To make sure that discussions could happen in a safe and respectful manner, we thought it was valuable to set out from the start a few guiding principles. By attending/registering, all participants of the workshop notified that they had read these principles, were committed to them, and understood that violating them would result in being removed from the workshop.
When discussing historically and emotionally charged topics such as decolonization, a lot of organizations use the idea of the ‘safe space’. Although this has proven to be an important concept, we think artist and activist Hanalei Ramos and the BARC Collective (Building the Anti-Racist Classroom) rightfully point out that complete safety is difficult to guarantee upfront. Instead, they propose to create a respectful atmosphere through the idea of a ‘principled space’: a set of fundamental values all participants are expected to honor.
We follow their line of argument and will work with the following principles:
1) Any type of harassment – be it on the basis of ethnicity, race, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, religion, physical appearance, disability, age, name, nationality, technology choices, camera background, etc. – has no place in this workshop. Failure to commit to this principle will result in immediate removal. This goes for both the direct harassment of other participants as individuals, as well as inappropriate stereotyping by reference to social groups.
2) Be aware of your own privilege, consciously challenge implicit hierarchies, and take a step back so marginalized people can lead. Refrain from interrupting other participants or speaking on their behalf.*
3) Believe people in their account of personal experiences of marginalization, and be mindful of people’s vulnerability in sharing these stories. Do not dispute lived experiences of other participants, keeping in mind at all times the second principle.*
4) Experiences that are shared with other participants may be deeply personal and should be treated in confidentiality. What is being talked about in the workshop, stays in the workshop, unless explicit consent is given by the person sharing their personal story.*
5) We encourage lively debate and the posing of difficult questions. However, in these times of physical distance, keep in mind that your interlocutors are fellow human beings. Everybody is on a learning trajectory and everybody is allowed to make mistakes. Be generous towards yourself and other participants, and be aware that it is a sign of generosity (rather than accusation) when someone points out how your reasoning/question might be carrying traces of racism, imperialism, colonialism, etc.
6) As the topics that will be discussed might sometimes hit close to home, everybody is entitled to their own affective states. However, we like to emphasize that the expression of emotions itself is deeply cultural and political. Be mindful that some participants’ lives might be closely tied to the history of colonization, and that philosophical investigation should not take place at the emotional expense of other participants. Simultaneously, we invite especially racially privileged participants to refrain from expressing their (no doubt, genuine) emotions in a manner that recenters their own story, while eclipsing the reality of racism, imperialism, and colonialism, or how other participants and social groups have to bear the brunt of these realities.
7) While these principles are intended to apply to all, they are written in recognition of existing power structures that continue to marginalize people of color, perpetuate anti-Blackness and promote white privilege/power. This should be kept in mind throughout the workshop.*
Throughout the event, there will be a safety officer at your disposal. In case you feel unsafe during your participation in the workshop, don’t hesitate to contact them. Our safety officer is Leto Manski, who can be contacted through the e-mail address leto.manski[at]uantwerpen.be. Your message will be treated with great confidentiality and the safety officer will work to improve your wellbeing at the workshop. If your message needs to be shared with other members of the organization, this will always be done anonymously unless you explicitly give permission to do so otherwise. Both the safety officer and all other members of the organization are committed to protecting the security of all participants.*
However, as discussions might take many directions, we think that it is important to acknowledge that complete safety is difficult to guarantee. Therefore, we encourage participants to also make self-care one of their priorities during this workshop. Especially for racially privileged participants, we would like to point out that safety does not equal comfort. The debate on decolonization might at times feel uncomfortable and trigger feelings of guilt, shame, anger, disbelief, or grief. We invite you to allow those feelings in yourself and embrace them as growing pains on your learning trajectory, instead of smothering the source of these feelings and seeking comfort in the perpetuation of what might be imperialist thought.
We hope you will agree with us in endorsing these principles, and will help us in creating and maintaining our principled space.
Looking forward to meeting you soon at the workshop,
The DPW Organizing Committee
*This principle is borrowed either literally or in paraphrased form from the website of the BARC Collective: https://barcworkshop.org/resources/principled-space/