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Student-Led Sessions

Thursday, October 13th

Who Tells Your Story? Post-independence Hyper-Nationalism, Ethnocentrism, and the National Curriculum

9:30-10:45 A.M.
Davis Court
Student Facilitators: Jess Nguyen, ‘24, Khant Wai Yan, ‘25
Presenter: Samvartha Sahil, Educator & Activist, India; Dr. Meixi, indigenous and educational studies scholar and Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota
Mentor: Professor Sonia Mehta

Abstract: How does a nation tell its story? Within an international order of Westphalian nation-states, many former colonial territories adopted vigorous nationalist attitudes after independence in order to foster a deep, unwavering sense of national identity and state sovereignty. A nation-state’s identity lives in the national story it tells its people. But who, really, are a nation’s people? 

Many formerly-colonized nation-states chronicle their paths to sovereignty as a monolithic struggle. The pre-colonial privileged, thus, wrote their own advantage into “the national story”. This single-minded focus, though beckoning and bolstering nationalism in the dominant group, marginalizes and erases the history and presence of indigenous people, ethnic minorities and other non-privileged groups. In its attempt to rectify the effects of colonialism, this narrativized ethnocentrism translates to neo-colonialist social, political, economic, and cultural ethnic hierarchies reminiscent of Orientalist European institutions of colonial times. 

As education is an institution of mass communication, this panel examines the national story’s othering effect as it manifests in formerly-colonized states’ national educational curricula. Aside from its main topic, the panel also hopes to engage the Macalester community in a discussion of the United States education’s own erasure of BIPOC history and toward dismantling these hierarchies beyond academia.

Russification and Resistance

1:15-2:30 P.M.
Davis Court
Student Facilitators: Talia Ostacher, ‘25, Aliya Nadeeva ‘24
Presenters: Ayzat Minhaci is a Turkic and Arabic runes calligraphist and Tatar activist. He serves as an Ambassador of the Tatarstan Republic.
Mentors: Professor Julia Chadaga, Professor Maria Fedorova

Abstract: In our workshop, we plan to educate people on how Russia’s Volga Tatars have been systematically marginalized, erased and stripped of their autonomy by Russian governments past and present in favor of the majority Russian population. Volga Tatars are the largest non-Russian ethnic group in the Russian Federation, and they constitute a majority in the Russian Republic of Tatarstan. However, from the imperial period to the Soviet period Volga Tatars have faced intense discrimination from ethnic Russians in the form of aggressive settler colonialism, forced dispossession of land, criminalization of cultural practices, forced baptism and erasure of the Tatar language – all in an effort to turn Russia from a multiethnic state into a homogeneous “Russian” monolith. Nowadays, the history of the Tatarstan Republic as a political entity is especially interesting, because since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, together with Chechnya it was one of the regions with the highest rates of separatist movements in the country. As a result, Tatarstan gained partial sovereignty and special rights compared to other Russian regions. However, these rights are continuously being taken away from the Republic, as the Russian government becomes more authoritarian. Therefore the Russification of the region is an ongoing and urgent issue. The Russian Federation is one of the most multicultural countries in the world with over 90 federally recognized ethnicities, but these ethnicities are coming increasingly under fire from the Russian government. We want to use the case of the Volga Tatars to analyze how Russian chauvinism has developed and presented itself in different contexts, as the example of discrimination of Volga Tatars also applies to all other ethnic minorities in Russia.

Re-Storying Indigeneity as Praxis of Decolonization

3:00-4:15 P.M.
Davis Court
Student Facilitators: AJ Papakee, 23, Zaryn Prussia, ‘23
Mentor: Professor Kirisitina Sailiata

Abstract: What does decolonization look like outside of an academic perspective? What does it look like from an Indigenous perspective? In this activity, we want to connect PIPE’s mission to a greater audience by decentralizing dominant voices and getting people to think about colonization and de-colonization from non-dominant perspectives through embodied meditation, storytelling, and artistic reflection. This session seeks to connect the Macalester community and students of all cultures and nations with Indigeneity. 

We have worked to create a space for ourselves as Indigenous people within the inherent settler-colonial institution of the college. PIPE serves three main goals:

  1. To exist as an unapologetically Indigenous space working to support and serve Indigenous students.
  2. To connect and engage with the broader Indigenous community in the Twin Cities.
  3. To provide a platform for learning, education, and discussion around issues that affect Indigenous communities.

Friday, October 14th

Decolonizing Beauty Standards 101

8:30-9:30 A.M.
Davis Court
Student Facilitators: Rola Cao, ‘25, Zhihao Liu, ‘24
Presenters: Amira Adawe, Founder & Executive Director of Beautywell Project, a non-profit against harmful skin-whitening practices, Instructor at U of MN, 2020 Bush Foundation Fellow; Leah Donnella, NPR Editor & Sociocultural Critic; Gabrielle Gayagoy Gonzalez, Marketing and PR Strategist for The Winters Group, Inc., a global diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) consulting firm, and Contributing Author of the forthcoming book Racial Justice at Work: Practical Solutions for Systemic Change (Berrett-Koehler, February 2023).
Mentor: Professor Ahoo Najafian

Abstract: This workshop is a student-led opportunity to facilitate conversations exploring how and why beauty standards around the world are constantly colonized by Eurocentric values. It is a dedicated time and space to explore how we are influenced by colonial powers in terms of media culture, beauty standards, and body politics. We will invite three amazing panelists to lead our discussion by sharing how they decolonized beauty standards through their work as NPO founders, advocates, and writers. Their expertise covers the intersectionality of body politics with race, culture, and health while they will also share some personal life stories that connect to their upbringing as BIPOC women in the United States.

