Skip to Main Content

Decolonising the Library

What is decolonisation?

Decolonisation involves identifying colonial systems, structures and relationships, and working to challenge those systems. It is not “integration” or simply the token inclusion of the intellectual achievements of non-white cultures. Rather, it involves a paradigm shift from a culture of exclusion and denial to the making of space for other political philosophies and knowledge systems. It is a culture shift to thinking more widely about why common knowledge is what it is, and in so doing adjusting cultural perceptions and power relations.

One of the most significant problems relating to gaps in the curriculum in higher education is the lack of representation of black and minority ethnic groups. This is commonly referred to as the colonisation of the curriculum. The content of the curriculum in western universities often reflects and maintains a colonial legacy through the presentation of a white, western intellectual tradition as not only superior to other forms of knowledge, but as universal.

Decolonising the curriculum means creating spaces for a dialogue among all members of the university, ensuring that a diverse range of cultures and knowledge systems are represented and reflected in respect of the resources provided, what is taught, and how the curriculum frames the world. 

The Library is keen to work with interested students and academics on issues around decolonisation, and also participates in the Transitions & Transformations programme at Essex in supporting the research journey of Black students.

Watch the 3 minute video below to find out more about what decolonisation means for the Library at Essex: