Review: ‘Colonialism and Climate Change’

By Amelia Cooper.

A panel held at Common Ground’s inaugural symposium welcomed Dalia Gebrial, a campaigner who currently works for People & Planet, and Leon Sealey-Huggins, an academic who focuses on the social relations of climate change, to speak alongside Asad Rehman, Executive Director of War on Want, at a panel chaired by student campaigner Lily MacTaggart. Their shared message was clear: the discourse on climate change requires a radical overhaul, and should be reframed as a question of climate justice.

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Review: Towards a Decolonised Curriculum Panel Discussion

By Naomi Packer.

Sitting in the audience of this panel the first thing that strikes me is that everyone on it is female. Furthermore, the majority are women of colour. For a brief moment I acknowledge how rare it is to be faced with a panel of all-female academics. The panel is comprised of exceptional women: Eden Bailey, the outgoing OUSU VP for Access and Outreach, Ankhi Mukherjee, Oxford Professor of English and World Literatures, and Melz Owusu, grime artist and ‘Why Is My Curriculum White?’ campaigner doing her masters in Philosophy at the University Leeds.  All of them are inspiring; none of them are without strong opinions on the way in which minorities have been marginalised by the British curricula.

When considering whether the subaltern can speak at Oxford, Ankhi Mukherjee notes that we should bear in mind three questions. Firstly, who is welcome to speak; secondly, what knowledge is valued; and thirdly, why are some aspects of our curricula questioned while others remained unchallenged? These questions proceed to guide the discussion.

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Review: ‘Learning from Anti-Colonial Struggles’ – Karma Nabulsi’s Keynote Speech

By Naomi Packer.

Karma Nabulsi begins her keynote address by outlining some of the key issues at stake. How do campaigners come to agree on what de-colonisation means, and how do universities engage with this change? Nabulsi posits that answers to these questions are found in the anti-colonial struggles of the past, and, in particular, in the stories of those who directly fought against inequality through creating what she describes as “a true solidarity.” “In order to move forward,” she states, “we simply need to open the road behind us.”

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Review: Taking the Decolonisation Project Forward Panel

By Ebubechi Okpalugo.

 

Firmly nestled within the end of term buzz, ‘Making Rhodes History: Taking the Decolonisation Project Forward’ opened up a multi-faceted discussion of the legacy of imperialism, exploring, but importantly going beyond, Rhodes Must Fall Oxford (RMF).  The eclectic voices of 6 panellists and one mediator ranged from a previous Rhodes scholar to the director of the Pitt Rivers Museum.  The panel was chaired by All Souls student Max Harris, and took place at Christ Church college.

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Oxford students and academics support Jason Osamede Okundaye

Students and academics from the University of Oxford have rallied together from across disciplines, colleges and departments to sign an open letter in a show of solidarity with Jason Osamede Okundaye, a Cambridge University student.

If you are a student or academic at Oxford, and want to show Jason your support, fill out the google form here.

Read the letter below:

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Review: Oxford University and the British Class System Panel

By Eimer McAuley.

40% of students from 7% of schools. The statistic that headlines Common Ground’s panel discussion presents the extent of social inequality as an inescapable, inarguable fact.

It makes me wonder why, so often, in conversations about social inequality at Oxford, I feel like a raving conspiracy theorist. The University’s catalogue of efforts in outreach, the argument that Oxbridge is a scapegoat for wider issues of inequality in education, and the importance of maintaining an academic standard of the ‘best and brightest’, are all easily mounted defences, which suggest that the demographics of the student body aren’t the fault of the University.

So, sitting in front of the leading experts in education and access, I’m eager to hear why institutional classism and racism are so evident in Oxbridge admissions, and get some answers as to what should be done about it.

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Undressing – an extract

Filmed and produced by Ella Gannon, with Beth Davies-Kumadiro. Featuring Femi Nylander, after his final exam at Oxford 2016. ‘Cocktails with Orpheus’ by Terence Hayes is read by Gazelle Mba.

 

Video: ‘Can the Subaltern Speak at Oxford? Towards a Decolonised Curriculum’ Panel Discussion

In our globalised and multicultural world, “diversity” is a given. Decolonisation is not. Our curricula should reflect and represent a plethora of voices and perspectives, but they don’t. Here at Oxford, the scholars we are taught to admire and emulate in our work overwhelmingly come from a narrow identity and this produces a narrow understanding of the world. Institutionally, the voices of people of colour are written out of academia; working-class voices, trans voices, and female voices are silenced. This silencing – on our reading lists, in our tutorials – is a violent form of erasure. N.B. A token mention of Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism’ does not constitute a decolonised curriculum!

Common Ground want to explore what it means to have our curricula dominated by the white, western, European male gaze, and work out how to shatter the suffocating paradigm it creates.

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Video: ‘Making Rhodes History,’ Panel Discussion

Watch the video of our panel discussion here:

 

★ DESCRIPTION ★

Our panel discussion ‘Making Rhodes History: Taking the Decolonisation Project Forward’ used the statue of Cecil Rhodes as an inroad into wider debates about colonial symbols, iconography, and material culture in Oxford. We wanted to interrogate the role that challenging and reworking spaces plays in the decolonisation project.

The statue of Cecil Rhodes that stands above Oriel college both symbolises Oxford’s imperial past and continues to overshadow its unequal present. The statute exists within the wider context of a city that is saturated with iconography which commemorates Oxford’s colonial history. From the portrait of the High Commissioner for Southern Africa, Alfred Milner, hanging at Balliol, to the library named after slave-owner Christopher Codrington at All Souls college, to the namesake of our art school, fervent imperialist John Ruskin, Oxford’s material culture stands as a testament to its colonial legacy. This iconography overshadows a university with a largely colonised curriculum, and a disproportionately low number of BME students and staff.

Oxford student protesters have been inspired by the Rhodes Must Fall Movement in South Africa, which succeeded in removing iconography of the white supremacist from a campus in which racism continues to affect admissions and academic life. RMF joins a long tradition of student protest against colonial iconography (shout out to the students at Hamburg who pulled down a statue of the notorious German colonialist Hermann von Wissmann in 1961). RMF also joins an international surge towards the creation of anti-racist spaces. In the United States, the New Orleans city council recently responded to a racist attack by taking down statues which celebrated confederate symbols; Harvard University has recently launched an entire academic programme dealing with North American colonialism; Vanderbilt University has actively chosen to pay off donors rather than keep the word ‘Confederate’ on one of their buildings. Ever-progressive, we at Oxford have started to hang portraits of women on the walls of our dining halls…

Common Ground want to investigate the way that such symbols and objects affect Oxford. We aim to explore the role that changing Oxford’s spaces has in taking the decolonisation project forward. This panel will discuss the differences between a material culture that perpetuates imperialism, and one that interrogates it. How do institutions process their own legacies; how we can decolonise our environments; and last but not least, WHEN will our spaces become decolonised?

★ SPEAKERS ★

MAX HARRIS (CHAIR)
Max Harris is a former Rhodes Scholar, and a current examination fellow at All Souls. Max has done extensive work in the fields of human rights justice, indigenous legal issues, and the future of progressive politics. He was also involved in the Rhodes Must Fall Movement.

DALIA GEBRIAL
Dalia Gebrial is an activist and writer. As well as having worked as a core organiser for Rhodes Must Fall, she is currently co-ordinating People & Planet’s ‘Undoing Borders’ campaign, which supports students taking action in solidarity with migrants. She is working on a special issue of Historical Materialism on ‘Identity Politics,’ and an edited volume on decolonising higher education alongside Professor Gurminder Bhambra and Dr Kerem Nisciangolu.

NDJODI NDEUNYEMA
A Namibian by birth, Ndjodi is pursuing an MPhil in Law at Linacre College, with his research looking at the justiciability of socio-economic rights in Namibia. Ndjodi was involved in the drafting of the Third Amendment to the Namibian Constitution in 2014. Ndjodi is also a former Rhodes Scholar; he was part of the Redress Rhodes Campaign, as well as the Rhodes Must Fall movement. At present, he serves as an Editor of the Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal and is the Vice-President of the Oxford University Africa Society.

NADIYA FIEGEUROA
Nadiya Fiegeuroa is the Dean of Scholarships and Director of Leadership & Change at the Rhodes Trust. She heads the Character, Service and Leadership Program for Rhodes Scholars, and steers other aspects of the Scholar experience – from selection policy and procedures to outreach to underrepresented populations, and support of Scholar led initiatives. Nadiya has worked extensively in human and institutional development with a focus on education, partnerships and governance. She was part of the small team to found the first public policy think-tank in the English-speaking Caribbean (CaPRI, Caribbean Policy Research Institute) and was Deputy Director of Jamaica’s leading good governance anti-corruption organization, National Integrity Action, now a chapter of Transparency International. Nadiya has held policy advisory, programmatic and facilitator roles with the Government of Jamaica, University of the West Indies and regional Civil Society organizations.

DR DAN HICKS
Dan Hicks is Associate Professor in the School of Archaeology, Curator of Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum, and a Fellow of St Cross College. He has a vast range of knowledge having published work on themes as diverse as the ‘architecture of displacement’ (exploring the lived experience of temporary accommodation for refugees in the Middle East and Europe) and ‘sugar landscapes’ in the Eastern Caribbean, as well as both the Cambridge Companion to Historical Archeology and the Oxford Handbook of Material Cultural Studies. He is also the General Editor of Bloomsbury Series ‘A Cultural History of Objects’.

MICHELLE CODRINGTON-ROGERS
Michelle Codrington-Rogers is a teacher in Oxford who has been involved with the Rhodes Must Fall movement. Descended from one of the many people enslaved by Christopher Codrington, Michelle brings a personal perspective on what it means to decolonise a space.

LAURA VAN BROEKHOVEN
Laura Van Broekhoven is Director of the Pitt Rivers Museum and Professorial Fellow at Linacre College, Oxford. Laura has research interests in Postcolonial Praxis, the negotiation of Curatorial authority, restitution, and Repatriation.