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Decolonising your reading list

Decolonising your reading list

What do we mean by decolonising reading lists?

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 white-centric authors (Schucan Bird, K. and Pitman, L, 2020Wilson, K, 2020). 

Decolonisation is a complex concept that can lead to some challenging conversations. This guide has not been designed to be prescriptive, but it suggests some practical steps for you to start conversations with colleagues and students around your reading lists. You'll find advice on how to approach a reflective review of your reading lists, alongside an active questioning of the curriculum and canon itself. 

When creating and reviewing this guide, we adopted the working definitions of decolonisation and decolonising the curriculum defined by members of the University of Exeter community. These definitions can be read in full on the Decolonising the curriculum toolkit.

Depending on your discipline, there will be different ways to enagage in decolonisation work. In the context of reading lists, you may consider actively seeking out inclusive resources, aim to ensure a plurality of narratives in your curriculum, or you may reflect on whether the research content in your discipline is white-centric, heteronormative, or centered on masculine or ableist privileges. Reviewing your reading lists is just one part of decolonising the curriculum and should be part of wider decolonial work and dialogue. 

"Decolonising the curriculum does not simply mean including the intellectual achievements of non-white peoples and cultures in our courses. It is an internal culture shift made by examining what is considered and valued as common, normative, or universal knowledge, juxtaposed against the practice of devaluing philosophies and knowledge systems of peoples who have historically been marginalised." - University of Exeter, 2022.

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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