"We need to reflect more on decolonisation, and that includes universities"

[c) Stad Gent

[c) Stad Gent

According to Annelies Verdoolaege, who coordinates the Africa Platform at Ghent University, we need to observe the African continent from an equality perspective rather than using our western gaze.

The topic of decolonisation has never been hotter. In the US, George Floyd’s death sparked a wave of protests, and, ever since, the Black Lives Matter movement has been receiving wide support in Belgium as well. Statues of King Leopold II have been vandalised or removed across the country. Late last June, the Ghent city council followed suit, and decided to remove one of those statues from the Zuidpark.

Racism research

"Right around that time, we were in talks with the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town and the University of Missouri about organising a webinar," says Annelies Verdoolaege, one of the founding members of the Africa Platform. "It seemed like the perfect opportunity to discuss the issue, as universities are facing the same problems. And universities are exactly where research is conducted on racism, colonisation and history."

According to Annelies Verdoolaege, the collaboration between those three universities generates tremendous added value: "This partnership has been around for years and provides us with the chance to learn from one another, especially when it comes to this subject. In Cape Town and Missouri, students regularly hold anti-racism protests, even at the university campuses."

In the end, all three universities decided to organise not just one, but a three-part series of webinars on racism. Each university hosts one webinar, and Ghent University’s is up on Thursday 15 October at 7pm. What about the topic? ’Colonialism and decolonisation in a Belgian context.’ Sibo Kanobana, doctoral candidate at Ghent University, will give a talk about race, colonisation and decolonisation from a Belgian perspective. Professor Johan Lagae will elaborate on spatial history and colonial segregation legacies in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Professor Felicitas Becker will discuss violence, racism, and the contradictory memories of racism. Student Imane Salmi (president of student association Umoja) will speak about building bridges and decolonisation at Ghent University.

Would you like to attend the webinar on ’Colonialism and decolonisation in a Belgian context’- Please register through this link


Collaborating with two universities from different continents offers new perspectives, Verdoolaege adds. "We should take off our western glasses when observing Africa; the universities in Cape Town and Missouri came to that same conclusion. By talking over these issues with them and opening up new debates, we can arrive at fresh insights," she concludes.

What is the Africa Platform?

Ghent University has five regional platforms, including one dedicated to Africa. The platform brings together all Africa-related expertise, coordinates the dissemination of that expertise to academics, the government and businesses, and aims to facilitate academic collaboration with African universities. Should you have any questions about research about or in Africa, you can turn to the Africa Platform. Want to find out more? Have a look at www.africaplatform.ugent.be.

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