Universiteit Leiden

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Conference | D&I Symposium

Language, inclusion and belonging

Thursday 19 January 2023
Being the First
Online and at ECC Leiden
Haagse Schouwweg 10
2332 KG Leiden

The concept of belonging is inextricably linked to our ability to communicate with each other. Whether it is communication through sign languages, video calls or emojis in texts: the way people connect with one another can determine how they feel in relation to their surroundings. But what does inclusion through communication entail? Does the use of inclusive terminologies suffice? In which ways can inclusive communication contribute to a sense of belonging? How can inclusive communication make you feel welcome at a university? 

The D&I Expertise Office and the Faculty of Humanities of Leiden University have joined forces for this year’s edition of the D&I symposium. This annual event is the time of the year when students, staff members and other partners within and outside the university gather to discuss and look back at the achievements and projects from the past year and to look ahead, reconnect and inspire each other to continue working on a safer, more inclusive and diverse university community. 


The main language of the symposium will be English unless otherwise noted. English-Sign Language of the Netherlands (SLN) translation will be provided during the plenary part of the symposium. During workshops SLN translation will be available upon request.


Tsolin Nalbantian


The programme will feature panel discussions, lectures and workshops on a wide range of topics, including inclusive language and terminology, inclusive recruitment tools, decolonisation within education and more.

Launch event Declaration of Equity

During lunch, between 11:45  and 13:00, there will be the presentation of the Declaration of Equity, a guidance document for study associations. 

Welcome by Tsolin Nalbantian
Opening by Annetje Ottow, President of the Executive Board
Wayne Modest: Fleeting Commitments – Language and the Question of Decolonization
Mounir Samuel: Time for Diversability
Panel discussion and Q&A: Language, inclusion and belonging at Leiden University and the Faculty of Humanities
Kevin Groen: Spoken Word
Lunch | Launch event Declaration of Equity
Closing reception

Keynote speakers

Wayne Modest

Wayne Modest is Director of Content of the Dutch National Museum of World Culture (a museum group comprising the Tropenmuseum, Museum Volkenkunde, Africa Museum) and the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. He is also Professor (by special appointment) of Material Culture and Critical Heritage Studies at VU Amsterdam. 

‘Decolonise’ as a term, as a concept, has (re)emerged recently to describe diverse demands for and practices of ‘institutional’ change. Numerous grassroots activist initiatives, including Decolonise this Place in the USA and Decolonise the Museum in the Netherlands and other European contexts, have appeared, demanding the decolonisation of museums, universities and archives, as well as curricula, methodologies and even disciplines. What are the promises of, as well as the problems with, such attempts at ‘decolonisation’? Indeed, these initiatives have not been without contestation, for example regarding definitions or the inclusion and exclusion of certain voices. In this presentation, Prof. Wayne Modest will explore these demands to decolonise museums, and other heritage institutions, and the museums’ responses. 

Mounir Samuel

Mounir Samuel is a political scientist, journalist, author and cultural entrepreneur who works at the crossroads of politics, media, art and culture.

In this speech Samuel will explain his notion of ‘diversability’ He will show the deficits of current views on ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ and will lay down a blueprint for a truly safe, inclusive and accessible university in which so-called diversity is more than just accepted or celebrated but aims instead for a culture that frees people from being constantly reduced to their one-dimensional group identities. He will challenge recurrent and existing stereotypes, burst some bubbles and work on creating new bonds and ties beyond culture, gender, sexual orientation and other core identities. His keynote will put special emphasis on the importance of value-based language and communication. 



The Decolonising Student Collective wants to create a space where students and staff with overlapping interests can get to know each other and exchange ideas on the role that decoloniality plays in our everyday lives, in and out of the classroom. A basic principle of the collective is to facilitate opportunities for interaction and provide space for all perspectives, while also considering positionality and hierarchies, especially of those who hold more privileges. The Collective will therefore begin with a short workshop called ‘Decentering privileged perspectives’, in which they will offer self-regulating tools for the discomfort that arises when we actively take a step back and take up less space. Following this introduction, they will open the space for attendees to interact in groups and get to know each other by discussing statements related to the symposium’s general theme.

