‘Making Rhodes History: Taking the Decolonisation Project Forward’

Common Ground Oxford – Jul 27, 2017

Common Ground Symposium: ‘Imperial Past, Unequal Present’
10th – 11th June 2017, University of Oxford

‘Making Rhodes History: Taking the Decolonisation Project Forward’ – Panel Discussion
Saturday 11th June, 11am-12.30pm
Sir Michael Dummett Lecture Theatre, Christ Church

‘Making Rhodes History: Taking the Decolonisation Project Forward’ will use the statue of Cecil Rhodes as an inroad into wider debates about colonial symbols, iconography, and material culture in Oxford. We aim to interrogate the role that challenging and reworking spaces plays in the decolonisation project.

The statue of Cecil Rhodes that stands above Oriel college both symbolises Oxford’s imperial past and continues to overshadow its unequal present. The statute exists within the wider context of a city that is saturated with iconography which commemorates Oxford’s colonial history. From the portrait of the High Commissioner for Southern Africa, Alfred Milner, hanging at Balliol, to the library named after slave-owner Christopher Codrington at All Souls college, to the namesake of our art school, fervent imperialist John Ruskin, Oxford’s material culture stands as a testament to its colonial legacy. This iconography overshadows a university with a largely colonised curriculum, and a disproportionately low number of BME students and staff.

Common Ground want to investigate the way that such symbols and objects affect Oxford. We aim to explore the role that changing Oxford’s spaces has in taking the decolonisation project forward. This panel will discuss the differences between a material culture that perpetuates imperialism, and one that interrogates it. How do institutions process their own legacies; how we can decolonise our environments; and last but not least, WHEN will our spaces become decolonised?


Max is a former Rhodes Scholar, and a current examination fellow at All Souls. Max has done extensive work in the fields of human rights justice, indigenous legal issues, and the future of progressive politics. He was also involved in the Rhodes Must Fall Movement.

Michelle is a teacher in Oxford who has been involved with the Rhodes Must Fall movement. Descended from one of the many people enslaved by Christopher Codrington, Michelle brings a personal perspective on what it means to decolonise a space.

Dan is Associate Professor in the School of Archaeology, Curator of Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum, and a Fellow of St Cross College. He has a vast range of knowledge having published work on themes as diverse as the ‘architecture of displacement’ and ‘sugar landscapes’ in the Eastern Caribbean, as well as both the Cambridge Companion to Historical Archeology and the Oxford Handbook of Material Cultural Studies. He is also the General Editor of Bloomsbury Series ‘A Cultural History of Objects’.

Dalia is an activist and writer. As well as having worked as a core organiser for Rhodes Must Fall, she is currently co-ordinating People & Planet’s ‘Undoing Borders’ campaign, which supports students taking action in solidarity with migrants. She is working on a special issue of Historical Materialism on ‘Identity Politics,’ and an edited volume on decolonising higher education alongside Professor Gurminder Bhambra and Dr Kerem Nisciangolu.

A Namibian by birth, Ndjodi is pursuing an MPhil in Law at Linacre College, looking at the justiciability of socio-economic rights in Namibia. Ndjodi is also a former Rhodes Scholar, and was part of the Redress Rhodes Campaign as well as the RMF movement. At present, he serves as an Editor of the Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal and is the Vice-President of the Oxford University Africa Society.

Nadiya is the Dean of Scholarships and Director of Leadership & Change at the Rhodes Trust. She has worked extensively in human and institutional development with a focus on education, partnerships and governance. She has helped to found the Caribbean Policy Research Institute and was Deputy Director of Jamaica’s National Integrity Action. Nadiya has held policy advisory and facilitator roles with the Government of Jamaica, University of the West Indies and Civil Society organisations.

Laura is Director of the Pitt Rivers Museum and Professorial Fellow at Linacre College, Oxford. Laura has research interests in Postcolonial Praxis, the negotiation of Curatorial authority, restitution, and Repatriation.

Follow our movement at: https://commonground-oxford.com

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