Colonialism, Settler Colonialism, and Sovereignty: Reflecting on their Role in Higher Education

In this unit we invite the community to engage with broader themes and understandings of colonialism and settler colonialism, and to consider their sources, purpose, functions, and manifestations. We also interrogate understandings of sovereignty and its connections to self-determination and liberation. The scholarly engagements in this unit serve as a guide to more deeply reflect on our relationship to colonization in the context of the U.S. and its systems of higher education.


Guiding Questions

  • Functions and structures of colonialism
  • Relationship with U.S. empire
  • Sovereignty 101
  • How is the understanding of the ongoing structure of colonialism instrumental in reimaginations of space?
  • How does higher education function as a structure and tool of colonization?
  • What role can higher education play in dismantling the oppressive systems imposed by colonization?
  • What does it mean to be sovereign?

Scholarly Engagements

Colonialism, Settler Colonialism, & Empire

Barnd, N.B. (2017). Native Space: Geographic strategies to unsettle settler colonialism. Oregon State University Press.
Immerwahr, D. (2019). How to hide an empire: A short history of the greater United States. Random House.
Kauanui, J. K. & Wolfe, P. (2012). Settler colonialism then and now. Politica & Societa, 1(2), 235-258. 
Trask, H. K. (1999). From a native daughter: Colonialism and sovereignty in Hawaii (Revised edition). University of Hawaii Press.
Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), 1-40.
Juan Agustin Marquez. (2017, October 7). The last colony - full film - Emmy winner Juan Agustin Marquez. YouTube.


Barker, J. (2005). For whom sovereignty matters. J. Barker (Ed.). In Sovereignty matters: Locations of contestation and possibility in Indigenous struggles for self-determination (pp. 1-31). University of Nebraska Press.
Brayboy, B. M. J., Faircloth, S. C., Lee, T. S., Maaka, M. J., & Richardson, T. A. (2015). Sovereignty and education: An overview of the unique nature of Indigenous education. Journal of American Indian Education, 54(1), 1-9.
Deloria Jr, V. (1969). Laws and Treaties. In Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (pp. 28-53). Macmillan.

Higher Education

Del Moral, S. (2013).  Negotiating empire: The cultural politics of schools in Puerto Rico, 1898–1952. University of Wisconsin Press.
Wheatle, K. I. (2019). Neither just nor equitable. American Educational History Journal, 46(2), 1-20. 
Lee, R., Ahtone, T., Pearce, M., Goodluck, K., McGhee, G., Leff, C., Lampher, K., Salinas, T. (n.d.). Land-grab universities.

Table of Contents

Section 1

Honoring Place: Understanding Place, Space & Displacement


Section 3

Contested Space: The Enduring Legacy of Colonialism in Puerto Rico


Section 4

The Puerto Rican Higher Education System in an Era of Resistance/Refusal and Turmoil