‘Whiteness is an immoral choice’: The idea of the University at the intersection of crises

With Raj Gill at DMU, and Sol Gamsu at Durham, I have a paper accepted in Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education Research, entitled ‘Whiteness is an immoral choice’: The idea of the University at the intersection of crises.

It is in a Special Issue on Higher Education in the Eye of the Covid-19 Storm, edited by Jason Arday and Vikki Boliver.

In it, we argue that whiteness has historical and material legitimacy, reinforced through policy and regulation, and in English HE this tends, increasingly, to reframe struggle in relation to culture wars. This article argues that the dominant articulation of the University, conditioned by economic value rather than humane values has been reinforced and amplified during the Covid-19 pandemic. The argument pivots around UK Government policy and guidelines, in order to highlight the processes by which intellectual work and the reproduction of higher education institutions connects value-production and modes of settler-colonial and racial-patriarchal control.


Decolonising Research Ethics

Earlier I generated a presentation on decolonising research ethics, for the Decolonising the STEM Curriculum working group, being led by Lara Lalemi a PhD candidate at Bristol, working in Chemistry. Lara is part of the Creative Tuition Collective, which offers free tuition, extracurricular workshops and personal development support to pupils from low-income backgrounds, marginalised and underrepresented communities.

My slides are available as a PDF below, and an audio file is available here. They aren’t synced as an .mp4, because that is for the working group. However, I thought I’d make the raw information available, just in case.

My focus was the relationship between ethics and decolonising, with a focus on research ethics as relationality that works beyond equality, diversity and inclusion work. Here I am drawn to the following principles from our Decolonising DMU working position.

  • Diversify the syllabus, canon, curriculum, infrastructure and staff
  • Decentre knowledge and knowledge production away from the global North
  • Devalue hierarchies and revalue relationality
  • Diminish some voices and opinions that have predominated, and magnify those that have been unheard

Decolonising Research Ethics slides


Decolonising DMU and the PGR Experience

With Lucy Ansley, I spoke about decolonising and the PGR experience at the first Decolonising the Research Degree, network event this morning.

The aim of the session was: to situate work on decolonising the PGR experience, inside an institutional programme of work (DDMU) that has not previously prioritised research.

Our slides are available below, or here.

Some resources include the following.

e: decolonisingdmu@dmu.ac.uk

w: https://www.dmu.ac.uk/community/decolonising/index.aspx

t: @DecolonisingDMU

DDMU Interim Report

DDMU self-audit tool for research centres/institutes

DDMU Resources/Papers


new book: The Palgrave International Handbook of Marxism and Education

Working with Inny Accioly (Fluminense Federal University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and Krystian Szadkowski (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland), I have a contract with Palgrave Macmillan for an International Handbook of Marxism and Education. Our working proposal is appended below. We hope for a draft to be submitted in mid-2023.

Overview

The Handbook to Marxism and Education is an international and interdisciplinary volume, which provides a thorough and precise engagement with emergent developments in Marxist theory in both the global South and North. Drawing on the work of authoritative scholars and practitioners, the Companion explicitly shows how these developments enable a rich historical and material understanding of the full range of education sectors and contexts. In this, it will develop a dialectical understanding of the interactions between the following.

  • The importance of Marx’s dialectical method in critiquing education.
  • Transnational and national governance, regulation and funding of education.
  • Histories and geographies of educational development and change, for instance in relation to corporate forms, the binaries of public/private education, issues of marketisation and commodification.
  • The structures, cultures and practices of formal and informal educational organisations.
  • The lived experiences of education by centring a range of intersectional analyses.
  • The educational role of new social and political movements, like decolonising, indigenous rights, Black Lives Matter and Rhodes must Fall.
  • The web of life and ecological readings of education.

This work proceeds in a spirit of openness and dialogue within and between various conceptions and traditions of Marxism, and brings those conceptions into dialogue with their critics and other anti-capitalist traditions. The Handbook contributes to the development of Marxist analyses that push beyond established limits, by engaging with fresh perspectives and views, which disrupt established perspectives as a movement of dignity. Following the introduction, the work is divided into three parts.

  1. Marxist modes and characteristics of analysis in education’, which provides a broad conceptual and historical context
  2. Emerging currents in Marxism and education‘, which tracks the trajectories of emerging and developing issues in education.
  3. Marxism, education and alternative conceptualisations of life’, which examines in detail the possibility to describe alternative educational futures.

The Handbook is designed to be an emerging, deliberative and dialogic guide to the relationship between Marxism and education.

