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Gendered Pedagogy and Approaches to Decoloniality and Africanisation

Wednesday 14 August 2019
Spier Hotel Stellenbosch
9:30am – 3:30pm

This colloquium will explore aspects of decoloniality as distinct from, but related to, postcolonial ideas, which derive from centers of thought such as the Subaltern School in India/Indian diaspora (e.g., Gayatri Spivak).  Decoloniality, on the other hand, was developed from the Latin American cultural complex spurred on by such theoretical figures as Walter Mignolo. It is, however, appropriate that our International Network on Gender, Social Justice and Praxis takes up this topic here in South Africa, home to one of the more vigorous centers of decoloniality. After all, it was at the University of Cape Town in 2015 when the #RhodesMustFall action was carried out by students.  The action of removing a physical symbol, a statue of the essence of colonialism, Cecil Rhodes, was visceral, material.  But it led to an attempt to address the matrix of colonialism in the curriculum. Thus, we are interested in the process of decolonializing the curriculum in Higher Education, not only erasing racism, for example, in all of its vestiges, but also indigenizing curriculum, and involving feminism and Freire with praxis and social justice spaces in mind.  We also bear in mind the larger goal of confronting all aspects of colonialism that have touched psyches, undermined thinking processes, and dominated epistemology.  The presentations and a roundtable will grapple with many aspects of revealing, changing, and purging colonialized epistemology, pedagogy, and curriculum, with some presenters taking on their own whiteness, foreignness and failures in dealing with these processes within our neoliberal universities; while others are attempting to create spaces for decolonization.  Our last presentation will present an urgent case that questions our futures.

This is a Free Event, sponsored by the University of Newcastle
Registrations have now closed

Symposium presentations:

Decoloniality, Gender and Pedagogies: Framing a Conversation

Ronelle Carolissen, Saajidha Sader & Nonhlanhla Mthiyane

Gender is a foundational organising principle of imperialism and colonialism and therefore is an important frame within which to know and theorise the world. Yet the concept of gender has been conspicuously sparse in framings on decoloniality and postcoloniality which are frequently viewed as singular concepts central to the current resurgence in decolonial thinking, especially in South Africa. This presentation expands this dominant view and frames a historical account of “decolonial” thinking. It further tracks how gender has largely been absent in this historical trajectory and plot enactments of gendered colonial thinking against the normative historical trajectory.  We also engage critically with enactments of gendered decoloniality across these traditions and challenge the erasure of African feminist scholar activists from the decolonial landscape by reinserting key thinkers into this landscape. We aim to work towards a gendered decolonial praxis which focuses on gender activism through our educational praxis and pedagogies.. We weave together historical constructions of decoloniality and decolonisation and insert understandings of pedagogies in what has become an educational context dominated by constructions of education as a market economy in a  context of widening participation. In these times disruptive pedagogical interventions are particularly urgent to cultivate alternative narratives of transnational and transversal collaboration that focus on global and local relations of power.  The presentations in this colloquium interrogate how positionalities, race, gender and class inform and frame knowledge production, in terms of pedagogies and curriculum in teaching and learning contexts, especially higher education.

Re-Imagining the Decolonization Debates in South African Higher Education: What’s Gender Got to do with it?

Relebohile Moletsane

Professor Relebohile Moletsane

Debates about decolonization, particularly among student activist in the #FeesMustFall, #RhodesMustFall and other movements have been informed largely by the writings of international race scholars such as WEBdu Bois‚ Aime Cesaire‚ Walter Rodney‚ Paul Gilroy‚ Marcus Garvey‚ Steve Biko‚ and Frantz Fanon. In his highly cited work, The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon discusses life post-liberation, and the ways in which colonial structures and systems continue to inform particular forms of power and power struggles, in the post-colonial and post-apartheid state. Yet, such debates, as the women students in the ‘fallist’ movements came to realise, tend to pay scant attention to the gender struggles that continue to pervade various spaces in higher education institutions. For example, in the context of neoliberalism, South African universities seem to have adopted corporate strategies of competition, marketisation and entrepreneurship as key areas of performance for staff and students. For obvious reasons, in our patriarchal society, these expectations tend to impact more negatively on women, who are often faced with gendered inequalities, and marginalisation in academic spaces. These factors often limit and undermine their effective participation and success in such areas as research, curriculum development, and decision-making in their institutions, including decisions related to the current decolonisation project in higher education.  This presentation seeks to move the debates about gender from the margins of the decolonisation debates that seek to change the nature, identity and culture(s) of our institutions and to disrupt the tools and systems that continue to support the gendered legacy of colonialism and apartheid in universities.

