Event: NeMLA roundtable
Decolonizing Knowledge: German Studies and Beyond
NeMLA, Baltimore, March 10-13th, 2022
Co-Chairs: Maya Nitis and Katrin Pahl
The 21st century can be characterized by efforts to address systemic racism, increasingly taken up in academic scholarship and praxis. Nevertheless, institutions of secondary education continue to participate in the reproduction of privilege, specifically vis-à-vis race. Contemporary scholars of decolonization argue that most university classrooms today remain mired in hierarchical models of education, which, largely inadvertently, privilege those students already privileged in terms of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and more.
In the context of the Rhodes Must Fall movement, which started at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Achille Mbembe argued that universities must decolonize their practices through the removal of colonial leftovers (whether in the form of statues, of mythologies that pass as knowledge, or of authoritarian pedagogies, etc.). This roundtable serves as a forum to discuss the role of the literary fields, in particular of German Studies, in this effort. The concern with decolonizing German Studies and other fields of higher education has been gathering momentum, reflected in recent publications (for example, the 2020 collected volume on Diversity and Decolonization in German Studies), online forums, and departmental or school-wide initiatives. We want to address advances and challenges, starting with the following questions.
What would/does such decolonization look like in your institutions and classrooms? What role do students play in these efforts? What is the relationship between decolonizing the university, pedagogy and knowledge? Do we need a new culture of memory? What would it mean to decolonize epistemology in languages, literatures, philosophy, media and other fields across the humanities? How do you/could one allow for spaces of emotional engagement and processing? Does all this require an inter- or transdisciplinary approach?
Format: We invite each speaker to offer a short 5-10 minute response to these questions, and then hope to facilitate a dialogue between the panelists and the audience.