Creating/Curating the Decolonial Classroom



Partners and collaborators

Schools of History, Sociology and Social Policy, Theology and Religious Studies


Funded by the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute (University of Leeds)

Within communities of research at a number of universities in both the global North and South, a significant and growing number of academics, mindful of the university’s habitual investment in hierarchies of knowledge (‘canon’, ‘periodisation’, ‘discipline’), are keen to develop decolonial approaches to research. These approaches entail a movement away from research about marginalised and silenced knowledge systems (or subalternised epistemologies) towards research from these perspectives.

Decolonial research addresses the situatedness of our knowledges (Haraway 1988), in particular the long-standing universalisation of subjective European systems of knowing, conducting research and teaching. Our seminars address two principal themes: periodisation, in which conventional chronologies (ancient, medieval, modern and postmodern) naturalise particular value-laden views of history while constraining critical views of their genealogy and agendas (Jordanova 2006); and the orthodoxy of disciplines, often rooted in colonial-era classifications but with little or no methodology for dealing with other knowledge systems (Tuhiwai Smith 2012).

These seminars will map, coordinate and further develop the decolonial research agendas of around twenty Leeds academics working in a range of subject areas, including history, religious studies and the social sciences, who will work together, along with our collaborative partners in Special Collections at the Brotherton Library, in areas including history and material culture, for example in a decolonial curation of Islamic world coins, which will eventually be exhibited locally.

The seminars will take the shape of workshops, museum visits and one session of 'research as performance', in keeping with the meta-epistemic nature of the project, and will allow this group of researchers to clarify (1) decolonial research already taking place at Leeds, and (2) how we can coordinate and, where appropriate, integrate our research methodologies in the longer term.


Knowledge Transfer: The seminars have direct continuity with the 2017-18 Sadler Seminar series ‘Utopian Visions of the Global South’ (Bobby Sayyid and William Gould), which squarely addresses a decolonial political vision.

While research-oriented, the seminars dovetail with ‘decolonising the curriculum’ pedagogic activities undertaken by Leeds University Union, by the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence, by the ‘Why is My Curriculum White?’ cross-Faculty working group and by colleagues in the Schools of History, Languages, Cultures and Societies, and Sociology and Social Policy, for example in the proposal of new modules in Black British History and Black Europe.

Publications and outputs

AHRC Networking Scheme application

Project website