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5.2.4: Decolonizing the International Development Studies syllabus - Workshop
Chairs: Georgina Alonso1, Adrian Murray2
1University of Ottawa; 2University of Johannesburg
While the concept of development is contested and the goals and methods of development practice are debated, ostensibly the uniting principle of development is that it is about ‘making the world a better place.’ This workshop is based on the premise that development studies can do a much better job of empowering students with the tools to take informed and urgent action in this pursuit, particularly by focusing on decolonization and anti-racism.. We begin with a discussion of what ‘decolonizing’ international development education could look like, followed by breakout room brainstorming sessions centred on specific aspects of curriculum building.
The make-up of development studies classrooms is changing. While it is fundamentally important to push back against the white saviourism that many eager students bring to development studies, we must also recognize the diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and needs of racialized students, ensuring that learning content speaks to everyone. In an effort to address the diverse needs of students and combat the anxiety, cynicism, and pessimism that is increasingly common amongst development studies students--especially in the context of COVID-19, the climate crisis, the dismal job market and growing inequality--we propose a rethink of the core development studies literature. This would involve broadening the diversity of thinkers to include a wider variety of ontological perspectives, epistemological positions and identities. Indigenous literatures and worldviews in particular can help students envision alternatives to oppressive systems which can seem impossible to overcome.