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Decolonizing Media

Visual activism takes its name from the practice of the engaged photographer Zanele Muholi in South Africa’s LGBTQ communities. Since 2015, visual activism has engendered rst the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, leading to the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes from the University of Cape Town, and now the Decolonize the Curriculum campaign. This workshop in decolonial visual activism engages with the intersection of decolonizing and the colonial monument. It brings together “theory” and “praxis”– aka “writing” and “rioting”–intersecting key theoretical materials, activist campaigns and the material legacies of colonial culture. As a course outcome, students will propose a visual activist response to the issue of the monument/museum and (de)colonized knowledges.

Course #
MCC-GE 2153
Media, Culture, and Communication


Decolonizing media studies is to engage media and mediation as part of decolonization. It takes the perspective of the global South, whether in that South or looking from the North. It follows the lead of South African students and activists in seeking to decolonize

the curriculum. From this optic, the “object” of study is not the dominant media forms of racial capitalism but decolonial action and organizing and their relationality.

There have been colonial and decolonial ways of seeing since 1492. Plantation slavery required permanent surveillance. Exogenous colonialism demands “you, work for me,” requiring permanent availability; while settler colonialism says “you, go away,” creating invisibility. Decolonizing visuality is to erase the pattern of classication, separation and aestheticization these systems rely on.

The workshop alternates study of racial capitalism and decolonial methodologies with specific actions, including:

  • collaborative working groups
  • walking/institutional critique
  • participating in social movement actions
  • visual research: including pattern recognition and visual archaeology media forensics: using media as archival material
  • Internet-based social justice research

Its goal is, in short, to learn how to undo the mediation of settler (neo)colonialism, from Standing Rock to Palestine and South Africa.

It’s about shaping questions not prescribing answers; about making tools to do that work; always remembering that decolonizing is a material process not a metaphor. Here’s an interview with Nick Mirzoeff that discusses all this by way of introduction.