SOAS University of London

Doctoral School

Decolonisation in Praxis


Date: 7 June 2018Time: 9:45 AM

Finishes: 7 June 2018Time: 2:00 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: Wolfson Lecture Theatre (SWLT)

Type of Event: Symposium

The SOAS Research Student Association (RSA) and the SOAS Journal of Postgraduate Research (SJPR) are delighted to invite postgraudate students to attend to the 1st Joint PhD Symposium “Decolonisation in Praxis.”

Decolonising the academic curriculum is a salient discourse in our days in British universities. The School of Oriental and African Studies, an institution that started as a colonial project in 1916, has been steadily moving in this direction, with students increasingly requesting a re-evaluation of curricula that have favoured a single knowledge centre and portrayed a certain (western) epistemology or viewpoint of the world as normative. All this converges to an effort to open up knowledge-making to different epistemologies, normative standards and representations, which fit better an institution specialising in African and Oriental studies. Colonialism in our times continues epistemologically, perpetuated by a lack of reflexivity among researchers and scholars of their own ‘epistemological situatedness.’ We forget often that we analyse the world and produce research through approaches we consider valid and credible, criteria that are inevitably influenced by the worldviews we espouse. To truly decentre knowledge is to decentre the persistent perception that there should be a standard epistemology in the first place, a single normative framework in which knowledge is validated. We believe that to promote cross-cultural understanding and diversity of thought we need openness and willingness to consider and try to understand each other’s knowledge-making approaches, lived experiences and research outputs. Only then can we actively start communicating, learning from each other and building together multidimensional understandings of the world, human society and shared human challenges. This appears to be increasingly urgent in a globalised world where cultural misunderstanding, extremism, fanaticism, isolation and antagonisms of all sorts thrive.

The symposium seeks to provide a forum for the PhD students at SOAS to engage on questions and thoughts related (but not limited) to:

  • Modes and/ or practices of decolonisation
  • Non-Western approaches to knowledge-making
  • Negotiations of local, global and transnational practices

Conference Programme

Time Presentation
10:10-10:20 Conference Welcome from Organisers
Katharina Schmoll, Academic Officer, RSA
Romina Istratii, Monika Hirmer and Iris Lim, Editors-in-Chief of the SJPR
10.20-10.30 Keynote
Dr Amina Yaqin, Senior Lecturer in Urdu and Postcolonial Studies (SOAS), Decolonising SOAS Working Group    
10.30-10.40 Keynote
Dr Alena Rettová, Reader in Swahili Literature and African Philosophy (SOAS)
10:40-11:20 Panel 1: Decolonisation in Action
Is Decolonization Possible? - Tiara Roxanne
Reimagining Sharavana Baba’s Global Religious Movement - Dhruv Ramnath
Discussant: Romina Istratii    
11:20-12:00 Panel 2: Power and Oppression
Celebrating the Battle of Koregaon: Contested histories and the (de)colonial Dalit subject - Jonathan Galton
Discussant: Katharina Schmoll
12:40-13:20 Panel 3: Art and Subjectivities
The Unbounded Self: Subject, site and temporality in seventeenth-century portraiture - Mariana Zegianini
The Female Body in European and Indian Art: A canvas for the negotiation and overcoming of gendered imaginaries and sexual politics of colonialism - Monika Hirmer
Discussant: Florence Shahabi
13:20-14:00 Roundtable: Knowledge-Making and Dissemination
Open Access: A step toward the decolonisation of knowledge-making? - Romina Istratii
Open Access: Practical Barriers to, and Opportunities for, the Decolonization of Knowledge - Helen Porter, Digital Services Support Officer, SOAS Library
Discussant: Monika Hirmer