Decolonizing the ivory tower?

A (book) seminar series

This (book) seminar series is organized by the Law and Development Research Group, the Learning Network of the Faculty of Law, the Institute of Development Policy (IOB) and the Decolonial Reading Group of the Faculty of Law. 

The image of the ‘ivory tower’ is often used to describe universities and higher education institutions as exclusionary places of knowledge production largely inaccessible to, and disconnected from, the everyday problems, issues, and experiences of broader society. Academia’s historical connections to colonialism further displays how universities have also served and often continue to serve as vehicles to produce and legitimize particular knowledge systems rooted in Western supremacy and patriarchal norms, while excluding other ways of knowing and being. 

For sure, there is no lack of moments of contestation and attempted disruption to challenge the exclusionary nature of the ‘ivory tower’. People from within and outside universities have used their pens, their bodies, the court systems and other means to challenge the ways in which academia has often operated in maintaining the status quo. The rise of xenophobia, austerity and climate change have added new levels of concern, contestation and frustration, but also refocused the attention to universities as key spaces for critical thinking and reimagining in/of our society. People who challenge the hegemony of dominant knowledge systems are often moved by the understanding that universities and higher education institutions have a key responsibility in the struggle for socio-environmental justice, and to provide unique spaces where free and critical thinking can be developed and pursued in support of a better society for all. 

In this seminar series we invite inspiring speakers from within academia to talk about their struggles and aspirations, their ambitions and visions, and their work towards a reimagined university. Join us to learn about 

  • what ‘disobedient pedagogies’ within university could look like and how it is linked with decolonization of higher education; 
  • what it means to be a feminist in higher education and why it goes beyond gender equality and diversity auditing; 
  • what decolonizing research partnerships and academic knowledge production and a shift from universities to pluriversities could mean; 
  • how racism trickles into universities and how academics can pursue anti-racist social justice from within and against the institution; and
  • what it would mean to make a shift from egocentric to ecocentric knowledge systems in line with the urgency of the ongoing climate and biodiversity crises.

Participation is free, but registration for each of the seminars is required. 

3 October 2023: Learning Disobedience - Decolonizing Development Studies

Learning Disobedience - Decolonizing Development Studies
by Amber Murrey (University of Oxford) & Patricia Daley (University of Oxford)

Tuesday 3 October 2023, 10.00 a.m. - 12.00 p.m., s.C.101


This is a book about teaching 'disobedient pedagogies' from the heart of empire. The authors show how educators, activists and students are cultivating anti-racist decolonial practices, leading with a radical call to eradicate development studies, and counterbalancing this with new projects to decolonize development, particularly in African geographies.

Being intentionally disobedient in the classroom is central to decolonizing development studies. The authors ask: What does it mean to study international development today? Whose knowledge and perspectives inform international development policy and programming?

Building on the works of other decolonial trailblazers, the authors show how colonial legacies continue to shape the ways in which land, wellbeing, progress and development are conceived of and practiced. How do we, through our classroom and activist practices, work collaboratively to create the radical imaginaries and practical scaffolding we need for decolonizing development?

More information on the book can be found here.


Amber Murrey is an Associate Professor of Political Geography at the University of Oxford and a Fellow at Mansfield College, Oxford. Her award-winning scholarship on political ecologies and economies in Central Africa focuses on dissent and resistance amidst racialised extractive violence. Amber is the editor of 'A Certain Amount of Madness': The Life, Politics and Legacies of Thomas Sankara and Associate Editor of The African Geographical Review.

Patricia Daley is Professor of the Human Geography of Africa and The Helen Morag Fellow in Geography at Jesus College, Oxford. She co-edited, with Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, The Routledge Handbook on South-South Relations.

Feminist Repetitions in Higher Education - Interrupting Career Categories

Feminist Repetitions in Higher Education - Interrupting Career Categories
by Maddie Breeze (Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh) & Yvette Taylor (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow)

This seminar is postponed due to a national strike action. The new date will be communicated soon


To do feminism and to be a feminist in higher education is to repeat oneself: to insist on gender equality as more than institutional incorporation and diversity auditing, to insert oneself into and against neoliberal measures, and to argue for nuanced intersectional feminist analysis and action. This book returns to established feminist strategies for taking up academic space, re-thinking how feminists inhabit the university and pushing back against institutional failures. The authors assert the academic career course as fundamental to understanding how feminist educational journeys, collaborations and cares and ways of knowing stretch across and reconstitute academic hierarchies, collectivising and politicising feminist career successes and failures. By prioritising interruptions, the book navigates through feminist methods of researcher reflexivity, autoethnography and collective biography: in doing so, moving from feminist identity to feminist practice and repeating the potential of queer feminist interruptions to the university and ourselves. ​ 

More information on the book can be found here. 


Maddie Breeze is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology & Public Sociology at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. Maddie researches and teaches queer feminist sociology and inequalities in higher education. Maddie’s book Seriousness in Women's Roller Derby: Gender, Organisation, and Ambivalence (2015) was awarded the 2016 British Sociological Association Philip Abram's Memorial Prize. Her second book Feminist Repetitions in Higher Education: Interrupting Career Categories is co-authored with Prof Yvette Taylor and published in 2020. With Dr Michelle Addison and Prof Yvette Taylor Maddie edited The Palgrave Handbook of Imposter Syndrome in Higher Education (2022).

Yvette Taylor is Professor at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Yvette is a feminist sociologist and researches intersecting social inequalities, often around manifestations of gender, social class and sexuality. Yvette is currently working on her RSE Personal Research Fellowship Queer Futures: Alternative Models for Social Justice (2023-2024). She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, teaches on the MSc Applied Gender Studies and edits the Palgrave Gender & Education Series. Yvette has published five sole-authored books based on funded research: Working-class Lesbian Life (2007); Lesbian and Gay Parenting (2009); Fitting Into Place? Class and Gender Geographies and Temporalities (2012); Making Space for Queer Identifying Religious Youth (2015);  Working-Class Queers. Time, Place & Politics  (Pluto, 2023) and co-authored Feminist Repetitions in Higher Education: Interrupting Career Categories (2020).

16 November 2023: Decolonizing research partnerships and the transformation of universities into more pluriversal spaces

Decolonizing research partnerships and the transformation of universities into more pluriversal spaces
by Adriana Moreno Cely (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

Thursday 16 November 2023, 10.00 a.m. -12.00 p.m, s.R. Annex


Published in 2022, Adriana’s PhD dissertation uses a North-South and multi-actor collaboration process to explore the factors that promote or hinder the possibilities of weaving different knowledge systems in a collaborative research partnership. The study’s design encompasses a merged approach of Participatory Action Research (PAR), the decolonial Abya Yala concept of Diálogo de Saberes, and Indigenous research methodologies. Using a collaborative project on participatory territorial planning as a research strategy, the study delves into the different factors that affect the intertwining of diverse knowledge systems in North-South collaborative endeavours. The study describes the experiences of three Bolivia municipalities building this collaborative space, and synthesises the results of research in three spheres of action at the macro (municipality), meso (institutional) and micro (peer-to-peer) levels in which the project had an influence. The cases reveal several factors that interfere with bridging diverse knowledge systems,such as communication issues, the trim value given to Indigenous and Local Knowledge and persistent colonial practices in the Noth-South development cooperation practices and academic knowledge production. Likewise, multiple active and passive forms of local resistance were evidenced to preserve ancestral knowledge and influence decision-making at different levels. Finally, this research proposes a decolonial methodological approach based on listening and feelings named Circulo de Diálogo de Saberes to build a meaningful research partnership.