  1. The Handbook focuses upon the intersection of the plurality of Marxist traditions, with both the full range of transnational educational contexts, and the historical/material development of categorical analyses in relation to emerging social issues. In this way, it mirrors the objectives of relevant companions to Marx’s Capital, which seek to interpret from specified positions, and enable the reader to generate analytical tools for themselves in their own context.
  2. The Handbook enables material and historical analyses of emerging currents that are shaping education globally, including how capitalism is re-engineering learning environments, teaching practices, and student engagement and learning, alongside the national and transnational governance, regulation and funding of educational institutions.
  3. The Handbook provides a rich, conceptual and transnational engagement with emerging work on alternative perspectives, including: Buen Vivir, Critical Environmental Education, “Environmental Justice and the web of life; critical university studies; movements for institutional abolition; critical or radical pedagogy; and social justice, including #BLM, decolonising, indigeneity and critical feminism.

NB The intention is to connect with a full range of emergent issues, rather than develop a standard genealogy or archaeology of Marxist categories as they apply to educational contexts. Thus, there is a deep engagement with issues of social justice, for instance, in relation to decolonising, indigeneity, queer education and intersectionality. There is a desire to draw out the links between structures, cultures and practices of education through a Marxist lens, and to bring these into conversation with emergent issues in relation to identity, environment, social reproduction and so on.

NB there is dialogue and negotiation with authors to be undertaken, including through the process of drafting chapters. This will undoubtedly impact the ways in which the volume is structured over-time, and we will keep this under review.

Finally, and crucially, the Handbook will recognise and work with genealogies and archeologies of work that has been undertaken in relation to Marxism and Education. These genealogies, and the authors who are so central to them, will be referenced and referred to within the Handbook. However, we do not see the Handbook working within/from those genealogies and archeologies. We do not wish to maintain established or dominant perceptions and conceptualisations of Marxism and education, rather we wish to disrupt those and engage established positions in a dialogue with emerging issues (for instance, intersectionality, decolonising, the web of life). We also wish to give a range of authors, from contexts previously made marginal, new spaces for voicing and weaving.

As a result, we look forward to disrupting particular positions and opening-up/out the possibility of new research and new voices shaping the direction for the field. In any authentic and meaningful, pedagogic and educational engagement with a range of intersecting, global crises, new voices and positions are required. Other ways of knowing and imagining and being in the world have never been more urgent.


Submitted: The hopeless University

I have finally submitted my manuscript for The Hopeless University: Intellectual Work at the end of The End of History. I blogged about my initial proposal here, and spoke about it on this podcast. It builds upon this article from June of this year.

The contents are currently structured as follows.

Chapter 1: A terrain of hopelessness at the end of The End of History

  • Introduction: the value of the University
  • The value of the University-in-crisis
  • Structural adjustment and hysteresis
  • The University at The End of History
  • The reproduction of hopelessness inside the University
  • Dialectics of hopelessness
  • The University at the end of The End of History

Chapter 2: Hopeless struggle in the anxiety machine

  • The University as an anxiety machine
  • A meritocratic framing of hopelessness in the anxiety machine
  • The immoral economy of the University
  • The political economy of hopelessness
  • The commodification of hopelessness
  • The institutionalisation of intersectional hopelessness
  • A hopeless struggle

Chapter 3: Forms of hopelessness

  • Introduction: hopeless ventures
  • Flows of hopelessness
  • Restructuring the concrete reality of hopelessness
  • Hopeless associations and joint ventures
  • Financialised abjection
  • Metabolic unfreedom
  • Venturing beyond hopelessness

Chapter 4: Pathological hopelessness

  • Introduction: surplus everything
  • The pathology of the anxiety machine
  • University ill-being
  • The University peloton
  • Reification and social metabolic control
  • For infinite humanity?

Chapter 5: Methodological hopelessness

  • Introduction: socially-useful hopelessness
  • The dialectics of the University
  • The University and negation
  • Assemblages of separation
  • Socially-necessary labour time
  • The University-in-itself, for-value

Chapter 6: A Movement of the Heart

  • Introduction: moving with hopelessness
  • A dialectical movement
  • Entangled subjectivities
  • Composting the anti-human University
  • An indignant movement of dignity

Chapter 7: Beyond the University at the end of The End of History

  • Introduction: is another university desirable?
  • Forms of antipathy
  • Cultures of antipathy
  • Practices of antipathy
  • The place of intellectual work at the end of The End of History

 


Decolonising DMU

I direct the evaluation for the Decolonising DMU Project.

