Reflections on Decolonizing and the #RhodesMustFall Student Movement, by Kayum Ahmed

While the AC4 Fellowship affords students the opportunity to conduct field research through its generous grant, one of the incredible advantages of the Fellowship is the space it offers to reflect on these experiences.

Over the course of the Fellowship, I wrote three op-ed pieces that starts in Cape Town and is centered on a new radical theory called “Fallism” that was first developed by a student movement called #RhodesMustFall at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. #RhodesMustFall derives its name from one of its central claims: the removal of the statue of British imperialist, Cecil John Rhodes from the University of Cape Town. My reflection on the idea of Fallism was subsequently extended to a broader discussion of human rights following interviews with just over 50 individuals at the University of Cape Town. The second op-ed focuses on a critique of human rights discourses and its ability to engage with what I refer to as “non-humans” – often dehumanized black bodies.

The calls for the removal of statues in South Africa inspired by the #RhodesMustFall movement were echoed upon my return to the U.S. in places like Charlottesville which inspired me to write a third piece centered on white violence and First Amendment rights. Employing the ideas acquired over the course of my fieldwork in South Africa, I sought to analyze the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) engagement with free speech and its protection of the First Amendment rights of white supremacists. This third op-ed draws on my experiences in South Africa and suggests that the U.S. can learn something from activists in South Africa.


Author: Kayum Ahmed is a 2017 Fellow, pursuing a Ph.D. in International and Comparative Education at Teachers College. He is focused on the radical student-led movement called #RhodesMustFall, which seeks to decolonize education inspired by decolonial theories; his fieldwork took place at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Photo provided by author. Credit: The Daily Vox (24 March 2015); Students demanding that UCT set a date for the removal of a statue of Cecil John Rhodes on campus have entered the fifth day of their sit-in at the university’s administrative offices at Bremner Building.

Links to the three op-ed pieces are included below:

#Fallism as Public Pedogogy, written July 3, 2017: http://africasacountry.com/2017/07/fallism-as-public-pedagogy/

What About Human Rights for Non-Humans, written August 14, 2017: http://africasacountry.com/2017/08/what-about-human-rights-for-non-humans/

Defending Free Speech When Laws Do Not Apply Equally to Everyone, written September 5, 2017: https://www.openglobalrights.org/Defending-free-speech-when-laws-do-not-apply-equally-to-everyone/

Submit Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *