SOAS University of London

SOAS Festival of Ideas

Virtual SOAS Festival of Ideas - The Opening Program


Date: 19 October 2020Time: 11:00 AM

Finishes: 19 October 2020Time: 1:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Virtual Event

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Virtual SOAS Festival of Ideas - The Opening Program


Inspired by Achille Mbembe’s series of lectures on decolonising the university in conversation with the Rhodes Must Fall movement in South Africa, the SOAS Virtual Festival of Ideas will focus on Decolonising Knowledge. This opening event is hosted by Dr Amina Yaqin and will feature music by Senegalese musician KKTAR, speeches by SOAS students, a presentation by Dr Meera Saratnam of the SOAS Decolonising Working Group, a speech by Maliha Shoaib of the SOAS Spirit Newspaper, and a keynote lecture by incoming SOAS Director Professor Adam Habib entitled “Decolonising Knowledge: The Flow of Knowledge in regards to the positioning of the Global South”. There will be a response by SOAS Pro-Director Professor Andrea Cornwall.

The Virtual SOAS Festival of Ideas Opening Program will kick off a week-long series of virtual events. The festival includes: panel discussions, student led installations, masterclasses, keynote lectures, a public debate for/against on Decolonising Knowledge and a Verbatim performance by Bhuchar Boulevard on ‘Decolonising Not Just a Buzzword’ capturing SOAS conversations about the need to decolonise its imperial mission. Please join us for The Virtual SOAS Festival of Ideas Opening Program on Monday 19 October from 11am-1pm.

Highlights include:

Public Debate Decolonising ‘For and Against’
Verbatim performance
Black Lives Matter
Multilingual Mushaira
‘I May Destroy You’ Discussion
Music & More

Meera Sabaratnam

Dr Meera Sabaratnam is Senior Lecturer in International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Studies. Her research concerns the colonial and postcolonial dimensions of world politics, both in theory and practice. She has recently published on the workings of the international aid system, racism and whiteness in IR and critical pedagogy. At SOAS she has served as the Chair of the Decolonising SOAS Working Group and the Academic Senate. In the former role she has worked extensively on what it means to 'decolonise' learning and teaching and the wider university environment. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

The Decolonising SOAS Working Group description: The Decolonising SOAS Working Group was set up in 2016 to interrogate and articulate what 'decolonising the university' would mean at SOAS. Following the institutional adoption of a Decolonising SOAS Vision in 2017, the Working Group has since been working to implement that vision by developing a Learning and Teaching Toolkit, a Public Engagement and Outreach Fund, a Research Vision, delivering training for staff and student reps, and putting on events that develop our understanding of racial inequalities, colonialism and imperialism. The group is open to all staff and students to join, set the agenda and bid for funding. It regularly reports on its activities to Academic Board and the Curriculum and Quality Assurance Committee. Members of the group have engaged nationally and internationally on the debates in higher education and public life in the media and other fora.

Maliha Shoaib

Maliha Shoaib is in her final year studying BA English and World Philosophies at SOAS. She has worked with the Spirit all three years of her degree – in first year writing a fashion column, in second year serving as Co-Editor-in-Chief, and in third year being promoted to Managing Editor. Along with her professional copywriting and editing experience, in her own writing she specializes in fashion, pop-culture criticism and social commentary. After she finishes her degree, Maliha hopes to further her career in journalism.

SOAS Spirit

The SOAS Spirit is your independent student-run newspaper with an on-campus presence dating back to 1936.We at the Spirit aim to hold those in positions of power accountable and produce content which students will find informative, thought-provoking and entertaining. The Spirit aims to portray the diverse student body by the power of knowledge dissemination to students whose voices may be otherwise underrepresented. We aim to provide students with valuable experience for their future careers with the hopes of closing the BAME gap within the media industry in the future. To learn more about how to join the paper, email

Abass Ndiaye

Abass Ndiaye is a professional senegalese artist, singer-songwriter, composer, author and performer, based in Berlin. His style, characterized by his strong voice, is a blend of Afro Pop, Folk, Reggae, Hiphop and Afro Beat. He sings in his mother tongue Wolof, but also in French and English, which gives him a variety of different expressions and accessibility to a wide audience.

His musical inspirations come from traditional senegales music and artists like Bob Marley, Ali Farka Toure, Salif Keita, Gnagua Mbay, Aminata Fall a.o. Abass has been participating in many festivals, venues and cultural events in Africa and Europe: Concert for Peace, Jemberin Festival and No Malaria Festival (Casamance/Senegal) Tournee Marocco (Casablanca a.o.), Afrikakeur (Dakar), YAAM, Heimathafen Neukölln, Bergmannstraßenfest 2018, Karneval der Kulturen Berlin, Zwischenraum Festival, Pay au Forin (France), RIXPOP a.o.

