Who We Are
Decolonize Groningen is an independent collective of Dutch and international individuals residing in Groningen, the Netherlands, representing a diversity of origins (currently from the Netherlands, Latin America and the Arab region).
We encompass academic backgrounds in a range of fields, including history, journalism, medicine, psychology and educational theater; have dedicated ourselves to support for marginalized and oppressed communities in various parts of the world; and have been involved in activism on an array of issues pertaining to freedom, social justice and equality, among them anti-war, anti-racism, climate justice, and the rights of oppressed/colonized peoples, with a particular focus on indigenous, refugee/immigrant, and gender rights.
In addition to raising awareness about the negative implications of, and necessity to end, coloniality worldwide, Decolonize Groningen presently focuses on the following specific campaigns:
Approaching the history of Groningen/the Netherlands from a decolonial perspective; investigating the role of Groningen in Dutch colonial history and its history of slave trade; support for/cooperation with initiatives working towards the structural visibility and recognition of the Groningen/Dutch colonial past and present
Decolonize the RuG (University of Groningen)
Investigating/identifying dimensions of the university’s colonial past and present; scrutiny of the coloniality of knowledge and eurocentrism entrenched in the curricula of relevant faculties
Anti-racist struggle against the stereotyped black servant of Santa Claus known as ‘Black Pete’ in the Dutch Santa Claus tradition, and in extension, the struggle against individual and institutionalized racism prevalent throughout society; Decolonize Groningen stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and its goals
Palestinian rights; particularly the BDS Campaign
Global Palestinian-led movement calling for boycotts, divestment & sanctions (BDS) against the settler-colonial, Apartheid state of Israel, aimed to end the injustices, disenfranchisement and ethnic cleansing suffered by the Palestinian people since 1948, and the restoration of their rights
Campaign for climate justice, seeking the dismantling of Shell and the broader fossil fuel industry, reparations to impacted ecosystems and communities, and a fair transition for employees towards work in the green sector
Rooted in Dutch/Groningen movements against political and social injustice, Decolonize Groningen considers itself as an integral part of the global struggle against oppression and inequality, and stands in solidarity with decolonial movements worldwide against the colonial imposition of a single universal narrative regarding societal values: The narrative of modernity.
But what is modernity? How does modernity relate to coloniality? What distinguishes coloniality from colonialism? And what does a decolonial perspective entail?
In order to understand coloniality, we must begin with the concept of modernity.
Originating during the Renaissance (14th – 16th centuries), the narrative of modernity emerged as a project for the salvation of humanity. Since the conquest of the Americas (beginning in 1492), European imperial powers have fomented their beliefs and way of life, as they transformed through the centuries, impacting the fate of the entire human race until today.
Early modernity advocated such salvation through the conversion to Christianity. Over the course of the following 500 years, modernity further developed and remolded itself, eventually taking on a secular form. This secularized form underwent various phases, each with its associated rhetoric, among them a number of significant periods such as: The Enlightenment (from approx. 1650; civilization / progress), post WWII (from approx. 1945; development / humanitarian aid), Globalization (from approx. 1990; market economy / promotion of ‘democratic values’ / digitalization).
Modernity, as we know it today – placing the individual front and center, within the framework of the capitalist nation-state – entails the celebration of ‘our’ supposed democratic values, such as rationality, equality, tolerance, individual rights and freedoms.
Although such achievements may rightly be considered as admirable, modernity poses a darker side, in that it is portrayed as an exclusive European endeavor – regarded by European powers as a highlight of world history – devoid of correlation with peoples outside the realm in which it transpired.
This eurocentic approach towards history negates the fact that in reality, modernity draws from a dialectic relation with non-Europe, particularly capitalizing on the European colonial enterprise. Moreover, modernity is propelled as a universal good, while its imposition lacked consideration for other socio-cultural contexts and necessitated the destruction of other forms of knowledge.
The anchoring of the narrative of modernity as an overarching model formed the base which enabled the European powers to position themselves at the center of the world order.
The pursuit to universalize the concepts enshrined in modernity occults its darker side, coloniality, without which modernity could not have asserted itself.
Colonialism is misguidedly perceived as pertaining to a bygone era. Although the struggles of colonized peoples largely led to formal decolonization, i.e. the end of territorial domination of lands primarily in the global south by European powers – notwithstanding several regions where liberation struggles still persist – this failed to eradicate the crux of the colonial mindset and ambitions.