Adriana Moreno Cely is a postdoctoral researcher at the Educational Sciences department at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. In 2022 she defended her PhD dissertation on ‘Decolonizing research partnerships in development cooperation’. Adriana holds three Master's degrees in Natural Resource Management, Education, and Humanitarian Aid & International Cooperation.  Her working experience has been focused on education and community development in urban and rural areas, promoting self-management processes and community autonomy using gender-sensitive approaches. She has developed and adapted several participatory and decolonial methodologies to work with young and older adults, mainly in Latin America. She has worked with local and Indigenous communities for 15 years as a practitioner and activist. She combines collaborative research approaches and decolonial thought to build bridges between diverse knowledge systems. As a whole, her research focuses on how Indigenous and local knowledge can be engaged to transform the universities into more pluriversal spaces. Adriana is a co-PI on a VLIR-TEAMS project to create a Bolivian community learning research network in sustainable territorial governance. 

22 November 2023: Anti-Racist Scholar-Activism

Anti-Racist Scholar-Activism
by Remi Joseph-Salisbury (University of Manchester)

Wednesday 22 November 2023, 10.00 a.m. - 12.00 p.m., s.R.218


Published in 2021, Anti-Racist Scholar-Activism, considers the praxes of academics working within, and against, their institutions in pursuit of anti-racist social justice. To do so, it draws upon data from interviews with anti-racist ‘scholar-activists’ in British universities.

This talk explores key themes from that research and offers a number of key principles that may be taken to define anti-racist scholar-activism. In so doing, it will consider the challenges and contradictions that arise from working in neoliberal-imperial-institutionally-racist universities, whilst also suggesting that there remain pockets of possibility to subvert the institution and work in service to communities of resistance.

The book is open access and can be downloaded here.


Remi Joseph-Salisbury is Reader in Sociology at the University of Manchester, with interests in the study of racisms and antiracisms, particularly in the contexts of education and policing.

Remi is co-author of Anti-Racist Scholar-Activism (2021, Manchester University Press) which was awarded a 2023 Society of Professors of Education outstanding book award. He is co-editor of The Fire Now: Anti-racism in Times of Explicit Racial Violence (2018, Zed Books) and author of Black Mixed Race Men (2018, Emerald Publishing), winner of the Philip Leverhulme Prize for best first book is Sociology.

He has recently written on issues including the presence of police in schools, the policing of the pandemic, police abolition, and the enduring nature of racism in British education. His current project looks at the impact of the presence of security and police officers on British university campuses.

Remi is also a steering group member of the Northern Police Monitoring Project, a police abolitionist group based in Greater Manchester, the No Police in Schools campaign, and a member of the Centre of Dynamics on Ethnicity (CoDE).

6 December 2023: Green Knowledges and Ecocentric Education Systems

Green Knowledges and Ecocentric Education Systems
By Sayan Dey (Alliance University, Bangalore)

Wednesday 6 December 2023, 10.00 a.m. - 12.00 p.m., s.R.218


Engaging with the possibility of building ecocentric educational systems is not new. But, the question of “how to practically build eco-friendly education systems” continues to remain unanswered or deliberately ignored to date. Despite multiple policymaking about making shifts from egocentric to ecocentric knowledge systems, global statistics reveal that climate and environmental catastrophes are continuously rising. Centered on Sayan Dey’s monograph “Green Academia: Towards Eco-friendly Education Systems”, the seminar will share a few contextual examples from India, Bhutan, Kenya, New Zealand and other parts of the world to share how practically ecocentric education systems can be build up and what transformative impact they have on the environment and society.


Sayan Dey is currently working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Language and Literature, Alliance University, Bangalore. He is also a Faculty fellow at the Harriet Tubman Institute, York University, Canada. He recently published the monograph Green Academia: Towards Eco-friendly Education Systems (Routledge, 2022). His forthcoming monograph is Performing Memories, Weaving Archives: Creolized Cultures across the Indian Ocean (Anthem Press, 2023). His areas of research interests are posthumanities, decolonial studies, critical race studies, culinary epistemologies and critical diversity literacy.



Prinsstraat 13

2000 Antwerp

Please check above for the details for each seminar.


Participation is free, but registration is required. You can register here.