With Kaushika Patel and Chris Hall (no relation), I am presenting on the project at the Advance HE Learning and Teaching Conference next week. If you have registered for the conference there will be a recording (.mp4) available. However, the slides are here.

You may also be interested in the project’s draft working position on building the anti-racist university, with which I was heavily involved. This connects to our research question: how does decolonising (its symbolism and reality) impact the idea of the university?

We are also presenting on Building the anti-racist University at a forthcoming event at the University of Bradford. The movement is (hopefully) growing.

Afterword

At Bradford I spoke about white privilege, and my own role in a process of decolonising. I argued following.

  1. Gurnam Singh spoke about white allyship Requiring an openness to building sustainable, democratic partnerships. I echoed this, in terms of horizontal forms of democracy, and building from below is a movement of dignity.
  2. I pointed back to a statement that Gurnam had made at the Radical DMU conference last year. He asked, how is it that in the most liberal institutions in the land in 2019, we are having to ask what it means to build the anti-racist University, or to decolonise? In fact, he forces us to ask whether these institutions can ever be described as liberal, and, if they can, whether that is a badge of dishonour that furthers particular forms of privilege.
  3. I argued the importance of challenging how structures/forms, cultures/pathologies, and activities/methodologies inside institutions, mirror governance, regulation and funding of the sector. The UK Conservative Government’s new Restructuring Regime for institutions in financial difficulty, reinforces the hegemony of the market and of human capital in dehumanising educational experiences.We have to find ways of refusing these pathological methodologies simply reinforce the power of people with no caring responsibilities, who over-perform, and who represent white, male, able power.
  4. In particular, we need to do this because University is implicated in a series of global crises, through the networks inside which it operates, its pathological search for surplus, its reinforcement of the performance ideals of the global North. It symbolises particular forms of life. It does not enable us to address climate forcing, a collapse in the nitrogen cycle, austerity governance, global poverty, whatever, unless those modes of addressing can be mediated through the commodity, the market, private property and money.
  5. Therefore, decolonising is a challenge to myself and my white, male privilege, just as it is a challenge to the very idea of the University grounded in the status and power are people who look like me. The voices that got us into this mess are not the voices I wish to centre as we build dialogue and look for potential routes towards another world or set of worlds.
  6. I see the process of decolonising not as the description of a utopia, rather as an attempt to situate this institution as a transitional moment, centring care, hope and dignity beyond the market, and focused upon equality rather than liberal tropes of equality of opportunity. It centres dialogue and reflection, and it grounds the University in its communities and its place.
  7. Peace be with you.

radical pedagogies livestream

Tomorrow, Thursday 19 September, De Montfort University is hosting “Radical Pedagogies: Macpherson 20 Years On”. The main focus of the event will be on how radical pedagogies can be used to highlight and address issues relating to race and institutional discrimination.

I have previously blogged about the event, including the call for papers.

The full programme is also online now. We are intending to live stream several sessions as follows:

09.45-10.15: welcome

10.15-11.15: Silhouette Bushay’s keynote on hip-hop pedagogy

14.45-15.50: panel discussion on radical pedagogy and challenging racial discrimination

16.00-17.00: local educators’ panel discussion

The live stream will be available from our conference homepage (you will need to scroll down the page).

We are also planning to record each of the presentations in the breakout discussion/workshop sessions. There are abstracts for these available. The presentations will be available on the website too. We will be using #radicaldmu19 to curate the dialogue from the day.

There are thematic streams on:

  • challenging institutional racism in education;
  • radical Pedagogies in practice;
  • against the attainment gap;
  • decolonisation in practice;
  • narrating raced and gendered experiences in education;
  • disappearing narratives.

It promises to be a great event.


Radical Pedagogies: Macpherson 20 years on

Conference call: Radical Pedagogies: Macpherson 20 years on

Radical Pedagogies: Macpherson 20 years on

Thursday 19th September 2019

De Montfort University, Leicester

#RadicalDMU19

Call for papers (Please note that the call for papers has been extended to Friday 5th July.)

In November 2018 the University of Kent hosted the first event organised by Radical Pedagogies: The Humanities Teaching Network in Higher Education. This group was established as “a forum for Lecturers, Educators, Administrators and students to share resources and discuss innovative pedagogy and praxis.”

It is with great pleasure that De Montfort University (DMU) will be hosting the second Radical Pedagogies event in conjunction with the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre and the Freedom to Achieve project at DMU. The main focus of the event will be on how radical pedagogies can be used to highlight and address issues relating to race and institutional discrimination. This event is not constrained by subject area, discipline or geographical location and is not just open to academics. We hope that researchers, PhD students, learning technologists, library professionals, academics, teachers, parents, students, educational activists and anyone interested in radical pedagogies, both within the UK and internationally, will consider contributing to and attending the event.

We are therefore looking for proposals for papers and interactive sessions (the more interactive the better!) or more innovative and radical session proposals for this one-day event.

On the 20th anniversary of the publication of Macpherson Report into the death of Stephen Lawrence, we are reminded that Macpherson made reference to organisations and areas beyond merely the police force when he was referring to the problem of institutional racism. Paragraphs 6.54 and 45 state that:

6.54 Racism, institutional or otherwise, is not the prerogative of the Police Service. It is clear that other agencies including for example those dealing with housing and education also suffer from the disease. If racism is to be eradicated there must be specific and co-ordinated action both within the agencies themselves and by society at large, particularly through the educational system, from pre-primary school upwards and onwards.

45.15 There was a weight of opinion and concern in relation to two specific aspects of education. First the failure of the National Curriculum to reflect adequately the needs of a diverse multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society. Secondly the number of exclusions from schools which were apparently disproportionate to the ethnic mix of the pupils.

What followed were recommendations 67 and 68:

67. That consideration be given to amendment of the National Curriculum aimed at valuing cultural diversity and preventing racism, in order better to reflect the needs of a diverse society.

68. That Local Education Authorities and school Governors have the duty to create and implement strategies in their schools to prevent and address racism. Such strategies to include: that schools record all racist incidents; that all recorded incidents are reported to the pupils’ parents/guardians, school Governors and LEAs; that the numbers of racist incidents are published annually, on a school by school basis; and that the numbers and self-defined ethnic identity of “excluded” pupils are published annually on a school by school basis.

This event is an opportunity to explore and discuss issues such as (although not exclusively):

  • how far recommendations 67 and 68 have been implemented and had an impact, not just in schools, but across the education sector?
  • whether a focus on the curriculum goes far enough in addressing institutional racism in education?
  • has the focus on working class white boys shifted the attention/discourse away from institutional racism in education?
  • what needs to be done to close the attainment gap?

We therefore welcome proposals for sessions which address some of the above broad themes.

Please note that the call for papers has been extended to Friday 5th July.

The call for papers is here: Radical Pedagogies Call for papers

Other indicative areas for discussion are:

  • anti-oppressive teaching practices;
  • punk pedagogy;
  • the role of the marketisation of higher education on radical pedagogies;
  • critical race theory;
  • intersectionality and pedagogy;
  • the role of radical pedagogies in reducing attainment gaps;
  • institutional discrimination and radical pedagogy;
  • student experiences in the classroom; and
  • the role of parents/carers as educational activists.

The aim of this event is to encourage participants to push the boundaries of current educational and pedagogic practices.

Please submit a 500-word abstract, or a 2-minute video clip by Friday 5th July 2019 to RadicalDMU@dmu.ac.uk

This event is a free, one-day, event. Travel bursaries are available. Please contact us for further details.

To book on the conference, click here.


A New Vision for Further and Higher Education

With Sol Gamsu, I have co-edited A New Vision for Further and Higher Education, published by the Centre for Labour and Social Studies. Launched at the recent UCU conference, the report is available from the CLASS website.

The abstract is as follows.

Our systems of further and higher education are no longer fit for purpose. After decades of marketisation and years of austerity cuts, recent high-profile strikes in the education sector signified a service at breaking point. But what to do? How do we pursue education, not as a commodity, but as ‘the practice of freedom’?

How can we dismantle the elitism of higher education, the degradation of further education and create a system that promotes the values of justice, hope and solidarity? There are no easy answers but this collection of essays hopes to start a conversation about how we move forward.

The report was discussed at a recent West London Socialist Educational Association meeting. A report of that meeting, entitled Education and Wandsworth Transformed, can be found here.


Presentation: Strategic Visions & Values: Inclusive Curricula and Leadership in Learning and Teaching

On Wednesday I spoke at a Leadership in Learning and Teaching programme event at the Durham Centre for Academic Development. I was asked to share my experience of working to embed inclusivity in the curriculum, and framed what I said/our discussions around:

  • policy and institutional change;
  • participants’ perspectives on embedding inclusivity in the curriculum;
  • two DMU examples of institutional change projects relating to disability (Universal Design for Learning (UDL)) and work to close the attainment gap (Freedom to Achieve); and
  • participant engagement with DMU’s UDL framework.

