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20 April 2023

Q&A with Reimagining Education special issue guest-editor, Angelique Golding

Ahead of our free online event on 25 April – Education: Reimagination, Decolonisation, and Change – we spoke to co-guest-editor Angelique Golding about curating, commissioning, and editing Wasafiri 112: Reimagining Education. Our winter 2022 special issue, Reimagining Education considers what education means within and beyond the classroom, investigating government intervention and the reclamation and exploration of decolonisation, and addressing the forces of change and continuity in Britain today. Golding talks, among other things, about her hopes for the kinds of conversations this issue will provoke.

As you note in your editorial, ‘education’ is a very wide remit, as is what we might imagine (and reimagine) it to be. What topics and which writers were you most excited to explore in your approach to curating this issue, and why?

Angelique Golding: When Nicola [Rollock] asked me to join her and Darren [Chetty] I didn’t have any preconceived ideas coming into this project.  In the first instance I was simply excited at the prospect at working with the two of them on such an amazing opportunity.  Once I’d settled into the notion, given the remit I felt that it was totally open to interpretation. For me, it was about not being constrained or holding onto fixed notions of education. Undertaking an MA at Goldsmiths really opened my eyes about received knowledge and the educative systems through which it is taught. It was only then that I came to understand that boundaries can be pushed and systems circumnavigated particularly through creative thought or practice. So we approached writers, artists, and academics who were not afraid to think outside the box or say what they think.  

I was hoping that our call out would generate responses that differed from the norm but also in ways that would lead us back to a true interpretation of decolonisation. To be honest, I was ready for the concept of decolonisation to be totally debunked. It felt like another interesting and positive prospect that had been over-worked, misinterpreted, and undersold. A little bit like the term 'intersectionality' that was coined by legal theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw which has strayed away from its original concept that related specifically to the vulnerable position of black women victims of domestic violence in the socio-legal context of the United States. But its use and description now has become far more elastic just like that of decolonisation. That said, the translation or expansion of a term might just be the normal part of academic debate and progression, so it was very interesting to see the interpretations and responses we received.

Equally, how did that approach evolve and change throughout the process of editing? What ideas emerged — or were altered – that perhaps surprised you?

We provided our contributors with a brief that gave the parameters of the issue we were planning but we were not prescriptive about their responses. We truly wanted to see their ideas. So in that sense I would say there was no evolution or change. Even in the editing process, we didn’t necessarily want to impose our ideas, it was more about ensuring that the piece was factual and well written. It felt like the real decisions were about where to place the pieces in relation to each other. It was important that they spoke to or challenged each other and our contributors did not let us down in that regard. I think what struck me the most was the honesty, passion, and vulnerability of some of the pieces. It felt very refreshing. 

As you say in the editorial, Wasafiri has been having conversations around decolonisation and education for nearly forty years, and the magazine’s work has spanned a time of huge change. Was there anything in the magazine’s archives that really resonated with you or influenced you?

Serendipitously, I am currently undertaking a collaborative PhD research project on Wasafiri with Queen Mary University of London and the British Library, who have acquired the magazine’s archive. It is a fascinating project which has revealed how far reaching the magazine is in its scope. I have chosen to focus particularly on Black and Asian British authors and writing so when I came across one of Beryl Gilroy’s original articles in the archive it had considerable meaning for me. People will be aware that her memoir Black Teacher was recently re-released by Faber as, what Bernardine Evaristo in the foreword called, a 'rediscovered classic by a trailblazing black woman in post-war London'. Beryl Gilroy became the first Black Headteacher in Camden in 1969.  Despite the racism she faced, she made a significant  impact on teaching methods and I consider her an amazing role model. It was particularly fitting then for me to write a review of her memoir to print in the issue.

This issue is being released in a time of special precarity for the arts in tertiary education, with widespread strikes and threats to staff and infrastructure. What implications do you think this precarity has on the vital continuing work of decolonisation — particularly in the UK?

If decolonisation was considered as more than just another thing to do, but as another tool of learning that was embedded in the curricula, then I doubt that it would fall victim to any precarity. If it was considered as a facet of knowledge, say propositional knowledge, which is often defined as true and distinct from opinion, then I believe that it would be a foundational object necessary for true learning and engagement with traditional canons. Perhaps, then, it couldn’t be subject to the whims of budgets or staff cuts. It wouldn’t be something subject to the auspices of people’s time or agendas or that could be put down or picked up.  

What kinds of conversations do you hope this issue will provoke? How do you think readers could work against what Sita Balani termed ‘the West’s enclosure of knowledge’ in her essay ‘Pedagogies of Defiance’ in their intersections with educational systems and roles?

More than anything I hope all the pieces are thought provoking and open up new pathways to conversations about decolonisation and pedagogy which is rooted in historical systems and structures. Sita’s piece queries whether ‘the university’ is fit for purpose.  This is a great question and one that must be constantly asked of institutions and concepts like decolonisation. I guess the question for me is what conversations will it provoke for generations to come? Will they pick up the mantle of defiance and continue to question perceived notions of knowledge and sites of knowledge. We can't keep looking at things like this in the same way because we are constrained by traditional definitions and language. Consequently our solutions won't necessarily bring about the changes we'd hope for.  To borrow a phrase from Audre Lorde, 'the master's tools will never dismantle the masters house', a point I raised with Inua Ellams in our interview for the issue. We have to start devising and defining our own tools if we are truly to make changes and discard what no longer serves us. It is a heated topic and I hope that our issue adds fuel to that fire! 

Finally, what writers or topics that you couldn’t include in the issue would you recommend to readers who are interested in reading further?

I would encourage readers to go seek out Professor Jason Arday who has written some refreshing reflection on racism in the higher education sector. If we had more time and space, we definitely would have sought him out as a contributor. Also Nathaniel Adam Tobias has visceral ideas and writing style that I would have loved for the issue.

Angelique Golding is a LAHP Collaborative Doctoral student working with Wasafiri on our 40th Anniversary projects with a focus on the Wasafiri archive, which forms the basis of her research.
Winter 2022
Wasafiri 112: Reimaging Education

Edited by Darren ChettyAngelique Golding, and Nicola RollockWasafiri 112: Reimagining Education considers what education means within and beyond the classroom, investigating government intervention and the reclamation and exploration of decolonisation, and addressing the forces of change and continuity in Britain today.

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