Paper: What do we know about decolonisation?

Paper details

Paper authors Vicki-Ann Ware
In panel on Decolonising aid? Issues and directions
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


Recent times have witnessed a rapid growth in discussion about the need to decolonise our practice, research and teaching in development and humanitarian fields. However, despite much goodwill, the way forward is clouded by a complex array of confusing terminology, contested ideas and practical dilemmas. The decolonising discourse is essentialist and binary, and often static. Different cultures are reified, rather than understood as dynamic and interpenetrating.
Decolonising has many layers – the hearts and minds of the colonising and colonised, Indigenous-settler relations compared to broader global power dynamics, organisational practice of local/national/international NGOs, and broader global aid systems that maintain the status quo while claiming to be decolonising, to name a few. And we have barely begun the work of genuinely decolonising: colonisers still control agendas, in which they ‘allow’ colonised people to have a say.
In this paper, we start to unpack some of this complexity in order to facilitate discussions about what decolonisation means for development and humanitarian practitioners, researchers and educators. What are some layers of decolonisation that each of us can partake in? What needs to be done? And who should do the work of decolonisation? We will explore key, provocative examples to illustrate some of these complexities.



Vicki-ann Ware