As one of our final projects of the academic year my World History students created proposals for a Colonialism Exhibit in a (fictional) Museum of Global History. The unit began when we read Things Fall Apart, a selection of quotes about Colonialism, and excerpts from Aime Cesaire. We then viewed sections from the film Gandhi and the film Battle of Algiers.
After this introduction to Colonial and Post-Colonial thought, I gave students the project description. During the next week of classes students had different deadlines as they designed their exhibits. We regularly shared ideas for exhibit goals, creative artifacts, analysis, and exhibit design.
Students presented to small groups and evaluated each other using this form.
The final step involved using the feedback to choose finalists, having the finalists present to the whole class, and facilitating a conversation where the class (aka the Museum Board of Directors) chose which exhibit to fund.
There were many interesting and creative exhibit proposals. There were a range of educational goals for the different exhibits and I was struck by the different ways students dealt with the tension between complexity of history and the desire for a clear historical narrative.
Presenting to an audience (even though the scenario was fictional,) added an interesting and important layer to the project design and intellectual processes of the students. It was nice to see the thinking that students did about other people’s proposals in addition to the work they did on their own proposals.
My experiences living in different parts of the world lead me to believe that colonialism and the legacies of colonialism are crucial topics of study. I do wish that as a class we had additional time to focus on independence movements and the periods after independence in different parts of the world.