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Unit information: Decolonise the Future! in 2021/22

Unit name Decolonise the Future!
Unit code HUMS10012
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Jessica Moody
Open unit status Open




School/department School of Humanities
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

How should we, as ‘global citizens’, face the long-lasting legacies of empire and colonialism in the present day? How can we understand the effects of the enslavement of an estimated 12 million African people by Europeans, the violence of colonial rule and expansion, the oppression of indigenous peoples, ideas and cultures? How do we understand the material and structural legacies of colonialism; through trade and capital, economic and environmental impact and change, and through international structures and organisations? How do we recognise the people who resisted and challenged such structures, both historically and in the present day? Moreover, how can we deconstruct the ways such pasts have been remembered, framed and justified through colonial lenses for centuries via the architecture of white supremacy that lingers in structures of power, institutions and hierarchies? In short – how can we decolonise our societies and how can we as active citizens be a part of this process and work towards a better, more equal future?

Decolonisation has a long historical context emerging from the fight for independence from colonial rule by formerly colonised peoples and more recently calls to ‘decolonise’ have emerged in relation to education, representation and ideas as part of a distinctly transnational and global movement. The Rhodes Must Fall movement which originated in South Africa and targeted the statue of 19th century imperialist and early architect of apartheid, Cecil Rhodes, at the University of Cape Town, also has a counterpart in Oxford, UK, which has focused attention on the Rhodes statue at Oriel College. Both movements, however, have also critiqued western-dominated and overly white curricula, teaching topics, representation and power within their institutions. This is a story and movement which connects the local with the global, and is particularly relevant to us in Bristol – one of the largest slave-trading port cities in Europe which celebrated figures of the imperial past across the cityscape. In June 2020, the long-contested statue of slave merchant Edward Colston was pulled from its plinth by Black Lives Matter protesters, and thrown in the harbour. Many other statues of slave traders, slave-owners, confederate generals, imperialists and white supremacists in America and Europe were targeted as part of the protests over the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May 2020. Increasing attention has now been turned to commemoration and memory in public spaces as well as representation, experience and power in companies, institutions and elsewhere in our societies which uphold colonial ideologies.

Students taking this unit will learn about the history, theory and practice of decolonisation. This will include a critical look at ‘decolonisation’ versus ‘decolonial thinking’ in practice, including the institutionalisation of calls to ‘decolonise’ which seek finalised end points rather than ongoing modes of decolonial critique. Students will undertake more specialised study through examples and case studies within key themed blocks which may include topics such as decolonising history, heritage, public history and museums, decolonising universities, curricula and education, decolonising environmental activism, art and art history, literature and public spaces.

This unit therefore aims to:

  • Introduce students to key questions and issues relating to decolonisation
  • Encourage students to make connections between the theory and practice of decolonisation
  • Develop their skills of reflection, presentation and group work.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key issues around the topic of decolonisation.
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of, and apply, ideas from different disciplines.
  3. Apply decolonial theory to practice through specific examples.
  4. Demonstrate skills in effective communication.
  5. Participate in student-led learning and project-oriented assessments.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered online only through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures, and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation.

Assessment Information


Reflective Blog entries total 2000 (max) words (50%) [ILOs 1, 2 and 4]

Group Presentation, 10 minutes (50%) [ILOs 1, 3-5]


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. HUMS10012).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.