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The Summer School "Dialogues for Responsible Gender and Queer Studies - Experiences from the South of Africa and Germany" will take place on 23 and 24 June in Oldenburg. It includes keynote speeches by the renowned cultural scientist and holder of the chair "African Feminist Imagination" Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola from Nelson Mandela University and Prof. Dr Julia Wurr, Junior Professor "Postcolonial Studies" at the University of Oldenburg. Other activities and workshops adress topics such as gender politics at South African universities and teaching German colonial history to young people.


Dr. Sylvia Pritsch

Centre for Interdisciplinary Women's and Gender Studies

+49 441 798-4311(F&P)

  • Graphic representation of the Pride flag (background) with a graphic representation of the dismantling of the Cecil Rhodes statue.

    Under the slogan #RhodesMustFall, students at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, not only brought down the statue of the British colonial ruler Cecil Rhodes in 2015. They initiated a national and later international debate on decolonisation and structural changes at universities. Students of the seminar "Gender Competences in Theory and Practice" at the University of Oldenburg dealt with this topic and the question of how racism, sexism and queer hostility are intertwined. Graphic: Lasse Lee König University of Oldenburg

Decolonising Gender Studies

How are racism, sexism and queer hostility intertwined? In this interview, Sylvia Pritsch talks about decolonisation and the responsibility that universities and gender studies have for self-reflexive forms of knowledge production.

How are racism, sexism and queer hostility intertwined? In this interview, Sylvia Pritsch, Centre for Interdisciplinary Women's and Gender Studies, talks about decolonisation and the responsibility that universities and gender studies have for self-reflexive forms of knowledge production.

Together with colleagues from the Centre for Women and Gender Studies at Nelson Mandela University, you are currently running a summer school in which participants discuss the responsibilities of gender and queer studies in research and teaching. What exactly is this about?

Responsibility for appreciative, inclusive and self-reflexive forms of knowledge production is a genuine concern of gender and queer studies. Theoretically, it is about analysing the underlying power relations in relation to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, social class and so on. On a practical level, it is about preventing discrimination and enabling a diversity of lifestyles.

Decolonising knowledge and research practices is at the heart of the Summer School...

Yes, and how this is implemented in South Africa and Namibia - as a former German colony. We focus on how racism, sexism and queer hostility are intertwined: What lessons have been learnt in dealing with the colonial legacy, what strategies have been developed? And what are the implications for gender studies? Decolonisation", after all, refers to concepts and demands that were raised in the course of the independence of former colonies. Decolonial and postcolonial approaches have shown how colonial power structures continue to have an effect today, especially at universities, both in Africa and even more so in Europe and the USA. At the same time, such approaches show how gender and sexuality are intertwined with categories of attribution such as "race", skin colour, ethnic or social origin.

Why do you think it is important for universities in this country to address this issue?

In German-speaking countries, such approaches have been discussed for a number of years, but they are far from being mainstreamed in universities. In South Africa, the decolonisation of universities has been a state programme since the post-apartheid era, and influential feminist academics such as Amina Mama, Desiree Lewis and Pumla D. Gqola have worked on this. Decolonisation involves several levels: First, the institutional, which is linked to the question of who teaches and whose knowledge is taught. This goes beyond merely 'diverse' recruitment policies. It is also about questioning university structures and coming to terms with historical roots. After all, racism was also a result of science in Europe at the time, served to legitimise colonialism and is still present today.

What other levels are there?

Secondly, there are contents and categories: As early as the 1980s, Western women's and gender studies were accused of being too white and too universalist, thus excluding black women, among others. The history of black feminism in Germany, for example, should be included. The core category of 'gender' was also questioned for its colonial implications, as were concepts such as homosexuality/heterosexuality and queerness for their Western-white orientation. Today, it is not a question of separating these critical approaches from others, but of thinking together and drawing practical consequences from them. Both globally and locally, right-wing populist attacks against gender diversity, sexual self-determination or sexual education are on the rise, often with racist underpinnings and hostility towards minorities. Transnational alliances between different fields of scholarship and activism can create a public sphere to counter this.

What can we in Germany learn from the South African perspective?

First and foremost, we can learn to listen in order to better understand the consequences of colonial history in South Africa, and especially of German history in Namibia, which have had and continue to have an impact today. And how this can be taught and integrated into the education system. In the post-apartheid era, a variety of methodological, content-related, didactic and structural strategies for decolonising research and teaching have been and are being tried out. Here it is important to see which strategies have been successful and which suggestions they can offer us and the University of Oldenburg as a whole.

How did you come to collaborate with the Centre for Women and Gender Studies (CWGS) at Nelson Mandela University?

The collaboration was initiated as part of the strategic partnership between the two universities. The first on-site meeting took place last November in Gqeberha, where the Summer School was agreed. It is planned to take place annually on a rotating basis. The ZFG and the BA Gender Studies have been working together for a long time with various teachers, especially African and Indian teachers, and we are very happy to now have a direct exchange with the CWGS - also at the student level.

Interview: Constanze Böttcher

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