Let’s Talk about Universities and Reparative Justice

| October 1, 2020
Roundtable on the role/responsibility of universities to recognise their links to slavery and colonialism and engage in reparative justice

About this Event

In this third roundtable hosted by the International Network of Scholars and Activists for Afrikan Reparations (INOSAAR), our panellists discuss the role and responsibility of universities in the struggle for reparative justice and in the context of recognizing the university sector’s historical links to slavery and colonialism.

Professor Gus John, Visiting Professor at Coventry University and Honorary Fellow and Associate Professor at UCL Institute of Education at the University of London

Reparations and acts of reparative and transitional justice will be interpreted broadly. For example, we could read the history of the Black colleges and universities in the USA as reparative, alongside the proliferation of centres and programmes dedicated to Black, Africana, African and African American Studies, which have sought to counteract the negative stereotypes of African peoples institutionalized by establishment academia.

In 2003, Brown University in Rhode Island, USA, became the first higher education institution to openly acknowledge and apologize for its links to African enslavement. Its report, ‘Slavery and Justice’, acted as a catalyst for other institutions to establish how they profited from the enslavement of Afrikan peoples and functioned as primary sites in which racialized discourses were produced and validated.

In some cases, recognition has resulted in the adoption of what might be considered reparatory measures, including: raising funds for educational grants and scholarships; renaming buildings and removing insignia and statues linked to enslavement, colonialism and racism; erecting new statues, monuments and sculptures; and inaugurating dedicated research centres.

In 2014, an attempt to gather these efforts together and share practices across higher education institutions resulted the creation of an international consortium of ‘Universities Studying Slavery’, which now includes around seventy colleges and universities in the USA, the UK, Ireland and Canada.

More recently, in 2019, the University of Glasgow signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of the West Indies to work together on the foundation of the Glasgow Caribbean Centre for Development which was widely reported as being a reparative justice initiative.

Dr Athol Williams is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Cape Town in South Africa,

It is against this backdrop of widening interest and increased lobbying for universities to recognize and redress their links to enslavement and colonialism that we are asking our panellists to consider the following questions:

• What are some of the ethical questions raised by conducting research into the links between universities and their histories of Afrikan enslavement and colonialism?

• Within universities, as sites of educational knowledge production, what are the different ways that reparation and reparative justice can be approached?

• What processes are already underway within universities that might be defined as reparative?

• What role should universities play, and what responsibilities do they have, in engaging with local, national and international communities (including communities of reparations interest) on matters of reparative and transitional justice, and what principles should guide that engagement?

• What consideration has been given to creating spaces within higher education institutions to enable difficult conversations to take place within and outside of the university community?

Our panellists include:

Professor Gus John, Visiting Professor at Coventry University and Honorary Fellow and Associate Professor at UCL Institute of Education at the University of London, is a renowned activist and academic who has been working in education, youth work and social justice since the 1960s.

Esther Stanford-Xosei is a Jurisconsult, Interdisciplinary (Law & History) Scholar-Activist, Co-Vice Chair of PARCOE and Coordinator-General of the Stop the Maangamizi

Dr Athol Williams is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, where he focuses on ethical leadership, corporate responsibility and applied ethics.

Esther Stanford-Xosei is a Jurisconsult, Interdisciplinary (Law & History) Scholar-Activist, Co-Vice Chair of PARCOE and Coordinator-General of the Stop the Maangamizi: We Charge Genocide/Ecocide Campaign.

Professor Kris Manjapra, Associate Professor of History at Tufts University, and Chair of the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora. Manjapra is also a steering committee member of the Tufts Action Group; a grassroots organization of faculty and staff working in alignment with the Movement for Black Lives. Manjapra works on histories of colonialism, decolonization, plantation economies, and reparations movements. His most recent book is Colonialism in Global Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

Dr Nicola Frith is a Senior Lecturer in French and Francophone Studies at the University of Edinburgh and co-founder of the INOSAAR, who focuses on the legacies and memories of enslavement and reparations.

Jemadari Kamara, PhD, is Founding Director of the Center for African, Caribbean and Community Development (CACCD) and Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is former Senior Fulbright Professor at the Université Gaston Berger in Saint-Louis, Senegal; international coordinator for the Youth Education and Sports (YES) with Africa Program (which has served nearly 3,000 African youth); Senior Advisor to the Boston Pan-African Forum; treasurer of the West African Research Association and Member of the board of directors of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century. Prof. Kamara has extensive expertise in Community Development and Public Policy; Black Social Movements; African-American Urban Politics and African-American Intellectual Thought. His numerous publications include State of the Race – Creating Our 21st Century.

Professor Kris Manjapra, Associate Professor of History at Tufts University, and Chair of the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora

Dr Nicola Frith is a Senior Lecturer in French and Francophone Studies at the University of Edinburgh and co-founder of the INOSAAR,

Jemadari Kamara, PhD, is Founding Director of the Center for African, Caribbean and Community Development (CACCD) and Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

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Category: African Caribbean, Culture & Society, Education

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