On the Reading List: “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor” by Tuck and Yang

This week’s final suggested reading is “Decolonization Is Not A Metaphor” (2012) by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang. In the article’s introduction Tuck and Yang identify themselves and the positions they bring to their research, Tuck an Indigenous scholar and Yang a “settler/trespasser” scholar. Their work continues and builds upon the idea of settler colonialism as a structure, and reminds the reader to center Indigenous experiences and scholars in discussions about decolonization, even though settler colonial systems have grown to impact populations beyond Indigenous tribes and nations.

Marabou shares this excerpt from the article’s introduction (on page 3) to provide an idea of Tuck and Yang’s approach to discussing and thinking about decolonization:

“When metaphor invades decolonization, it kills the very possibility of decolonization; it recenters whiteness, it resettles theory, it extends innocence to the settler, it entertains a settler future. Decolonize (a verb) and decolonization (a noun) cannot easily be grafted onto pre-existing discourses/frameworks, even if they are critical, even if they are anti-racist, even if they are justice frameworks. The easy absorption, adoption, and transposing of decolonization is yet another form of settler appropriation. When we write about decolonization, we are not offering it as a metaphor; it is not an approximation of other experiences of oppression. Decolonization is not a swappable term for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools. Decolonization doesn’t have a synonym.”

Tuck and Yang are thinking about decolonization in the sense of education and education research in schools, but their ideas are equally relevant to work done by museums and cultural sites.

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