Decolonizing the classroom and academic spaces

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By: Kate Luce


   Otrude Moyo, director of the IU South Bend School of Social Work, spoke on decolonizing the classroom during this month’s Women and Gender Studies Lecture on Nov. 5.

   Moyo kicked the lecture off by asking an important question: How well do we live with one another? According to Moyo, we hierarchize human value, even if we don’t think we do. Our life experiences factor into how we view one another.

   She showed a graphic of this idea, called a Social Itinerary Map. Class, citizenship, ability, age, race, sexual orientation, if you are cisgender or transgender and gender are factors in how people experience things, which can lead to different narratives to research.

   Moyo explained how her personality ties into how she teaches and the narrative she brings to the table. 

   Born in Africa, Moyo spoke on how colonization has affected her even when she was born. She was named after a nun. Throughout childhood, most of her teachers were white nuns.

   A key concept that was brought up throughout her talk was the ancient African word “Ubuntu.” Ubuntu means humanity to others, described as ‘I am what I am because of who we all are.’ Individuality is derived from a positive community.

   Ubuntu is a well written concept, according to Moyo. However, about 85% of all scholarly work that is written about it is by Europeans or Americans. Oftentimes, Europeans or Americans put their own narrative on the concept without realizing. Things change meaning, and things get excluded. 

  Moyo explained that in a way, the majority of us are complacent with power, but we must deconstruct narratives of where we are and who we are in the grand scheme of it all. We must look into who gets published and why?

   After Moyo’s lecture, a discussion was brought up of how so many scholars from the Global South are educated in the Global North and so much of theory for the Global South relies on Eurocentric theory. Moyo explains that, in a way we need to learn the theory to unlearn the theory. Academic spaces should be prioritizing the exchange of cultures from the Global South, too.

   The Women and Gender Studies Department is continuing their lecture series in December. Join Molly Block, professor of Criminal Justice, and her lecture, “Pick Your Poison: Examining Adolescent Substance Use Through Opportunity and Gender.” This event will happen on Dec. 3 from 12 pm to 1 pm in DW 2260. Students, staff and faculty are all welcomed to join in.

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