Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) held an event titled “Challenging Colonialism, Cultural Imperialism, and Possession” last Wednesday, as part of a series of events observing Black History Month.
The aim of the discussion was to enable reflection on how current perceptions of race are “perverted by power”. It was hosted by Nishma Doshi, a University of York graduate student currently working as a privilege and liberation workshop co-ordinator.
The event featured a lively debate on issues around the construction of race and the pseudoscience that surrounds it.
Consideration was also given to the historical narratives that formulate ideas of race, the politics of possession, and how it ties in with capitalist structures.
A large and diverse range of students attended the event.
By Doshi’s own admission, the discussion was constrained by time, and assumed little social science background knowledge from the attendees, so the issues were often simplified.
Yet, concluding with open-ended questions, such as “Do we need writing? What’s it for?” gave us something interesting to take home.
Speaking to The Student, Shuwanna Aaron, EUSA Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Liberation Convener, said that she was “happy that those who signed up online actually turned out” at the event.
However, Aaron also expressed her frustrations that BHM is perceived as “a sort-of elective to the academic curriculum” so does not effectively encourage broader participation.
“I believe [Black History Month] should be a time for celebration and raising awareness of current situations rather than being the only time educational institutions are expected to include the narratives of black peoples and black histories” Aaron said.
As BME Liberation Convener, Aaron has organised other events to get involved with this October, which are taking place within the wider context of the ongoing NUS Black Students’ Campaign.
In Edinburgh, Aaron wants to shift the focus away from the general American-centric discussion of race and focus and toward “black people’s right here in the UK – in Scotland – who are experiencing isolation and marginalisation” she told The Student.
Aaron’s efforts toward Black History Month is intended to be inclusive to all students who “identify as ‘Politically Black’”.
“This is important as a call for solidarity and support for work being done by the BME Group…which will develop the conversations had in BHM into campaigns and workshops” Aaron said.
At the end of the month, the BME group plans to launch the “Herstory” exhibition.
It will be “photo-biographic celebration of Black women”, taking an intersectional and gendered approach to Black History MOnth.
Aaron is still accepting submissions for the project.
Upcoming events include a screening of the hit film “Dear White People”, a visit from The Great Debate Tour, and workshop on the subject of “Black Women, Feminism, and Intersectionality”.