Language speaks to us, in the spoken and written word. But its interpretation depends on the hearer. How do you make sure the language you use corresponds with the receiver’s frame of reference? How do you make sure it is also received well by people who do not share your frame of reference? In short: how do you communicate in an inclusive way? In this workshop, we will ask the question: how do you write inclusive job adverts? We will also present some immediately applicable resources and tools, including Leiden University’s new inclusive recruitment & selection toolkit. 

During this workshop, we will explore how language, culture and positions of power are deeply intertwined. Culturally dominant groups often set the norm in terms of the language or language variety to be used and spoken in public settings, but they also (subconsciously) decide how less dominant groups are to be talked about. In this workshop, we will use a sociolinguistic approach to discover how we all (subconsciously) do identity work through our language and unpack the power of our words in relation to other, more, or less dominant social groups. This workshop aims to be interactive and to create awareness by inviting you to reflect on your personal experiences and role in language use. How do you position your own identity or identities within society? Have you ever noticed that the language(s) that you or others use erases certain identities, e.g. heteronormative language, religion-centric language, etc.? Are there any solutions to countering normative/centric/exclusive language? We will find that simply choosing different words is not always the solution. 

A new era calls for a new language. But who actually knows what you can and cannot say and to whom? In this workshop, Mounir Samuel will use humour to discuss the many ways in which language can exclude and what we can do about it. He will make you think and will not shy away from taboos or discomfort. He will use everyday speech to show you where things go wrong in society and will suggest concrete responses. The aim is to create a safe, inclusive and accessible language for and by everyone. Mounir won’t give you a checklist or list of forbidden words, but tools to help you speak according to your values. This is the blueprint for a new language in a new era.

Access to higher education is an important target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, not all students experience the same level of accommodation or opportunities in higher education. In the context of the ongoing ‘refugee crises’, this question of access to higher education is particularly relevant. This panel discussion will be an open conversation in which refugee students and scholar-activists share their stories and discuss their needs. We aim to discuss the role of a university in creating an accommodating environment for refugee students and researchers. Who is really included when policies and strategies are developed to accommodate refugee students and researchers? How do representation and language use affect the way refugees are treated at university? And, most importantly, what can non-refugee students and staff do to meet the needs of refugee students and researchers?

At university you should be able to sit and think, attend or give lectures, and read and write without too many physical or mental barriers. As a student, academic or other member of staff at Leiden University, you may face challenges at times. And sometimes, it is not you but the system that needs to change to make your life at Leiden University a success. If we want to help each other, we need to know where the barriers lie.

This workshop focuses on the physical and mental challenges our students and staff face. We will place you – virtually – in situations at and around the University where we know there are challenges. We want you to join us in thinking about solutions and opportunities. The aim is to make you aware of how multivocal and multiheaded the challenges are, but we hope above all that you walk away feeling that there are solutions – and best of all start taking concrete steps to improve the working and learning environment for yourself and those around you.

We can all contribute to a safe learning environment by developing awareness, knowledge, skills, and the confidence to be active bystanders and safely challenge unacceptable behaviours. Created with students from the POPcorner Student Panel and inspired by the Faculty of Humanities Code of Conduct, this workshop explores the role we can play in upholding our shared values and how we might respond when something happens which is contrary to our values.

The POPcorner is an accessible study support point with locations in Leiden and The Hague, focused on creating an inclusive learning environment. As well as organising POPTalks on D&I related topics, the POPcorner helps students develop study skills through workshops, create social and support networks, establish personal and academic goals, and connect them with university resources and services.


The D&I symposium consists of a plenary programme and workshops. Online participants can join the plenary programme via livestream. Offline participants can join both the plenary programme and the workshops at ECC Leiden.

If you have questions about registration or other aspects of the symposium, please email us at diversiteit@leidenuniv.nl

Online participants

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Offline participants

The offline programme is fully booked. Please join us online!

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