The decolonization of knowledge production is at the heart of the SAPP initiative. However, the call for decoloniality in academia also spurs heated debates about academic freedom that appear to mirror larger societal discourses regarding cancel culture and the freedom of expression. At times, decoloniality is explicitly played off against such constitutionally granted rights, for example when it is perceived as imposing gag orders and apply “wokeness” as standard for legitimate discussion.
These debates are often non-debates, however: trench wars of sorts evolving between different “echo chambers” with the apparent effect of solidifying camps and escalating tensions rather than aiming at solutions or convergences.
Therefore, the Global South Studies Center (GSSC) sought to establish open common ground on which arguments could be exchanged in a more collegial manner, aimed at productive dispute rather than unproductive, self-congratulatory bashing. The format of a fishbowl panel as well as the event’s location in a public space at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities proved ideal for this purpose.
Invited speakers provided substantiated insights into various facets of the debate: Susanne Brandtstädter, Professor of Anthropology, shared her view from the center of university-internal quarrels around trigger warnings; Christian von Coelln, Professor of Law, clarified the legal side of the problem; Katajun Amirpur, Professor of Islamic Studies and Representative for Anti-Racism, provided insights into the seriousness of discriminatory practices at the University of Cologne; and Senami Hotse shared an student-activist perspective on colonial structures within academia. Volker Voigt recorded the session in apt and concise drawings.
A lively debate unfolded between invited panelists and the audience through various forms of participation – a debate, it became clear, that was impossible to settle on this evening. The purpose of this fishbowl was, and could only be, to explore important themes and contribute to a co-productive mode of discussion that may be carried further in innovative formats.