“Higher Education and Societal Transformation: Decolonisation and Racial Equality” Workshop, June 2019 Brasilia

Rebecca Irons

The modernist architect’s dream-city of Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, was the location for the workshop “Higher Education and Societal Transformation: Decolonisation and Racial Equality” in June 2019. An event for early career researchers (ECR), funded by the Newton Fund and organised by Professor Shirley Tate (Leeds Beckett University) and Dr. Breitner Tavares (University of Brasilia), this event brought together ECRs from across the UK and Brazil for three days of illuminative, urgent, and passionate discussion on a topic of great importance.

The workshop focused on the collaborative discussion on experiences and strategies to work towards the decolonisation of the University, both in Brazil and at home in the UK, so that greater racial equality can be sought within the academy – a critical issue that concerns every conscious academic concerned not only with the well being of our colleagues and students, but with the pursuit of a decolonised academic knowledge across the academy.

Arguably, this is particularly important for anthropology and anthropologists; as we all may know, the discipline has a long and dark history of pursuing colonial interests that we need to be critically aware of, and that need be addressed within the contemporary University.

According to my own research with indigenous Quechua women in the Andes, Latin American colonialism brought with it not only racial inequalities but also gendered disjuncture that imposed hierarchies which continue to disadvantage Peruvian women, exemplified by the increasing incidences of feminicide in the country. This extends to education, and particularly medical education in my research, where women are often inferiorised and sexualised within the academy, affecting their ability to achieve secure working conditions and provide good health services to their patients as a result.

This incites us to also take an intersectional perspective towards decolonisation of the university, in the cases of Latin America and at home, so that we can consider the intersecting inequalities of experience that disadvantage POC students and academics.

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