Accepted paper:

Female African students in European universities from the early 20th century to the present: inclusive readings of history to decolonise the academy


Anna Adima (University of York)

Paper short abstract:

Most scholarship on the history of African students in 20th century European universities prioritises narratives of men; however, there is less on female African students at the time. This paper calls for the inclusion of the latter's historiography as a step towards the decolonising the academy.

Paper long abstract:

Dating from the pre-independence period to the present, the majority of scholarship privileges the presence of African men in European higher education institutions in the 20th century - in particular members of the elite who often later became leaders in the African continent, including Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, or Seretse Khama. However, there is comparatively much less in the historiography written on African women studying in UK universities - existing material are mostly biographical works on prominent women in African history, such as Wangari Maathai, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Buchi Emecheta, or Alda do EspĂ­rito Santo. The presence of African women in European universities during the 20th century will be examined in this paper, as well as their occurrence in the historiography in this period, attempting to answer the following questions: what difficulties did they face in getting into European universities in the first place? How did they perform academically in comparison to their male and European peers? What issues of racism and sexism did they experience? Why are they not present in the historiography on this period? The paper will argue that debates on decolonising the academy cannot advance without the voices of African women and other women of colour, advocating for more inclusive ways of reading history.

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African students in European universities from c.1800 to present: uncovering lost histories, decolonising the academy