I utilised our UDL2 project interim evaluation report and UDL2 literature review, alongside our Freedom to Achieve interim evaluation report.

I also made contextual reference to DMU’s access and participation plan, submitted to the Office for Students for 2018/19, and pointed participants to Durham’s plan. These highlight the differences across the sector between intake, upon which approaches to inclusivity/diversity (whatever they mean) rest.

My slides are available below. I have also appended some of the key points that emerge from our discussions. Finally, I append a limited number of resources, which I find particularly useful or challenging.

Key points from participant discussions

Q. What are your experiences of working to embed inclusivity in the curriculum?

  • Issues around the pace of change, and who has responsibility when so much activity is devolved.
  • What is the meaning of these terms, and in particular in different disciplinary contexts and at different levels of study?
  • What is the relationship between strategy, policy and practice? Here, issues of curriculum development and curriculum delivery, pivoting around curriculum Design, pointing towards assessment and feedback are surfaced. There needs to be discussion about institutional, departmental and subject-specific agendas, in order to avoid the impact of hidden or unconscious curriculum intentions.
  • There are issues of workload that need to be considered.
  • How do we encourage sharing across disciplinary boundaries and separations created by different workloads/roles/job types?
  • We recognise a range of cultural expectations, including the expectations of students attending different institutions with different histories, cultures, practices, forms of capital. We also recognise a range of expectations in relation to employability and the generation of new skills, competencies and knowledge.
  • We recognise the need to create a lingua franca, through which we can generate a shared approach to communication. However, this needs to be sensitive to different expertise and experience, and the ways in which language can affect interpretation and activity. Our aim is to avoid unnecessary friction, whilst supporting and scaffolding our students’ struggles to master the curriculum.
  • Is it possible to avoid simply retrofitting a physical or curricula infrastructure, and to build something that celebrates diversity and inclusivity (whatever they are)?
  • There are competing pressures upon staff in relation to career, Department and institution, and in terms of student experience/support. There are competing pressures upon staff in relation to research, teaching and administration. How do search innovation projects relate to academic progression?
  • How do we decide what is valued and who is valued in our approaches to innovation? How do we engage with new workload models in this process?
  • We have more agency than we think, and are able to shift the emphasis of the curriculum, in order to focus content and activity upon previously marginalised areas of study. In this way, we can begin to ask questions about privilege and power, and centre new individuals/groups. In this way we can also approach problems differentially, and enabling students to take ownership.
  • In terms of having a framework for inclusive practice, at the level of curriculum design, delivery and assessment/feedback, there is interest in the concrete practices of particular subjects (as opposed to more abstract or open-ended frameworks). How might this work in different disciplinary contexts? As a result, is it possible to move beyond the threshold engagement with inclusivity/diversity, in order to do more?

References

Ahmed, S. 2012. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Ahmed, S. 2017. Living a Feminist Life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Barnett, R. 2016. Understanding the University: Institution, Idea, Possibilities. London: Routledge.

Bhambra, G., Gebrial, D., & Nisancioglu, K. (Eds., 2018). Decolonising the University. London: Pluto Press.

Connell, R. 2013. “The neoliberal cascade and education: an essay on the market agenda and its consequences.” Critical Studies in Education 54 (2): 99-112.

De Sousa Santos, B. (Ed., 2007). Cognitive Justice in a Global World: Prudent Knowledges for a Decent Life. New York: Lexington Books.

O’Dwyer, S., S. Pinto, and S. McDonagh. 2017. “Self-care for academics: a poetic invitation to reflect and resist.” Reflective Practice 19 (2): 243-49.

Steinþórsdóttir, F. S., Heijstra, T. M., & Einarsdóttir, Þ. J. (2017). The making of the ‘excellent’ university: A drawback for gender equality. ephemera: theory and politics in organization, 17(3), 557-82.

Styres, S. (2018). Literacies of Land: Decolonising Narratives, Storytelling, and Literature. In L. Tuhiwai Smith, E. Tuck, & K.W. Yang (Eds.), Indigenous and Decolonizing Studies in Education: Mapping the Long View (pp. 24-33). London: Routledge.

Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society, 1(1), 1-40.

Tuhiwai Smith, L., Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (Eds., 2018). Indigenous and Decolonizing Studies in Education: Mapping the Long View. London: Routledge.