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Making the Last First: Globethics contributes to international reflection on decolonisation

Photo: Amélé Ekué © 2023

From 5 to 9 June 2023 the World Council of Churches organised an international seminar on decolonisation, held in Lisbon, Portugal, drawing on the expertise of scholars from seven regions of the world.

Academic Dean Amélé Ekué participated in the event and contributed with a paper on "Decolonising Ourselves. An Investigation into Decolonial Relational Ethics", in which, building on her own experience and research, she developed the idea to "think about decolonisation..., as an ethos, an inner attitude and a perpetual process of working through the multi-layered experiences and consequences of colonisation".

In their engagement with the topic of high actuality for ethics in higher education, the seminar panellists agreed that the diverse histories of colonisation need to be acknowledged in terms of their legacies for relationships in present times. Visiting the wounds of colonial domination, however, constitutes not only a historical task, but points to the need for creating a vision for renewed connections - between communities of people, between nations, and between people and the earth - marked by practices that do not gloss over the rifts and traumas of colonialism, on the one hand, nor the feeling of guilt on the other hand.

Especially by lifting up the common responsibility for the living planet, a specific values- and justice-oriented engagement, people are invited to unmask and confront the intersectional dimensions of environmental injustice, economic deprivation and social exclusion – often colonially rooted and perpetuated by systems of leadership and governance even in nominally post-colonial contexts. The need to reflect about a decolonial relational ethics is hence not an ideological claim, but a genuine question about real relationships and practices honouring the memories of the painful past in the present and for future generations, so that an alternative reality – a movement of putting the last first to use Frantz Fanon’s words – can take place.

Such a decolonial movement to shape ethical relations demands honest conversations, continued storytelling about persisting legacies in safe spaces, and, most importantly, creative and carefully accompanied contexts of mutual learning.

Globethics, alongside researchers and practitioners from all over the world, takes this invitation to reflect on decolonisation seriously; to investigate and translate what this may mean for ethical leadership across the domains on which a particular focus has been placed for the next working period. What kind of pedagogical methods are needed to nurture a decolonial ethos, and with which consequences for environmental or digital justice, for building just and peaceful societies?

These conversations will have to be deepened and interconnected as they are conducted in different places in higher education. The Academy course programme, publications, and the collaborative research Globethics will soon offer through its new unit will be propitious locations for leading the discourse in our organisation, and for probing practices and habits of decolonisation together with participants and international partners.

Amélé Adamavi-Aho Ekué
Academic Dean

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