Professor Mohan Dutta delivers Gravlee Lecture at Colorado State University

Monday 25 September 2023

The Gravlee Lecture series brings eminent communication scholars to the Colorado State University campus for presentations and interaction with students and faculty.

Professor Dutta speaking at Colorado State University. Photo courtesy of Dr Katie Knobloch.

Dean’s Chair Professor of Communication and Director of the Center for Culture-centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) Professor Mohan Dutta recently delivered the 2023 G. Jack Gravlee endowed lecture in the Department of Communication Studies at Colorado State University.

Professor Dutta’s lecture, Decolonisation as organising radical democracies: Centering health, resisting climate colonialism, securing food systems, and resisting hate, was delivered as a nodal register in conversation with the university’s theme of Democracy and Civic Engagement.

The lecture attended to the ways in which white supremacy has historically shaped the infrastructures of settler colonial/postcolonial/neocolonial democracies, with hegemonic notions of democracy scripted into practices of extraction, expulsion, and displacement through the mobilisation of violence. Moreover, it demonstrated the role of disinformation in manipulative processes that undermined community agency, occupied Indigenous land, enslaved labour and extracted resources.

With this backdrop, the concept of decolonising democracies was offered as a framework for the empowerment of communities at the raced, classed, gendered margins of ongoing processes of colonisation and exploitation.

The lecture drew upon two decades of ethnographic fieldwork carried out by Professor Dutta in struggles for Indigenous rights, migrant rights, transgender rights, anti-racism and working-class politics spanning 17 countries across four continents.

Professor Dutta explored the role of community voice infrastructures in supporting and sustaining communicative sovereignty, the capacities of communities to participate in decision-making, in engaging key stakeholders including various levels of government, in building community-led solutions and in communicating these solutions.

He offered examples documenting the power of communities as storytellers in driving positive transformations at local, regional, national and global levels, noting that local capacities lie at the core of driving transformations toward the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The lecture outlined the key tenets of the culture-centered approach as an organising framework for decolonising democracies, attending to Indigenous, Black and various Global South traditions for organising democracies. Professor Dutta wrapped up the talk by offering insights into the organising work of building transformative democracies through the co-creation of community voice infrastructures that work toward achieving the SDGs, addressing the challenges of climate colonialism, food insecurity, poverty and digital colonialism.

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