other ethnic studies programmes throughout the nation. This enables a history and vocabulary for the California students to critique nation-state relations between the United States and the Philippines, rather than say that Filipina/os simply must work harder.
The findings caution against an overreliance on policies to address the past effects of discrimination. This is a story from the voices of Filipina/os that there needs to be a constant reminder of why those policies were there in the first place, particularly through critical discussions of race and ethnic relations that happen in universities. This is more likely to happen in California, but Toronto is beginning to address this need, too — even in the absence of a Civil Rights Movement comparable to the United States — as a number of scholars critique racial hierarchies and establish spaces for Filipina/os to heal, such as performing arts venues. These efforts demonstrate the enormous work needed to help people truly feel included in their very diverse societies.
Blog post by Vincent Laus, California State University, USA
Read the full article: Laus, Vincent. The centrality of neoliberalism in Filipina/o perceptions of multiculturalism in Canada and the United States. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1611071