Decolonizing Nordic Higher Education

7 October 2021
From the left: Yulia Gradskova, Thomas Brorsen Smidt, Giti Chandra, Ulla Manns, Madina Tlostanova, a…
From the left: Yulia Gradskova, Thomas Brorsen Smidt, Giti Chandra, Ulla Manns, Madina Tlostanova, and Cecilia Guadalupe Salinas

This week research specialist Giti Chandra and academic coordinator Thomas Brorsen Smidt of GRÓ-GEST took part in the intra-Nordic workshop “Decolonizing Nordic Higher Education” at Södertörn University in Stockholm. The workshop, which was held on October 5 and 6, was organised by GRÓ-GEST in collaboration with Yulia Gradskova, associate professor of history at Södertörn University, and was supported by ReNEW, a research hub established to enhance cooperation to develop new quality research on the Nordic region within a global context.

In the Nordic countries, the history of colonisation – which played an instrumental role in the industrial revolution, world wars, and the so-called ‘developed’ Nordic economies – is largely absent from collective consciousness in higher education. As a result, many Nordic higher education institutions fail to interrogate their own colonial positionality in their collaborations with post-colonial and other exploited nations and societies. This has direct consequences for what kinds of knowledges are supported and what narratives are produced, reproduced, and for what purposes.

The goal of the workshop was to bring together relevant scholars, primarily from Nordic universities, in a bid to stimulate intra-Nordic collaboration on research, action-plans and best-practice recommendations relating to decolonization processes in Nordic higher education. The GEST programme is a postgraduate diploma programme hosted by a Nordic university that targets young professionals from low to middle income countries and conflict/post-conflict societies. During the workshop GEST’s representatives learned invaluable lessons and received important feedback from scholars from across the Nordic region and beyond, which will lay the groundwork for future collaborations within this important field.

The workshop featured presentations, both online and in person, by scholars from across the Nordic region and in a plethora of different academic fields, including keynotes from prominent decolonial scholars Madina Tlostanova and Rauna Kuokkanen.