Fourth Annual Conference on Decolonizing International Relations (Hybrid)
“Deconstructing Power”
October 28, 29, & 30, 2021
The first Fletcher School conference focused on introducing the concept of decolonization to the Field of International Relations. 

The Decolonizing International Relations (DIR) Conference has been a staple of The Fletcher School’s fall semester programming since 2018. DIR was created with the goal of interrogating the colonial-era origins of modern International Relations as a discipline and practice; in doing so, the conference helps The Fletcher School confront the past of IR – and its own legacy – honestly. 

Detailed Event Program under Schedule

Event Program:

Day 1 – Thursday, October 28, 2021

Opening Remarks and Land Acknowledgment

Decolonizing International Relations 101 Panel

Decolonizing Technology & Media

Gallery Tour of Unsettling the Archive: Tufts’ Relationships with the Land

Day 2 – Friday, October 29, 2021

Keynote Address – Mohammed El-Kurd

Critical International Relations and the Decolonial Project

Decolonialism & Development Workshop: Empowering the Emerging

Decolonialism and Environmental Activism

Day 3 – Saturday, October 30, 2021

Third World Approaches to International Law

Anti/Queerness in Colonialism

COVID-19, Public Health, and the Global South

Closing Remarks

The theme for this year’s Decolonizing International Relations conference at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy is “Deconstructing Power.We seek to grapple with how colonial structures of power have shaped our unjust international world orders and how neocolonialism continues to entrench power at the hands of a few. The past year has been rife with explicit manifestations of global inequity: the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, continued degradation of the environment and disposession of sacred land, settler colonialism and egregious violence against Palestinians, the murder of George Floyd, authoritarian and far-right extremist governments furthering their control and momentum, the horrors of the Tigrayan conflict, and a polluted information ecosystem that continues to catalyze hate and xenophobia. These injustices, while not not exhaustive, find a common denominator at the root of global injustice: stark imbalances of power delineated by past and present colonial practices, which continue to shape our modern world.

Despite claims and scattered efforts to the contrary, the international world order still defers to those in power. Even as the world’s oppressed people continue to struggle under post- and neocolonial conditions, the system’s architects remain beneficiaries. So, what is power, and how does it fundamentally shape the daily existence of oppressed peoples? More importantly, who holds power, through what means? How is it monopolized? And how can the inherent instability and relationality of power be harnessed in service of the decolonial project? 

By creating a space for academics, students, practitioners, advocates, activists, artists, and all who call the work of decoloniality their own to come together, we hope to illuminate the power of the people in their continuous struggle for liberation and equity. It is in deconstructing the powers that sustain the status quo — questioning, analyzing, and reimagining existing institutions — that we see the power of individuals and their communities in demanding a more just world. We hope to provide a platform for this dialogue and bring attention to underrepresented voices and ideas. The field of international relations has evolved in the Global North in colonial contexts, often legitimizing ideas and institutions rooted in colonialism. As a group of students dedicated to decolonizing the field of International Relations, we hope our conference may achieve the following:

  • Foster dialogue between activists, practitioners, and academics to transform theory into action;
  • Interrogate the status quo of the liberal international world order and the field of International Relations;
  • Amplify marginalized voices and center the Global South as a site of knowledge production, cultural output, and innovative thought;
  • Highlight the residual impacts of colonialism apparent in various ongoing social movements for freedom and liberation;
  • Examine the role of the university in decoloniality; and
  • Provide tangible means for students and practitioners of International Relations to advance decoloniality beyond the university.

Given The Fletcher School’s decision to be in-person for the Fall semester, the DIR 2021 conference will commensurately take place in a hybrid format with the conference being open to in-person attendees from Tufts University only as well as remote attendees. This will be a major opportunity to open DIR 2021 up to people beyond Fletcher – both in terms of attendees and panelists – and to make the conference as accessible as possible. 

Tufts University is located on colonized Wôpanâak (Wampanoag) and Massachusett Tribe traditional territory.