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What to Read This Week: Readings on decolonization

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What to read this week

In “What To Read This Week,” CHALK contributor Faith Maddox suggests novels, poetry, articles and other forms of writing, often centering around a timely topic or theme. This week, Maddox suggests articles that give an introduction to the concept of "decolonization." 

October and November are rife with holidays that emphasize a false history, or at least, a narrative that centers heroism and obscures violence.

In light of Indigenous People’s Day, and the approaching Thanksgiving celebrations, it’s important to expand the dialogue and consider new modes of knowledge and allyship. 

Decolonization is a pertinent approach in restructuring education, environmentalism and everyday life. There’s a wealth of long-form literature on the topic (I’d recommend Frantz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth”), but here are a few short articles to kickstart your thinking on the topic.

“What Decolonization Is and What it Means to Me” by Tina Curiel-Allen

This op-ed was published on Teen Vogue’s website back in 2018. Xicana and Boricua author and activist Tina Curiel-Allen shares her personal perspectives on what decolonization looks like in the American context. Curiel-Allen specifically mentions that decolonial work is not just a series of actions, but a way of life.

The piece offers a brief overview of both the definition and applications of decolonization in language accessible to first-time readers of political theory. 

“White Allies, Let’s Be Honest about Decolonization” by Kyle Powys Whyte

A Potawatomi environmental justice advocate, Kyle Powys Whyte examines in this piece the pitfalls that non-Indigenous allies often fall into when discussing colonialism and its ramifications on ecosystems.

He defines a decolonial approach as one that directly challenges settler privilege and moves through the context of varying ecological realities. 

Whyte rejects the romanticized notion of Indigenous peoples as the one profound answer to environmental crisis, an ideology that often exploits their emotional labor. Instead, he emphasizes the importance of building allyship across human and nonhuman groups to work communally towards environmental protection.

“Decolonization is Not a Metaphor” by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang

The longest and most dense of the three, “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor” builds upon basic understandings of decolonial work to expand our perceptions of what it means and how it can be misinterpreted.

Tuck and Yang critique the appropriation of decolonization in academia and policy-making, warning that this misuse could reimplement the harm it seeks to erase. 

They emphasize that “when metaphor invades decolonization, it kills the very possibility of decolonization; it recenters whiteness, it resettles theory, it extends innocence to the settler, it entertains a settler future.”

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