Indigenising higher education curriculum: perspectives on class, ethnicity and gender

Oforiwaa Gifty Gyamera

Whilst decolonization has not been a buzzword in the landscape of higher education in Ghana, some universities have made efforts to indigenize their curriculum mainly to enhance equality and address poverty. One of the key strategies is through community engagement. With the emphasis on poverty and equality, there appears to be a lack of focus on how gender, class and ethnicity mediate in the process and how these impact on the identities and relationship among students and also between students and community members.

This paper draws on data on the Third Trimester Field Practical Program (TTFP) of the University of Development Studies to explore the interplay of power relationship based on class, gender and ethnicity.  It particularly discusses the extent to which this engagement considers gender issues of both students and community members.

The initial findings indicate that students find these community engagements interesting and worthwhile, however there is limited influences of the indigenous ways of the communities on the university curricula. Also the university hardly considers particularly gendered challenges confronting both students and communities. I draw on Paulo Freire’s work to argue that dialogue, mutual respect, trust, and cross learning should be re-emphasized and prioritized. Without deliberate interventions, the universities will reaffirm societal patterns of oppression and inequalities in the communities and to its own students with little progress in indigenizing the curriculum.

Trans/Forming Pedagogical Spaces: Race, Belonging and Recognition in Higher Education

Penny Jane Burke

Belonging and inclusion are closely related to spatial relations and structures, as well as pedagogical practices and subjectivities. This paper considers the ways that pedagogical spaces are deeply entwined with the perpetuation of exclusions and misrecognitions, drawing on research data to illuminate how racialized inequalities often play out in subtle and insidious ways. This paper argues that pedagogical spaces must be trans/formed with great sensitivity to the profound impact of racialized misrecognitions - who is seen or not seen as having the right to higher education is attached to long standing constructions of potential and ability that value certain histories, knowledge and ways of being and exclude others.

Creating Spaces for Decolonization in Third Country Higher Education Contexts

Lauren Misiaszek

As a result of Chinese government scholarships, as many as 70% of Beijing Normal University international postgraduate education students arrive in China from across Africa, with nearly as many countries represented as there are students. Departing from Network member Hale (2014)’s work on self-subversion, I will reflect on my 6 years as the only long-term non-male faculty member in the China Normal [historically teacher-training] University system, particularly the intersection of my whiteness, northernness, queerness, agnosticism, and age. I will discuss my regular experience of working with conservative Christian and Muslim students in an atheist country while navigating my own fluid identity. In a context in which both the students and teachers are not in our “home” country contexts, I will consider how higher education pedagogy can be used to confront “neo”-colonialization traps of high-level and problematic “China-Africa” discourses as they manifest in such HE spaces as degree and scholarship programs.

Hale, Sondra. 2014. "A Propensity for Self-Subversion and a Taste for Liberation: An Afterword."  Journal of Middle East Women's Studies 10 (1):149-163. doi: 10.2979/jmiddeastwomstud.10.1.149.

False Starts: The Failure of U.S Neoliberal Universities to Decolonize Higher Education

Sondra Hale

In this colloquium one of the main thrusts has been to demonstrate the necessity for decolonizing higher education. However, to add to this, I want to address the issue of who decides where we start, as well as asking who has been deciding what is necessary—the epistemological questions.  I use my own institution, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as a case study in describing its various projects designed to “add a missing ingredient and stir” (e.g., “add a woman and stir”).  I will indicate why this big very highly-ranked neoliberal university (built on Native Indian lands) is a strong example of failure in the area of “integrating” “diverse” material into the curricula. It is a very large state university (ca. 45,000) within a very large city (18.79 million) —also one of the most diverse cities in the world—and fairly segregated.

