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FSU South West Regional Speakeasy

November 29, 2023 at 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm GMT

South West Regional Speakeasy

‘DECOLONISATION’: Freeing our minds or dangerous groupthink?

Wednesday 29th November

The Hall, Stepcote Hill, Exeter, EX1 1BD.

[Please note that while the venue is fully accessible inside, it can only be reached via a steep cobbled street, which may cause issues for people with mobility issues, the venue provides more information here.]

Doors open 6.30pm, discussion 7pm until 8.30pm, bar open until 9.45pm.

Tickets are £5 for FSU members, £8 for non-members, £3 for students.

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The project to ‘decolonise’ knowledge may have begun in universities but it has since spread to many more areas of life: public libraries, medicine, engineering, art galleries and museums, architecture, sport, fashion and beauty, even cooking and gardening. At the more explicitly political end of the spectrum, demands to ‘decolonise’ are now central to radical protest movements, whether directed at institutions such as the police or nation states.

What does ‘decolonisation’ actually mean and why has it become such a popular demand now, in the 21st century, when the ‘age of empire’ is fading from living memory? In the universities, is it a way of broadening our knowledge by undoing the prejudices and blindspots of the past or does it condemn valuable cultural heritage to the dustbin of history and narrow our thinking in new and different ways? In the wider world, does ‘decolonising’ help to identify and undermine power structures or is it a binary worldview that divides the world into overly simplistic categories of good and evil: oppressed and oppressor, colonised and coloniser, black and white?

In his new book Against Decolonisation: Campus Culture Wars and the Decline of the West, Professor Doug Stokes of the University of Exeter unpacks and challenges the decolonisation project, arguing that rather than being a truth-seeking movement with the goal of liberation, it is instead a one-sided attack on Western history which risks throwing the baby of civilisation out with the bathwater of inequality.

Doug will discuss his book with Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, a longstanding anti-racist campaigner who has become increasingly concerned that we are seeing ever more divisive thinking that risks destroying the gains we have made.

Both speakers are strong advocates of free speech and will consider the implications of ‘decolonising’ for open thinking and free expression.

There will, of course, be plenty of time for discussion, as well as socialising with fellow free speech supporters.

Doug’s book will be on sale on the night and he will be signing copies during the social.


Doug Stokes is Professor in International Security at the University of Exeter, and senior adviser to the Legatum Institute. He writes regularly for international media including the Spectator, Daily Telegraph and the Times on issues ranging from global security to the culture wars and academic freedom. His new book is called Against Decolonisation: Campus Culture Wars and the Decline of the West (Polity Press, 2023). Follow Doug on X/Twitter: @profdws

Dr Alka Sehgal Cuthbert has worked in education as a teacher, lecturer and education adviser for over 20 years. She is co-author of What Should Schools Teach? Disciplines, subjects and the pursuit of truth, and is director of the campaign group Don’t Divide Us.


Dr Jan Macvarish, Education and Events Director, the Free Speech Union. Before joining the staff of the Free Speech Union, she worked as an academic sociologist, studying parenting, family life, intimacy and reproductive health.


November 29, 2023
6:30 pm - 9:30 pm GMT


The Free Speech Union
020 3920 7865
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The Hall, Exeter
Stepcote Hill
Exeter, EX1 1BD United Kingdom
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