What does it mean to “decolonize” the creative space?

Or: what does it mean to decolonize creative process and creativity? It feels like the term, “decolonize,” is everywhere. So many people use it, and in various contexts that I hear it used, I’m less clear on what it means. It’s almost lost its meaning.

But it’s still very important, right? So then it’s back to examining our relationships with “Institution,” and being critical about placing ourselves in relationship to it.

Some things the Pin@y grad students and recent MFA grads came up with (while partaking of $2 Tecates and PBR in cans), to frame our AAAS discussion.

1. Re: the term, “decolonize.” What is this, on a personal and then on a larger, political and community level, as pertains to us as creative writers in graduate writing programs. How do you “decolonize” the way you understand your “place” within it.

2. Re: the work of drafting, writing, and critique. How do you decolonize the workshop space and interactions, the expectations and assumptions of your work based upon your apparent “other-ness.”

3. Re: curriculum. What kind of power do you have to “decolonize” curriculum? Surely this means the introduction of POC literatures, but also, works representing diverse (and even progressive? and even radical?) politics. What are your actions and interactions in this area?

4. Re: community. Here, we can look at communities within the graduate writing program, as well as outside of it. How do either of these support you and your process. How do either hinder? What would be the “ideal” writer-community relationship/dynamic be?

5. Re: mentors. How do you find mentors within the graduate creative writing space? What is your criteria and do you have any power to choose? What would the “ideal” mentor-student relationship/dynamic be, given all of the above?

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Barbara Jane Reyes

Author of Gravities of Center, Poeta en San Francisco, and Diwata. Adjunct professor in Philippine Studies at University of San Francisco.

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