RiCES public seminar: Decolonizing universities, decolonizing politics

Decolonizing universities, decolonizing politics: 
Place-based education in the Canadian Arctic

Dr. Darcy Leigh, University of Edinburgh

21 May | 2:30–4:30pm | Minerva Building 3203

Formal education in Canada has been a central tool of colonial assimilation. It has, crucially, been used to govern political actors and action as liberal and state-based. Today, education is a key site of anti-colonial and Indigenous struggles and of interventions into the meaning of politics itself. This talk will focus on two anti-colonial higher education projects in the Canadian Arctic. Both are using place-based pedagogy and both are combining different forms of knowledge and politics in an Arctic setting. The Akitsiraq Law School combines Inuit law with Canadian common law, while Dechinta University combines book learning with experiential learning in the bush. Both projects are claiming the authority, legitimacy and resources of ‘conventional’ universities and liberal logics of politics. Yet at the same time the projects are refusing and reworking those same logics of politics and education, as well as developing and practicing alternatives. The talk addresses how these projects are using place-based education to navigate these tensions and to decolonize both politics and education in the Canadian Arctic.

More about Darcy | Darcy Leigh is a Fellow at the Academy of Government at the University of Edinburgh, where she co-teaches the course ‘Political Work’. Her work is about how people inhabit and contest neo and late liberal narratives of political agency. She is especially concerned with the possibilities for agency that are closing and opening in universities. She recently completed her PhD, titled ‘Post-liberal agency: Decolonizing politics and universities in the Canadian Arctic’, for which she worked with Indigenous and Northern actors in a struggle for/over an Arctic university. In the past five years she has also been a Research Assistant and/or instructor with Dechinta Bush University (www.dechinta.ca), Northern Governance and Economy (www.ngec2012.com), and the Akitsiraq Law School (www.akitsiraq.ca). She teaches political, critical, feminist, queer and anti-colonial theory and action across the social sciences at the University of Edinburgh and specializes in collaborative, affective and inclusive pedagogy.

Further information | This seminar is now finished, but more information about the themes is available from the following resources referenced by Dr. Leigh in her talk.

Dechinta Center for Research and Learning (including extensive gallery)

Dechinta student blog (stories about experiential land based learning in students’ own words)

Akitsiraq Law School

Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society (fantastic blog and journal about decolonizing education)

DecolonizationSpecial issue on Indigenous land-based education (including perspectives from Dechinta’s creators and instructors)

Residential schools: if you search for ‘residential schools Canada testimony’ on YouTube you will find people who went to residential schools telling their stories to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (e.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CReISnQDbBE) [CONTENT WARNING: of these stories contain descriptions of childhood sexual and physical abuse]. See also a brief history of residential schools and deaths in residential schools.

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