Decolonizing Practices and Discourses in Belgium

Possibilities, pitfalls, dilemmas




Around the world, the idea of ‘decolonization’ has become "the rallying cry of those trying to undo the racist legacies of the past" (Achille Mbembe, 2016). Following this international trend, various social movements in Belgium fighting for equal rights and against discrimination increasingly entangle their present-day demands for equality with demands to ‘decolonize’ our society. This doctoral school focuses on the complexities of the struggle for decolonization and discusses its dilemmas in the particular context of Belgium, on a practical and a conceptual level. It brings both researchers at universities and people from outside academia together in a reflective critical exercise on the question of what a ‘decolonization’ of ‘Belgium’ could mean and for whom.

The objective of this specialist course is to familiarize PhD students and other interested participants with the ongoing international debates about decolonization, with a particular focus on the Belgian case. We do this through a metahistorical lens and with an interdisciplinary approach. The central question revolves around what ‘decolonization’ means for whom in a Belgian context. Who are the actors asking for decolonization? What are their motivations? What is the role of ‘identity’ and ‘memory’ in these claims? How does the aim to recognize colonial past(s) and to ‘decolonize’ relate to other politics concerning the past in multicultural societies? How do decolonization claims relate to the ongoing debates surrounding historical justice, the politics of place, and the contestation of eurocentrism in historiography today? What are the promises and pitfalls of the decolonization- banner in the struggle against inequality and discrimination today? How does this reflect on the practices of doing research? We subsequently zoom in on different ‘spheres’ in the Belgian context around which decolonization debates are currently taking shape. Ultimately, we aim at combining reflections on the uses of the past, and the issue of ‘belonging’ in a multicultural setting, with discussions on specific ongoing societal challenges in each of these ‘spaces’.  

Calls to ‘decolonize’ often explicitly address universities and the intellectual world. Scholars in various fields that are working on topics related to (post-)colonial history, indigenous history or slavery, are increasingly asked to ‘decolonize’ their perspectives. Despite its widespread usage, however, it is unclear what actions are envisaged in order to effect ‘decolonization’. As the term is associated with “a plethora of meanings, ambiguities, conflicting memories, and competing narratives” (Jan C. Jansen & Jürgen Osterhammel, 2017), it is the subject of both societal and scholarly disagreements and confusion. This course tries to establish an overview of where such claims are coming from, and of the various meanings these claims have in the Belgian context. Participants will be stimulated to reflect on what the implications of these discourses could be for their own research.

Researchers and students interested in joining our Doctoral School programme can now inscribe by sending an e-mail to ​. As usual, TAPAS workshops and reading groups are informal and we welcome all interested colleagues and students to join the discussion. 

Organizing Committee 

- Prof. Dr. Berber Bevernage (TAPAS, INTH): professor at the Department of History, Ghent University

- Drs. Rafaël Verbuyst (TAPAS, INTH): PhD Student at the Department of History, Ghent University

- Dra. Eline Mestdagh (TAPAS, INTH): PhD Student at the Department of History, Ghent University

Scientific Committee 

This TAPAS-course is organized in close collaboration with Ghent Centre for Global Studies. The scientific committee consists of: 

- Prof. Dr. Berber Bevernage (TAPAS, INTH): professor at the Department of History, Ghent University

- Prof. Dr. Idesbald Goddeeris (Modernity & Society, 1800-2000, KU Leuven): professor at the History Research Unit, Catholic University of Leuven

- Prof. Dr. Stef Craps (CMSI): professor at the Literary Studies Department, Ghent University

- Prof. Dr. Inge Brinkman (CMSI, Ghent Africa Platform, ECC (Economies, Comparisons, Connections): professor at the Department of African Languages and Cultures, Ghent University

- Prof. Dr. Felicitas Becker (ECC (Economies, Comparisons, Connections)): professor at the Department of History, Ghent University

- Prof. Dr. Christel Stalpaert (Studies in Performing Arts & Media (S:PAM): professor at the Department of Art History, Musicology and Theatre Studies, Ghent University

