From romance to decolonial love in The Woman of Colour — a roundtable on The Woman of Colour (1808)

Change log

In 2019–20, during the squalls of socioeconomic crisis that preceded the global pandemic, academics across the United Kingdom took industrial action to protest cuts to pensions, increases to workloads, and the increasing casualization of higher education. Before lockdown emptied universities, the escalating strike halted teaching in many places. Classrooms were quiet, picket lines less so. As precarity and casualization disproportionately affects Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) scholars, academic equality is also a racial issue. Writing on the tragic and untimely death of historian Thea Hunter, whose adjunct status deprived her of access to adequate health care, Adam Harris notes that casualized labor is “often described as akin to a form of slavery . . . [but] Thea, a scholar of rights, slavery, and freedom, would have [said] . . . that is not the case. It is more like the lowest rung in a caste system, the one that underrepresented minorities tend to call home.” If academia frequently relies on the labor of underpaid minorities, it trades on a phantasm of equal intellectual opportunities, which ironically helps sustain a reality of racialized hierarchies. Before America’s Black Lives Matter movement reignited a long-overdue reckoning with structural racism, issues of academic decolonization and British universities’ confrontation with the legacies of slavery, were combining to make 2020 an important moment to read The Woman of Colour.

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Studies in Religion and the Enlightenment
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Nanyang Technological University