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Understanding Decolonization in the 21st Century

The panel considers what decolonization means and how it can – or cannot – be practically applied in the fields of history, politics and international relations.

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In recent years, student-led campaigns including Rhodes Must Fall – which began at the University of Cape Town in 2015 and was then quickly taken up by campaigners at Oxford University’s Oriel College – and Why is My Curriculum White? have sparked wider engagement with demands for decolonization in academia and other elite institutions.

Decolonization takes many forms. In museums, it is often associated with custodianship and the returning of artefacts as well as the full accreditation of events – often violent – that brought historical items into Western collections.

In schools and universities, it involves ensuring curricula accurately reflect a global conversation, while in the field of journalism and media, decolonization involves representation, diversity and appreciating cultural sensitivities.

But how might the history and original purpose of an institution affect its ability to adapt to and reflect contemporary ideological currents? Does decolonizing these disciplines run the risk of decontextualizing? To what extent is decolonization capable of encouraging a more inclusive form of policymaking and debate in current affairs?

And what should be the role of institutions such as museums, news outlets and think-tanks in facilitating discussion?

This event is part of a series, held in the context of the Chatham House Centenary in 2020, bringing together historians, practitioners and current policymakers to discuss contemporary problems of international relations.

This recording is from a Chatham House Members Event

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