Elisabeth Bekers - Speaker

Over the last decade the rallying call for “decolonising the university” has intensified and questions such as “why is my professor still not black” and “why is my curriculum white” have been formulated with increasing insistence, also in Belgium (e.g. “De dekoloniale universiteit”, Kaaitheater, 4 april 2019). In the field of literary studies, postcolonial criticism has done much to introduce writings and perspectives that were previously excluded. This year’s thirtieth anniversary of the publication of the seminal work in postcolonial literary criticism, The Empire Writes Back (Routledge 1989) by Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, is a timely occasion to take stock of these developments. Guided by Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s call for “decolonising the mind” (1986), I examine the study of literature in English in the Low Countries, including my own practices as a scholar and teacher of anglophone (postcolonial) literature with a strong interest in authors of African descent and in knowledge and canon formation. True enough, more than half a century after independence swept across many of Europe’s colonies in Africa and the Empire Windrush’s arrival in London led to what Jamaican poet Louise Bennett pithily termed the colonisation of Britain in reverse (“colonizin/Englan in Reverse”), literature in English has never been more diverse, as is illustrated by the anglophone Noble Prize winners. However, to what extent have literary scholarship and university curricula in literary studies really become decolonized? To what extent do the very existence of scholarly fields such as postcolonial literature and literature of migration also perpetuate the colonial mindsets they challenge? How may our scholarly and teaching practices as well as our university’s curricula help to decolonize (the teaching of) literature in English, and by extension in other European languages? How can we, as anglicists in higher education in a Belgian context, contribute to the decolonisation of the study of literature in English?
19 Dec 2019

Event (Conference)

TitleBelgian Association of Anglicists in Higher Education (BAAHE) 2019 conference
Web address (URL)
LocationUniversity of Ghent
Degree of recognitionInternational event

ID: 48731981