Decolonial Feminism in Academia, Rosalba Icaza

By Therese Gatterburg  

Anti-Racism Awareness Week, Radboud University 

The Anti-Racism Awareness Week, hosted by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office, had a jam-packed and rich agenda. On the 23rd of March, the theme was centered around the decolonizing discourse and hosted by Garjan Sterk. Sterk stressed the importance of this week’s program as a “call to action”, not only for the university, but also for us as academics, students, researchers, PhD candidates, and faculty. We are all called this week, to reassess our position, our perspective, and, as Tuesday’s program encouraged, to look at it from a decolonial feminist approach. The speaker for the first event of the day was Rosalba Icaza, an author, researcher, Mexican native, and an Associate Professor in Global Politics, Gender, and Diversity at the Institute of Social Studies, the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. Her work on researching diversity, and as Senior Research at the University of Amsterdam Diversity Commission, aims to implement a framework in which universities are fully inclusive and representative of all minorities throughout the institution.  

But what is decolonial feminism? Icaza’s talk, held over Zoom to an audience of around twenty people, dove into explaining decolonial feminism, she discussed its importance in intersectional feminism and the vital conversation and action to be taken in the university system(s). The term is relatively new, emerging in the 1990s. It is important for moving forward towards an equal world as it is rooted in reevaluating and critically looking at (western) structures and systems that are rooted in a colonial or racially biased discourse and ideology.  

To begin her talk, Icaza discussed some data on which countries in the academic world publish the most journals. This demographic showed blocks of varying sizes, the United States and the United Kingdom had the biggest output of academic journals, and therefore, the biggest blocks (an article with these statistics can be found here). With this, Icaza immediately underlined that the academic world still needs to be decolonized. Icaza explained how what the chart represents, speaks to how the academic world controls who produces knowledge, what kind of knowledge is being produced, and whose knowledge is being taught. The feminist scholar stressed the importance of an open approach to knowledge production by encouraging geohistorically positioned expertise. This discourages ‘safari researchers’ (think of a European researcher going to a non-Western country without acknowledging local experts or not giving them due credit), and thereby contributes to fair knowledge production.  

Icaza also presented the research she has been working on for the past 6 years along with her Diversity Commission team of the University of Amsterdam. The research she conducts not only brings awareness to the boards of universities on the work it takes to decolonize the school curriculum but how important it is for the students of minority backgrounds to feel recognized, supported, and seen. It is vital that we all, BA, Masters, PhD, and those of us beyond our studies contribute to a decolonial approach in academia. How, might you ask, is this possible? Well, keep your eye out for what the Radboud DEI Office is up to, their work will help hold Radboud University accountable in their work towards a more inclusive curriculum and campus, you can find more information such as the bios of speakers of the Anti-Racism Awareness Week, through this link; It was a truly enlightening talk followed by breakout rooms in which discussions and healing conversations brought the morning to a close. 

You can also follow the Anti-Racism Awareness student group of Radboud University on Instagram. They share all sorts of interesting anti-racism related content. @ara_radboud

Cover image though @ara_radboud, Illustrator/designer: @ambermalaikart

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