Critiquing Inclusion at the Neoliberal University: An Analysis of Decoloniality and a Manifesto for Doing Decolonial Work

Foreword: My master’s thesis in Gender Studies written in 2021 under the supervision of Zerrin Cengiz at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Due to the formatting of my thesis, below is an abstract and attached is the complete document.

Abstract: This research focuses on decoloniality and how to do decolonial work at the university to make it a space that is founded on inclusion and social justice. I conducted interviews with feminist scholars from different geo-political locations to understand what it means to do decolonial work in higher education institutions during my internship with RINGS in 2021. I analyse the data thematically to draw upon patterns and similarities, and selected because of the data, I focus on four axes for analysis: race, gender, class and (dis)ability. The fundamental understanding of doing decolonial work is the inherent challenge to hegemonic power structures which have remained in place since the official end of colonial administrations across the world and how these structures continue to oppress marginalised students at the university. I critique the university as a site of inclusion to show how thinking differently by adopting a feminist ethics of care approach and an intersectional lens may hold a path for restructuring the university built on inclusion. There are three domains to my analysis: teaching and knowledge production, access to the university, and ethics and care. Through these, I argue that decolonial work must involve a greater representation of marginalised communities, an increase in self-reflexive methods to understand our accountability in perpetuating social injustice, and a deeper engagement with those who have been oppressed by coloniality. Through envisioning the marginalised in relation to ourselves, we re-humanise oppressed bodies to generate caring relations which may lead to a way of thinking differently and restructuring the university as a site of inclusion. Finally, I show that we must find ways of thinking differently and restructuring the university as an institution founded upon social justice if we are to ever envision a future liberated from oppression.

Keywords: decoloniality, social justice, oppression, exclusion/inclusion, the university, students, intersectionality