Higher education and societal transformation: Decolonization and racial equality

A workshop focused on racism as a structural inequality that affects social welfare development and civil society.

Higher education and societal transformation: Decolonization and racial equality

About the workshop

This was a Researcher Links international workshop funded by the Newton Fund / British Council involving Early Career Researchers (ECRs) from Brazil and the UK. The workshop was coordinated by Professor Shirley Anne Tate (CRED, Carnegie School of Education, LBU) and Professor Breitner Taveres (CEAM, University of Brasilia-UnB- and Post-doctoral Fellow in CRED in 2018). It took place at the University of Brasilia from 3-5 June 2019.

Aims and activities

  1. This workshop aimed to:

    • Engage ECRs in analyses of racism and racialisation within universities transnationally focusing on institutional practices associated with public policies for social welfare and development
    • Focus on the potential part that universities have in developing non-violence, security and a peaceful, diverse, civil society
    • Provide ECRs with additional professional skills and knowledge to pursue constructive roles in their careers
    • Engage stakeholders in discussions on the university’s role in racial equality and democracy
    • Build a transnational roadmap for decolonization of the university

The workshop focused on anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism as a structural inequality that affects social welfare development, civil society, as well as access to and experiences within universities. It compared the effectiveness of current approaches to racial inequality in universities in Brazil, the UK and South Africa. The Early Career Researchers (ECRs) were chosen from a national call for participation in both countries from which 17 were chosen per country to include those who were doctoral students, immediately post-doctoral and transitioning to independent researchers.

The ECRs selection included a review of their presentation abstracts, curriculum vitae and a covering letter on their motivation to participate. The open call specified that they must be ECRs working on developing publications in the areas of intersectional race/racism and higher education and the decolonization of universities or be ECR activists engaged in these movements who are yet to develop publications, and included an equal opportunities recruitment statement. The British Council template application form was used in both countries. Transnational selection process criteria were established based on the appropriateness of participant abstracts to the workshop theme and aims, motivation to participate in workshop working groups and post workshop dissemination activities and curriculum vitae.

The workshop call for participation emphasised that ECRs would engage in analyses of racism and racialisation within universities transnationally focusing on institutional practices associated with public policies for social welfare and development. The call for participation stated that applicants would not be excluded based on gender, race, ethnicity, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or age, that diversity would be promoted and that applicants who were from under-represented groups were particularly encouraged to apply. The ECRs were drawn from Sociology, Social Policy, Politics, International Relations, Development Studies, Education, Post-colonial Studies, History, Area Studies, Languages, Cultural Studies and Geography, to provide a broad-based social sciences and humanities approach to the workshop theme. No more than a third of the ECRs were from Leeds Beckett University and UnB.

Mentors for the ECRs were established researchers from Brazil and the UK (3 per country). The ECRs and mentors worked jointly on building a transnational roadmap for decolonization of the university.

Some of the workshop's ECR speakers

Linda Harms Smith, is a Lecturer in Social Work and the Research Degrees Coordinator in the School of Applied Social Studies, Robert Gordon University, Scotland (previously at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa) and Research Associate at the University of Johannesburg. She does research in and writes about Decoloniality; Collective trauma; 'Race' and racism; Ideologies; Social Movements; African-centered perspectives; and Fanonian practices. She developed her interest in critical and radical social work in South Africa during the oppressive and racist Apartheid era. She is on the Journal Editorial Boards of Critical and Radical Social Work (African regional editor) and International Social Work. She is a Steering Committee member of Social Work Action Network (SWAN)

Linda Smith

Dr Lisa Long is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Leeds Beckett University.  Her PhD, funded by and completed at University of Leeds (2016), took an intersectional approach to Black and mixed-‘race’ experiences of policing. Her monograph 'Perpetual Suspects: A Critical Race Theory of Black and Mixed-Race Experiences of Policing', was published in 2018 with Palgrave Macmillan. Lisa’s research interests include 'race' and racism(s), inequalities in the Criminal Justice System, Critical Race Theory / Criminology and decolonising / anti-racist education. She is currently working on anti-racist pedagogy with a focus on teaching about ‘race’ in the social sciences and recognising and managing micro-aggressions in the diverse classroom.

Lisa Long

Gabriella has over fifteen years of experience, nationally and internationally, working in education as a researcher, teacher, and higher education administrator. Gabriella’s research and writing focuses on the philosophy of race and gender and is particularly concerned with questions of intersectional ethics, education, and moral psychology. As an administrator and consultant, Gabriella’s expertise is in developing and delivering strategic solutions and transformational outcomes at individual and institutional levels.

Gabriella earned her MA and doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Memphis. She earned her BS in Psychology and MA in Sociology from Morgan State University in Baltimore. Gabriella also holds the Senior Fellowship of Advanced Higher Education (SFHEA) and has a P.G.C.E. in Secondary Education from the Institute of Education, University of London. Drawing on her multidisciplinary background, and multi-dimensional professional experience, she enjoys working creatively and collaboratively to create loving, inspirational, and ethical life outcomes for all people.

Gabriella Beckles-Raymond

Lambros Fatsis is Lecturer in Criminology within the School of Applied Social Science (SASS) at the University of Brighton. His scholarly interests revolve around a critique of dominant white mainstream interpretations of the public sphere, culture, and intellectual life, the criminalisation of Black music (sub)cultures, and police racism. He is particularly interested in how certain forms of public expression and creativity are not only marginalised in the relevant academic literature, but also criminalised by law enforcement agencies.

Phoenix Nacto-Traore is a PhD student in the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett University. She is a part time lecturer and member of the Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality (CRED) at the university.

Her doctoral research focuses on collecting untold stories of British Caribbean women who love women; discuss the legacy of anti-homosexual legislation and homophobia as a result of colonisation; and the ways in which that legacy impacts the British Caribbean LGBTQ+ community. She has a specialised interest in Black Queer Theory, Black Feminist Decolonial Thought, and Popular Culture.

Holding a bachelors degree in Women’s Studies from Spelman College (U.S) and a masters in Gender and International Development from the University of East Anglia (U.K), Phoenix remains dedicated to integrating the power of storytelling and theory through poetry and performance. She is also a passionate film enthusiast and patron of the arts.

Phoenix Nacto–Traore


The workshop contributed to the collation of cross-national data on racial equality interventions within universities, shared knowledge on decolonization efforts and established new strategies within universities for building non-violence, security and a peaceful, diverse, civil society. It was timely as Brazil discussed new directions for democracy and political participation amidst protests about increasing violence and suppression.

The long/short term benefits from the workshop being aimed for were:

  • Racial equality toolkit for policy makers, educators, NGOs to be disseminated through the Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality (CRED) and the Centre for Advanced Multidisciplinary Studies (CEAM) University of Brasilia websites
  • Transnational ECR networking to benefit their careers post-workshop
  • Publication of ECR work

Contact Professor Shirley-Anne Tate

  • Study With us

    Study for a research degree at Leeds Beckett and you'll join a thriving academic community in an inspiring and supportive environment. The Graduate School supports our increasingly active postgraduate research community and encourages students to make a difference to the university’s research culture and environment.

    The Graduate School
    Study With us
  • research with us

    Leeds Beckett University can conduct research on your behalf to help you to implement change and realise your business potential. Validating your ideas with academic evidence can be an essential part of winning contracts and fuelling business growth.

    Research for business
    research with us