The Decolonisation Challenge is an interdisciplinary course and a research project. In cooperation with other students and scholars from the 4EU+ alliance universities, our team (consisting primarily of Anna Řičář Libánská from the Centre for Ibero-American Studies, Faculty of Arts, Charles University and Tereza Hrdlička from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Arts, Charles University ) is organising four all-day events from October to January 2022 (7/10; 4/11/; 2/12; 6/1), featuring workshops, guest lectures, and debates. The course focuses equally on theoretical and practical academic skills, and critical thinking. The events are held in Prague (Faculty of Arts, Hybernská 3, room H202; 11:44 AM to 4:40 PM) in a hybrid way – both in person and on-line. The participants, master’s and PhD students, have the option to enroll in our workshop as a course and receive 4 ETCS.

European science presents itself as universal, but it does so by claiming the European perspective as a universalist one – and thus, it becomes rather Eurocentric. Therefore, we see decolonial thought as a global challenge to problematise the historical impact of colonialism and power politics on formation of knowledge, often still rooted in the dichotomic relationship of the Centre and its Periphery. Through connecting academics already involved in decolonial debates, and proposing decolonial thinking to those who yet haven’t, we aim to tackle the problem in an interdisciplinary framework. Decolonial thought directly unites research with the third role of university, i.e., its active involvement in looking for solutions to global economic, social, and environmental problems. This accords with how the place of university in today’s society is understood by contemporary postcolonial scholars like Achille Mbembe, Sara Ahmed or Walter Mignolo. 

The notion of European superiority has been embraced by missionaries, rulers, and intellectuals, and it survives to this day – on both micro and macro scales. It is present in international politics, treatment of minorities, in humanitarian aid etc. So, colonialism can be seen as a shared European experience, regarding not only colonial empires, but also the countries that didn’t have proper colonies. Here as well discussions on acquiring colonies took place, often following the formation of new national states. How can we collectively therefore decolonise European universities? The challenge of decolonisation confronts us with other questions. Is university truly inclusive to students from all backgrounds? Who is excluded from the discussion and which narratives are given attention which not? 

The main task throughout the course’s period will be centered on research carried out in the individual university departments. It will focus on how non-European cultures have been and are being studied at the universities involved. As a part of our research, we first want to map how cultures outside the canon are being studied at universities included in the project. The outcome should not only serve as an impulse to change perspectives, canons, or teaching methods. It should, too, explore how to make university more transnational and accessible to marginalised groups yet without a share of power in the education system, and to ensure their inclusion in the process of its decolonisation.The results of the research will be presented at the final meeting, taking place in January. We would like to present the results also on the project website.  

The project was supported by the 4EU+ Student Mini-grants 2022 within the project Decolonisation Challenge (members: Tereza Hrdlička and Anna Řičář Libánská) solved at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in the cooperation with Uniwersytet Warszawski and Università degli Studi di Milano.