Research seminars

Panel discussion: Decolonising music education

Event details

Panellists: Diva Mukherji (VP Education, EUSA), Radhika Govinda (Lecturer in Sociology, University of Edinburgh), Luke Simumba a.k.a. TAAHLIAH (Glasgow School of Art POC Society)

Chair: Diljeet Bhachu (Reid School of Music)

Date: 11 October 2018

Time: 5.15-6.30 pm  

Venue: Lecture Room A, Alison House, 12 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9DF


Music education in the UK is still heavily focused on Western European Art Music, particularly at university level. In the teaching of this musical history, colonialism is erased from the lives of composers who continue to be revered in the 21st century with little critique of how they funded their careers. It is only in recent years that research has uncovered investment in slavery in Handel’s past; music history continues to be taught without the context of colonialism. The ‘West’ is held up as the most advanced part of the world without acknowledgement of the atrocities the ‘West’ carried out on other parts of the world, hindering countries and continents which are now seen as ‘behind’ the ‘West’. 

What we teach, and how we teach it, can act to exclude learners, through making histories invisible, and presenting hierarchies. Notions of ‘discovery’ and ‘new knowledge’ in research - even the word ‘research’ itself - show the colonial roots of academic pursuits. In light of the University of Glasgow’s recent report showing the institutions links with slavery, in particular acknowledging that the University benefited from money linked to slavery, what questions can we ask of our own department and institution? What responsibilities do we have to interrogate colonial legacy in every aspect of our work? All it takes is a quick internet search to discover that General John Reid, who founded our department, was directly involved in colonising North America. 

This panel brings together academics and student activists to share practice of developing work to decolonise academia. What can we in the Reid School of Music, and Edinburgh College of Art, learn from others across academia and arts education, about decolonising our institution and the work that happens within it?


Diva Mukherji is the VP Education with the Edinburgh University Students’ Association, wherein her agenda includes diversifying the curriculum, and creating more inclusive learning environments. A recent graduate of Sociology and Social Anthropology here at Edinburgh, she was also the Students’ Association’s Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Officer in 2017-2018. In 2016, Diva co-founded the LiberatEd movement, “an initiative created by Edinburgh University Students' Association and led by Black and Minority Ethnic (BME), Disabled, LGBT+ and Women students from across the University, aimed at challenging the academic establishment to become more diverse, more inclusive, and more critical of historically dominant narratives.

Dr Radhika Govinda is a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh.  Her teaching and research interests are anchored in political sociology, gender and development. She is currently the UK lead on a UK-India Educational Research Initiative (UKIERI)/British Council funded project entitled, ‘Teaching Feminisms, Transforming Lives: Questions of Identity, Pedagogy and Violence in India and the UK’ (2017-2019), which seeks to contribute to ongoing debates on intersectional pedagogy and decolonising feminist knowledge production.

Luke Simumba a.k.a. TAAHLIAH is an artist, activist and DJ based in Glasgow. They are known for creating discussions on the resistance of societal binaries and overbearing whiteness within the creative sphere of Glasgow. Conversations around identity are at the forefront of their work and this is often explored using a hyper-glamorous aesthetic along with a colour palette evocative of hyper-realism. Simumba is one of four committee members of the GSA People of Colour Society: a student-led collective aiming to create safer, healing and constructive environments for students of colour.

The panel discussion is chaired by Diljeet Bhachu.

Diljeet Bhachu's profile page 

Related links

Handel and the slave trade (external page) 

Challenging the empire in empir(e)ical research (external page), article by Juliet Hess

Project Myopia (external page), a platform to exchange ideas and resources for diversifying the curriculum, developed by University of Edinburgh graduates Rianna Walcott and Toby Sharpe 

Website of Luke Simumba a.k.a. TAAHLIAH (external page)

Oct 11 2018 -

Panel discussion: Decolonising music education

With Diva Mukherji (VP Education, EUSA), Radhika Govinda (Lecturer in Sociology, University of Edinburgh), and Luke Simumba a.k.a. TAAHLIAH (Glasgow School of Art POC Society)

Lecture Room A
Alison House
12 Nicolson Square