While it may be true that “affirmative action” (which the courts eventually struck down as unconstitutional) was one of the first acts of responding to or placating restive liberals and progressives inside and outside the university by admitting more underprivileged students and hiring more representatives of the underprivileged to teach them, nonetheless, it was never intended as “decolonizing” the university—that term not even emerging until later.  Our institution, tightly tied to capitalism—California being one of the highly industrialized and largest agri-business areas of the country-- needed to satisfy a number of interests.  Our terminology reflects the various turns in the projects initiated for that purpose. The key words to describe the projects developed to revise the curricula supposedly to reflect better the greater society went from “integration” to “gender parity” to “multiculturalism” to “diversification” to “internationalizing,” “transnationalizing,” “Globalizing,” “queering the curriculum,” etc.—all in the name of diversity and equality (note--not freedom). There abounded a number of specialized Projects such as integrating Japanese American incarceration stories into the curriculum, building research on settler-colonialism, for example. Also, I raise the question of the quiescence of the university upon initiating the various ethnic studies and women’s studies programs, as well as International Studies Institutes, and the like. But these projects and new units were and are kept under very established institutional constraints, having the effect, basically of depoliticising them.

Few of these projects included infusing ideas about how to teach these more diverse curricula, i.e., pedagogical skills—certainly not liberatory/critical pedagogy. Nor were these initiatives epistemologically based on students’ experiential backgrounds. Nor was class a part of the earlier experiments.  [Note: the School of Education has had more successful experiments.]  In my presentation I will end by claiming that many of the measures we in U.S. institutions have used/tried have only resulted in leaving the structures of the neoliberal university intact.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. UCLA and all the US neoliberal universities could not possibly succeed in decolonizing the curriculum, let alone the pedagogy; nor was it a goal. The structures and established institutions encased everything in the name of protocol, tradition, and standards. Freedom, after all, was never a goal.

Urgent Sudanese Futures: Decolonial and Feminist Education

Gada Kadoda

Despite how things look in the Present for Sudan, the very recent Past has shown that change is happening and a new national beginning is emerging from the December 2018 “Revolution of Consciousness” that culminated at the two month’s sit-in in Khartoum and other parts of the country. In the presentation, I start with the concept of “urgent futures” or transformations with “massive scale of impact and potential for changing the world,” such as what the Sudanese have experienced. Some of these transformations are obvious and underway (like in the united grief of the people after the massacre at the sit-in on June 3rd, 2019 where Ramadan’s Eid saw none of the usual festivities, and in re-igniting resistance in their neighbourhoods even with the Janjaweed filling the streets); others may be hidden and underneath (like what people learned from each other as they chanted, chatted about, and even caught a glimpse of how freedom, peace and justice – the prominent slogan of the revolution, could be and feel like). While both transformations tell us about the landscape of possible destinations for the future, the latter embody more of the intellectual directions of change through which we can imagine decolonial and feminist education in Sudanese schools and universities.

There is no doubt that the landscape of possible futures includes dreadful scenarios driven by visible and hidden anti-revolution forces; however the futures I focus upon are not influenced by what kind of State we end up with, if any, because they have already been formed in the mind, articulated as ideas, and shared with and without the internet. For this, the emphasis is on transformations that tell of a surge in critical thinking, starting in December and soaring at the sit-in, and that gives way to decolonial and feminist praxis. Some of the visible transformations include the place history occupied at the sit-in as a source of unity and used for celebrating the role of women in the revolution, as well as the way art adjourned the space depicting the struggles of the past, euphoria of the present, and aspirations for the future. A less obvious transformation is in the massive human network, within and between neighbourhoods and cities, of those who met at the sit-in and experienced being and acting together. This network stretches worldwide through the Sudanese diaspora who not only provided moral and financial support for the revolution, but also advocated for and popularized the cause globally.

I conclude with thoughts on permeating decolonial/feminist dialogues through these networks using: Morgan Ndlovo’s ideas for South Africa to continue looking at history and how it can be “mobilised for nation building” or to look into “pre-colonial gender relations” in a way that challenges today’s relations; Anibal Quijano’s “colonial matrix of power” to explore structures of power in families, ethnic groups, professions, in and between any groups, to free ourselves from multi-centrism’s and “universal truths” that reflect our complex colonial history; and finally, Walter Mignolo to look at “decolonial options and their entanglements within contemporary political and cultural processes” using the poetry, art and song of the revolution. It is these perceptions of change, Quijano agrees with futures thinkers, which bring about new ideas of the future, where time is new and not merely the extension of the past, and history is not only perceived as something that just happens, but also as something that is produced by the actions of the people, their intentions and decisions.