This is an extended version of an introductory contribution that I delivered on the 28th of October 2020 at a panel event hosted by the Oxford Law Faculty. The event was titled, ‘Race Equality in Higher Education’. A recording of the full event can be found here. I was asked to give my reflections on the state of racial justice in higher education – what has gone well, what needs improvement, what hopes for the future. My thoughts on those particular points are reproduced below.
In Adebisi, Foluke, “Law, Race and Development,” an entry in the Encyclopedia of Law and Development, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2021, I examine the nexus of the seemingly straightforward concepts of law, race, and development. The full text can be accessed here or through your local library or other institutional channels. [Alternatively, contact me.]
We would like to invite you to contribute a chapter to a volume we are co-editing, and which we are planning to place in the Routledge Legal Pedagogy series. The collected edition is provisionally titled: ‘Decolonising Legal Pedagogy’. We have been invited by the series editor to submit a proposal and we are now at the stage of putting together a list of authors and abstracts to finalise an agreement with Routledge.
Some years ago a colleague of mine asked why, despite the fact that I blogged a lot about decolonisation, I did not write about decolonisation in my academic work. My real answer [of which I responded with an abridged version], was that I did not think that anyone in UK HE wanted to hear about decolonial thought. Taking my colleague’s advice, I decided to switch my academic focus round – write scholarly about decoloniality and blog about everything else… and decolonisation. Decolonising Education in Africa is the first piece of academic work where my scholarship on decolonisation intersects overtly with my scholarship on Africa. In this essay I reflect on where the field and myself have found ourselves, five years after I wrote it.
When I started writing this, it was only 8 days into 2021. COVID-19 is stalking all lands. The vaccine distribution line is the abyssal line. The United States of America is being very disunited. The oppressed are still being oppressed and the obscenely rich are still amassing obscene amounts of wealth. Though we are all glad to escape 2020, 2021 has not brought the automatic refreshing we promised. I am saying this to remind us, that stepping into a new calendar year does not miraculously make all things new. We have to actively make change happen. Looking back matters. By looking back we ensure that we learn from the past. We take the lessons with us, from the good and bad. We look back so that we can do better in future and not drive further into perdition.
I have always loved stage plays. I love the way the dialogue captures the heart, slowly at first, but then it clutches your soul… and draws you in. Your line of sight is focused, in the scene, in how the players sit around a prop – a throne, a queen, a skull, a jug, a baby grand piano. The pacing is swift. It has to be, to keep you in your seat. The settings are few, but the stories are often deep, many-textured and still mundane. They follow the flow of life, yet faster. Going backward and forward, stage plays are simultaneously; a window into the everyday, into the possible, into the divine.
Decolonising the Law School: Presences, Absences, Silences and Hope
On the 13th of September 2019, I convened at the Law School, University of Bristol, a conference titled, ‘Decolonisation and the Law School.’ The purpose of the conference was to bring together some of the vast array of work legal academics across the UK were doing with reference to decolonial thought, in particular how they were bringing this work into their teaching and their research. I have written about the conference here and here. Decolonial thought in legal education, in my opinion, gives us an opportunity to look at our law schools and re-examine what is present, what is absent, what is silent and where our hope lies.
Parts of this essay were first published in the Critical Legal Thinking blog as part of the ‘Our Favourite CRT’ series curated by Kojo Koram and Yvette Russell. The aim of the series was to reflect on what different Critical Race Theorists teach us about the world we live in. In the initial post, I focus specifically on Baldwin’s 1979 address at Berkeley [See: James Baldwin at Berkeley, also below]. I have always found Baldwin’s insight into the nature of the world we live in quite unsettling. And I mean this in a good way. We think of many things as settled, despite the fact that the evidence of our senses tell us that they are definitely not settled. We think of land as property, as always having been property, as always being property… now and forever more. We think of the human as an individual body. When it is obvious the human thrives most in relationships – platonic or otherwise. Thus, both Birhane and Gordon, suggest that the human is relational. I think, however, that one of the most intractable ideas we have, one of the most difficult concepts to dislodge, is the presumed fragmentation and linearity of European time.
During Black History Month UK, I was asked to give a talk at an event held at the University of Bristol, called, ‘New Narratives Beyond MLK: Spotlight On the Marginalised Voice.’ The focus of the event was to spotlight people and histories beyond those that often form part of the sanitised narratives of Black History Month celebrations. My talk reflected on how absent hope of African futurity in the past and present makes such futurity itself a forgotten history. This reflection arises from my scepticism with observations of Black History Month in Higher Education where data on access, progression and content shows persistent trends of anti-Blackness. I suggest here, that the failure to end these trends signifies a particular lack of intellectual creativity as regards the personhood and possibilities of African and African-descended people. The text of the talk is reproduced below.
One of the most read articles on this blog is an essay on the origins of the Nigerian police. Its tagline is: ‘a thing can never do a thing that the thing was never designed to do.’ In it I reflect, relying on my own research and personal/professional experiences with the Nigerian Police, on how the violence of the police is a microcosmic manifestation of the violence of the state. When one considers the history from which policing and the nation sprung, it is not surprising that the people of Nigeria live in constant tension with the nation of Nigeria, as it seems that the state’s survival as it is, is dependent on the destruction of its people. Something else I have also written about.