Durham University needs to change. We have had enough of fruitless commissions and actionless statements: today we are launching the ‘Decolonise Durham Network’, setting out our vision for the future of an anti-racist and decolonial Durham. The culmination of a year’s work as your Undergraduate Academic officer, working alongside the People of Colour Association, on the ways in which racist structures are embedded in our institution.
Durham is at a turning point. Over the past week students of colour have been coming forward with their experiences and holding the university to account – from being forced to debate the merits of Nazi ideology in examinations, to enduring racist attacks online and in person. This does not happen in isolation. It happens when the culture and structures of an institution foster and facilitate racism.
What we learn is inherently political. From what we are taught to how we are taught, certain values and voices are prioritised, and others marginalised. Decolonisation centres the impact of colonialism, both historic and ongoing, in how we understand the world in which we live and the information that we teach.
The Decolonise Durham Network aims to bring together students and staff to think critically about education and the university as a whole. Our education must challenge us even when it is uncomfortable, encouraging us to be better. A failure to challenge the colonial roots of our knowledge has a material impact on the way we interpret the world, erasing wrongdoing from history. It tells students of colour that their histories and realities are not important. Decolonising Durham isn't about extra reading, or adding a lecture about marginalised groups to the end of your course. It's about completely, consistently rethinking what and how we are taught, and why we value some knowledge more than others.
We seek to provide accessible resources and events for students on decolonial practice, demystifying concepts and providing students with the resources they need to enact change in their departments and colleges. Connecting students to build a network of activists. Alongside this we will lobby the university in line with the principles outlined in our manifesto.
Decolonising Durham represents an opportunity to transform our university for the better, to make our courses more engaging, practices more ethical and a culture that recognises the diversity of all student experience! This is the responsibility of all students and staff at Durham University, including you. You can start by reading the Manifesto for Decolonising here and following the Decolonise Durham Network on Facebook here.