Bearing further implications than the liberation from formal colonization alone, coloniality addresses the deeper significance and consequences of colonialism which characterize the global world order until today: A multi-layered construction of power, domination and exploitation, as related to issues of race, gender, sexuality, class, religion, ethnicity, epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge), linguistics and the antagonism between human activity and the natural environment. Coloniality informs the ongoing geopolitical, military, socioeconomic and cultural domination by the global north and perceived superiority of ‘western’ knowledge and way of life (so-called western civilization).
Contempt for ‘the Other,’ rooted in the century-long dehumanization of colonized subjects and the legacy of slavery, are entrenched in the eurocentric paradigm with which colonial powers justified the conquest of and reign over subjugated populations, accompanied by the destruction, taming and co-option of alternative realms of knowledge and life-worlds.
Such contempt remains prevalent in the ‘western’ perception of the world and underpins the neoliberal geopolitical policies of the dominating powers, albeit in a periodically rebranded modernized image, glossed over by indoctrinating rhetoric distinguishing ‘the Self’ from ‘the Other’. Contemporary notions such as developed/developing nations and supposed 1st and 3rd worlds draw on the demeaning of colonized peoples as being sub-human, and stand in a dialectic relationship with systemic racism.
As a present-day manifestation of the doctrine of salvation – in line with 500 years of European missions, initially with a bible in the hand and subsequently with the objective of ‘civilizing’ populations considered primitive/inferior – mechanisms in the form of ‘humanitarian aid,’ ‘developmental assistance’ and ‘empowerment programs’ provide a masked assurance of continued hegemony through the cultivation of dependence on the powers that be by peoples in regions of geostrategic value and/or rich in natural resources.
Concepts such as ‘superiority’ and ‘inferiority,’ inherent to racist colonial thinking, have culminated in the colonization of the mind, i.e. the embedment of such concepts into our perception of the world, society and the ‘self’, tragically including the often depreciative self-perception by subjugated and marginalized peoples themselves.
Coloniality is therefore inseparable from modernity. The global struggle against modernity/coloniality connects the struggles against oppression and exploitation at the local level of subjugated, oppressed and exploited peoples themselves, with struggles from within the crux of power in the global north.
It also links specific struggles such as the campaigns against Zwarte Piet, Shell, Israeli settler-colonialism and others, with the broader struggle against the prevailing globalized power structures and the decolonization of perception, knowledge and educational institutes, which sustain modernity/coloniality and the concepts they engrain.
Decoloniality seeks the liberation from modernity/coloniality, as largely dictated by ‘western’, white, heterosexual, institutionally educated, able-bodied males, as opposed to the pursuit of emancipation solely from within its constraints.
Decoloniality respects, learns from and is guided by the insights and life-experiences of indigenous and other peoples enduring the repercussions of modernity/coloniality. The point of departure of decolonial movements worldwide is the acknowledgement that there is no single universal narrative pertaining to life-worlds and selfhood.
Humankind entails, and has always entailed, a plurality of realities, perceptions and experiences. As opposed to the neoliberal reduction of human beings to mere objects of consumption, many societies past and present emphasize humanistic relations and human connection with their natural environment. They demonstrate that a pluralistic world based on universal respect and equality is possible; a world free of oppression, domination and exploitation in whatever its form.
A Decolonial Groningen
The Netherlands has a troubled history of colonization and slave trade, in which Groningen also bears its share in the guilt. This history has never been fully owned up to, nor have the encapsulated remnants of the Dutch colonial past been addressed in a meaningful manner.
The ensuing racialized eurocentric paradigm persists until today, including in institutions and academic curricula. Children’s school books fail to adequately mention the matter and the minimal attention which it is given is portrayed from the perspective of the (Dutch) victor.
Systemic racism remains endemic, although it is largely downplayed and racial profiling trivialized. The struggle against Zwarte Piet is met with rage by traditionalists and society continues to be marked by concepts of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Just to mention a few of the lingering elements attributed to coloniality prevalent in Dutch/Groningen society to this day.
Anchored in the growing Dutch and global decolonial movement, Decolonize Groningen seeks the long overdue decolonization of Groningen, the Netherlands and the world!