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Decolonising your reading list: Why decolonise your reading lists?

Decolonising your reading list

Why decolonise your reading list?

Reading lists are an important learning tool and shape how students view and interact with the knowledge, perspectives, histories and cultures in their academic discipline. Research has shown that resources included in UK university reading lists are often predominately authored by white, male and Eurocentric authors (Schucan Bird, K. and Pitman, L, 2020Wilson, K, 2020). 

The process of questioning your module reading lists is an important part of decolonising the curriculum. By actively seeking out inclusive resources, or by ensuring a plurality of narratives in your curriculum, all students are able to explore different cultural histories as part of their learning. This work is not about removing all of the white, male authors from your reading lists. It's an opportunity to question where we assign epistemic authority and ensure diverse voices are heard. 

Decolonisation remains a complex concept that can lead to some challenging conversations. This guide suggests some practical steps for you to start conversations with colleagues and students. You'll find advice on how you can diversify your reading lists, although this guidance has been designed to accompany an active questioning of the curriculum and canon itself. 

You'll find guidance and checklists to help you review your reading lists and advice for seeking out underrepresented voices. You can use the guide as a course team to help reflect on the learning resources used across your modules.

The University of Exeter Academic Development team have produced a helpful guide to decolonising the curriculum, with links to helpful resources and checklists.

University of Exeter students share why this process is important to them

To me, diverse reading lists promote a certain level of authentic allyship that goes beyond simple statements of solidarity by academic institutions due to the widespread underrepresentation of marginalised groups in academia and publishing.   Including authors from diverse backgrounds can help reduce feelings of alienation and othering in students who may already feel othered in institutional settings.

References and attribution

Content in this guide has been adapted from AEM Toolbox, University of the Arts London, under a Creative Commons Licence: CC BY-NC 4.0 Attribution. 

Schucan Bird, K. & Pitman, L. 2020. How diverse is your reading list? Exploring issues of representation and decolonisation in the UK. Higher Education, 79, 903-920.

Wilson, K. (2020) 'Decolonising LSE Collections' [PowerPoint presentation]. Available at:https://decolonisethelibrary.wordpress.com/decolonising-lse-collections-kevin-wilsonlondon-school-of-economics/ (Accessed: 15/04/2020).

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