Event reflections - Colonial, Postcolonial and Decolonial early career mentoring workshop

This article was written by Shubranshu Mishra, University of Kent
This article was published on

This early career mentoring workshop with senior scholars in the field focused around providing a space for advice and reflection on professional development for academic careers for current BISA members. The workshop featured sessions on CV writing and job applications, research and publishing strategies, pedagogical development and public engagement. We also inaugurated a CPD mentoring network, designed to match up senior and junior colleagues in the field for career development.

Participants were asked to bring a CV and covering letter.

Our senior mentors were

  • Professor Kimberly Hutchings (QMUL)
  • Professor Vivienne Jabri (KCL)
  • Professor Mustapha Kamal Pasha (Aberystwyth)


12.30: Arrival and lunch

13.15: What does a ‘career’ in academia entail? What are the challenges associated with working on colonial/postcolonial/de-colonial themes?

13.45: Developing yourself as a researcher (I)

  • Information-gathering and ‘fieldwork’
  • De-colonial research ethics
  • Writing and publishing

14:20: Developing yourself as a researcher (II)

  • Post-publication discussion spaces
  • Professional associations
  • Postdoctoral funding

15.00: Behind the scenes of the interview panel: how hiring decisions work; how to read a job ad

15.30: Tea / Coffee & break into groups

15.45: CV and covering letter / personal statement focus groups

16.15: Teaching and critical pedagogy – what should I expect of myself?

16.45: Collaboration, public engagement and activism

17.00: Conclusions: What should our mentoring network look like?

17.30: Close

Event reflections

What does a ‘career’ in academia entail?- as well as its complex and changing ground and terms- was the central theme of the CPD Working Group’s one-day early career mentoring workshop at Queen Mary University of London, just ahead of BISA 2015. The workshop was an effort to discuss, with senior scholars in the field, issues related to developing an academic career, pedagogical skills associated with working on colonial, postcolonial and decolonial themes, and professional ethics and public engagement through an innovative methodology towards developing new learning environments for young people in the discipline. There were specific sessions on CV writing and job applications, research and publishing strategies, and public engagement. I am pointing to some of the striking elements (no means all) of the workshop which provided us with insights into many of the areas that this theme and the whole workshop intended to address. This engagement, to my mind, was an attempt to create a sort of ‘clearing’ through the plentiful views, stimuluses, solutions, a clearing from where to see better and critical, rather than any irrefutable or conclusive statement on the theme under discussion. How do they facilitate our understanding towards research? Do they?

Kimberly Hutchings initiated the discussion by talking about the importance of critique as well as seeing an ethical stake in it with regard to the many difficult contexts in research. She emphasized on reading the classics for any honest engagement in a research career, interdisciplinary analysis, as well as empirical work. I tend to agree that a proper understanding, and to an extent internalising, of those texts does help to develop an informed perspective and but also to unmask, uncover and unpack, fully and fairly, the operations of power that exist in academic scholarship. Thereafter, Mustapha Pasha, through a graphical representation, discussed career in academia being composed of passion, preparation, performance and perseverance. These factors do offer a legitimate base for knowledge generation and dissemination, having potential to improve understanding of an academic career. Taken together, they seem to explain the more contemporary issues, and were also taken up in subsequent sessions/discussions. The discussion on these aspects proved to be particularly important and encouraging as it articulated the motivations and concerns about researching and teaching. It was also insightful, and therefore more useful, that he did not make himself invisible in giving voice to those factors – the risks and benefits involved.

Meera Sabaratnam and Clive Gabay elaborated furthermore on the evolving nature of the field with a vast array of examples and challenges, making applications for grants and the pressure to publish that prompted an interesting debate among the participants. It was also very useful to have a focus-group discussion on CVs and cover letter for job applications to receive detailed and constructive feedback by the experts. Vivienne Jabri and Kimberly Hutchings shared their experience on what goes behind the hiring process at the University. And, at the end of the workshop, there was an interesting, also pertinent, discussion on life-skills, particularly dealing with long-distance relationships. Overall, the workshop created a network of people from different, yet related, backgrounds and research interests and it was quite useful and fulfilling to be a part of it and have these interactive discussions.