SEAC Seminar Series: Decolonising Higher Education Roundtable Discussion

Hosted by the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre

Online Event


Dr Leon Moosavi

Dr Leon Moosavi

Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, University of Liverpool

Tamara Soukotta

Tamara Soukotta

PhD researcher at International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of The Erasmus University

Dr Lisa Tilley

Dr Lisa Tilley

Lecturer in Politics at Birkbeck, University of London


Prof Hyun Bang Shin

Prof Hyun Bang Shin

Professor of Geography and Urban Studies and Director of Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, LSE

SEAC hosts an online roundtable discussion themed around 'decolonising higher education' in relation to the Southeast Asian region and beyond as part of its seminar series. This roundtable invites three speakers whose research is rooted in such effort of decolonising higher education, addressing the structural power inequalities of knowledge production.  Q&A and further discussions will be followed thereafter the presentations by three speakers.

The roundtable is part of the Decolonising the LSE Week, an event that brought together multiple conversations across the LSE and beyond on the challenges of decolonising global higher education.


Talk Abstracts

The Decolonial Bandwagon: Decolonisation without Decolonising (Dr Leon Moosavi)

In this presentation, I will provide an overview of my recently-published article ‘The Decolonial Bandwagon and the Dangers of Intellectual Decolonisation’. In this article, I argue that efforts to decolonise higher education are not always to be celebrated, and they may even reinscribe coloniality. That is because, in some instances, calls to decolonise the university may: 1) silence decolonial scholars from the Global South; 2) reduce intellectual decolonisation to a simple task; 3) essentialise and appropriate the Global South; 4) overlook the multifaceted nature of marginalisation in academia; 5) be nativistic; and 6) be tokenistic.

Pushing boundaries, creating spaces to breath: Doing decolonial works within universities in The Netherlands (Tamara Soukotta)

I started doing decolonial works in university as a PhD researcher researching the 1999-2004 ethno-religious conflict in Maluku, Indonesia.It was an option that I took out of necessity, because after exhausting the tools available in front of me I still was not able to do my research in a way that is just for the subject, the people involved, and myself as a researcher who has been part of the conflict itself. Decoloniality allowed me to think otherwise, to see beyond the horizon of western ontology-epistemology-methodology that forced me to fit myself and my research within the boxes and categorisations that came with it. Taking the decolonial option has helped me to create a small space for myself to do my research within the university. In the past few years, I have been working as a lecturer in a Dutch university. Being a woman of colour from former Dutch colonies,teaching in a Dutch university means taking up a space that was not meant for people like me. To include myself in this space and at the same time to accommodate the needs of my students, together we have learned to push more boundaries and make more space for ourselves. It is this experience of pushing boundaries to create space for other ways of thinking, knowing and existing within universities in The Netherlands that I would like to share on this roundtable. 

Confronting the Colonial in the Study of Southeast Asia (Dr Lisa Tilley)

European colonial powers and trading companies made early and extensive interventions within the geographical space we know today as Southeast Asia. Colonial designs on the region served to expropriate, remove, and displace populations; destroy and remake economies for the purpose of cheap extraction; raze ecologies for mines and plantations; and organise societies according to the invented divisions and hierarchies of race. And yet, Southeast Asian intellectuals are much less prominent within the canons of anti-, post- and decolonial thought than their contemporaries from South Asia, the ‘Middle East’, Africa, and the Americas. Further, much mainstream ‘Western’ scholarship on the region engages a basic conjure of historiography by beginning analysis with the post-independence era, thereby displacing the colonial centuries to the fog of amnesia and negating their formative influence. My intervention reflects on how all of this structures how Southeast Asia is narrated, known, and reproduced in knowledge, as well as on who gets to narrate the region for global knowledge markets. I’ll explore the material conditions which underpin this knowledge economy and, in turn, the material effects of how Southeast Asia is epistemically produced.   



Listen to the podcast here.


Blog Posts 

  • Dr Leon Moosavi's intervention regarding his talk can be read here.
  • Reflections on the roundtable written by Dr Emma Colven can be read here.


Panellists Biographies

  • Dr Leon Moosavi is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology at the University of Liverpool, UK. He is concurrently the Director of the University of Liverpool in Singapore. Leon’s research has focused on Islamophobia, conversion to Islam, and race in Muslim communities. Since relocating to Singapore in 2013, he has also been researching academic imperialism, racism in academia and the decolonisation of higher education.
  • Tamara Soukotta is PhD researcher at International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of The Erasmus University, and lecturer at Bachelor International Studies, Leiden University.
  • Dr Lisa Tilley is currently Lecturer in Politics at Birkbeck, University of London. Her work focuses on political economy/ecology, race, and historical/present-day colonialism, extraction and expropriation, especially in Southeast Asia. She also co-convenes the CPD-BISA working group and is Associate Editor of Global Social Theory.

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