Besides the guitar he plays the traditional west-african "Kamele Ngoni“, a traditional string instrument made out of calabash. His storytelling is about rural life and personal experiences concerning changes and social aspects of western and non-western societies. He is constantly on a mission of cultural sensitization, healing and uniting through music.

Adam Habib

Adam Habib is an academic, researcher, activist, administrator, and well-known public intellectual.

A Professor of Political Science, Habib has over 30 years of academic, research and administration expertise, spanning five universities and multiple local and international institutions, boards and task teams. His professional involvement in institutions has always been defined by three distinct engagements: the contest of ideas, their translation into actionable initiatives, and the building of institutions.

Habib is currently the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). He is a former Chair of Universities South Africa, which represents vice-chancellors and higher education in the country. In these roles, he has been working with government, students and other stakeholders to find solutions to the recent wave of protests around funding for higher education. He has also focussed on building African research excellence, and together with the University of Cape Town, Wits initiated the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA).

Prior to joining Wits, Habib served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation, Library and Faculty Coordination at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). He was instrumental in transforming UJ following the nationwide mergers of tertiary institutions in 2005 and played a key role in increasing research output. He also served as Research Director on Governance and Democracy, and Executive Director at the Human Sciences Research Council. He held several academic and research posts at the University of Natal, including Professor in the School of Development Studies and Research Director of the Centre for Civil Society.

Habib holds qualifications in Political Science from three universities, including the University of Natal and Wits. He earned his masters and doctoral qualifications from the Graduate School of the City University of New York.

Transformation, democracy andinclusivedevelopment are fundamental themes of his research. Habib’s bookSouth Africa’s Suspended Revolution: Hopes and Prospects, has informed debates around the country’stransition into democracy, as well as its prospects for inclusive development. His latest book, Rebels and Rage: Reflecting on #FeesMustFall, provides an insight into the recent student protests in South Africa from the position of a vice-chancellor and social scientist.

Habib’s contributions resulted in his election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in addition to serving as a fellow of both the African Academy of Science and the Academy of Science of South Africa.He also currently serves on the Council of the United Nations University.

Amina Yaqin is a Reader in Urdu and Postcolonial Studies at SOAS. She is Chair of the Decolonising Working Group and the Director of the SOAS Festival of Ideas. Her monograph Gender, Sexuality and Feminism in Pakistani women's poetry is forthcoming with Anthem Press in 2021. She is co-author with Peter Morey of Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and Representation after 911(Harvard University Press, 2011) and has co-edited, Contesting Islamophobia: media, politics and culture (IB Tauris/Bloomsbury 2019); Muslims, Trust and Multiculturalism: New Directions (Palgrave MacMillan 2018); Culture, Diaspora and Modernity in Muslim Writing (Routledge 2012). Her research is interdisciplinary and engages with contemporary contexts of Muslim life as well as the politics of culture in Pakistan where she grew up. She has been a collaborating partner on two projects, the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded International Research Network on Framing Muslims and the Research Councils UK funded Muslims, Trust and Cultural Dialogue. She is a book series co-editor on Multicultural Textualities published by Manchester University Press and on the Advisory Board of Anthem Studies in South Asian Literature, Aesthetics and Culture, the Pakistan Journal of Women's Studies, Journal of Research (Humanities) Punjab university and the Journal of Commonwealth Literature. Dr Yaqin is the founding Chair of the Centre for the Study of Pakistan at SOAS and the co-founder of the Centre for Gender Studies.

Andrea Cornwall

Andrea Cornwall is Professor of Global Development and Anthropology and currently Pro-Director of Research & Enterprise at SOAS. Trained as a SOAS anthropologist, she carried out fieldwork in southwestern Nigeria, Zimbabwe and south London before joining the Institute of Development Studies, where she led programmes of policy research on citizen participation, empowerment, gender equality and sexual rights. Her publications include Spaces for Change? The Politics of Citizen Participation (eds. Cornwall and Coelho, 2008), Democratising Engagement: What the UK Can Learn from International Experience (Demos, 2009), Masculinities under Neoliberalism (eds. Cornwall, Karioris and Lindisfarne, 2016) and ‘Beyond Empowerment Lite: Women’s Empowerment, Neoliberal Development and Global Justice’ (Cadernos Pagu, 2018).


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This event is part of the Virtual SOAS Festival of Ideas which will kick off a week-long series of virtual events. The festival includes: panel discussions, student led installations, masterclasses, keynote lectures, a public debate for/against on Decolonising Knowledge and a Verbatim performance by Bhuchar Boulevard on ‘Decolonising Not Just a Buzzword’ capturing SOAS conversations about the need to decolonise its imperial mission.

Keep updated on the upcoming Virtual Festival of Ideas events and watch recordings of previous events on the SOAS website. Please contact with any questions regarding this event and/or the Virtual SOAS Festival of Ideas.

Please support SOAS Festival of Ideas by donating to our crowdfunding campaign at All proceeds go to supporting the speakers, performers, and artists involved.

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