Skip main navigation

Decolonising the Humanities and the Redistributed University

Learn more about the ways in which literary studies can contribute to a redistributed university.

In this video, Professor Madhu Krishnan interviews Professor Sarah Nuttall about the redistributed university and decolonisation from the perspective of literary studies.

Over the course of this conversation, Professor Nuttall expands on a number of topics that are pressing for thinking about decolonisation and the humanities:

  • the relationship between decolonisation and redistribution in the university today (2:10)
  • how, historically, literary and critical cultural studies have played important roles in earlier phases of postcoloniality and decolonisation (5:33)
  • the need to renew literary studies as it is practiced and taught today, particularly by embedding it in a radical pluri-disciplinarity (6:36)
  • why literature, in particular, is an important archive through which we can understand the contemporary experience of the university as it is lived, perceived, and felt and the importance of returning literary studies to its own materials through re-readings (10:03)
  • what literary studies and the humanities more broadly can offer us as core curricula today, particularly through its contributions to how we live together, understand the human yet to come, navigate our relationship with the planetary and climate change (11:56)
  • the opportunities we face today for deep consideration of economies of scale and the distribution of resources across the Global North and South (16:39)
  • the problem of decolonial brain drain for African universities and the pressing need to provide African students and scholars with opportunities to articulate their own visions of the university (20:47)

Professor Sarah Nuttall is Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies and Director of WiSER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research) in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the author of Entanglement: Literary and Cultural Reflections on Postapartheid, editor of Beautiful/Ugly: African and Diaspora Aesthetics, and co-editor of many books including Negotiating the Past: The Making of Memory in South Africa; Senses of Culture; Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis and Loadshedding: Writing On and Over the Edge of South Africa.

Recent essays, among others, include ”Mandela’s Mortality;” ”Secrecy’s Softwares;” ”Surface, Depth and the Autobiographical Act’;” “World Literature as Planetary Literature?;” and ”Pluvial Time/Wet Form.” She has given more than 30 keynote addresses around the world, and published more than 60 journal articles and book chapters. Her work is widely cited across many disciplines. She has taught at Yale and Duke Universities and in 2016 she was an Oppenheimer Fellow at the DuBois Institute at Harvard University. In 2020 she will be the Nelson Mandela Chair at UNAM in Mexico City. For eight years she has directed WiSER, the largest and most established Humanities Institute across the Global South.

Further Reading and Resources:

Nuttall S. The Redistributed University. The European Graduate School / EGS. Valletta, Malta. 15, October 2017. Available at: Sarah Nuttall. The Redistributed University

Nyamnjoh F. #RhodesMustFall. Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa. Bamenda: Langaa, 2016.

Rhodes Must Fall, in Conversation with Achille Mbembe. 29 April 2015. Available from: RMF in Conversation with Achille Mbembe PART 1 filmed by Wandile Kasibe

This article is from the free online

Decolonising Education: From Theory to Practice

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education