The first annual Rex Nettleford Lecture on Colonialism and its Legacies took place at Oriel on Friday 20th May, with speaker Professor Nandini Chatterjee of the University of Exeter delivering a lively and engaging talk on ‘Coming from, not staying at the roots: dealing with colonial legacies of language and law in South Asia and beyond’.
The title for the lecture took inspiration from the lecture’s honoree, Professor Rex Nettleford, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies and an alumnus and Honorary Fellow of Oriel, who argued that you cannot truly ‘go back to the roots’ of a culture but must continue to grow out from them.
Professor Chatterjee, whose research focuses on law and cultural exchanges in the British and Mughal empires, used her talk to explore the challenges posed by attempts to ‘de-colonise’ cultures that have been subject to colonisation by multiple entities over centuries of history. Taking examples from her own research into South Asian law and language, particularly in the Mughal empire, she discussed the challenges inherent in trying to disentangle an ‘original’ culture from the changes brought about by a series of different colonial powers.
Professor Chatterjee proposed that the way forward is to discard the idea of an unsullied precolonial past, and instead work creatively and ethically towards futures that embrace impurity, humanity and playfulness – growing from the roots, not staying at them.
Among the attendees at the lecture were the winners of the inaugural Rex Nettleford Year 12 Essay Competition on Colonialism and its Legacies, who were welcomed to Oriel with their families and teachers. You can read more about the prize winners here.
Those unable to join us in person can watch a recording of this year’s Rex Nettleford Lecture below.