SML’s Decolonising the Curriculum Book Festival and the Future of Decolonisation at Newcastle: a personal testimony

By Anna-Louise Davies 

The School of Modern Languages’ Decolonising the Curriculum book fair, which took place on 10th May, was a great success! The success of this student-led event was a testament to the interns, SML and library staff who worked tirelessly to put it together. We were thrilled to see so many people come to the event and engage in meaningful discussion with each of the interns regarding their chosen books and learn from the efforts being made within their departments to decolonise the curriculum.

The event began with an introduction by the student interns, who explained the purpose of the event, which was to present books they each selected based on their field of study. Ren Hydes-Kelly selected books written in Portuguese and Spanish: Sirena Selena Vestida de Pena, and Memórias de Plantação. Ren explained that ‘decoloniality is about dismantling hegemonic narratives taught from a white, middle-class, cisgender, heterosexual perspective’ and mentioned how this was presented in her selected books. Mengjin Ye chose the book Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialisation and provided vital information on the decolonisation from a non-European perspective. Saskia Robbins presented a contemporary French book entitled Le Dérangeur and in particular commented on its accessibility being a ‘short, snappy, dictionary style book with brief explanations of key terms often used when talking about decolonising’. The accessibility of these books is crucial so ensure that as many people as possible feel that they can engage in conversation around decolonisation. For myself, I chose to present the classic and globally acclaimed book, Peau Noire, Masques Blancs by Frantz Fanon. This book was a pioneer in the field of decolonisation and covers themes including race, gender and language. The selected books ranged from different time periods and included both works of fiction and nonfiction. Quotes from the books in both their original language and their English translation were put on the walls of The Beehive (second floor of the Old Library Building).

The event was also an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the work that has already been done by the School of Modern Languages to diversify resources, organise events and make meaningful steps in the process of decolonising the SML curriculum.

A team from the library were also very helpful in putting the event together and they also had a stand at the event presenting many of the diverse works held in the library, as well as some of the texts included on the School of Modern Languages decolonising resources list. This list is something we at the decolonising team are very proud of, as it represents a commitment from students and staff to ensure a more diverse and informed curriculum. 

It was wonderful to see overwhelming positivity and enthusiasm for the project and it was certainly an encouraging sign for the future of SML decolonisation. This is by no means the end of the work that needs to be done, with many more projects and future events in the works. We are very proud of the decolonising book fair and we are thrilled that the posters of the event are still on the walls of The Beehive. I would encourage everyone to go and have a look at the amazing work that has been and continues to be done. 

Anna-Louise Davies is a 4th year student studying French and Politics. As well as being an Intern for the School of Modern Languages Decolonising the Curriculum Team, Anna is on the committee of the It Happens Here Society, studies Korean with the University-wide language programme and is a frequent writer for The Courier. Her politics dissertation was focussed on the topic of Decolonising the Curriculum at GCSE level.