SOAS University of London

SOAS Virtual Festival of Ideas: Decolonising Knowledge

14 August 2020
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SOAS will host its first ever Virtual Festival of Ideas from 19-24 October 2020.

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. Led by Dr Amina Yaqin, the SOAS Festival of Ideas celebrates new and exciting directions in SOAS research, teaching and enterprise emphasising the urgency of understanding our place in the world. 

Mbembe calls for a comprehensive re-evaluation of epistemology, processes of knowledge production and learning in order to accommodate different forms and modes of knowledge and bring together a variety of publics in the act of co-learning. We echo Mbembe's vision at SOAS, and the Festival is the culmination of a series of student and staff-led initiatives offering public engagement and cutting edge research and teaching practices at SOAS. The festival responds to a changing higher education environment that demands reconceptualising the role of the university locally and globally. It emphasises the need for greater access and an informed and critically conscious relationship with the Global South.  

The SOAS Festival of Ideas: Decolonising Knowledge continues the work on race and access begun by Baroness Valerie Amos, Director of SOAS (2015-2020), who has called for universities to act to close the BAME attainment gap in the UK. With our window to the world and from our location in the centre of London we seek to address the movement of capital, ownership of land and enslavement across global political systems. In doing so, we address questions of decolonising the curriculum, ‘white privilege’, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, reparations and contribute to ongoing debates ensuing from the SOAS Decolonising Vision approved by Academic Board and the Board of Trustees in 2017.

The Festival aims to:

  • foster connections between research practice, teaching and learning and public engagement;
  • enable interdisciplinary synergies and conversations across SOAS Departments, Centres and Institutes, the library and its galleries;
  • engage with organisations in the UK and the Global South working for the betterment of community life, especially those working with minorities or marginalised members.

The SOAS Festival of Ideas: Decolonising Knowledge marks an institution-wide commitment to decolonising education and looks toward the future direction of the School under its incoming Director, Professor Adam Habib. In particular, it will highlight the School’s unique and growing identity as a place for decolonising history, including its own.

The Festival will engage with the following eight themes, which underpin the exciting research taking place at SOAS and highlight our ongoing public engagement:

  • Climate Change: Global Voices
  • Border Crossings: Refugees and Migrants
  • Colonialism, Education and Sexualities
  • History, Memory and Trauma
  • Capital and Conflict
  • Cross-Cultural Encounters
  • Heritage and Repatriation
  • Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia

The festival includes panel discussions, student led installations, 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

For further information, contact:

Dr Amina Yaqin, Director of the SOAS Festival of Ideas:

Angelica Baschiera:

Stephanie Guirand:

Sunil Pun: