Let’s Get Free

LU 2023 Freedom School Promotional Video

I owe a big part of my early political education to a Freedom School. In 2001, at age 18, I was a student in the Tyree Scott Freedom School organised by Seattle’s Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, and the experience was deeply formative. I had already been a member of the isangmahal arts kollective for years, a teenage artist-activist making spaces for Filipinx voices and voices of colour with other youth mentors and role models, and had co-founded the youth branch of the organisation which would eventually evolve into Youth Speaks Seattle. However, I had not yet been exposed to the possibilities of liberation pedagogy, or education as a means of freeing, rather than inculcating, the mind.

My Freedom School Summer was the first time I had entered an explicitly anti-racist educational space. I remember in particular taking workshops on understanding structural privilege and the history/present of Palestinian occupation. This critical exposure to geopolitical power dynamics was especially relevant in a Seattle that, only two years prior, had taken to the streets to protest the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference 1999. Although I wasn’t permitted to join the protests (thanks Mom for keeping me safe at home), the spirit of radical resistance against what we might now call racial capitalism resonated throughout the city, and the momentum of social movements at the turn of the new millenium was galvanizing.

That same summer, the community of Asian and Pacific Islander artists with whom I collaborated hosted the first Asian Pacific Islander American Spoken Word and Poetry Summit, a groundbreaking conference that shaped the trajectory for an anti-racist spoken word and poetry movement to usher in the 21st century. My sharp memories of the Freedom School Summer, such as doing the ‘privilege walk’, inviting my newfound friends back to my housing complex to hang out, and later protesting swimming pool racism, are intertwined with memories of huddling up with other young women poets as the artists on stage wove us together with song, and spilling onto the streets of the International District listening to APIA poets interrogate, dissect and deconstruct toxic and violent histories of colonial militarism, and examine the complex resilience and determination to survive it produced, in their and their families’ countries of origin. Moments like this gave me my first taste of freedom from the systems of oppression that have, decolonial scholars remind us, existed since the modern era began with Columbus and his men landing in the Caribbean in 1492.

In these settings, I knew I was wanted and welcome, body, mind and soul. The connection and community I experienced there set my life’s bar for what freedom felt and looked like. This community wanted what I had to give, and its gifts were transformative. It is from these origins that I came to co-create the Building the Anti-Racist Classroom Collective, which from 2018-2021 designed and delivered a series of anti-racist educational workshops (#BARCworkshop) which developed new teaching and learning methods, and established intergenerational support systems, for anti-racists at work in higher education. We imagined such spaces, and knew they were possible, but entirely too rare. So when the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at Loughborough University asked me in early 2022 what I would like to make happen using a budget from the Research Culture Fund, I did not hesitate in saying I wanted to create a Freedom School in order to grow the anti-racist and decolonial knowledge base and skill level of the University community.

Building on focus groups with Loughborough Doctoral Researchers (DRs) from backgrounds of colour where they highlighted a hostile, institutionally racist research environment, I partnered with Dr Addy Adelaine, CEO of knowledge creation and sharing organisation Ladders4Action, doctoral researchers Rhianna Garrett and Iman Khan, and Nottingham artists Emily Catherine and Thomas Higgins, to generate a pilot Freedom School benefiting Loughborough DRs. We co-created this in collaboration with Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) DRs, who were compensated fairly for their time and expertise, and ran two pilot workshop days in July 2022, across the Midlands and the London campuses.

We complemented their insights by drawing on our wide range of previous experiences of anti-racist and radically inclusive higher education pedagogy. Through this, we demonstrated to the doctoral researcher attendees that academia does not have to be the isolating, competitive, stultifying place it can often seem, but can be a stimulating and vibrant space where time, thought and resources are given to empowering as well as educating all in the room. We documented our work in this recently published report and the images in the slideshow below. A promotional video capturing the creative and energising feel of the event is available here, and a news article on its success was published by the University.

The in-person events of last summer are soon to be capped off by a final virtual event next week in partnership with inclusive marketing specialist Joyann Boyce, entitled Freedom School Online: Build Your Reputation and Your Community. I am grateful for the support of Loughborough’s new EDI team and the culture of openness towards equity initiatives created in recent years at our institution. I look forward to delivering a session with Iman and Rhianna on the importance of building anti-racist academic community through creative methodologies, and highlighting some of the many projects and initiatives that continue to inspire me as an anti-racist feminist scholar-activist of entrepreneurship, technology and culture, and my ongoing journey towards intellectual, creative and spiritual freedom.

LU Freedom School Pilot – 28 and 31 July, 2022. Photos: Thomas Higgins

CMS 2019 CfP: Problematising the Recolonization of Decolonial Scholar-Activism



The 11th International Critical Management Studies Conference

“Precarious Presents, Open Futures”

27th – 29th June 2019, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, UK

Stream 17: Problematising the Recolonization of Decolonial Scholar-Activism: Whiteness, Neoliberalization and the Threat of Co-optation within the New Spirit of Liberal Openness


Jenny K Rodriguez (Lead convener), Work & Equalities Institute, Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK

Marcela Mandiola Cotroneo, Facultad de Economía y Negocios, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, CHILE

Sadhvi Dar, School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London, UK

Helena Liu, University of Technology Sydney, AUSTRALIA

Angela Martinez Dy, Loughborough University London, UK

Alex Faria, FGV/EBAPE – Escola Brasileira de Administração Pública e de Empresas, Fundação Getulio Vargas, BRAZIL

Over the last 20 years, decolonial work has been central in creating spaces for critique, dissent and resistance in management and organization studies (see Prasad, 2003; Ibarra-Colado, 2006; Faria, Ibarra-Colado, & Guedes, 2010; Mandiola, 2010; Nkomo, 2011; Mir & Mir, 2013; Yousfi, 2014; Gantman, Yousfi, & Alcadipani, 2015; Dar, 2018, Liu, 2018). This sizeable body of work has systematically raised questions about the role of, and dynamics created and perpetuated by, particular actors that centre Whiteness and colonial power resulting in persistent inequality, oppression, marginalization and invisibility of people of colour and First Nations people. Despite the transformational momentum generated by these discussions, inequality is sustained amidst discourses of disruption. Further, there is a seemingly newfound openness to decolonial work that suggests that it is now seen, embraced and used in diverse ways by scholars in both hegemonic and marginalized contexts (see Dar et al, 2018). The starting point of reflection for this sub-theme is: Where is decolonising work today, why is it so popular and is this popularity a strategy of co-optation that undermines its very purpose? This sub-theme continues with the tradition of discussions about decolonizing launched for the first time at the CMS Conference 2009 by the late Eduardo Ibarra Colado, as well as subsequent efforts at CMS and beyond that have continued to debate the dialectic relationship between decolonizing and recolonizing efforts.

As a political struggle that disrupts racist, classist, casteist, gendered, capitalist, ableist Supremacy, decoloniality is an unending project. As such, it is within the long duree that subjects embrace the Eurocentric illusionary discourse of individualist sovereignty propagated by Westernized institutions (e.g. the Neoliberal University), accepting their vulnerable positionality and engaging in an explicit and drawn-out encounter with White power. This involves a politics of struggle where they must not only be conscious of the complexity of their subject positioning, but use it in ways that draw on decolonizing concepts and practices to make theoretical advancements and develop methodologies for knowledge production that do not exploit or decimate Global South / indigenous knowledge, doing the work in-house (e.g. in their respective departments and universities) with a view of overthrowing systems that exploit Global South students and workers / students and workers of colour. This is a fundamental challenge for CMS decolonial scholars because it brings to the fore the tension emerging from becoming a vocal critic of the structures that legitimize their own subjectivity and value.

This sub-theme is interested in contributions on the following areas (please note this list is not exhaustive):

  • Intellectual openness and intellectual containment – There is a tension between the space decolonial work has as a lived position and the way it is seen just as a critique that needs to be legitimised for the sake of producing citations and citable work. What do these instances of legitimization look like? How do scholars deal with them? What strategies of containment keep these discussions on the margins in generative ways?
  • Recolonizing decolonial work – There have been some arguments and critiques that claim that decolonial discussions have been whitewashed and/or co-opted by capital. In what ways do we identify recolonization-decolonization dynamics? How is the decolonizing project co-opted by capital? What roles do scholars/practitioners at large from the GS and the GN have in the recolonization of strategies for liberation? Within the recolonizing dynamic, how can we meaningfully engage and distinguish between post-colonial and decolonial frameworks?
  • Mainstreaming and opening the decolonizing agenda – As decolonizing gains legitimacy in academic and institutional discourses, we must reflect on the role played by mainstreaming and openness/diversity in both fostering and undermining the radical politics of decolonial work. Is the decolonizing agenda being mainstreamed? What does it mean to open up decolonial work? Who is doing the work and whose multiple and interconnected interests-identities are being ultimately served?
  • White patronage – The relevance of patronage to the opening of spaces of legitimacy for intellectual labour cannot be overlooked. The role of white power brokers, networks and gatekeepers in the production, dissemination and valuing of decolonial work raises questions about the ways in which whiteness is re-centred through academic production from/about the GS. In what ways does white domination exert power over academic production? Which strategies (of co-optation, violence, influence) are used to maintain white hegemony in academia?

Celebrating the legacy of Eduardo Ibarra Colado

This stream will apply a liberation politics that will include a ‘walking-collective’ practice called: “Walking with Brown Folk”. The format seeks to disrupt the practice of centralizing knowledge in panels / experts that limits the possibilities for a dialectic engagement.

Abstract submissions

 Please submit a 500 word abstract (excluding references) one page, Word document NOT PDF, single spaced, no header, footers or track changes) together with your contact information: name, institutional affiliation (independent scholar if not currently affiliated) and email to decolonizingalliance @ protonmail.com. The deadline for submission of abstracts is Thursday 31st January 2019. We will notify you a decision by the end of February.


Dar, S. (2018). Decolonizing the Boundary-Object. Organization Studies, 39(4), 565 – 584.

Dar, S., Dy, A., & Rodriguez, J. (2018) Is decolonizing the new black? Available at: https://www.leftofbrown.com/single-post/2018/07/12/Is-decolonising-the-new-black (Accessed 02/10/18).
Faria, A., Ibarra-Colado, E., & Guedes, A. (2010). Internationalization of management, neoliberalism and the Latin America challenge. Critical Perspectives on International Business, 6(2/3), 97-115.

Gantman, E. R., Yousfi, H., & Alcadipani, R. (2015). Challenging Anglo-Saxon dominance in management and organizational knowledge. Revista de Administração de Empresas, 55, 126-129.

Ibarra-Colado, E. (2006). Organization studies and epistemic coloniality in Latin America: Thinking otherness from the margins. Organization, 13, 463–488.

Liu, H. (2018) An Embarrassment of Riches: The seduction of post-feminism in the academy. Organization, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1350508418763980

Mandiola, M. (2010) Latin America’s Critical Management? A Liberation Genealogy. Critical Perspectives in International Business, 6(2-3), 162-176.

Mir, R., & Mir, A. (2013). The colony writes back: Organization as an early champion of non-Western organizational theory. Organization, 20, 91-101.

Nkomo, S. M. (2011). A postcolonial and anti-colonial reading of ‘African’ leadership and management in organization studies: Tensions, contradictions and possibilities. Organization, 18, 365-386.

Prasad, A. (Ed.) (2003). Postcolonial theory and organization analysis: A critical engagement. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Yousfi, H. (2014). Rethinking hybridity in postcolonial contexts: What changes and what persists? The Tunisian case of Poulina’s managers. Organization Studies, 35, 393-421.