The (Im)possibility of Decolonizing the University begins with decolonizing the ‘self’

Sara Motta and Aminata Cairo

Sara Motta, Associate Professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia recently visited ISS to speak about the (im)possibility of decolonizing the university. In this seminar and discussion, organized by the ISS Diversity and Inclusion Team, Motta was joined by Aminata Cairo, Lector Inclusive Education at The Hague University of Applied Sciences

Motta’s talk, which was in response to an invitation by the Abolitionist Collective to think-dream of an ‘Abolitionist University Studies’, began with her situating the birth of the university in the highly contested ‘golden age’. In doing so implicates it in the history of accumulation, capitalism, dehumanization and dispossession.

She demonstrates that despite its complicity in regimes of accumulation, regimes of whiteness and regimes of non-being, the university came to be known as a space of morality and goodness. In essence the project of the university and modern knowledge systems is based on the dispossession of indigenous peoples from their land and strategies of assimilation.

She argues that it is this pressure of assimilation that has created a monologue which is not innocent. She encourages us to look at our own implication in the system, to ask what are we critiquing for, to question a system that reproduces death and non-being and to name and refuse the offers of assimilation and the cooptation of our pain, journeys and healing.

Whilst Motta asks us to be cognizant of the ‘self’ that is in the university, Aminata Cairo in her response spoke about how to use that ‘self’; how in resistance to assimilation we can create a new story and in doing so find our own place in it.  

The (Im)possibility of Decolonizing the University begins with decolonizing the ‘self’ - Sara Motta seminar