In April 2023, RIKK hosted a two-day workshop for the research project “Towards decolonizing curricula in Nordic higher education” (Decolon-Ice) which is funded by The Icelandic Research Fund and led by Giti Chandra, Research Specialist at RIKK and GRÓ GEST. The workshop participants were mostly faculty and early-career scholars at the University of Iceland, with the majority coming from the School of Humanities, School of Social of Sciences, and the School of Education. Participants engaged in a dialogue on the status of the decolonisation of higher education.
The project deploys a Participatory Action Research based approach, and as such, the goal of the workshop was to offer educators and academics an opportunity to reflect on syllabus construction, pedagogical practices, research, and university structures. The workshop keynote was given by Alex Tickell, professor of literary history at the Open University and Director of the OU’s Postcolonial and Global Literatures Research Group. Tickell discussed steps taken in the department of English regarding decolonization of curriculum, including debates regarding the value of teaching canonical material with critical insights. He also shared results from the FASSTEST Scholarship project titled “Proscribed Fictions. The Place of Colonial and/or Racist Literature in Curricular Decolonisation”, which investigated student responses to the teaching of canonical literary works that entail colonial and racist ideologies, and how such texts could be used in a study of the legacies of colonialism.
In the following sessions, faculty and researchers from the University of Iceland made presentations on a wide range of topics including implementing data on European colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade into educational materials in Iceland, the importance of “disruption” when teaching the canon, the difficulties of mediating discussions between opposed groups, post-colonial literature and racialised body images, as well as the intersection of colonialism and disability studies. In conversation with workshop participants, presenters discussed how to bring colonial histories to the forefront of language education, the importance of disrupting the connection of whiteness and university funding, and the importance of interdisciplinary collectives regarding the study of colonial structures at the University of Iceland.
The Decolon-Ice project aims to engage with faculty, researchers, and students at the University of Iceland to survey the state of decoloniality of curricula, research, and pedagogy. Working with a broad range of departments at the University of Iceland the project brings together people who are working on this important topic for analysis and reflection of decolonial practices in higher education. Documenting student and faculty experiences and their visions for decoloniality at the University of Iceland, the project offers critical insight into the localised materialization of the global legacies of colonialism and provides important interventions for working towards decoloniality. The workshop was conducted by the Principal Investigator of the project, Giti Chandra, with Thomas Brorsen Smidt, project manager at GRÓ-GEST, Jovana Pavlović, assistant in the project, and its post-doctoral scholar Sólveig Ásta Sigurðardóttir. It follows the first workshop of the project which took place in September 2022.
Kristinn Ingvarsson took photos at the workshop