Debating Development 2023

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Weekly evening sessions, Stadscampus UAntwerpen, 18.30 – 20.30. See programme below

Do you feel anxious about the future in the context of growing social inequality and climate and ecological breakdown? What should your university equip you with in the face of these challenges? Why does it matter how knowledge gets produced and funded? In this year’s Debating Development series, we will assess and discuss the potential, limitations and responsibilities of universities and higher education institutes in contributing to social transformation, rather than merely preparing students for the labour market or feeding them with scientific knowledge void of any actionable change.

Universities and higher education institutions have a key responsibility in struggles for justice, as they offer privileged spaces in society for enhancing critical thinking to support societal change. In this series, we will discuss whether or to what extent they realize this potential, and what the pitfalls are. Universities often actively champion inclusivity and sustainability in their slogans and mission statements. They also promise students that they can become “agents of change” through their education. But what happens when they approach students largely as recipients or ‘customers’ of information rather than as people with their own lived experiences and aspirations? Or when syllabi continue to be rooted in old paradigms and narratives that do not question the role of education in shaping society nor the historical role of particular knowledge claims in legitimizing dominant discourses and practices? When higher education institutions receive funds from fossil fuel companies or privilege research that does not challenge existing patterns of climate breakdown? Or when universities witness sexism, racism and discrimination in a similar way that the broader society does? In these cases, are terms like ‘sustainability’, ‘decolonization’, and ‘equity and inclusion’ mere administrative buzzwords to tag on to new courses, research papers, and grant projects? Or can we avoid these pitfalls and work together towards genuine change?

This series of conversations zooms in on some of the historical and timely conditions within which the contemporary university (re)produces and transmits knowledge, and how it creates or prevents spaces for social change. We focus on current discussions of the politics of knowledge and the responsibility of universities to contextualize how knowledge is produced and for whom it is meant to serve. From their diverse backgrounds and perspectives, our invited speakers will discuss how managerial structures, competitiveness and labour relations condition learning in universities. They will also discuss the dangers of extractive scientific research and the relationship of universities with broader societal actors. In doing so, we will draw links between historical colonial legacies in framing how knowledge is produced, and focus on what recent attempts to ’decolonize’ and diversify universities mean in practice. We also discuss alternative initiatives and potential spaces to reimagine universities, and education more broadly.

Is another university necessary and possible? This Debating Development series will reflect on these questions in a critical and constructive way, both through invited speakers who bring inspiring examples from their respective contexts, and collective debate with members of the university - all of us. As a learning outcome, we aim to create a collective platform that allows students, lecturers, facilitators, and speakers alike to jointly reflect on the possibilities and limitations of what the university space can offer for transformative social change. The discussion sessions will be complemented with student-centered reflections on how we can collectively imagine alternative university futures that equip students and faculty with tools for transformative social change both within and outside the university.

Monday 2 October (18.30 - 20.30, R.002)
Universities, social transformation, and the politics of knowledge

  • Willem Schinkel, Professor of Social Theory at Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Amber Murrey, Associate Professor of Human Geography at University of Oxford
  • Swati Kamble, Doctor of Social Sciences (Public Policy Analysis) and independent researcher activist

Tuesday 10 October (18.30 - 20.30, R.002)
The neoliberal university and the commodification of knowledge

  • Willem Halffman, Senior lecturer Science & Technology Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen
  • Maddie Breeze, Senior Lecturer Sociology at Queen Margaret University
  • Céline Gümüs, Students in Solidarity with the Cleaning Staff
  • Nathalie Vallet, Professor of Strategic Management at the Faculty of Design Sciences, University of Antwerp

Monday 6 November (18.30 - 20.30, R.201)
The extractive nature of academic research and partnerships

  • Adriana Moreno Cely, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Educational Sciences department at Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Swati Kamble, Doctor of Social Sciences (Public Policy Analysis) and independent researcher activist
  • Gert Van Hecken, Associate Professor at the Institute of Development Policy (IOB), University of Antwerp

Tuesday 14 November (18.30 - 20.30, R.002)
Ongoing colonial histories of universities amidst attempts towards decolonization

  • Patricia Daley, Professor of the Human Geography of Africa, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
  • Zuleika Bibi Sheik, Assistant Professor in Critical Race, Gender and Decolonial Approaches, Utrecht University
  • Astrid Jamar, Senior Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Development Policy, University of Antwerp

Tuesday 21 November (18.30 - 20.30, R.002)
(Anti-)racism and gender (in)equality at the university

  • Remi Joseph-Salisbury, Senior Lecturer Sociology at the University of Manchester
  • Dounia Bourabain, Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Hasselt
  • Sophie Withaeckx, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Centre for Gender and Diversity at Maastricht University
  • Naoual El Yattouti, PhD-student, Faculty of Law, University of Antwerp

Tuesday 28 November (18.30 - 20.30, R.002)
The responsibilities of higher education: Community engagement towards social justice

  • Bojana Ćulum Ilić, Associate Professor at the University of Rijeka (UNIRi) in Croatia, at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Education
  • James Kennedy, Professor History at Utrecht University
  • Kaat Somers, Project Coordinator Education & Service-Learning at UCSIA, University of Antwerp

Tuesday 5 December (18.30 - 20.30, R.002)
Reimagining the university: Alternative spaces of education

  • Sayan Dey, Assistant Professor Language and Literature at Alliance University, Bangalore
  • Clod Marlan Krister Yambao, PhD-student, Conflict Research Group,  Ghent University, and Assistant Professor of Art Studies, University of the Philippines
  • Shayma Nader, PhD candidate at ARIA, KdG and University of Antwerp

Tuesday 12 December (18.30 - 20.30, R.002)
Academic ties with industry: contradictions with a sustainability discourse?

  • Jan Rosier, Full Professor of the Business of Biotechnology School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, University College Dublin
  • Barbara Van Dyck, Associate Professor of Political Agroecology, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University
  • Sam Gee, Organiser with the Campus Climate Network, and Cambridge Climate Justice, and Natural Sciences student at the University of Cambridge, UK
  • Vincent Bellinkx, Post-doctoral researcher, Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development (IMDO), University of Antwerp

Tuesday 19 December (18.30 - 20.30, R.002)
Intra- & interuniversity solidarity for justice

  • Miriyam Aouragh, Professor of Digital Anthropology at Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster. NIAS Fellow 2023-2024.
  • Omar Jabary Salamanca, Research Fellow and Coordinator of the Observatory of the Arab and Muslim Worlds, Université libre de Bruxelles.
  • Baraa Odeh, student/activist of Birzeit University
  • Danya Nadar, PhD candidate at the Institute of Development Policy (IOB), University of Antwerp