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.

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