📝Conference Notes #3: Anti-racist and ‘decolonial’ activism in the academy and beyond

📝Conference Notes #3: Anti-racist and ‘decolonial’ activism in the academy and beyond

The POC2 team attend different conferences regarding diversity and try to take as best notes as they can. The “Conference notes” series is a summary of these events and are comprised of: any topics that they found interesting, talking points and/or links to resources that were mentioned.

This event was held on the 27th March 2019 at the University of Liverpool. It highlighted the need for anti-racist spaces in academia, and planned ways in which all fields in academia could decolonise not only their work, but also the ways in which researchers and teachers act. From trying to truly grasp what “decolonise” means and disentangle it from commodification, to showcasing grassroots student movements within universities, this conference was highly informative and educational. It opened up new avenues with which to pursue our aim of encouraging true racial diversity within STEM and within associated fields.

More information can be found on the event page here.


  • Making bridges with corporations can help.
  • Term decolonise has been watered down + marketed as a commodity.
  • Need to connect outside of institutions and reach out to communities.
  • Role of institutions in colonial power – sole purpose of universities as outposts of colonialism.
  • Include more black + brown names on curriculum reading lists!
  • Resist neoliberal co-opting of decolonisation.
  • 📖 Conversations in postcolonial thought by Katy Sian was mentioned. Find the book here.
    • 📖 She also has a new book entitled “Navigating Institutional Racism in British Universities” available here.

What is decoloniality?

  • Moving away from the term “decolonise” is not helpful.
    • Need to fully reclaim it instead.
  • 📄Essay by Eve Tuck and KJ Wang on the term was mentioned and can be found here.
  • When you abandon the term decolonising you lose the principles which direct grassroots work.
  • Decolonisation – already co-opted when it was actually happening.
  • Decolonisation is becoming a vanity project.
    • The same happened with intersectionality.
  • Australia – stolen land from indigenous people.
  • Resistance to co-optation should come from looking at the treatment of students who are doing decolonisation work.
  • Neo-colonialism = hell garbage.
  • De-colonial work HAS to be international.
    • (Angela Davis stressed this).
  • Staff members don’t want to criticise the institution
    • The more secure the position they hold, the more unwilling to speak out a person tends to be.
    • Petitions are usually where it stops.
  • NUS are part of the problem.
    • Gatekeepers of the movement.


Part 1: Decolonising school curricula

  • Difficult to decolonise something which is so centered on white history.
  • In the west non-white people were not even allowed to attend school let alone be part of the curriculum.

Part 2: “Women educators as transformative agents for social change”

  • Neo-liberal ideals – i.e saying diversity is POC being successful in a white framework.
  • Black feminist analysis of decolonising – most fundamental.
  • Immigrantisation and thriving as a POC in white academic circles – all to do with chance/cracks in the system.
  • Need to reignite fire of fighting injustice within us.
  • Dismantling race in Higher Education.
    • “Can’t dismantle the Master’s house with the Master’s tools” – Audrey Lorde (note to self: read more Audrey Lorde)
  • Move towards colourblindness=white hurt, you’ve trumped the system on “”””merit””””.
  • Meritocracy is something based in a white framework and this itself must be decolonised.
  • Society believes that somehow our bodies present in institutions will change the institution itself.
  • Academic nepotism – they’ll employ people that look like themselves.
    • Perpetuates the whiteness of academia.
  • Modern activism is divorced from personal POC histories – need to shed the mentality of the coloniser.


Speaker from Warwick:
  • Liberationzine – features content by POC writers not on the curriculum e.g Bell Hooks
  • Mentioned that importance of Queer/Trans People Of Colour (QTPOC)
Speaker from SOAS:
  • Antiblackness – specific and different to generic racism.
  • Lecturers saying the n-word “”””in context””””” can actually choke 2 death lads 🙃
  • The Black Curriculum: will teach black history in schools.
  • Class discrimination and antiblackness are linked.
  • Audience member: mentioned not being able to get funding to pursue the PhD topic they wanted.
    • Massive class barrier.
  • Not teaching POC history properly is racist – cannot rely on white history profs to teach POC history.

Part 4: Immigration and anti-racism activism

  • Limits placed on right to study in the UK.
  • Lack of understanding of qualifications in different countries.
  • Decolonising outreach should be done for everyone, don’t just single out migrant students or POC.
  • 40% of research staff are from overseas but very few are in permanent positions.
  • Boycott conferences in countries where you need a visa.
  • Need to make conferences for accessible – upload subtitles on slides in multiple languages.
  • There are phds on decolonisation but because of tier 4 visas so many literal non-EU POC can’t apply for them!!!! >£2000 for an application!!!!!!!

For more information on conferences we’ve attended please visit our resources page or read through the rest of our blog. We are constantly updating both.

Written by Pruthvi Mehta. For more information see the about page or follow her on Twitter @q_the_ordinary.

Edited by Karel Green. For more information see the about page or follow her on Twitter @Thisismeonline.

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