Decolonising academic selves through auto-ethnography

Jos Beelen, Katherine Wimpenny, Karine Hindrix, Virginia King, Ellen Sjoer

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review


    This paper builds on an earlier study by five academics from three western European countries Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. That earlier study is rooted in Sanderson (2008) and his argument that internationalisation of higher education requires the internationalisation of the academic self and follows up on Vandeyar (2019), who argues that academics need to decolonise first in order to be able to decolonise curricula in South Africa. We, five expert practitioners and researchers in curriculum development and internationalisation of higher education became curious about the state of our own decolonised selves as. In the original study, we decided to adopt an autoethnographic approach to data collection (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2007). Autoethnography is a means of reflecting on the self so as to reveal true feelings and vulnerabilities that may otherwise lie hidden, not just from others, but from oneself (King, 2013). Autoethnography is particularly pertinent in the current context because it "lies at the intersection of discourses and experiences of Self and Other, Insider and Outsider, Native and Colonialist" (Anderson & Glass-Coffin, 2013). Each member of the team created a visualization of their decolonising self in the form of the 'map' of an island, following King (2013). Each map was complemented with a reflexive commentary. These two qualitative moves enabled each individual to explore their standpoint regarding their professional context and practices concerning decolonization. Subsequently, we shared our images and our commentaries, and collaboratively explored them. The comparative analysis of our 'islands' includes a discussion to what extent internationalisation of the curriculum (Leask, 2015) and internationalisation at home (Beelen & Jones, 2015) are different from decolonisation of the curriculum. The current paper is a reiteration of the earlier study, but the five western European 'islands' are compared and contrasted here with five 'islands' from South Africa, drawn by curriculum developers and researcher. The identities of the ten professionals are compared and analysed in the framework of the 'third space', specifically Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) between South African and European students. Such forms of collaboration form the core of the Erasmus+ Project iKudu and are usually associated with internationalisation but not with decolonisation. In this paper we explore the potential of online teaching and learning practices for decolonisation of curricula. The names of the South African authors will be added later. During the presentation, participants will be able to draw their own version of their professional 'islands'.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAfrica Knows Conference
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2020
    EventAfrica Knows!: It is time to decolonise minds - Leiden African Studies Assembly, Leiden, Netherlands
    Duration: 2 Dec 20204 Dec 2020


    ConferenceAfrica Knows!
    Internet address


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