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Decolonizing Futurities: A Global Racial Justice Symposium

Friday, June 10, 2022 at 9:00am to 4:00pm

Uris Hall, G08
Central Campus

This is a two-day symposium occurring on June 10th & 11th

The 2022 “Decolonizing Futurities” symposium will be hosted by the inaugural cohort of Global Racial Justice Fellows of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell University. Through this symposium, we seek to critically analyze the construction of race and racial relations, and to reimagine a horizon of racial justice in contemporary life. Our aim is, thus, to decolonize existing anti-racist approaches, recognizing that decolonization is not a metaphor but an ongoing practice. 

To this end, our panels on Friday, June 10th address key arenas of social life: how we think, how we live, and how we remember. In our first panel, we explore how elements of (settler-)colonial thought have endured—over time and across spaces—to shape postcolonial imaginaries. In our second panel, we consider the implications of racialization in access to healthcare, nutrition, and housing in contemporary life. In our third panel, we reassess our understanding of what constitutes “history” to reflect the complex global realities we currently inhabit. All three panels will then convene in a final roundtable on Saturday, June 11th to attempt a radical re-imagining of our futures—a novel solidarity framework that honors a politic of shared responsibility.

Free ticket required: Reserve your ticket

This symposium will take place in person at Uris Hall, and breakfast and lunch will be provided. Virtual attendees are also welcome to join us via Zoom. Please register here (day one, day two) if you wish to attend virtually.

Learn more about our symposium.

Please contact with any questions.


Detailed Schedule

Friday, June 10th

Breakfast & Opening Remarks   |   9:00am – 10:00am
Keynote Address: Danika Medak-Saltzman | 9:30am – 10:00am

Panel 1 | How We Think: Colonial Thought   |  10:00am – 11:30am


  • Oumar Ba | Cornell University, NY, USA
  • Reggie Jackson | University of Michigan, MI, USA
  • Sarah Radcliff | Cambridge University, UK

In this panel, we propose to study how elements of colonial thought have endured or evolved, over time and across spaces. To this end, we ask the following questions: (1) How have colonial “ideas” and “symbols” been reformulated by non-Western actors in their own projects of domination? (2) How have these ideas been internalized and even co-opted by societies engaged in anti-colonial struggles or post-colonial nation-building? And (3) Given the persistence of colonial thought in the contemporary period, what would “decolonization” entail? In answering these questions, we hope to identify some underexplored mechanisms by which Western colonial thought has helped install other formations of essentialism and the processes by which colonial norms became institutionally, behaviorally, and rhetorically entrenched and came to shape postcolonial imaginaries. Ultimately, our aim is to reconsider today’s decolonizing frameworks. 

Break   |   1:30am – 12:00pm

Panel 2 | How We Live: Health and Housing   |   12:00pm – 1:30pm


  • Jonathan Cohen | University of Southern California, CA, USA
  • Tashara Leak | Cornell University, NY, USA
  • Amali Lokugamage | University College, UK
  • Jill Stewart | Middlesex University, UK

At the local level, social injustices are highlighted in health, housing and quality-of-life disparities, and the sequelae of affected interpersonal experiences and development opportunities. In this subpanel we will explore the determinants and consequences of inequity and how the colonial building blocks of society have shaped our contemporary systems of environmental and human health. We aim to identify possible entry points and calls to action to address mechanisms that inhibit justice and obfuscate the ability to thrive within our communities. We will highlight the causes and implications of each issue, as well as important methodological obstacles to consider in understanding and communicating each facet.

Lunch   |   1:30pm – 2:30pm

Panel 3 | How We Remember: Sites of Memory in Public Space   |   2:30pm – 4:00pm


  • Durba Ghosh | Cornell University, NY, USA
  • Zayd Minty | Wits University, South Africa
  • James Chase Sanchez | Middlebury College, VT, USA

In this panel we want to address how space and place are racially coded, and how institutionalized practices of collective remembering can often sustain assumptions of racial inequality.  Public spaces continuously reflect back to us the history of the present, thereby necessitating political discussion about their role in maintaining assumptions regarding the limits of community. Referencing recent conflicts around contentious public monuments in the U.S. and elsewhere, we wish to examine symbols of public space– whether construed as ‘vandalism’ or ‘abolition’ – and consider what they say about current disconnects between state identity and the lived experiences of their diverse populations. In so doing, how might we rethink our relationship to the colonial past? How might we reconsider practices of commemoration to account for the living relationship between the present and our inheritances rather than consigning these legacies to a past that has always already been “overcome”?  And finally, if authentic enfranchisement in the present necessitates a comparable enfranchisement in a collective past, how can we take action within our own institutions to have them serve as more effective interfaces between our inherited past and our contingent future? 

Saturday, June 11th

Breakfast   |   9:00am – 10:00am

Roundtable | How We Imagine: Decolonizing Futurities   |  10:00am – 11:30am

This last conversation will include perspectives from each of the 3 panels, with outlooks on how to approach our future.

Closing remarks   |   11:30am – 11:45am

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