- Dr. Bambi Ceuppens (Royal Museum for Central Africa, KASK (as of 2018-2019)): affiliated with the Royal Museum for Central Africa, and researcher at KASK as of the start of the new academic year

- Dr. Julie Carlier (Ghent Centre for Global Studies): postdoctoral researcher at the Department Conflict & Development, Ghent University

- Dr. Omar Jabery Salamanca (Ghent Centre for Global Studies, MENARG), postdoctoral researcher at the Department Conflict & Development, Ghent University

- Dr. Gillian Mathys (ECC (Economies, Comparisons, Connections))

- Drs. Joachim Ben Yakoub (MENARG): PhD student at the Department Conflict & Development, Ghent University



09.11.2018 | 12:30 – 14:30 ( ! Location: Room, 2nd floor Magnel wing, Faculty Library Arts & Philosophy UGent)

Lorenzo Veracini – Decolonisation’s Travels

28.11.2018 | 13:15 – 15:15

Rolando Vazquez – What does it mean to decolonize today? Introducing the decolonial option

18.01.2019 | 12:30 – 14:30

Françoise Vergès en Laura Nsengiyumva - Decolonizing artistic interventions in Belgium

15.03.2019 | 12:30 – 14:30

Collectif Mémoire Coloniale – Decolonizing colonial heritage and education in Belgium

07.05.2019 | 12:30 – 14:30

Leonor Jonker – More than just an object: a material analysis of the return and retention of Namibian skulls from Germany 

17.05.2019 | 12:30 - 14:30

Olivia Rutazibwa – The End of the White World: Decolonial Strategies for Belgium

31.05.2019 | 12:30 - 14:30

Véronique Clette Gakuba - Debating the resitution of African cultural objects and arts in Belgium


07.11.2018 | 12:30 – 14:30

VERACINI (L.). “Decolonizing Settler Colonialism: Kill the Settler in Him and Save the Man”. In: American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 41(2017), 1, pp. 1-18.

23.11.2018 | 12:30 – 14:30 ( ! Location: Room, 2nd floor Magnel wing, Faculty Library Arts & Philosophy UGent)

VAZQUEZ (R.). “Towards a Decolonial Critique of Modernity. Buen Vivir, Relationality and the Task of Listening”. In: Capital, Poverty, Development, Denktraditionen im Dialog: Studien zur Befreiung und interkulturalität, 33(2012), pp. 241-252.

VAZQUEZ (R.). “Precedence, Earth and the Anthropocene: decolonizing design”. In: Design Philosophy Papers, 15(2017), 1, pp. 77-91.

11.01.2019 | 12:30 – 14:30

CUKIERMAN (L.)., DAMBUTY (G.)., VERGES (F.). Décolonisons les arts! L'Arche, 2018.                              

01.03.2019 | 20:00 – 22:30 (Location: Film Plateau) 

FILM SCREENING: Concerning Violence – Göran Olsson (2014)

08.03.2019 | 12:30 – 14:30 

FANON (F.).”On National Culture”, in: FANON (F.).  The Wretched of the Earth (trans. Constance Farrington) New York: Grove Press, 1968 (original French edition 1961).

03.05.2019 | 12:30 – 14:30 

CESAIRE (A.). “Discours on colonialism”, in: CESAIRE (A.). Discours on colonialism. Monthly Review Press, 2000.

Practical info

Except for 09.11.2018 (workshop Lorenzo Veracini) and 23.11.2018 (reading group Rolando Vazquez) , all lectures and reading groups take place in UFO (Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 33, 9000 Gent), room ROOM 110. 003.

Our meetings of 09.11.2018 (workshop Lorenzo Veracini) and 23.11.2018 (reading group Rolando Vazquez)  will both take place in Room, 2nd floor Magnel wing, Faculty Library Arts & Philosophy UGent).

The film screening will take place in Filmzaal Plateau (Paddenhoek 3, 9000 Gent).

Participants can obtain DS credits from the Doctoral School of Arts, Humanities and Law, if they participate in all workshops and reading groups. Participants can now inscribe by sending an e-mail to 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us (​).

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