The values of colonial powers are so deeply embedded in people’s mindsets that it even leads people to feel disgust for their own bodies and appearances. For instance, Asian and African female appearance is highly alienated in the context of the global colonization of beauty values. Their bodies are othered and inferiorized in contrast to the Europeans’ appearance. The Western-dominated fashion industry furthers such otherness and stigmatization toward Asian and African bodies. Some biological appearances of Asian and African women even became a discriminative feature in Asian and African people’s own eyes. As a result of colorism, BIPOC women across cultures often apply skin-whitening products that significantly damage their skin and health.

This roundtable session aims to answer the following questions: Who is colonizing our beauty standards? How did colonial powers continue to influence our values in this post-colonial age? What efforts can be made to decolonize our bodies and beauty standards as individuals and communities? What is the hidden harm of toxic beauty standards that we should be more aware of? How can we decolonize through simple steps like changing our daily skin routines.

StoryTelling: A Decolonial Praxis in Personal Accountability and Compassion

9:40-10:40 A.M.
Davis Court
Student Facilitators: Uditi Chandrashekhar, 24, Dipakshi Sarma, ‘24
Mentors: Professor Sonia Mehta, Professor Sonita Sarker

Abstract: Can storytelling challenge and deconstruct colonially-rooted conceptions of experience, engagement, identity and representation? Through our workshop, we intend to invite compassion and accountability into the radical practice of storytelling, as a way of decolonizing communal and individual structures. These power structures include those in academia, global politics, local social justice movements, and daily interactions here at Mac. Together, we will challenge the power structures that homogenize and control the ways of disseminating knowledge. By focusing on storytelling as a decolonial praxis, we hope to explore the im/possibilities of building compassion and accountability. We will question knowledge, power and their interlinks simultaneously. 

Guided by the story prompts, we will think deeper about how decolonization manifests in the geopolitics, academia, and conceptions of homes and stability familiar to them. Rather than laying out a roadmap to deconstruct colonial hierarchies, sharing stories can present aspects of decolonization that include, but are not limited to experiences of identities that hold power in the status quo. In the end, to take action beyond our time at IRT, we will identify how we can hold ourselves accountable for our hopes and actions for decolonization. Through this interactive workshop, we hope participants will have tangible actions that they pledge themselves to take in their personal and professional lives, critically decentering an Anglo-American praxis while finding power in our communities.

See additional resources for this session at

Decolonization in Turtle Island and Palestine and the Role of Jewish Resistance

1:10-2:10 P.M.
Harmon Room
Student Facilitators: Gabe Karsh, ‘25, Emily Thorpe, ‘25
Presenters: Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg, a writer and teacher on integrating trauma-informed pedagogy into Jewish education, ritual and organizing, member of the Radical Jewish Calendar project, member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council; Mark Muhannad Ayyash, Professor of Sociology at Mount Royal University, author of A Hermeneutics of Violence (UTP, 2019), and of many articles and op-eds.
Mentors: Professor William Hart, Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman

Abstract: The purpose of this panel is to examine the parallels and differences between settler colonialism on Turtle Island and in Palestine, and the role of the Jewish community in resisting both. As we talk today on occupied Dakota land, we look to indigenous people to guide our discussion. Aleut scholar Eve Tuck, writing with Wayne Yang, reminds us that more than just “decolonizing knowledge and power” as the International Roundtable calls us to do, “decolonization in the settler colonial context must involve the repatriation of land.” On Turtle Island, this means landback—indigenous sovereignty and control over land, resources, and governance. How do we get there both on Turtle Island and in Palestine? Frantz Fanon argues that “decolonization is always a violent phenomenon.” Violence as a means of national liberation and decolonization is always easier to support as a hypothetical than in practice. With the reality of violent Palestinian resistance to Israeli apartheid, occupation, and settler colonialism, how do we reconcile our responsibilities as settlers on this land and Jews committed to Palestinian liberation with Israel’s role as a refuge for Jews? What does it mean for Palestine to be free from the river to the sea?

Content Creation as Decolonisation: An African Perspective

1:10-2:10 P.M.
Davis Court
Student Facilitators: Chevonne Kwarisiima ‘24, Michelle Osiro ‘24
Presenter: Dr. Ijeoma Kola – A Nigerian-American historian of medicine and race, a content creator, and a champion for Black women’s health and education. Ivy Mugo – A Kenyan blogger, YouTube personality and Marketing specialist whose platform focuses on financial literacy and women empowerment. Mbali Sebokedi – A South African content creator whose platform uses books and makeup to promote African literature She is pursuing a masters in literary theory. The focus of her thesis is the idea of motherhood and nationhood in African literature.
Mentor: Professor Tia Simone Gardner

Abstract: In this session, we plan on introducing African and African Diasporic voices to the IRT contributing to its internationalism and multiculturalism component.We have invited content creators with African heritage who have used their platforms to redefine what digital storytelling looks like to young Africans. Their focuses range from literature and education to healthcare  and lifestyle. Through their work, they pursue decolonization  by affirming the agency of young Africans within the continent and in the Diaspora.The very agency that colonial systems tried to (and still try to) strip them of.