What does “decolonizing” even mean here?

Decolonizing is not a new way to say “diversity.”

Decolonizing is not mean “inclusion of previously excluded narratives/sources/ideas/epistemologies.”

It’s not a new buzz word for “human rights” or “social justice” or for being “politically correct.”

These things are part of what a decolonized space looks like. But they aren’t the same. Decolonization is about undoing colonial mentalities and replacing them.

It doesn’t challenge existing systems. It changes them.

This is why making your syllabus more “diverse” isn’t the same thing as decolonizing your syllabus. And why having a “representative” project isn’t the same thing as a decolonizing project.

To do that, we first have to identify what those mentalities, those structures, are.  That has to happen on a personal level before it can happen at the institutional one, or changes remain gestures, tokens.

I’ve been thinking about indigenous epistemologies lately and how this might be the link between the decolonizing process and the digital humanities project. The book Pulling Together: A Guide for Curriculum Developers (specifically “a guide for Indigenization”) has an excellent chapter on Indigenous Epistemologies and Pedagogies.   Someone studying Social/Emotional Learning theory might find some of these ideas and and methods familiar.

Holism. Relationality. Intergenerational and experiential learning. Place-based learning. I think this is where indigeneity meets digital humanities, and how this space can be a way to bring those things together to create a new understanding of what it means to be Memphis, what it means to live and exist in a colonized Memphis, and perhaps get a glimpse at what a decolonized Memphis might look like, or at minimum a map for the process.

Draft of UofM Land Acknowledgment

This has not been approved by the Chickasaw Nation at this time. We are still in the process of reaching out and working with them.**

We begin today by recognizing and acknowledging that we are on the lands of the Chickasaw nation. Memphis, and all of Tennessee, was the traditional territory for many indigenous peoples prior to their forced removal, and the University of Memphis has a responsibility to acknowledge the peoples and histories of these lands. Our ability to exist here (to “dream, think, and do” here) is the result of coercion, dispossession, and colonization. To ignore that is to perpetuate it. The University of Memphis respects the diverse communities it touches, including those who occupied this territory originally, those brought to it by force, and those who settled here in search of better circumstances. We understand that acknowledgement is only a gesture, but it represents the beginning of our commitment to reconciliation in the United States.


Please leave any suggestions, edits, concerns, thoughts, etc, in the comments. This will continue to be updated, but I’ll leave a record of modifications in the comments as well.


**I know I stated that I wouldn’t share the draft until we had it approved, but I also thought seeing the process and the before and after would be important, so I decided to share it.