GSSC Seminar Series
15 August 2023
Decoloniality and Academic Freedom – Cancel Culture or Rightward Shift at German Universities?
Michael Kleinod, Freya Purzer, Julia Rongen (Global South Studies Center (GSSC), University of Cologne)
The public discussion about the restriction of freedom of speech under the banner of the so-called “Cancel Culture” is increasingly manifesting itself in the debate about the freedom of research and teaching at German universities. These controversies involve both queer-feminist, intersectional, as well as post- and decolonial aspirations. This seems to lead to a polarization: on one side, there are demands for academic freedom, arguing that it is endangered by certain language regulations and speech prohibitions and subject to moral, political, and ideological, i.e., non-academic, influences. On the other side, there are demands for the visibility, examination, and dismantling of colonial and racist structures and ways of thinking in research and teaching, especially in the name of scholarly rigor.
But what is meant when we talk about academic freedom? What is science actually (and what is its purpose)? Should, can, must it be possible at the university to express and discuss everything that can be thought and said? To what extent have there been restrictions on research and speech freedom at German universities in the past and present? What about “academic freedom” is real and what is an ideal? To what extent can knowledge be produced beyond the positionalities of the researchers concerning gender, status, power, wealth, “origin,” culture, and historical experiences, etc.? Do the demands for freedom of research and teaching on one hand, and for the decolonization of knowledge production on the other, contradict each other or complement each other? And what lies at the core of this debate?
We aim to discuss these questions in a public panel discussion this October. We would like to discuss this topic in the GSSC seminar series beforehand.