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Europa Lecture by Iyiola Solanke on ‘A decolonial approach to research and teaching in EU Law’

On 24 May, Iyiola Solanke, Jacques Delors Professor in EU Law at the University of Oxford's Faculty of Law and Fellow of Somerville College, gave the annual Europa Lecture organised by Europa Institute in Leiden Law School's historic Lorentz Lecture Hall. Her lecture was entitled ‘A decolonial approach to research and teaching in EU Law’.

Professor Annetje Ottow, President of Leiden University's Executive Board

Opening the lecture, Annetje Ottow, President of Leiden University's Executive Board, highlighted the importance that the entire University places on this theme and gave a critical assessment of its own historical role in colonialism and Leiden's wider commitment to diversity and inclusion. She concluded by appealing to the academic community as a whole: 'European investments in science and innovation are under pressure, precisely because of geo-political shifts and increased spending in areas such as defense and security. The European elections are in two weeks’ time and will have an impact on the new political agenda of the European Union. I ask you all to make the case, through your various networks, for increased investments in science and innovation on an EU level. We will need it.'

Professor Iyiola Solanke, Jacques Delors Professor in EU Law at the University of Oxford's Faculty of Law and Fellow of Somerville College

In her captivating lecture, which was attended by students, academics and visitors both in person and online, Professor Solanke stressed that decolonising any study programme starts with re-examining what and who we're teaching. This involves questioning whether specific voices and ideas are included, promoted and valued more than others and addressing the underlying reasons for these implicit value judgements. In order to be a tool for inclusion, degree programmes such as European Law should move away from Eurocentric thinking towards re-framing and reconstructing key concerns and issues, including on an epistemological level. This decentralising process could inform broader, structural changes in how and what we teach, including course design and the geographical and historical scope of narratives and worldviews we share with our students. A decolonial approach would evolve into effective, sustainable long-term practices. In terms of legal studies, Professor Solanke concluded that more inclusive university-level teaching would eventually result in a more inclusive, accessible justice system as a whole. The lecture was followed by a lively, interesting Q&A session in which Professor Solanke engaged with the audience.

Professor Solanke's lecture was the 12th Europa Lecture to be held. First held in 2013, the Europa Lecture is an annual lecture organised by Leiden Law School's Europa Institute. It gives leading thinkers, academics and politicians a platform to share their views on issues of European integration with the academic community and wider public. Previous speakers include Herman van Rompuy, former president of the European Council, Margrethe Vestager, former Commissioner for Competition and Petro Poroshenko, former president of Ukraine. Last year's speaker was Tamara Capeta, Advocate General at the Court of Justice of the European Union.

On the morning of the Europa Lecture, Professor Solanke participated in a symposium on the theme of 'MIND-EU: Challenges to European Integration', for young doctoral researchers at the Europa Institute. The symposium formed part of Dr Moritz Jesse’s Jean Monnet Chair on Migration, Integration and Non-Discrimination in Europe [MIND-EU]. During two panel discussions entitled ‘Narratives, Legitimacy and Solidarity’ and ‘Rights, Protection and Freedoms’ in Europe, PhD candidates presented their research and received valuable feedback on their work (see separate news item on this).

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