How would our thinking, political organising, political vocabularies and grammars of self-determination change if we understood the history and memory of anticolonialism as central to 20th century history? 

This question drove us to create this lab, to bring together interested students, staff and community members to think about colonialism, anticolonialism and decoloniality as central to our understanding of the 20th century and the present. 

Anticolonialism and decolonisation were essential driving forces of the 20th century. From the battle against fascism through to the creation of new geopolitical alliances, decolonisation has been a crucial force in the making of the modern world. However, many teachers, political figures, textbooks, and lecture theatres shun this history of resistance and decolonisation, centring instead on a metrocentric narrative which drastically overplays the agency of Western metropolitan elites in creating historical change. In the context of Israel’s ongoing genocidal campaign against Palestinians, now more than ever there is a need for a proper interrogation of anticolonial history.

Consequently, the aims of our lab are as follows: 

  • To connect Cambridge-based students and researchers who are interested in empire, colonialism, anticolonialism and race
  • To spark public discussions about the legacies and effects of colonialism in the UK and beyond, through public events
  • To develop cross-disciplinary research agendas on empire(s), coloniality and anticolonial and anti-imperial struggles across the globe, beyond just Western Europe and Western European empires
  • To precipitate and lead cross-disciplinary discussions about entangled histories of empire, through academic events 
  • To begin conversations with relevant stakeholders (teachers and exam board members) about curricular change in England so that the history of colonialism and enslavement is captured by school history education 
  • To offer local youth a course on the history of 20th century history through the lens of decolonisation

Lab team

Lead convenors:

  • Ali Meghji (he/him) is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology. He has just completed a project on Du Boisian sociology beyond Du Bois, currently being written as a book project, and is now engaged in a British Academy-funded project on the de-Americanisation of the Pan African movement.
  • Simina Dragos (she/her) is a final year PhD candidate at the Faculty of Education and an incoming Junior Research Fellow at Queens’ College. She works on coloniality, nationalism and collective memory in East Europe. 

Team members: 

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Catalysts for Decolonisation events
Launch event | Catalysts for Decolonisation Research Lab
1 Jul 2024 09:30 - 16:00, S2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP

Launch event for the Catalysts for Decolonization Research Lab


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk