Decolonizing Humanities Project

Decolonizing Humanities Project at William & Mary was started by Faculty Director Stephen Sheehi as a collaborative, interdisciplinary faculty intiaitive for transformative learning. It aims to explore the ways in which we as a William & Mary community can integrate alternative modes of knowledge production, art, culture, ecology, and social practices into our pedagogy, the lives of our students, our own lives and the university itself. Our hope is to transform higher education at William and Mary structurally through pedagogical and social justice practices that collaborate with and learn from various  communities, both within the College and within Virginia, in order to build equitable and inclusive higher education.

We, as a faculty collective, acknowledge that the land on which we teach and we live was stolen from the Tsenacommacah or people of the “Powhatan confederacy,” who are Eastern Algonquian speaking native inhabitants of Williamsburg. We acknowledge that the Pamunkey and Chickahominy peoples, along with other tribes from Powhatan Confederacy, were dispossessed and dispersed with the signing of the Treaty of 1646.

William & Mary established the Brafferton Indian School, which was responsible for inculcating indigenous peoples with the values of the English colonizers with the intent of converting them to Christianity and denigrating native spirituality, identity and culture.

We also recognize that Williamsburg and the College of William and Mary were built by the slave labor of kidnapped and enslaved Africans. We highlight that the university acknowledges that it “owned and exploited slave labor from its founding to the Civil War; and that it had failed to take a stand against segregation during the Jim Crow Era.”  Therefore, the Decolonizing Humanities Project seeks to address and repair the effects of racism and how it continues to structure our lives in the College, Virginia, and the United States. 

The Decolonizing Humanities Project understands that the Humanities are imbibed with the legacies of racism and colonialism but also with popular resistance and alternative forms of knowledge, art, ecology, and world views. We, therefore, excavate cultural forms, art practices, political expressions, and social norms to reveal histories, practices, and ideologies of racism, sexism, classism and hetero/cis-normativity.

At the same time, we seek to elevate the cultural expressions, art, and living and traditional knowledge of those who have been dispossessed and marginalized by colonialism, imperialism, racism, and capitalism. We humbly seek to do this by learning from these communities, inviting them into the university and its curriculum, and elevating their visibility in the university itself. 

What is Decoloniality?Speaker & Event Highlights