Decolonizing myself?

Decolonizing. As is the case with most people, I hear the word a lot, and I hear it used in different ways and in different contexts. As an educator, I cannot avoid the notion of «decolonizing the curriculum» and, in both my own field of art and in the arts in general, people talk about «decolonizing practice». I see in the film school and art school networks I am a part of that the topic is coming more and more into the forefront.

I must admit I struggle with using the word in this context. Can I «decolonize» myself? Does it mean anything when applied to a process of analysing myself, my own prejudices, and privileges, and working towards becoming a more active participant in the process of breaking down systemic oppression and creating a more just society? The word «decolonize» is ridiculed on many front, particularly by people on the right but also by some on the left. 

I have, however, been engaged in social justice my whole adult life, and cannot avoid the topic. I believe I have — as a white, male academic in Norway with personal, professional, and cultural privilege — a responsibility to examine how I can use my privilege to effect change and create conditions where those voices that have less privilege than I do are lifted to the forefront and can achieve the same power of definition and control that people like me have held for far too long.

I learned, while volunteering in support of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter in the 1990s, the importance of being a political ally by, among other things, letting those who have been the subject of oppression lead the struggle for emancipation and to take their lead as I work actively to support the struggle and use my privilege as a tool in that struggle. I will attempt to apply those lessons to the work I will need to do now.

It will be a journey, and part of the reason I am posting about it here is to hold myself to account — a struggle undertaken in silence and in private will not be as effective as one undertaken in openness and in public.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *