Last year the university claimed that ‘Erasmian values’ are ‘anti-racist values’. What steps has the university taken since then? How has it responded to reactions from students and staff that have urged the university to address and fight institutional racism within and beyond its walls? On a more fundamental level, what do ‘anti-racist values’ entail if those are not rooted in concrete efforts and actions committed to decolonial work? What does your solidarity mean if it does not include the ongoing struggles of the Palestinian people in the face of settler colonialism, genocide and apartheid?
Dear EUR, act(ion demanded)!
Recently, our university has issued a statement to address its community following the…
Although decolonisation is not always an explicit part of university policy, it is increasingly named in tandem with Dutch universities’ missions to ‘diversify education’. At Erasmus University College, for instance, there is currently a discussion about how to decolonise the curriculum; how not to continue the erasure and silencing of non-western epistemologies. Being attentive to the work of Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, we want to emphasize that decolonisation is not a metaphor, it cannot be reduced to simply adding things to the curriculum whilst continuing business as usual. Decolonisation cannot become a tool for window-dressing and depoliticisation; it has real, material implications. The reason why it is of paramount importance to stress this is twofold:
First, diversity is increasingly being used for marketing purposes. As for example with the (empty) BLM statement or commitment the university made last year. In which, it turns out, it was all just a rhetoric, performative, strategic act to, as Sara Ahmed teaches us, ‘create evidence of doing something, without actually doing something’. Diversity has thus become an empty concept that is used to make it appear as if the university is doing something, when all that is being done is the continuation of the brutal violent regulation of knowledge and the continuation of colonial permanence.
Dutch academics boycott Israeli universities
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has prompted 400 Dutch academics to…
Second, commitments to decolonise education must go beyond statements and must manifest themselves in real, material actions. In the face of ongoing colonial violence against the Palestinian people perpetuated by the Israeli state, condemning this violence and practicing solidarity must have the highest priority. Which is to say that decolonisation is not a metaphor. If the university takes decolonisation seriously, if it takes ‘commitments’ to a ‘more just society’ and a ‘more sustainable society’ seriously, then the university must boycott and divest from colonial institutions that continue to thread over the earth with a brutal violent disregard for life.
We have witnessed that students and staff members continuously receive the answer that the institute ‒ as ‘neutral’ actor ‒ cannot take a position in ‘political’ debates. This claim of neutrality, claim of ‘having no position’, is of course a position in and of itself, a position that when invoked allows for the status quo to continue. So there is no such thing as being neutral, especially when you’re sustaining economic ties with institutes that continue to thread violently over the earth. Claiming neutrality is inherently political. Under the guise of neutrality, ‘open debate’, framing the university as solving societal problems (allegedly the Erasmian way), no issues are solved, rather they are sustained by a rhetoric we have heard all too long.
Banners calling for a boycott of Israel on façade of Erasmus University College
Students hung three banners above the front door of the Erasmus University College on…
The claim of being a university that ‘empowers people to speak out against racism, and ensures that people who are disenfranchised feel safe to speak out, are listened to, and can be supported’, does not align with the silencing of students and staff proclaiming solidarity with Palestine. The removal of a banner addressing settler colonialism highlights what Sara Ahmed notes in her research on how diversity is practiced in institutions: “When you perceive a problem, your perception becomes the problem. When you expose a problem, you pose a problem.”
We refuse to sit by and allow the institutions we study at and work for to continue to brutally thread on this earth with a complete disregard for life. We demand from EUR, ISS, EUC, WDKA, Piet Zwart, to:
- Boycott and divest from companies and institutions that sustain the (settler) colonial violence done unto the earth and unto life
- Cut ties with Tel Aviv University
- Cut ties with Ban-Ilan University
- Demand from the ABP to divest from Israeli companies
- Demand from the ABP to divest from companies investing in Myanmar junta
- Cut ties with Shell
- Take diversity and inclusivity seriously, beyond the marketing/PR level
- Take decolonisation seriously, beyond its uses as a metaphor
- Take Black life seriously, beyond the empty statements
- Take the dismantling/abolition of patriarchy seriously
- Take the dismantling/abolition of heteronormativity seriously
- Take the dismantling/abolition of racial capitalism seriously
- Take the dismantling/abolition of coloniality seriously
Do not mistake our letters of demand for bad will against the university. Rather read them as Radical Love Letters. In trying to disrupt and dismantle the university’s violent structures, we refuse to abandon the university altogether. We believe that the practices the university engages in should be centered around a commitment to insist on life. We cherish radical hope that the university can be a ‘life affirming institution’. Which is to say that we demand the university to take life seriously and to choose (radical) love over extraction.
With Radical Love,
Written in the name of Erasmus School of Colour and EUC Collxctive
Melisa Ersoy, Arjîn Elgersma, Nia Nikoladze, Zouhair Hammana, Claire Tio, Lev Avitan (in no particular order)
- You can read the article here: Garfield, J.L. & van Norden, B.W. (2016). If Philosophy Won’t Diversify, Let’s Call It What It Really Is. ↩︎