Monday Oct 24, 2022
Monday Oct 24, 2022
Monday Oct 24, 2022
In this episode of R, D and the Inbetweens PGRs Belinda (Dan) Li and Irene Gomez talk to other PGRs about being a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant. This epsiode contains interviews with:
Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Hello, and welcome to rd in the in betweens. I'm your host Kelly Preece. And every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development, and everything in between.
Hello, and welcome to the latest episode rd and the in betweens. I'm your host, Kelly Preece. And for now on rd in the in betweens is going to be taking a slight change, of course, and the reason for this is that I have started a new job. I was in a researcher development team and my job was to support our postgraduate researchers with their training and development. But I've just moved to join our academic development team doesn't sound that different. And in reality, I suppose it isn't. But I'm working on the other side of things. Now I'm working to develop and deliver doctoral supervision training. So I'm helping our supervisors become even more excellent in the support of our postgraduate researchers. So as such, the content of R D and the in betweens might be a little bit different and might be a little bit more teaching focused, a little bit more supervision focused, but it will fundamentally still be about researchers, their development and everything in between. So for this first episode, I've actually got a guest episode from two PGRs, Belinda L, and Irene Gomez, and they ran a project in the summer, talking to our postgraduate teaching assistants about their experiences
Welcome to our PTA podcast, aiming to improve your experiences. We are a group of PTAs from a range of courses and backgrounds with various different experiences. We have been working on a project this summer to share inspirational PTA experiences and top tips. We hope this will help both incoming and current PTAs have the best experience possible.
Lu Yang is a second year PhD student in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, she teaches speaking seminars for intermediate Chinese. My first tip is don't be afraid of your students, because if you are afraid, they will find it. The second is pay more attention to those shy students and those that are not catching the lessons because they need more attention and need more help. My top tip is about to take your classmates (and) your student as your friends because we are most near the same age and we are all at the state of learning things. If we just take them as friends, it will release your stress and they will also feel relaxed to talk about your lesson and the content. My teaching style is more friendly and because my lesson is about the oral speaking. So, I think a friendly atmosphere will make them more encouraged to like practice and rather than worrying about any potential mistakes. My lesson is about the Chinese oral speaking. So to prepare my lesson and I usually split the whole lesson for like three parts. The first part is mainly designed by the textbook, questions on the textbook. And the second part usually combined events happened recently, or like holidays, Chinese holidays. I will design some key words about it. And the third part would be like open questions around the lesson they learned on the textbook. And I usually prepare for around an hour. But if I need to search some online videos about the lesson, it will take about two hours. I am a film student, so I tried to add some film cuts and some short videos in the class. And I always like to try to encourage them to talk more and don't worry about the mistakes. So, I think it will make a relaxed class.
Lisanne Moliné is an American filmmaker and a PhD researcher. She trained at SUNY Purchase in New York and she holds a Master's in international film business from the London Film School from University of Exeter. She is currently finishing her PhD in Film by Practice and her research is centered around transmedia.
Thank you so much for joining me in this interview. So Lisanne what would be the three top tips you would give to an incoming PTA
Thank you, Irene for having me.
The PTA scheme was is a great experience. And some of the key points that I found were at the forefront of my whole experience was three particular points, I think would anyone coming into the program would be fixated on thinking about it. And that would be: Diversity and preparation, accessible learning and transferable skills. So what I found, one of the helpful things to do from the very beginning is to journal your experiences. So I actually pulled out my week one, one page notes on my experience of how it went. And week two, and I'll read a little bit for you. So you get an idea of what it was like for me when I came into the program teaching and how these three topics really ended up galvanizing in and helping me through this journey. So, week one, and I put it first term of teaching diary. So this is what I said to myself, I was quite nervous to have to go at it alone. Despite going through the UK shadow scheme, I wasn't so much concerned about the students, though being able to academically engaged with them was on my mind, especially with the cultural differences. I was worried about University politics. Not to say or do the wrong thing. Having come from a conservatory with hands on practical training. I didn't want to cross the line in how Uni wanted and intended the seminar modules to be delivered. A bit of walking on eggshells for me. I made the cliché blunders of dropping all my handouts on the floor. But recovered The two classes were sweet. yet different. The first class was mostly writers very much keen on the creative takeaways. In contrast, the other class was mostly taking the seminar because it was interesting. I did have a few students tell me they enjoyed the seminar, one following me out the door. I think it was a good sign. So that was my first week. And what I found and when I was speaking about the university politics and different cultures is that we all come with our unique experiences and of what education looks like. And the students also are very diverse coming into the seminar classes and the lectures with certain expectation expectations. Trying to balance those experiences that are unique that you're bringing to the table. And at the same time, not overstepping or not delivering on the expectations others are anticipating is, is a, it's a bit of a juggle. But what I found was going to the first topic of importance was diversity in preparation really helped me to close that gap. Look at what the syllabus is and what was going to be covered. But read the material, read all of the material that the students are expected to be preparing, and it's a lot it really is, you're going to see that you're going to have empathy for the students. Because you're, you're preparing for one module, but they have several. And the other thing too, is that by understanding what the handouts are, and the materials are, that are being presented and covered, then you're going to be able to extract information to be able to communicate with those students and pivot more on a dime in the in the classroom setting. The other thing I did was I attended lectures that again, depending on how much time you have, I made it a point to attend the lecture so that not only am I informed on the material, but the students are actually seeing me there. And I found it a very nurturing experience, and I recommend it to anyone that has an opportunity to do it. I would definitely do it again for sure.
Umas Jin has recently graduated from his PhD study, which was on Virginia Woolf and neuro psychology. He has years of his teaching and research experience in the higher education sectors, both in Taiwan and the UK. He is currently working on his publication of his doctoral thesis and seeking a research post. The only tip I would give to new PTAs is enjoyment. Try to enjoy yourself. And when you're preparing for the course, to learn it like as if you were a student, to prepare it as if you are the module leader. Right. I really don't have that many tips about developing teaching style for new PTA. But one thing I had to say is that when we are teaching, we are learning. We are still students, postgraduate students, which means we are still learning. Well, everyone is a student anyway. We learn, we teach, and we teach, and we learn. So, I think rather than think that you have to know everything, think about you're learning things with your students. So yeah, so I just think we come in enjoying the courses, try to enjoy the course as they do. And relax, and enjoy teaching, and you're inspiring the next generation. And then in the future, they will thank you for anything you told him in the course, in a seminar. I will watch the recorded lecture before I prepare for the seminar. And I will check the teaching materials on ELE. And it will benefit me from understanding the course and the content. Well, I actually don't know how I develop my teaching style as a PTA. I just thought that it will be nice to think about incorporating the teaching materials within our life. One from a literature background, literature inspired by the author’s life, so a lot of literary texts and theories, they are actually closely linked to the author's life or the philosophers’ life. So, I thought it would be nice to help and encourage my students to think about how they combine their academic aspect of life with their personal life. And then so that they can feel related to the contents, and they can feel comfortable to talk about some sensitive topics that are related to the teaching materials. So, I think that is how I got my inspiration for my teaching style. As I said earlier, I will not spend that much time on preparing for a PTA job. And I will definitely expand my research to the PTA role content. And again, enjoy while you can prepare for the course.
So I'm Riadh Ghemmour. I hold a PhD in education. So basically, I'm based at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Exeter. And my research interests are critical pedagogy, decolonization, social justice, education, anti-racism, and everything related to EDI (inclusivity, diversity and inclusion). And I'm a postgraduate teaching associate as well, based at GSE. I work part time at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, which is half University, which is part of the University of London, but also, it's a Conservatoire. And my role really is about overseeing the international students experience in terms of learning development. So, I’m the international students learning skills coordinator, where I work with international students, I have one to one sessions with them, group discussions. I do facilitate also like academic and learning sessions with them in terms of preparing for visitations, academic writing, critical thinking and so on. So, it's been a fun experience so far.
Thank you very much for your sharing. I know you're one of the first PTAs at the Graduate School of Education. Would you like to share your experience about that? And do you have any suggestions for the coming PTAs?
Yeah, that's true actually. I'm one of the first cohort of GSE PTAs. And it's such a privilege to be part of a brilliant team of other PTAs, colleagues, staff, and so on. I think, at the start, nobody knew because it was our first attempt our first trial to test, experiment and make mistakes. I think, at first, nobody knew what was going on, what we were supposed to do, and stuff like that. But I think, the overall experience has been really productive and fruitful. I think what really made this experience fantastic is the collaboration, the willingness to work together, the willingness to receive constructive criticism, feedback and act upon that feedback from, you know, from our line manager, for example. And I think we found that platform where we acted upon our agency as PTAs, we used our lived experiences as students, but also PhD candidates. We use our lived experience as educators and teachers because we taught before. We made use of our research interests to shape the whole GSE provision and practice. So really, overall, I think, working closely with staff and students has been fantastic really. And I really enjoyed working with them, but also developing my skills in terms of holding spaces for students, co facilitating sessions with another PTA. So, there is a lot of like teamwork, and, you know, and so on. So, it was a really great experience.
Thank you very much for your sharing. It sounds like a meaningful experience indeed. Would you like to probably give some useful suggestions or your experience sharing when it comes to, you know, the new PTAs not knowing what to do when they first start the role?
I've got a couple of suggestions. I think the first suggestion is really to ask questions when you don't know when you feel confused. I think a lot of people obviously do not expect you to do the whole work. So do ask questions if you don't know how to do it, or who to go to to ask questions and so on. I think right from the start, do ask your line managers, previous PTAs, like any questions related to the job into the role. I think that's the first suggestion. And the second suggestion is really be part of the community. Don't work on your own. Create relationships with other PTAs, with colleagues. Expose yourself as well. Work in teams as well. Collaborate, listen to and understand other perspectives. Obviously, like, do suggest your own ideas, your own perceptions, find compromises. Really like just put yourself out there. I think that collaborative aspect is really crucial to make the work impactful and meaningful, not only for PTAs and staff, but also for students and the whole GSE community.
Today we interviewing Dr. Chris Grosvenor. Chris is a former PT and a newly appointed Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Exeter. He has recently published a book based on his PhD research, which examines the importance of cinema in the frontline during World War One.
Hi, Chris, thank you for joining us. So how was your experience as a PTA? I know you did it for a few years.
Yes, so I started on the PTA program around 2016. So quite a while ago now, but I shadowed one of my former teachers, strangely enough in film studies. And I shadowed her for a term on that PTA program. And then ended up teaching a seminar in the final week of term. Alongside that I was completing all of the LTHE requirements and workshops and exercises and coursework on that side of things. But definitely the most informative, the most fun, I guess was actually being in that classroom setting with the person I was shadowing and learning.
So for an incoming PTA what tips would you give to them?
So for anyone joining or coming into the PTA program, I think my general advice would be to get stuck in be prepared to you know, do a good bit of prep and research and reading around the course or module that you are shadowing, you may not be the one teaching it every week, you may just be watching someone else teach it to seminars you to teach it on a lecture but you know, making sure that you're as sort of intellectually engaged as your students and you can learn from them as much as possible as well as the teaching what's working well what doesn't work. When other students are engaged, when are they perhaps not as engaged. So yeah, get stuck in with the module content, of course content. I think, learn as much as you can from the tutor that you're shadowing but realize as well, that they may have a particular approach that doesn't necessarily gel with your own ideas for teaching. You know, there are all sorts of ways to go about teaching a subject and no two ways the same. And just because you watch or see your tutor set about teaching a task or communicating to their students in a certain way, doesn't necessarily mean that that's the best way for you. So prepare to you know, think outside the boxes a bit and don't take that tutors approach as gospel, you know, bring your own spin on it. Be prepared to sort of offer a different take or a different type of approach. What other tips? I think being able to, or being prepared, I should say, to teach beyond your comfort zone as it was whether that's the comfort zone of your current research or your own sort of backgrounds in whatever field of study you have, you've had experience in chances are when you first start teaching, you'll be put on a module or a course that is actually quite removed from what your own research interests might be. So be prepared for that. And don't be scared by that. I think in many ways being able to teach beyond your own sort of specialism as scary as it might sound, gives you the best sort of standing as an early career teacher, you know, being able to cover a larger remit of topics and subjects and shows that you have a kind good all round knowledge and experience as a teacher. And the other tip I'd say is just make sure that your doctoral research or you know, your day job as it were doesn't get overshadowed by your PTA role, obviously, you know, you need to be making sure you have the time to commit to any PTA placements or teaching experiences that you can. But the day job as it were, the doctoral research should be the priority. And that should that should always be the case, if you find that you're spending more time with the PTA material or that more is being asked of you, you know, you are perfectly within your rights to say,No, I'm not sure I can take on that third module or third seminar group, right, this second. I'm comfortable with one, I'm comfortable with two. And don't let that sort of dictate effectively what should always be your main focus even if the teaching element does sound exciting, and something you do want to get engaged with which obviously, obviously, you can just don't let it roll, roll everything I guess.
Thank you so much for all your tips and sharing your experience with us. We really appreciate it.
Thank you for listening to our podcast. We really hope you enjoyed it. We hope you also enjoy the rest of our episodes, and good luck with your PTA work.
And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe. And join me next time where I'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between.
Wednesday Sep 21, 2022
Wednesday Sep 21, 2022
Wednesday Sep 21, 2022
This series of podcast episodes will focus on Decolonising Research, and feature talks from the Decolonising Research Festival held at the University of Exeter in June and July 2022.
The sixteenth epsiode of the series features University of Exeter PGR Olabisi Obamakin interviewing academic and Exeter graduate Dr. Victoria Omotoso.
Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Hello, and welcome to rd in the in betweens. I'm your host Kelly Preece. And every fortnight I talk to a different guest, about researchers development, and everything in between.
Hello, and thank you for tuning in to this online resource. Today we are joined by our very own Dr. Victoria Omotoso, who just graduated with a PhD in theology from the University of Exeter. So
thanks for having me, I would say yeah, it's been a long road. COVID has been hard for everyone. But um, yeah, finally got back graduation. I've been doing about
a hard journey. Or you look beautiful the day one away? Yeah, tell us a little bit about yourself. And what your research questions that your research interests are?
Yeah. So hi, everyone. Yeah, I'm Victoria. I was a PhD student in candidate at the University of Exeter. Prior to that I had done my degree in my undergrad in music and theology at Leeds, and then went on to do a master's in Biblical Studies at the king's King's College London. And it was there were really all the kind of first seedlings were sown, I guess, into me looking at theology, and media and Jesus films and relationships into that. And that then led me to be able to do kind of drop of appraisal, and yes, come to Exeter to do my research. So I was just born in London, Nigerian ancestry. But I grew up in South Africa. So a lot of my kind of cross cultural upbringing has really informed my research and the pathway and the trajectory that ended up taking. So my research was looking at audience reception. And that means like how audiences respond to a, you know, a film or a piece of art or any of those things. So, I was looking at cross cultural audience reception from audiences in the UK and in South Africa, because of my own kind of personal connections to those two geographical locations, and looking at how they respond to Jesus in film, and specifically, a black Jesus and a more westernized Jesus. And using those as parallels to compare and contrast how people responded to Jesus and film. And a lot of it actually, what came out of that was understanding really how our own worldviews our own contexts, and cultural locations really influence how we perceive Jesus and films and how we kind of construct our own perceptions in light of our own biases and assumptions of, of what we may or may not have known. So a lot of my research involves there a lot of my research involves, currently, my research interests involve a lot of kind of like decriminalisation work, postcolonial work looking at how, because a lot of my work was focused in the Global South, looking at how colonialism, even in film has made a massive impact in kind of a cultural subconsciousness of how people perceive a white Jesus. So yeah, that's kind of where my interests lie.
So your PhD thesis was entitled image in Jesus, ethnic identities and cultural dynamics in the luminaire project, the gospel of Mark and the Son of Man. So tell us a little bit more about that, like how you did your research and and what your findings were.
Yeah. So, a lot of it was like I said, based on audience reception and cultural ethnography studies. So, how it was set up was I had some main questions, you know, like how, to what extent you know, how do people respond to views and film, to what extent are a kind of use for themes so like, fidelity to the text for example, which aims to determine How closely related These films were to the biblical texts that they were aiming to kind of emulate. And music and gender and all those things. And ethnicity, of course, were kind of the four major themes I used as lens. So with that came setting up focus groups in, in the UK, and in South Africa. And again, just showing them parallel versions of these two Jesus's that I had. And yeah, their findings were really interesting. In the UK, a lot of the audiences were middle about, like middle class, British white people, and in South Africa, it was very much a mix, you had white South Africans, black South Africans, but the majority of the pupils in Africa were mainly black South Africans, that were responding to these focus groups. So I had them set up and ask them to kind of, yeah, just tell us what tell me what they thought. And it was interesting, because the, the white South Africa, the white, British, excuse me, the white British audience, very much preferred the black Jesus, which is from the film Son of Man. And they were very much like, you know, this is great, couldn't stand or Western version, they thought it was boring, they thought it was clinical. Whereas complete opposite in South Africa, particularly with the black audiences who were very vocal, that they could not have a black Jesus. On screen, they were just like, this is absolutely not what you should be. This is completely, you know, not what the Gospels are, they much prefer the Western Jesus. So, you know, begs the question as to, you know, when we actually start to strip back people's historical locations is, you know, in a nation like South Africa, which has a lot of tension with race and ethnicity, historically, when you place a savior into the paradigms of a black body, what are the implications of that? And what does that have subconsciously? And also, on the flip side, when we come to the global north, you know, you know, the, our suspicions of exoticism and suspicion as a Western liberalism, that makes something Oh, because it's different. It's much more preferred. So, you know, these tensions are so nuanced and on both sides of the spectrum, but it was a very kind of interesting study to undertake. Yeah.
This just sounds absolutely fascinating. But what what role do you think that colonialism may have played in the perception of the South African audience, I haven't had that yet.
It's interesting, because obviously, I'm dealing, I'm using film as a lens and as a tool to be able to kind of decipher what's going on in terms of post colonial implications of this. And it's, you know, it's amazing to see how that dominant image of the white Jesus has been so much globalized and commercialized. And we think way back, you know, with Christianity and, and the raw Christianity played in say, this is the image of Christianity, which is a white Jesus, and bringing out over over to the continent, of Africa, of course, and in these communities that were taught Christianity, they were also taught all the iconography, they were also taught, you know, not just doctrines, but iconography is a ways of living. And it was a whole another culture shipped, when Christianity came, and part of that culture shift was the images and what were these images, images, you know, overweight Jesus, and that has been so much ingrained into our subconscious, that even film, you know, the films that were played had always been overweight, Jesus, you know, of this generation of people growing up, it's only in kind of recent years now, I think filmmakers have started to cover a consciousness and, and audiences themselves as the importance of audiences is that audiences themselves have that agency to be able to, you know, kind of propagate that, what they want this authenticity. So only in more recent years, overseeing kind of filmmaking develop is something that will be a bit more authentic. But, you know, it's a long way to still go for people to still kind of shed that colonial image and the effects of that, particularly in a nation Do you like South Africa?
Yeah. So with regard to D colonialism, and theology and film, and just in general, what would you like to see in the next 10 to 20? years?
Yeah, I'd like to see a complete culture shift. And and I'm I mean, culture shift, I mean, that kind of opening and recognizing of what we have what we mean, when we're talking about, you know, decolonizing theology in itself, you know, me as a good, clean of decolonization and film, and there's so many industries and disciplines and departments that kind of need to recognize, and I think, of course, they said, you know, the first step is actually recognizing that these systems are in place, and that, you know, you need to be able to, because you're, again, you're working with people it's going to be, you're always going to know that there is always going to be opposition and challenges and delays into wanting this change. But I think if collectively, people start to actually realize, well, you know, there are other epistemologies, for example, there are other ways of knowing there are other, you know, kind of attractions through which we can extract meaning and gain knowledge. And I think I'd like, I'd love to see that in in, you know, in our field in the next, you know, 10, to 10 to 20 years, just seeing that kind of appreciation for voices of the voices, other points of view. And it's not just a case of, including, you know, it's not just a case of including non white scholars into the curriculum, or including, you know, non white sources, but actually having a broad dialogue, you know, with with, with various voices and various kinds of points of knowledge through which we can all I think, learn something and gain something, rather than just making it transformative, I think. I'd love to see that in theology of theology to be more transformative, more on the frontlines of what we're doing. And part of that is understanding that there's a decolonizing process that has to go through, for us to be able to actually just interact with the greater representations of society, we need to be able to represent what society looks like, and society does not look wait fully white, and society is not fully male. And society is not in a straight white male Christians. That's not what society represents. And I think theology has a very much I see as a very much a prophetic goal, actually, to be able to break through those barriers and actually engage with the more wider representations of the other voices that we have in society. Wow,
that's amazing. Just finally, that the last question. So with regard to decolonization, what would you also like to see in the kind of Academy at large in other departments in higher education with regards to decolonization? Yeah,
I mean, it's hard to kind of imagine what that would look like, in reality, but I think similarly, similarly to what I said, in terms of, in society, what I would like to see as well is again, like, you know, having opportunity for, you know, kind of ethnic minority students, and giving them I think, when they, you know, when you see an ethnic minority, you know, and, and women that's in academia, and in a high position, as they are definitely influences kind of the younger generation, that something is possible. And I think, even that, in itself is a deep learning process, just looking at the faces that are there, that it already is also part of decolonizing you know, departments and systems and just see who is in the room, who are the people that are, you know, sat at the table, so to speak. And I think, encouraging that even from like, right, from under, you know, from from from high school and college, like, encouraging, you know, other ethnic minorities, you know, white working class, like encouraging these young people to be able to actually aim and I want to aim for higher aim for change and whatever discipline they decide to go for, I think, would be, again, another great shift in our departments. So when we look at a staff, when we look at who are the staff in our department is not again, all just one template, but rather kind of a representation like it says, of society and with all that beautiful representation and diversity, you know, come so many different ways. Um, understanding and all of that can only gain traction for the better.
Thank you, Victoria. I mean, yeah, like your your career has really been inspired, inspired me and seeing you in the academy has, you know, inspired me so much. So thank you so much. So how can we keep in touch with you like, what are your social media handles? Yeah. And what are you up to you? What can we expect from you in the next couple of
years? Yeah, well, yeah, you can catch me. I'm mostly on Twitter, as, as in victory. So you know, as in victory, that's where you can catch me. Kind of on social I tweet a lot about, yeah, just things going on in the world, and academia and stuff like that. Yeah, I mean, some pretty exciting things coming up. Most particularly is that my PhD has been accepted by Bloomsbury publishing house. Thank you. Thank you. So yeah, a lot of my next couple months at least, will be kind of dealing with that and working with that. Coming, you know, to exercise or to do a few talks here and there. So yeah, so normally, I treat everything I'm doing so yeah, you can kind of keep up keep up with victory. I don't know. Well, I was gonna think of a catchy name. You know, like Keeping Up With The Kardashians kind of thing. But I don't have one. So you can just follow me and find out what I'm up to.
Amazing. So yeah, thank you so much for joining me. Thank
you so much,
lady. So yeah, we're very excited to see what you do in the next couple of years. And we're excited for your book when it comes out.
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It's been so great. Always love. Coming back to Exeter for my first love. Family. See you. Thank you. Thanks.
And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe. And join me next time where I'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between.
Wednesday Sep 21, 2022
Wednesday Sep 21, 2022
Wednesday Sep 21, 2022
This series of podcast episodes will focus on Decolonising Research, and feature talks from the Decolonising Research Festival held at the University of Exeter in June and July 2022.
The fifteenth episode of this series features University of Exeter PGR Olabisi Obamakin interviewing Exeter academic Professor Louise Lawrence.
Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Hello, and welcome to rd in the in betweens. I'm your host, Kelly Preece. And every fortnight I talk to a different guest, about researchers development, and everything in between. Hello,
and thank you for joining us on this online resource. My name is Bisi Obamakin, and I'm a theology PhD student at the University of Exeter. Today, we are joined by an amazing New Testament scholar, and author of many books, including her newest book, creating compassionate campuses, Professor Louise
Lawrence. Thank you for joining us, I really, really appreciate it like a really, really big
thanks for inviting me.
So yeah, a little bit about yourself what you do and what your research passions are.
Yeah, so my name is Louise Lawrence, as you as you said, I'm Professor of de testament interpretation here in Exeter. My research interests I work in New Testament studies. So particularly sort of cross cultural anthropology, with biblical texts, but latterly, for the last sort of decade, I've been really interested in the ways in which religion and sacred texts sort of sensor bodies and minds and particularly around disability studies, so yeah, so that's, that's my interests,
for the people that are watching that maybe they've just gotten a PhD or whatever they're doing, right at the beginning of their career, they're not socialized into any institution, what would you say to them? What would you employ to them? With regards to pedagogy and decolonization? And that kind of thing?
I think, I mean, well, you're a brilliant example of this. And you should probably say a bit about how you're, I'm picking, I'm picking New Testament studies. But, you know, I'll let you talk about you've got more important things to say on this, I think that you must be true to yourself, you know, and in a sense, if it matters to you, it matters. And if you identify in justice, even if other people haven't seemed to be able to have recognized or have sort of been made conscious of that, then call it out. And I think, I think as an early career, academic, you can, there's a very well known thing called imposter syndrome, I shouldn't be here. I don't look like I should be here. I don't sound like I should be here. I'm not clever enough. But everyone goes through those things. Everyone feels those things, it, it's a very natural part of it. And that says probably more about the in hospitality of academia, or the perceived sort of sense of academia than it does about you. And you just have to have the confidence to have that voice. I you say about your, your ways in which you're sort of challenging the Eurocentrism of Biblical Studies. Yeah, and finding a voice that's been lost or not even recognized. It's that that that no curriculum that you've kind of picked up?
Yeah, I guess it's just kind of coming into the field and not seeing myself and not really knowing where I fit. And thinking, obviously, recognizing that I was born in the UK, and I do have a Western education. But not really fully feeling like I fit into that box. And then, you know, thinking, oh, yeah, I'm African. That's what I am. And they're not fully fit in that box, either. So yeah, I think bringing a kind of Nigerian British kind of hybrid viewpoint, it's been interesting because it has highlighted things that I don't think anyone has really thought about. Things that I've experienced, and I've walked in my life that are just so normal to me that I guess it's kind of almost a bit, that it was a bit kind of weird to think that it's new, like, why is it new to you? You don't know that? Yeah. Yeah, it's quite unique experience. And I think it's been quite quite privileged, bringing that to theology and introducing new ways of knowing and new new lenses of knowledge. Yeah.
Similar. Yeah, I mean, absolutely. So you're sort of Afro pm perspective as, as brought out so much of the text. And, and so, so much that that of assumptions that have just been accepted as liberal within interpretation, and actually, you know, should they be, I understand what a kind of transformative moment working with the British deaf community because they innocence very much. Made me unlearn things. So I mean, being an academic, you're very bookish i And I'm, I'm working on New Testament interpretation, I, you know, everything's about tanks. And suddenly to be in a context where I should say, You deaf community with a capital D is a cultural group that yeah, that see themselves very much as politicized, you know, death is not deficit death, yes, death is like an ethnic kind of identity marker with traditions, you know, and, and most crucially with their own language that is not to be written or heard. And so, the ways in which they actually modified my understanding of what Bible was, was really interesting. And, you know, in a sense, a gestural performative Bible, actually, for history has probably more of a resonance with with a context, when there was large, low literacy in the ancient world, you know, and so, those kinds of assumptions, but also the way in which they picked up on parts of the text, which I would never have kind of, or interpreters that were very audio centric, would never have picked up on. So one example is there's a story in the New Testament of Jesus healing a deaf man without speech, and the end of the story, it says, And the man spoke plainly, and in the first sort of reactions to this text, one of the group pointed out that that this person could couldn't have been born deaf. And that Jesus wasn't sort of seeing deafness as a bad thing, but needed to be healed or normalized. It was just that this person had been able to hear and then lost his hearing. And I was like, Well, why did you come to that conclusion? He said, Because he speaks plainly. So he's, he's learned spoken language. So you almost like modified that idea that that spoken language is better than being deaf and completely sort of changed it and actually healing narratives for for disability who are themselves, you know, like a colonized group, by the hearing world colonized their language, you know, you must learn this way. There are allied experiences, I think, with the deaf community and, and colonization, and they very much sort of resistant and refigured those those elements, and I think, yeah, and really opened up a whole new sort of avenue for for of understanding of the stories and traditions,
that is really powerful. I hadn't even thought about that before, like, wow,
well, most, I don't think I found from looking at common cheese from the 1800s. Right through no one really picks up that at all, most commentators just said, this is a straight healing story, obviously, you know, it's fulfilling prophecy and prophecy is very able that the deaf will hear the blind will see. And, and they completely kind of, yeah, went against that and, and just shows how norms just become complete status quo and accepted. Yeah, how different viewpoints can completely make you unlearn those? Yeah. Wow, I
think let me through amazing insights and this discussion. Just before we close, like, what exactly are you doing at the moment? What are you working on?
Yeah. Oh, that's really nice question. I've been doing a lot of marking of exams at the moment. I'm actually working with colleagues in psychology on a big project on student mental health, or this whole institution approaches to student wellbeing. And actually, you know, it may seem rather unconnected to what we're talking about, but I actually, you know, what, the medical model of mental illness I think, you know, has a place there are, of course, students that need that, that that help but actually, the social and cultural model of, of, of mental health and well being, I think, includes a lot about feeling culturally included, about feeling a sense of belonging, about feeling, a sense of being represented. And many of the sort of stories that we've we've we've been shared by students in this institution, and we're working with six other Russell Group institutions, but very much kind of, they are aware of how they curricular you know, their well being isn't something you can just individualize. Actually, it's about the whole student experience. And that includes what they're studying how they're studying how the how they're kind of learning community See makes them feel and I think, kind of cognitive, epistemological justice and feeling that, you know, like you're saying that there is representation that your voice is heard, all of these kinds of elements are things that can really enhance a sense of belonging and, and a sense of, of wellbeing for students. So yeah, so that's, that's kind of the the big project on on my specific New Testament, I'm going to start looking at, and it's only sort of the very beginnings, but I'd like to do a project on age and ageism. In in New Testament texts and interpretation, that too, I think it's very cross culturally constructed. Just to give you an anecdote, but before I finish, talking about global north south norms, what's really interesting is that I've got a postdoc that's working out in Namibia on a project on religion and inclusion in Namibia. And we had to go through all the ethics approval to work with Human Subjects through Exeter. And actually, you know, 18 is kind of the constructed age of adulthood in our context, but in other contexts, that that's a very meaningless kind of number. And it just shows how even up construction of the person or the thinking person or the person that is able to give consent is a construction. And actually, you know, if we're going to be an institution that thinks carefully about how it works with partners in different contexts, it needs to take seriously the ways in which different contexts construct, construct research, and it's sort of, yeah, voices in different sorts of ways. Similarly, anonymity was a really big thing in, in our ethics process in Exeter, as our participants in Namibia and our informants were really, really keen that their name was put, you know, if I'm saying something, I want my name to be in it. And, and we had to fight quite hard that those names were appended to the voices that we were given. A name in is, has also been used in colonial practices, you know, changing names or forced change of names. And so, so names, personhood and identity, you know, again, really important is to be very sensitive to the ways in which people, you know, are attached to names and more names represented. So yeah, so in our publications, we have our informants names, which is very different, I guess, to too many publications that go through ethics approval here.
I love it, guys. Watch this face what Lawrence's new book of passionate is. Thank you so much for joining like you. You're amazing. You guys watching are inspired. I mean, I've learned so much already. And it's like it's half an hour talk. Yeah, we'll leave it at that. So see you. Thank you
so much. And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe. And join me next time where I'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between.
Wednesday Sep 21, 2022
Wednesday Sep 21, 2022
Wednesday Sep 21, 2022
This series of podcast episodes will focus on Decolonising Research, and feature talks from the Decolonising Research Festival held at the University of Exeter in June and July 2022.
The fourteenth episode of the series features University of Exeter PGR Olabisi Obamakin interviewing researcher Jemima Kola-Abodunde.
Hello, and welcome to rd in the in betweens. I'm your host Kelly Preece. And every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development and everything in between.
Hello, and thank you for tuning in to this online resource. My name is Bisi Obamakin and I'm a second year PhD student at the University of Exeter. Today we are joined in discussion by my really good friend Jemima Kola-Abondunde she has nearly 10 years of experience in the NHS. She's a physiotherapist by background and has worked across various settings as a clinician. She's me, MSc in public health, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. And she's also worked in South Africa. Currently, she works in digital transformation and primary care, exploring how patient outcomes can be improved using digital tools. So thank you so much for joining Jemima. I really appreciate it.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
So yeah, tell us a little bit more about your work. Yeah. what your interests are.
Yeah, I think you've kind of summarize really well. I think ultimately, my interests are wide and all within health care. And I guess the main focus is about optimizing health care delivery on a global scale for patients and ensuring that those that are most vulnerable are not left behind.
So that sounds amazing. Yeah, thank you for joining this decolonial festival. So yeah, what does decolonization mean to you?
Yeah, so this is a really big question. I think when I was looking up what it meant in terms of its definition. You know, the internet said, it's a process by a kind of which colonies become independent of the colonizing country. But for me, personally, I think it's really just going back to one's original roots, and identity. So whilst you know the colonizer might be absent, physically, in some places, to me, decolonization refers to the kind of the mental, social, and cultural independence and sort of disentanglement from invaders and reestablishment to one's original identity. Thank you so much. So,
so you're working in the field of public health in the NHS. And so why is decolonization important specifically in your field?
So, I think, when we talk about decolonization in the NHS and in the public health, I think, for me, kind of a refers to a lot, it has a lot to do with health inequalities. And it refers to, you know, inclusion refers to diversity of voices, ensuring that everybody has the same level of care. And that's not happening at the moment, you know, if we think about kind of the workforce in itself, the kind of the beam brackets, I appreciate, not everybody likes that terminology, but about 22% of the NHS staff are within, you know, would kind of classify themselves as beam and that's quite significant. So, you know, their voices need to be heard, as well as they need to be treated fairly. But we've seen kind of in the past that that hasn't always been the case. If we take the case study of COVID. That, in itself, showed us glaringly the health inequalities amongst minority ethnic groups with higher rates of death amongst, you know, black Africans, Bangladeshis because of a lack of understanding, lack of trust from patients public side. So yeah, there was a lot of thing happening, lots of things happening there from a kind of a public health and NHS perspective that ties back to kind of colonial roots, you'd say.
Yeah, and you know, just thinking about that topic. It kind of made me think about the COVID vaccine, for example, and how I know within the black community, there was a lot of skepticism with regard to the vaccine. And it made me think about, just historically how research has been conducted in Africa. And that has kind of almost experimented on, on black bodies. So how far do you feel like that has influenced people's kind of skepticism around the vaccine and that kind of thing?
Yeah, I think that has a huge part to play in all of this. I think fundamentally, I mean, I'm sure lots of people have lots of different reasons. So I can't speak for everybody. But I think distrust was a huge part of the reason why there was poor uptake amongst black and minority ethnic groups. Off the back scenes, talk about, you know, kind of case studies like the Tuskegee syphilis study, and, and Yetta lacs, and some other sort of public health studies that were done on black bodies. It's no surprise that people are quite apprehensive about taking you taking vaccines and so on. So I think that definitely has a part to play and why there was a lot of apprehension about certain groups of people.
Yeah, it just made me think about Yeah, historically, how research research has been conducted in, in Africa and how, yeah, there have been recent really unethical, really unethical experiment. Yeah, experiments and research that has been conducted. That is not okay.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And yeah, it's really, really unfortunate, because, you know, public health, you know, you could say fundamentally has colonial roots. And so that, that kind of fosters and encourages the white savior syndrome, people parachuting into certain countries, you know, this, the power dynamics, also has a part to play in, in all this. So a combination of all these different factors without sort of CO production can kind of augment. Just poor practices, really, there's kind of public and global health. And so I think, you know, there are some examples of good practice, here and there. But I think, yeah, I think that's still a fundamental problem in public health, and even, you know, within the NHS, as well. I'm happy to talk about some of the examples of good practice, if you want me to, yeah, that'd be great.
I'm talking to people listening who might be thinking about doing research in public health, and maybe thinking about doing that in other countries.
Examples? Yeah, sure. No problem at all. I feel like, you know, you mentioned initially about the work that I did in South Africa. And that was part of a global health fellowship that I did with health, education, England. And that was a partnership. You know, not without its flaws, by all means, but I think it's a better model of working with different countries, you know, they know their context, and what we do know about kind of certain interventions, whether it's locally, nationally or internationally, that context is paramount. And, you know, hearing people's voices on ground is really, really important. So that's a global health fellowship. So you can just Google that, if anybody's interested or kind of you can. I'm happy to chat with anybody about that. At Kings also do a global health partnership as well in Sierra Leone and Congo, sort of a similar model, excuse me. Which Yeah, has kind of reaped good benefit I, I believe, as well on ground in those countries. So yeah, there's that and I think, you know, more sort of nationally bringing it home. There's recent health observatory within the UK that's looking at kind of health inequalities and trying to address them. You know, it was kind of mainly following COVID and everything that happened there. So yeah, there are some conversations. I think, most importantly, it's about moving away from conversations and policies and publications and making some of these thoughts and ideas more actionable.
So you met you mentioned your wife. Yeah. Tell us a little bit about that and work that you were that you were doing whilst you were out there.
Yeah, so I guess that work there, as I said, was with health education, England, I was a fellow there. I was in the Western Cape base at a hospital and I was looking at the stroke stroke my management's within the hospital and how that can be improved. And so everything I did was very much in partnership with the host, a hospital, with the CEO of the hospital with allied health professionals and clinicians and patients. And so it was really trying to facilitate communication between the healthcare staff, looking at things like a designated stroke board looking at documentation, and how they do certain things. So really, I was at their, you know, I guess service really, and try to address some of that. What was going on with stroke, stroke management, and, you know, following, I guess, the fellowship, it was good in the sense that communication did improve. There's just simple things like having kind of regular meetings between them, and streamlining some of the admin tasks. And, you know, listening to patient voices as well about what they feel is important to them. Yes, so that was kind of really just a quick summary of what what that fellowship was about.
Yeah, it sounds it sounds amazing. So yeah, so with regards to people that may be listening to this podcast, who may be considering doing research in other countries, in other, maybe other African countries? What What would you say to them? Like, how, what would you say would be good practice, especially thinking about decolonial methodologies and practices? How did they come? How do they, you know, not fall into that white savior? Complex kind of narrative? I think
what I would ask, I'd ask a couple of questions first, actually. And that would be what do you stand for? What motivates you? What's your version of a better world? And I think once you have some understanding of this, then it should help with your decision making. I'd say also to kind of stay curious of question the status quo. This might not always produce the most favorable outcomes, you know, the short and medium term for your career. But if it aligns with your values, it's easier to do. And I'd say when it comes to incorporating decolonial practices, I'd say, act, listen, and ask Excuse me, listen, and act accordingly. So ask questions. Especially if the power dynamics are skewed in your favor. Ask questions, listen intently to what's being said, and act accordingly.
Wow, that's really, really powerful. Because I think, yeah, historically, people have gone to different countries with kind of, you know, good intentions, and it worked. But you can end up kind of bringing your own Western ideas and ideologies and imposing it on to a people that might that may not want it. So I love it. It's a bit they should listen. And I think it's really important that people do who do research. Ultimately, first, listen, they listen to their research group, listen to their what they actually want. I think that's really, really important.
Absolutely, I completely agree.
Thank you so much for your time to MOMA. I really appreciate it. So yeah, what what's next with you? What is that anything that you're getting up to? And how can we keep kept me keep up to date with that? What are your socials?
He has? So I guess I'm probably most social on Twitter, so to Jemima K, on Twitter, and on LinkedIn, so just my full names you might not collaborate and do on LinkedIn. And when it comes to what's next, I think it really is just what I'm doing now. I'm looking at sort of kind of innovation, technology improvement, digital inclusion, all those things, but all kinds of within healthcare and how we can improve and optimize it for everybody, including those that are most vulnerable.
So that sounds amazing. But yeah, thank you so much for joining. I really appreciate it. And thank you, thank you for listening. I hope you feel inspired to find ways in which you can really use decolonial practices within your your research. Yeah. Thank you, Jeremiah. Great. Thank you. Thanks
for having me.
And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe. And join me next time where I'll be talking to somebody else about research. Just development and everything in between
Wednesday Sep 21, 2022
Wednesday Sep 21, 2022
Wednesday Sep 21, 2022
The thirteenth episode of the series features University of Exeter PGR Olabisi Obamakin interviewing Dr. Anu Ranawana, Research Specialist at Christian Aid.
Hello, and welcome to rd in the in betweens. I'm your host Kelly Preece. And every fortnight I talk to a different guest, about researchers development, and everything in between.
Hello, and thank you for joining this online resource. My name is Bisi Obamakin. I'm a theology PhD student at University of Exeter. Today, we are joined by Dr. Anu Ranawana, sorry, who is a theologian and political economist. And he's gonna be joining us to discuss the theory of the theory behind decolonization. So thank you for joining this discussion. I really appreciate your time. Yeah, a little bit about yourself, what you do and what your research specialisms are.
Thanks Bisi, I'm so excited to be here. I absolutely love anything to me, like so. So I'm really honored and excited and all of those sorts of things. So a little bit about me, um, you said, I'm a theologian and political economist, I also always like to say, I'm a postulant theologian, because I'm really kind of still still on my journey. As a theologian, a lot of my work and my background has been in international development as a researcher in international development, but also working in the terms of looking at aspects of global justice. So in a sense, I come I come to theology from sort of from the ground of global justice. So I'm very, very sort of rooted in all of that. So because of that, I wear about six different hats at the moment. I'm a research advisor for Christian Aid. I'm doing a project at the University of St. Andrews, where I'm looking at the importance of storytelling to anticolonial, feminist theology, in Asian culture. And I also teach a little bit at the Queens foundation on aspects of justice, and mission. So I juggle a few different things. And so that's yeah, that's me. Amazing.
I also wanted to ask you, like, how did you get how'd you get involved with like, decolonial work? And that kind of thing? Like, how did you get involved in it?
In? Well, I mean, in the sense that I think, I've always been something that I've, I've thought about being someone from Sri Lanka, which was a former, and not only a British colony, but a Dutch colony, and a Portuguese colony. So you always think about who you are as a colonized subject. Because there's the kind of internalization of of, of the colony doesn't really go away, even, even even after independence. So in that sense, I think that's always a part of, of your conversations. And I think, in trying to understand what one's intellectual as well as sort of personal identity, I started reading, as we all do, I started reading people who had been writing on this issue, so people like Sylvia winter, or me, Suzanne, or fennel, who opened up these questions that, you know, you've always been trying to find out about yourself to find out about your country to find out about the global scape. And so, you know, in that sense, one of the things that, that these sort of writers do these thinkers do is that they push you to say, to push you beyond your kind of boundaries of, you know, what do you know, what, what don't you know, like, Are you sure of the ground you stand on? And that's kind of incredible. But I think what's really sort of affirmed me and forced me to be passionate about this kind of work has also been being involved in social movements. Because really, that is where that is where the theory of the world, especially in social movements, the creativity of, of social movements, people who, you know, for longer than you I have been alive, have been asking for a different world. And it still hasn't happened, you know, communities, fish or communities from communities that are at, you know, dealing with the, with everyday problems and crises. And they're so I hate the word resilient for the resilient and they're strong, and they create solidarity in those moments. And so, you think, because of, because of this, we, we need to be working for a different way in which our communities are our existing, you know, and not just existing but thriving. So it's combination of two things.
So On that note, we're going about, like social movements and stuff. So the topic of this discussion is about the theory of decolonization, and about some of the misconceptions around that. So only people just tell us a little bit about the actual theory behind it, and some of some of the misconceptions that are, that are surrounding that.
And yeah, thanks, missy. So, so decolonization has sort of two aspects of it, right? There is decolonization that unfolded into phases, politically. So from 1945 through till about the late 60s and 70s, we see, you know, the colonized peoples of of Asia and the Middle East, in Sub Saharan Africa, were claiming their sovereignty. So there is that physical aspect of, of decolonization that occurred in terms of the demands of independence from various colonies, right, against essentially European colonizers. But then the other aspect of decolonization is that it is an unfinished project. Right, which is what, which is the phrase I take from Professor in blue, we get Cheney, who's a South African, academic, he says it's an unfinished project. Because what decolonization is, is as, as an intellectual and emotional and political project is trying to do is not on the kind of protesting coloniality. But it's also saying we need to delink ourselves from the political and knowledge systems that are entrenched within us. Because these knowledges, these politics, were not created. For the flow reverse of people, it was essentially an entrenchment of the European project, it was ascribing humanity as a particular kind of human rights. So that persons of color, especially black persons, were seen as disposable, as things so that land and ocean and air was seen as property, as disposable, as something that you conquer. So these great theories of salvation that the European project gave us, was only for a particular kind of society and a particular kind of version of the human. Yeah, so the first thing we have to do is to delink ourselves from that, to reject it in a way to disobey these, this idea of, of the human. And then the next part of the project is the reclamation of what was lost of what was silenced and what was marginalized, you know, of, of re engaging with indigenous cosmologies, which have always existed, which have have continued to thrive and to live, but have been ignored. You know, it's about building you know, what Sylvia winter calls and ecology of knowledge. You know, which is such a beautiful and brilliant way of phrasing it. I think she's one of my favorite writers and, and thinkers at the moment, in terms of, of how she's hopeful in the project. And I think one of the misconceptions, I think, is that decani ality or decolonization is just about being more diverse. It's not actually it's about transformation. It's about this kind of complete change that we need to go through politically, morally and intellectually, in that sense, and can we do it? I think is the bigger question, right? Can we can we reject what we know? Can we refuse what we know? And in doing that, we might then make things like the university, for example, the university is, I mean, pretty much anyone who works on on decolonization will will say the university is a colonial project. So do we have to reject the idea of the university? And that's a hard thing for those of us who are in the academy to do.
So what do you think are some of the practical things that need to happen within the academy in order to move forward from the place that we're in?
I think it's difficult, isn't it? I think that the first thing that we can do in the university is to look at the ways in which we structure and shall I say, center knowledge, right? So um, If you look at this is going to sound really, really crude. I talk about it all the time, but look at funding for research. At the moment, we know that if you want funding for research that comes from research councils, wherever they are based, all that money is concentrated in the global north at the moment. And it's nigh impossible for a researcher based in the global south to become a principal investigator, and to lead their own research project, they are dependent on their colleagues in the north, which means that the power of who designs the project who wants to ask the question, and whose knowledge is paramount, is always going to be in the Global North, even if it's a if it's a southern researcher who's based in the Global North, you you, you don't have you don't know whether that person is in trauma, particularly a lead community, you know, what about, and we also don't disperse, we don't diffuse funding enough, so that those who are non academic can actually lead you know, thought leadership. We don't do that enough. If it was up to me, I would simply give a pot of money to a social movement and say, You guys design the project. You know, that will be I mean, I think one of the that's one of the first and fundamental things that we need to do. Other things that I think we need to do practically in the academy is to walk away from what I call the fetish of English. Wow, you know, so much of academic publishing, what we read all the time is in English, or in you know, European languages. And the thing is, language is, you know, this is why Derrida talks about, you know, there's no outside text, because language structures and places strictures and how we think about things and how we do things, you can take a particular concept, you can take the concept of Ubuntu, you can take the concept of, you know, sorry, I can think of when we say you do a wandering you try you translate your dough into English, you can do that. But what are you losing the translation? Are you actually centering that knowledge? Are you translating it or codifying it into English? So these are things that we need to be thinking about how can we ensure a Pluribus in which we're publishing in different languages, we're engaging in different languages where a loving, you know how many scholars or, or researchers and social movements are not able to really come in and be seen in the spotlight at a university because they're not able to present an English or French or German or, you know, what it is? And I think in so this is such a huge thing. I think one of the big conversations I think, going on in publishing right now, is the fact that a lot of researchers from the global south aren't able to publish because they don't really pass peer review in terms of language or something like that. I actually was asked to review a journal article, and one of the things had to take off on the forum was the quality of English. And I literally wrote, they're saying, someone's quality of English should not be equal to their intellectual capacity. And I think that's something that we can also do, as researchers, as reviewers as members of the epistemic community. Right. So those are just a couple of things off the top of my head. But I know you're an academic as well. So what do you think are sort of the practical challenges the difficulties of working in the, in the university as we know it?
I think, for me, the biggest, biggest challenge is just the fact that we as a society are kind of socialized into thinking that Western epistemology is the center of the universe. Because I was teaching some Sixth Form students just a couple of days ago, and I was just introducing the concept of African African epistemology and different ways of knowing and bless the hearts it was kind of that sense of like, like, why why is it valid? You know? Yeah. And it was it was genuine it I mean, that they're not being pretentious or that No, no, like, What do you mean, and I think it's the way that we are taught from from when we were young, that this is knowledge, this is how to be intelligent, and it's not contextualized. I think for me, if if I were to change anything I would, especially with young people, I will just make sure that everything we teach them is contextualized. And there's a sense that, you know, Western ways of knowing and western knowledge doesn't need to be contextualized because it's kind of it's the norm. It's not sorry, yeah. And I'll try to explain to the young people but it's not like I'm saying just throw out Western epistemology and Western ways of knowing because as a black, Nigerian, a woman of heritage, a lot of my work at the moment is actually kind of us using kind of Western epistemology. So for example, Um, African epistemology is very much oral, and things are passed down orally, which is amazing. And, yeah, incredible. But actually, so my father, for example, he has so much knowledge and history. And so I'm trying to actually write some of that down. So, you know, it's not that we can't learn from Western epistemology or one thing, check it out. But I think it's about us having everyone have an equal seat at the table, and everyone being able to contribute and learning from each other. There's so much we can learn from African Ways of Knowing Asian ways of knowing. And I think it's just a bit sad at the moment that I feel like our students are almost robbed of that opportunity to have a wider perspective, I think it's important because they're gonna be going into the workplace going to be the future leaders to future politicians, and I think want them to have a narrow view of the world, or a very western centric view. Yeah, that's kind of, but that's my heart, really, for the Academy in the next couple of years, that there can be a real change that young people can actually realize that okay, this is the way I view the world. Great. But let me how you how do you view the world? And that's just as valid as mine?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I love that, because that's really very much about, you know, how do we create a Pluribus of knowledge? Right, that sees all of these knowledges, whether they're within an educational institution, or outside of education, whether it's in the West, or it's in the east to the south, as all equal, you know, as all saying something about the condition in which we live, you know, this idea of, I mean, I very much, you know, hold on to a lot of, you know, like Buddhist thinking about the importance of experience as a kind of knowledge, you know, and I think we've moved, we've moved so much away from them. It's wonderful. You talk about, you know, oral cultures and storytelling, so much of the wisdom of our ancestors comes to us through scoring, storytelling, and that's knowledge. It's absolutely knowledge, even though it's not like we have not done a literature review of the gaps in the literature, and presented it. It's beautiful knowledge in its, it's not an experiential knowledge. It's also historical knowledge, isn't it? Right?
Yeah, definitely. So as we come to a close, what kind of practical things would you say to the people that are watching this, that aim to consider when it comes to colonialism? And whether they're academics and non academics? What would you kind of implore them to, to think about,
and the first thing I would say is read, read vertically and read horizontally? I find that one of the things that helps me a lot is not only to be reading academic texts, but to be reading novels, reads the novels and the stories of people who have gone through things. And I think that's, that's, that's really, really important. I think it's important for those of us who are academics, to not think ourselves above from social movements, we need to be part of social movements. And we need to be loving those social movements to be teaching us. I think the most important thing is building radical community. Yeah, if you're not in community, you're not listening, and you're not really sharing and learning. You know, I think this was the difficulty, you know, we talked with the academia as a Library Tower. But even in that ivory tower, we don't build community to communities is so incredibly important. And I think it's also about asking you when you're reading a text, or when you're engaging with something, constantly asked that question of what here? Do I not know? Oh, yeah. What here? Do I need to refuse? Like, where is this coming from? You can you know, a lot of black theologians talk about you know, reading with in with a framework of a hermeneutics of suspicion, we can be suspicious of the texts that we're reading, contextualize your texts, all of them, not only the ones that come from, you know, as you'll see from the the non West, contextualize the Western text, so you can still read bass and you can still read can't or you know, Merleau Ponty but contextualize them. Yeah, why not? So good. You know, so those are the things that I think you can do. That's
a good, so yeah, thank you so much for this discussion. I knew I think it's been so amazing to just realize that actually a lot of this stuff that has been kind of theorized with the academy, but you know, decolonial so actually styling grassroots community, you know, it started in social communities. So, I think thank you so much for inviting us on. I really appreciate it. So what are your social media handles? How can we keep a new level of what you're doing? Are there certain things that you're up to?
Yeah, I'm on Twitter, although it's a bit crazy my twitter but you're welcome to follow me. It's at a R A, N, A WA and a two, five. So do give me a follow ask me a question. And mostly what I'll do is tell you who the fantastic people are in the world who are doing all of this work and who to read and who to be a part of
that you're definitely one of those people. No, not really. Thank you for joining us. I really, really appreciate it. And thank you guys for watching. Please check out the website for other really amazing resources of D colonialism. Okay? Bye.
Thanks. We'll see bye.
And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe. And join me next time where I'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between.
Tuesday Sep 20, 2022
Tuesday Sep 20, 2022
Tuesday Sep 20, 2022
The eleventh epsiode of the series will feature Dr Salmah Eva-Lina Lawrence from the International Women's Development Agency with her talk 'What does it mean to do decolonial research?'
Hello, and welcome to rd in the in betweens. I'm your host Kelly Preece. And every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development, and everything in between.
Hello, and welcome to the final recording of talks in our decolonizing research series. For this final episode, I'm delighted to bring to you Dr. Salmah Eva-lina. Lawrence, with her talk, what does it mean to do decolonial research.
But first of all, I'd like to acknowledge that I am on the lands traditional lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation of New South Wales in Australia. This is where I normally live and work tonight I'm in Melbourne, I'm actually on the lands of the orangery, people of the Kulin nation. I pay my respects to the elders past, present and emerging of the First Nations peoples of Australia. And I recognize that Australia was founded on the genocide and dispossession of First Nations peoples, and that the land was never ceded. It always was and always will be Aboriginal land. So I'm going to do a short introduction to myself and then head off into my presentation. I am currently the acting co CEO of the International Women's Development Agency in Melbourne, Australia, where I lead our decolonial work interrogating our practices and our approach to international development with the objective of decolonizing how we work when I'm not acting CEO, I'm the director of systemic change and partnerships, and I still have charged in the decolonial work that we do. I'm also an adjunct Fellow at Macquarie University. In my scholarly life, I research decolonial theory, ethics and epistemology. And I draw deeply on my own culture, which is a matrilineal culture in Papua New Guinea, the millbay province of Papa New Guinea, and I use my own culture to frame my decolonial practice. In fact, it's my matrilineal culture, a culture that's at the opposite end of the spectrum of the masculinizing patriarchy of coloniality. That shapes my decolonial practice and shaped my decolonial practice long before I became a scholar of the decolonial. So it's really exciting to see Exeter, uni and other academic institutions start to take the decolonization of research seriously. I started my PhD in 2013 and submitted in 2017. So really not that long ago. But my thesis was grounded in decolonial theory theory I was influenced into radio by any bulky handle, Walter Manolo Ramon, Grossberg well, and reproduce cell, or your NK or women in the mighty Nile cough. I hope these names are familiar to you, if you are decolonial researchers, and Linda Jr. By Smith, who is a Maori from the Pacific region. On the one hand, at the level of the institution where I did my PhD, it was a struggle to talk the decolonial and hold a decolonial space, because it was just so alien at that time. It was marginally easier within my discipline of gender and Cultural Studies, because both feminist and anthropological critical studies were an influence in this domain. And I was able to use this as a bridge into post colonial theories and then into decolonial theory. So where you sit discipline wise, I think will have a large influence on how you're able to negotiate using decolonial theory and being a decolonial researcher.
In the second year of my PhD, I attended a summer school in Barcelona on decolonizing knowledge and power, I met some of the scholars that I've just named, and where I connected with a community of like minded scholars and activists. It was really enlightening, and energizing. And I highly recommend if you are a PhD scholar candidate, or if you're a master student, I recommend participating in this summer school non slip show a slide at the end with the website name and other resources. I'm going to share my understanding of decolonial research which does touch on the points made by dt and Saskia. I want to explain some concepts that I use that I will be using. I'll then talk about some principles for doing decolonial research or for the way that I do my decolonial research. And I'll talk about some of the practices that I use to support those principles. I'm going to talk for about 25 minutes, I can see that it's 10 parts the hour now and I will try to keep to time, but there will be time for q&a at the end. If there's time and if anybody is interested, I'll be able to share with you my own PhD research and what was decolonial about it So the first concept that I want to talk about briefly is the concept of whiteness. Now, I deliberately use the terms of whiteness West Global North Eurocentric developed world interchangeably. These terms often broadly refer to the same demographic, but within specific academic disciplines, they have nuanced meanings. Whiteness, for instance is used by Critical Race theorists to mean a system or culture that discriminates based on race, specifically, this perceived superiority of white people and their customers. For a detailed look at whiteness from the perspective of a white person, I recommend reading Shannon Sullivan's revealing whiteness, the unconscious habits of racial privilege. So like patriarchy, whiteness describes a particular set of characteristics and practices which have become institutionalized in many parts of the world, including an international development the sector in which I work. And of course, in academia, there would be no Exeter University decolonizing Research Festival, where this is not the case. The other concept that I want to share with you is that you will hear me mention majority world and minority world. I use minority world instead of the west or the global north, and I use majority world instead of developing or the global south. For me this, this terminology more meaningfully and accurately describes the global demographic majority who are located in the Global South. It's also terminology that doesn't infantilized by using the word developing or developed or use majority well, because not only is the global south a demographic majority on this planet, we are also a sociological majority. Our cultures share many things in common in contrast to minority world cultures. Across the Pacific Africa, the Americas and Asia, we are united by an ethics of relational autonomy that underpins our diverse social, economic and epistemic systems, and which contrasts starkly with the competitive individualist ethics, growth based economies and binary knowledge systems of the developed world or the minority world. So it's a political choice for me to use this terminology, political choice to use the term majority world to bring into stark relief, the situation that we all find ourselves living with in at the moment, which is a global power system that is based on minority world ideas. Another concept, I want to talk so I've shared with you the concepts that I'm going to use whiteness majority with minority world owners with a little bit about coloniality and epistemic decolonization before I move on to principles and practices.
So coloniality, as you would know, is a theory developed by a group of primarily Latin American thinkers which coalesced around 1998 into the modernity coloniality matrix. A theory is a way of explaining the world and as we all know, it can be based on the evidence or not. The basic theory is that European modernity has a dark side, which is rarely if ever acknowledged by those working within modernity. And that Dark Side Includes colonization, enslavement, genocide, expropriation, so it is disingenuous to highlight the advances associated with modernity without acknowledging that these advances have been made possible through colonial reality, a matrix of intertwining systems and technologies of power, such as race hierarchies, gender hierarchies, and the exploitation of and dominance over the natural world. The theories of modernity coloniality have gained traction across the majority world across the global south. Because one, the historical and contemporary evidence for it is overwhelming and to the theory describes more accurately what majority well peoples have experienced and continue to experience than just theories produced by global North theorists. The theory of coloniality is a theory that resonates across the majority one because it actually explicates the historical and contemporary experiences of majority well, people who have experienced colonization, enslavement, genocide, racism. So coloniality scholars and the bulky Hondo and Walter Manolo and others generated the modernity collegiality matrix by stepping outside modernity, to view modernity from an alternative perspective, the perspective of coloniality now this group of scholars to coined the term decolonial ality to describe centering understanding of and interpretation of the social, economic and political world from a perspective outside the Eurocentric frame. meaning of modernity. They also refer that they being the scholars also referred to the coloniality as epistemic decolonization. So what does this tell us about decolonial research or about doing decolonial research? And what relevance to the concepts of whiteness and majority and minority worlds have to doing decolonial research? Since deeper learn reality, you don't have to take a sip of water Excuse me. Since decolonial reality is about epistemic decolonization, it means articulating knowledge from a subject position that is not the colonizer. In the spaces that I work in the colonizer is synonymous with whiteness or Anglo and Eurocentrism. In other words, the minority world assuming that one takes a subject position that is not that a whiteness what does that mean to knowledge creation? Let's take the concept of gender. Only in very recent times has the minority world started to recognize that gender and sexual diversity exists along a spectrum. Yet non binary genders have always been recognized in parts of the majority world, such as in some all weather talk term FAR, FAR female refers to a non binary gender, or Urumqi or your woman in her book, The invention of women, demonstrates how Western gender roles do not map neatly to pre Christian roles in parts of Nigeria, providing one example in which the role of a husband the role of a provider and a projector can actually be fulfilled by a woman. The point is that social concepts generated from within one worldview view will not necessarily translate across other worldviews. A subject position that is not whiteness opens up knowledge is they have been unexplored, ignored or deliberately marginalized. So doing decolonial research means first of all, recognizing that the knowledge produced by the colonizer and through the knowledge production systems of whiteness is not universal. And secondly, it means recognizing that the knowledge produced in this system, the colonizer system is only partial knowledge. Why is it only partial knowledge or primarily because if you look at it from the perspective of logic, logically, in order to present knowledge as universal truths, it makes sense only if the entirety of the population to which that truth is said to apply, has been tested against that truth, and found to comply with it. With 7 billion humans on this planet, this is a feat that's never been accomplished. Researchers use sample populations to test their theories and make inferences based on these minut subsets of humanity. And we know that these sample populations are rarely truly representative of the diversity of the entire human population on this planet.
So the situation that the majority world lives in is that European customs culture, ways of being and knowing have been projected by Europeans as universal norms. But we've just seen that the gender norms of the minority world which are projected to be universal or not, and a cursory look at the literature on gender written by majority world scholars, such as or Iraqi or women immediately challenges that assumption. So what I'm channeling your attention to here is that the social world looks different, according to your worldview, and your subject position. knowledge that is produced by white men is only partial knowledge because it does not incorporate other subject positions. Knowledge produced by white women and white men is still only partial knowledge. We need knowledge generated from multiple different subject positions to create a picture that is holistic, that is more complete and representative of the reality of life on this planet. So the key learning here is that decolonial research and researchers treat minority world knowledge claims as merely one data point and never the only data point. The second point, and one which disrupts the colonizers view of objective knowledge creation. The second learning is that we all carry our cultural baggage, and our conscious and subconscious biases into all of our engagements, including research. No human is free of this, since no human exists outside of the social system. We see according to our own subject positions, when shown a different perspective, we might then see a different perspective. But we also might not see a different perspective, even when we are told about it, and even when we're shown it. So does the fact that we cannot see a different perspective mean that it doesn't exist or does the fact But others can see it mean that it does exist. And we simply don't have the faculties necessary to see that perspective. So for me, that's a very important part of decolonial research allowing for the fact that other perspectives do exist. So to summarize the points that I just made, there is no truly objective researcher. And secondly, since there's never been adequate evidence provided for claims that particular types of social knowledge are universal, the decolonial researcher will be skeptical when those claims are presented to him. So what are some of the principles and practices that researchers can employ to produce work that is decolonial now from my reading across different decolonial decolonial scholars, I've distilled a set of principles which I think a common decolonial works and I detail these in my forthcoming book decolonizing international development majority worldviews, there are three principles which are particularly pertinent to doing decolonial research. The principles highlight that decolonization and decolonial ality is not just about explicitly challenging external and institutional structures of race based power, such as how whiteness informs academia and pervades the interactions between nation states and individual citizens. The decolonial is as much about understanding one's internal world as it is about navigating the external world.
So what do I mean by this, we talked about how subject position matters. The first principle that I'm going to talk about relates to acknowledging that there is no truly objective researcher. Therefore, perspective matters and diversity matters. That is the principal perspective matters and diversity matters. We inhabit a planet with an incredible diversity of humans and other life forms, where we are situated geographically geopolitically, culturally our gender, a myriad of other intersecting ways. These all shaped the way that we interact with the world. respecting diversity necessarily means that we respect historical and cultural difference. On a planet as diverse as ours, one cannot generate sustainable solutions, or undertake ethical research without multiple diverse voices framing the issues that matter and how they should be addressed. So decolonial researchers employ radical honesty and transparency about their subject position. Now it's common for scholars from the Pacific region. I told you earlier that I am hoping again, you're not from the Pacific region, it's common for scholars in the Pacific region to emplace themselves. I introduced myself as coming from a matrilineal matrilineal culture in Papua New Guinea. My scholarly colleagues variously introduced themselves as Maori Fijian Samoan. In doing this, we are each acknowledging that our views of the world are partial, and they're shaped by our geopolitical location. Very few white scholars, particularly in place themselves, and by not doing so they are complicit in the myth of objective knowledge production, and in upholding white because there's a norm that needs no explanation. Some white scholars in Australia do in place themselves and I'm going to share with you how a white scholar working in Australia in the decolonial space positions herself. I quote along the Lenten who says, I wish to acknowledge the dark people, their elders past and present, and to remind us all that this lecture is taking place on stolen derelict land. I also want to begin my lecture by positioning myself as a European West Asian Jewish woman living on stolen Gadigal land and quote, Alana Lenten acknowledges that she is a settler colonizer on land that has been stolen from the original inhabitants and that she benefits from this situation. The effect of a white person doing the reflective work to understand her subject position. And then voicing that subject position is that it begins to destabilize whiteness as the norm, culture, ethnicity historical wrongs that continue as contemporary social marginally marginalization become visible, as influences on the knowledge that is being presented and the claims that are being made. The second principle that I wanted to talk about is that we live in a blue reverse, not a universe and the blue reverse is a term that we that the cohort of decolonial scholars that I talked about earlier on, Walter Manolo, Arturo Escobar, this was coined by them. decolonial approach rejects the idea of a universe or uni versal approaches which imply a single way of being knowing And doing that is the uni. A decolonial approach embraces the idea of a pure reverse meaning that we understand that there are multiple different and equal ways of being knowing and doing. And the third principle is that every related principle to the previous humility matters. In a pure verse have multiple ways of being, knowing, doing, relating and perceiving. No one individual or group has all the answers to human well being, or cultivating the flourishing of life more generally. In our pure reverse knowledge is generated in a myriad of ways, not just in universities. There are as many experts outside of universities, as there are within them. Who are these people, these other experts, they have people with lived experience of the research question or the policy problem.
They include, for example, women in communities across the Pacific who navigate who negotiate the effects of climate change in their daily lives, but whose voices are absent from the policymaking that directly affects them. Policy which can produce unintended, unintended harmful consequences for these women because it doesn't address their daily concerns. And I recommend reading Linda to EY Smith decolonizing methodologies as part of your PhD candidature exploration into other ways of knowing and knowledge creation. I'm going to talk now I realized that I'm over the half hour, but I'm going to talk a little bit about some of the practices that serve these decolonial principles. And then we can go into a q&a section. So the first practice that I highlight is a practice of radical self reflexivity, for the principle that perspective matters. radical honesty and transparency about your subject positionality requires deep self reflexivity. At IW da the International Women's Development Agency where I work, we are in the process of finalizing our inaugural decolonial framework to guide our work. And I'm going to quote a passage from this framework because I find it particularly pertinent. Starting the quote, since racist and colonial systems and institutions are created and held in place by many individual people, we each have a duty to do the personal inner work to analyze our relationship with whiteness, and coloniality. We must work to understand our own assumption, beliefs, behaviors, and positions in relation to colonialism and racial hierarchies. We must ask ourselves, how our nationality or religion, our language, our sexuality, or gender, our racialized identity, our indigeneity, our can our conceptual frameworks, our practices, etc, have been and continue to organization and flow in reality, and how this informs our individual sees hard work, particularly for those who benefit from the systems of oppression that coloniality and whiteness represent. However, doing this work as individuals is necessary in order to reframe our understanding of how to relate to other peoples other countries and other cultures, and to begin to decolonize ourselves and quote, this work I put to you is necessary for all decolonial researchers. Well, how can you seek to decolonize if you have no understanding of how you yourself are affected by and or complicit in colonial ality the second practice that I highlight speaks to the fact of living in a pure reverse. And that is all knowledge claims have to be triangulated. If you are researching the Pacific, for example, you triangulate the scholarly texts from scholars who are indigenous to the Pacific region and scholars who've written about the Pacific from other parts of the world or other subject positions. And you search out other sources as well. You acknowledge that people with lived experience of the matters that you are researching, have an expertise that is valuable, and you extend to them the mantle of expert, not just research subject, or object. So the principles and practices that I've outlined here are by no means exhaustive there, but they are I feel necessary tools for the decolonial researcher and practitioner to critique and disrupt and dismantle existing power structures and to contribute to offering and shaping a radical and transformative alter alternative world But to paraphrase Audrey Lorde does not use the Masters tools.
Friday Sep 16, 2022
Friday Sep 16, 2022
The twelth epsiode of the series will feature Dr. Musarrat Maisha Reza from the University of Exeter and her talk 'How a predominantly white faculty can empower ethnic minority students.'
Hello, and welcome to rd in the in betweens. I'm your host, Kelly Preece. And every fortnight I talk to a different guest, about researchers development, and everything in between.
So, hello, everyone, thank you so much for coming for this session. I am Dr. Marcia Raisa, and I'm a senior lecturer in Biomedical Sciences at the College of Medicine and Health, I also hold the position of the race equality resource officer. So I'm going to use both my experiences to you know, discuss the topic today, which is how a predominantly white faculty can empower beam students. Now being students, basically black Asian minority ethnic students, I'm not really going to use this term moving forward, I will just say, ethnic minority students, because, you know, this is not the favorite term anymore. So I'm going to stick to specifically talking about the role of advising and mentorship, because we know that we do have a predominantly white faculty, and we do have a lot of ethnic minority students, which is quite disproportionate, especially within the medicine and medical sciences curriculum, compared to the kind of ethnic minority faculty that we have. But that doesn't mean that we should deprive our ethnic minority students of mentorship that they deserve, just because the demographics don't align specifically. So how do I become an ally? This is something that is a very interesting conversation that goes on, where white individuals are always wondering how do I become an ally. But before that, we need to start thinking about self work and critical reflection. So this whenever I have this conversation, it seems like a very up in the air kind of conversation, oh, we need to do self work and critical reflection. But I think it is not sufficiently emphasized on how important this work is, before we actually, you know, self work and critical reflection is going to take us a lifelong journey of learning and reflection. But without engaging in this process, trying to mentor and be at or be an ally, to different marginalized groups can actually be more harmful than beneficial. So in this process of self work and critical reflection, I believe it's really important to discover our unconscious biases that shape our decision making and shape our thought process on a regular basis. And what kind of active measures and resistance to these unconscious bias do we need to engage in? This section will not be the main topic of my conversation, I just want to touch on it briefly before I go into the actual mentorship process. So what's an ally? An ally is any person that actively promotes and aspires to advance the culture of inclusion through intentional positive and conscious efforts that benefit people as a whole, or benefit the marginalized communities that we are, we claim to be allies off? Now how do we become an ally, very, very superficial. And simply we can just be an anyone can be an ally, anyone has the capacity and capability of being an ally, regardless of their ethnicity, and you don't have to be a member of a specific marginalized group to support them. So what is really required is the conscious and active effort that is required to better understand the obstacles faced by the members of these marginalized groups. And allies are really important because often they are in positions of more privilege, then members within the marginalized group. So they are powerful voices alongside marginalized ones.
Now, moving quickly into conscious, being conscious of our unconscious bias. So in terms of unconscious bias, what it's a term that is regularly contested as well, and it's something that also puts people on a bit of a defense where they don't let if they support a certain group, there's a resistance to accept that there is unconscious bias in all of us actually. So our privileges, many of us fall into different spectrums of privilege, and our privileges, it blinds us from the negative experience of marginalized groups. So I have different intersectionalities as a person that makes me who I am that confers upon me certain privileges or disadvantages in society. Now, given the privileges that I have, it is natural for me to be blind. To the experiences that I do not go through in terms of, you know, negative experiences, but that doesn't excuse us from not being aware. So bias is an inevitable as a result of social conditioning and cognitive processes. But it is not evidence or accusations of prejudice. So contrary to our conscious intentions, we all hold hidden biases that manifest in subtle or unconscious ways. And sometimes it can actually manifest in dangerous ways as well. So it's important that we are aware of them, or we may be creating more harm than good for marginalized groups we support. So I'm just going to stop sharing my screen for one second, so that I can close all my tabs, so we don't disturb the rest of the meeting. My apologies. Alright, so we'll go back to this. All right. So thank you. Now, what can I do? These are some of the in my previous talks, where I focused specifically on unconscious bias and, you know, set
up, sorry, so. So what can I do to counter unconscious biases? These are just some recommendations that I've suggested. But they're not again, I'm not going to go deep into this one. Because this was what I covered in like my previous talks on, you know, self worth and critical reflection, and how do we go about that journey. In previous talks, I also spoke about how I went on my specific journey to, you know, to discover my unconscious biases, and actually start working on them. So that was a lot more comfortable, because I was using myself as an example. So that kind of puts people a little bit at ease. So in terms of my recommendations I made for firstly, being aware of differences in different candidates that we're, you know, we're involved in, a lot of us are academics, a lot of us are in positions of power and leadership positions. We have times where we engage with candidates, with students, with individuals who rely on us for decision making. So it's important that we are aware of those differences in different individuals and ourselves. And acknowledging that we all have bias, even when we do not realize that I think this is this is really important, because the biggest step is to acknowledge it is the lack of acknowledgement, that actually puts a lot of people on the defense. And the third recommendation I'd make would be to actively resist inappropriate advocacy and unreasoned judgment that this person, for example, is not suitable for this position because we are coming from a space of a bias or stereotype. So we don't think that they're capable because of certain gender or certain ethnicity. And lastly, and quite importantly, getting involved in reflective activities to continuously work on unconscious biases. It is a learning process, it is something that everyone has, it is also something that helps us navigate our world. So we're not suggesting that you don't have biases anymore. We're suggesting that you actively engage with your bias so that you know that it does not disadvantage someone who's relying upon you for your decisions. Right. Now, moving forward from this section of self worth, and critical reflection, which is really important to engage with, while and before we get into engagement with ethnic minority students as mentors or allies or advisors. So under this engagement with ethnic minority students, today, I will speak a lot about empathy and vulnerability, which is really important to express because we, we don't have to know everything. I think it is important for us to be vulnerable and know that we don't know everything we are learning. And I'll show you examples on how that honesty and that transparency about where we are on our journey can be really helpful and can gain the interest of students who are different from us. And I would also be talking about some of the positive action and active support that we can provide to our students. So the main flow of my talk would be understanding firstly, the distinction between role models and mentors. Then I'll go into a bit more discussion on a certain publication, which talks about cross race mentoring. And finally, I'll end off with a recording of personal experience of an ethnic minority student who very kindly recorded that for me, and it is very telling and quite aligned with the kind of theory that has been established through this publication.
So firstly, let's have a look at what Role Models versus mentors are, they're both significant, and they can't be overlooked in terms of their difference, it is important to establish that. So let's look first at what a role models. A role model is someone who we can look up to be inspired by, we admire with an aspiration to emulate their life or behavior, they don't need to be known. So the the role model does not need to know me or I don't need to know the role model, it could be a very silent relationship where we just watch them from afar and want to be like them. And role models usually provide an inspiration from afar. Rather than direct advice and support, it could go into advice and support as well. But this is usually someone you look from afar. Sometimes celebrities, sometimes Nobel Prize winners, it's a one way relationship largely. Mentors, on the other hand, they engage in long term relationships. And they are focused on supporting the growth and development of their mentees by sharing the wealth of experience they have. So mentors are usually on some sort of similar career trajectory, or some kind of space that you connect with in your life and you feel like their experiences can help you. So a mentor is a lot more invested. They ensure and guide their mentees to make informed decisions regarding personal and professional development. And as I said, that relationship happens to be a lot more personal, and there is significant trust that is built between them. So both parties usually agree to that mentorship making this a two way relationship. Now, just some statistics that I found very interesting 87% of UK staff within higher education, they reported that there is a lack of role models from ethnic minority backgrounds and teaching practices. And that is one that has been attributing to work that has been one of the main factors leading to the awarding gap between white and ethnic minority students within higher education. And this was reported by The Times Higher Education survey. So just again, because I am from the College of Medicine health, I would give you a few examples from medicine as well. There is an overall 14% degree awarding gap among medical students within the UK 78% of students within the UK also held similar views on the main reason for the attainment gap. This is directly from the report of the National Union of Students, I want to also highlight that we are changing that attainment gap term, two awarding gap which is a lot more which puts a lot more responsibility on the institution. Because when we use that attainment gap, we kind of put that responsibility of poor achievement to the students or the individuals who are not, you know who are falling in that gap. So an awarding gap puts them takes that deficit model away. But this is a quotation from the NUS UK report. So they cite lack of diverse senior leaders as one of the main factors of the awarding gap. So role models in academia can create that sense of belonging for students who tend to report the imposter syndrome where they feel like they may not belong in that space. 1.3% of ethnic minority students choose to do a PhD, almost half of their white counterparts, which is two point by 2.4%. And that was reported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Now, role models and mentorships do go hand in hand. And we need to improve diversity in both student and faculty leadership to increase the role models for our students. And today we focus on tools to empower our existing ethnic minority students with resources we have through mentorship, which is basically parallel ongoing work. Now benefits of mentorship would be basically when student and faculty engage in mentoring programs, it has significant benefits to students, especially those that are considered to be at at risk because of academic difficulties. Some of the benefits, these are quite common benefits that we already I think we've all heard of it. It improves self efficacy. There's increased academic scores to help eliminate the degree awarding awarding gap that we have found in literature that students end up completing more credit units, there is a reduced rate of dropouts, increased graduation, more opportunities for growth, and also higher enrollment in graduate programs. And you know, students actually following through with careers in academia. So cross race mentoring, this is the second part of the talk. We're going to look at a case Study, which talks about highly successful versus the least successful mentorship. And the main important reason for why I even talk about this is because in Exeter 88% of our students who are accepted are, you know, is white. And a majority of academics within Russell Group universities are also white. So 86% are white, you have 6%, who's Indian and South Asian 6%, who has Chinese and East Asian, mixed and black are 1%, an Arabic 0.4%. So largely majority of our academics are also white, you know, that kind of puts our ethnic minority students in a position where they are really a minority, where, you know, their counterparts are largely white. And they're the academics that they look up to are also largely white. So discussions with academics in general, one of the quotes that I'm going to make here is something that stayed with me, one of the white colleagues said, I am a white faculty member, it is not my place to mentor, an ethnic minority student, I do not share their lived experiences, and they will not be able to relate. And I cannot help that. So there is this apprehension that they are not qualified or they're not suitable to be a mentor for ethnic minority students. And so they sort of shy away from that role and responsibility, because they don't feel that they can help. Now, there are in again, in literature, there are two sides of the argument for cross race mentorships, some of the concerns raised were that white mentors tend to promote their own racial views, and encourage their mentees to assimilate into the white mainstream. And that largely stems from the unconscious bias where they say things like, you know, you need to, you know, try and integrate better, you need to do better with making friends and you need to do, you just need to try and assimilate with, you know, with the population, if you want to be if you want to feel included. And that's a problem. If we go on to the next one, a lot of academics also want to avoid difficult conversations about racial issues, they don't acknowledge that racial differences, one of the very problematic terms that that that tends to get used as colorblindness, where they say I don't see color, so it doesn't even matter when that is something that can be really, really harmful. So there is a tendency to downplay the significance of race, though it could be central not could be the it is actually central to the lived experiences of their mentees or their tutees. And often, this stems from a huge discomfort that mentors have been discussing race giving, and they tried to give the impression that racial discrimination is not that important, or race is not important. So we don't want to use that or bring that in the into the conversation. There is a positive side to this where you know provenance of this cross race mentorship actually explain why it's needed.
There are obviously as I showed you, in some steps, just now currently, a lot more people of color who are in need of mentors, then there are minority mentors. So that should not deprive ethnic minority students of mentors. So waiting for some foreseen race match can result in valuable time lost for the for the mentees. There are also practices that can help individuals overcome the obstacles of different lived experiences. For instance, it is important to select mentors who promote their mentees cultural and ethnic identity, who remain cognizant of the lived experiences of minorities. The mentorship gap for ethnic minority students why, as I said, Why white mentors tend to shy away from the mentoring from mentoring their mentees of different ethnicities, because largely they feel that it is not their place. And because of the different lived experience, there can't be a relatability. So some of some research stresses on same race mentoring, and others highlight the resulting dearth of mentors and therefore leaving ethnic minority students with no mentors, there is evidence for contact hypothesis, which which discusses the theory that frequent intergroup contact between equal status members under appropriate conditions meaning like under friendly, hospitable conditions, can I Truly reduce prejudice between majority and minority groups. There are I first personally who really struggled to find studies and analysis of, you know how successful crossways mentorship could be. But I did find one very interesting study. And it was a very, it was a thesis, which really had some some lessons that I think we can learn and implement. So this mentorship program, it was the New Horizons mentorship program that was a program from the Portland State University. It happened in 2013. The study group was basically white faculty members with black and Latino first generation community college students in a formal mentoring program in higher education. So there was this mentorship program went on for three months, and six of the mentor pairs or trios were interviewed. So the aim of this entire project in this university was to understand the perceptions of white adult mentors, and black and Latino mentees of their activities, interactions, and their views on the advantages and drawbacks of their cross race mentoring relationship. So I'm going to set out a few definitions these definitions are from, they're all summarized from this thesis, when they define it to be successful. It describes that both the mentor and the mentee describe their experiences as positive that the relationship involves a close interpersonal bond, there was high level of agreement between the mentoring partners, and both mentors and mentees identify personal and our professional gains or growth during the interview. Sorry, give me one second, let me close my teams as well, this is.
Okay, my apologies. Let me continue, I have too many tabs open that I think I really need to start closing. So in terms of the low to no success, low to no success, mentorship experience, the participants explicitly describe their experience and partnership in a negative manner. There was very little or negligible relationship that developed between the mentor and the mentee. And mentors and mentees did not discuss anything beyond their research projects, or, or mentees were not even engaged in the research task. So this was classified as low to no success versus successful. So in this entire study, three themes emerge from their from from their entire project. And they've classified it as expectations and perception, the mentoring relationship and the racial component. So for each of these themes, I will give you some examples, a quotation for both successful and non successful relationships under each of the categories. So I think that will give us a very good understanding of, you know, how these mentors and mentees really felt. So in terms of expectations and perceptions, that was defined as mentors motivations and expectations in the program, and the mentor mentee understanding of their relationship and how they describe each other. So in a successful mentoring relationship, the mentor this mentors decision to participate in this project centered on providing mentees with opportunities to advance the mentees educational and career aspirations. They also had raised awareness and highlighted the importance of mentoring students from underrepresented and minority groups in higher education. There was a primary focus on mentees growth and progression towards their academic goals, rather than the mentors own research agenda. That is not withstanding that, of course, that these students were engaged in research, you know, mutually agreed research projects, but there was a lot of focus on what exactly the mentee wants to achieve from it. There is also mutual liking for each other, which helped them develop a personal relationship. And some of the mentees expressed that, you know, despite things being successful there, in the beginning, they still found that race class educational differences, and awareness of the kind of implicit racial attitudes, their white mentors might have created a bit of tense and uneasy feelings for them. So to illustrate that I took one of the courts, which said a black male mentee said the first few meetings I was just like, wow, just the dynamics, you know, an older white woman We have our perceptions about older white women and how they see black men. So it has probably played on me more than it played on them. So it was just like all these emotions, like, Okay, well, I'm in this position, I got to step up show that I'm worthy. So this was one of the comments, the black male mentee made in the beginning, which of course, transformed moving forward in that mentoring relationship. Whereas in a low to no success mentoring relationship, the mentor mentees that were interviewed, the theme that emerged was that mentors had very different motivations for joining this program, because they wanted to get help for their own research and work more than, you know, understanding the mentees career goals or aspirations. And often these mentees were considered a pair of eyes or a pair of hands. And their goals were not given similar consideration. So there was a mich mismatch of their expectations. And that led to a difficulty in the bonding between the mentor and mentees. And you know, there's a difference in personality, there's lack of common interest. So there was little to no mutual liking, and no vision towards that common goal. So mentees often describe that mentorship as like a job, they often felt judged, and they did not feel mentored at all. So one of the mentors, a white mentor, who was a part of this program said, I was kind of at the point where I was working on my research. And that was really the priority for me. I was thankful Jared was able to give me some help. But also I wasn't too concerned about you know, do we like each other.
Now, let's move on to the second aspect of this theme from this project, which they classified as the mentoring relationship. So the mentoring relationship talks about the overview on the amount of time mentor spent with the mentees and how mentees perceive this experience as contributing to their academic and career goals. So let's look at the successful relationship first. In successful relationships, there was frequent contact with one another, apparently, it was at least once, two thrice a week during the mentorship period, there were opportunities for mentees to expand their social network within the university and community through the mentors network, of course. Them mentees gain a clearer perspective on their academic goals and enhance their personal development. They didn't feel like they were in an employer employee relationship, they really felt like this was more of a friendship. And the tools and support provided really helped to advance the specific skill sets that they aim to advance. And mostly, the mentees talked about equal status relationship where it was more collaborative, and they were working towards shared goals. And both their goals were considered important. So they didn't feel that power hierarchy. That was they're in a non successful mentoring relationship. So the work that they were assigned, was aligned to their career aspirations. So one thing that they did highlight was that equal status is difficult to achieve, especially when you have faculty versus first generation undergrads, that could really lead to a clear hierarchy, which was quite evident for the non successful mentoring relationship. And that gap became becomes more pronounced for ethnic minority mentees. And that often leads to that imposter syndrome. Now, one of the mentees said that the mentor had me talk to different people so I could get a greater perspective of what I want to do. I felt like that was a really good thing. I never felt at any point throughout the whole process that it was just about getting my work done for her. I felt like she wanted me to learn something about what I want to do as well. So that was a really nice quote from the mentee. Now let's look at the unsuccessful one. In an unsuccessful mentoring relationship, there were no clear definitions of the mentor and mentee role, the mentee was largely unclear about what was expected of them. Now, the mismatch of mentor mentee expectations resulted in poor mutual liking. And there was also a mismatch of personality and interest. So the mentor did not really work together with the mentee to achieve the mentees academic goals, and build that entire mentorship program around their own research agenda, rather than working on shared goals. And the mentee also did not perceive the mentor accordingly, but saw the mentorship as an opportunity to gain job experience. So it became automatically this employer employee relationship rather than a collaborative one. Now, one of the mentees said I felt like I didn't get as much For me being where I am in my life and my career, I didn't feel that I got as much out of it as somebody without a career and knowledge base would have got, I think I would have chosen a different research project for myself, I didn't get to hone in on my skills, I got to kill time.
So the third component, which is the racial component, which is which I personally found the most interesting, and in successful mentoring relationships, the mentors demonstrated raise awareness, and they acknowledge racial stereotypes as barriers to interracial interactions and relationships, which is, which was very interesting for me to read. Mentors stressed the importance of mentoring students from underrepresented groups, and they actively tried to create more inclusive environments. Mentors also demonstrated awareness of implicit racial attitudes, and use experience. As a member of another out group, for example, women in higher education are also they face significant disadvantages as well to empathize with their students. So mentors needed to put in more effort as compared to same race mentorship to ensure success. And this was the sentiment of a lot of the mentors in interviewed in this project. And mentors expressed that same race mentors would have the biggest impact on how they felt only at the beginning, but did not, you know, as same race mentor would not have changed much about their overall mentoring mentoring relationship. Over the three months, one of the mentors said, I am quite a bit older than her, also white male. And so kind of on all levels, there are a lot of differences. And I knew I'd have to make it work to put her at ease and have regular contact, I have to I have to keep in mind my age, my degree, my kind of status, that I was male and white, and all those kinds of things just to try and make it more make it comfortable for her. In a low to no, no success relationship. The racial component was, I think, a very significant factor as well, where white mentors did not believe that racial difference between mentor and mentee had an impact on the outcome of the relationship. This is where I mentioned the color blindness that just now where they use that as a little bit of that shield, to not engage in that difficult conversation. So mentors expressed that it was not important to consider how racial dynamics might affect the mentor mentee interaction. They believed that if work interests align, racial dynamics would not influence the relationship, since common interests should supersede racial differences. The mentors also when interviewed, were very uncomfortable answering questions that explicitly asked about race. And they also did not exhibit racial awareness. So mentees also did not have a have any significant thought about race and its impact on the mentoring relationship. So I wouldn't say it was only the mentors being unaware the mentees also didn't necessarily want to engage with the racial component of it as well. So the mentor said, one of the mentors said, I just don't see how race ethnicity class minority anything. I just don't see how that came out. I really don't and I thought about it. So this was one of the most this was to me, one of the most prominent statements that a mentor from a from an unsuccessful mentoring relationship made, which is why I put it here that I feel like there is especially when mentors do not see how race class ethnicity any of these intersecting factors that make up the life of their mentee had anything to do with a successful mentoring relationship. That is one of the biggest indicators of that of the fact that this relationship is not going to be successful. And this really came out in this particular mentor statement. Now, I want to this this is a four minute clip, I want to play this for you. This student who is speaking here is you know, I cannot reveal any any details about the student at all, but I had received consent to play this for the presentation. So this is an ethnic minority students personal experience with two different white mentors. So I think it'd be really useful to for us to listen to this.
I am a first generation South Asian immigrant and my parents and I first immigrated to the UK in 2002. I'm currently in the penultimate year of my undergraduate degree and since being University I've had two different white male academic advisors. I really really struggled during the first year at university with undiagnosed ADHD and my Mental health issues. My performance really was limited by my circumstances at the time. So I do feel that it's quite important to highlight my individual case as the different ways my two advisors, approached my problems really dictated my experience as a beam student in terms of having the confidence to approach my difficulties at the time. So my first advisor was assigned to me during my first year at university. And I did feel at the time that although he knew my problems, he had no genuine private concern about them. I was really vocal about negative South Asians specific cultural norms and how they impacted me, pressured me, or caused a lot of difficulties in my academics. And I felt no real response from my previous advisor, I think that maybe you felt you had no place to give input. I mean, maybe speculating doesn't really explain the extent to the of the issue, but I didn't feel a response. And that paired with the fact that we didn't have consistent meetings, when we did meet, it solely focused on academic aspects of my experience, and I essentially had no outlet to explain my difficulties and ask for help. With regards to my personal difficulties. I do feel when I did feel at the time that a vain faculty member would have resonated with my struggles a lot more. And I do feel that he himself was sort of indifferent to my problems at the time. Towards the end of the academic year, I was given the opportunity to change advisors, I did so immediately. My current advisor is also a white male. But the experience has been completely different. He gives me the room to talk about my experiences without judgment, I'm again very vocal about my problems. And my present advisor shows no expression of judgment or confusion. I mean, rather, he shows a real attempt to understand or try to understand. And he's accepted the way that I choose to express myself. It's that acceptance that's really given me comfort. He also kind of links discussions together, so the discussions would have meaningfully linked to each other. And he remembers what I refer to in a previous discussion and then linked it without outright reminding me of a negative experience. I mean, it seems that he tries himself to understand and mentally map out what I'm going through. And he just continuously encourages me, I think, whenever my dialogue is self deprecating or defeatist, he really tries to advise me on how to be positive. And we're both aware of the sort of interracial differences when conversations are centered around culture. But he actively tries to avoid being sort of presumptuous or speechless, he just accepts me and looks to engage and try to understand which is really important to me. During my first year, I had consistently achieved grades a lot lower than what I knew I could achieve, I received to choose thirds, I even scored a 17% on one assignment. I recently received some feedback on two summative assignments, one of which I received in 84%, and the other 95%. Although there are many, many reasons as to why I'm now better able to manage my difficulties, I do feel that my having my present advisor has very much improved my confidence and has equipped me to be better able to kind of reach my potential and approach my issues. It seems clear to me that the demographic of advisors for Boehm students in my case does not necessarily dictate the quality of the experience, rather a space for I mean, open dialogue, with encouragement, persistence, and acceptance does. And I hope that my experience is useful in showcasing that white faculty members can also empower them students. Thank you for listening.
Alright, so I found that personally very, very inspiring. You know, hearing the students speak the way that she did, I tried to extract some of the things that she has said, and tried to align it with what the research project from Portland State University tried to show as well. So first, when she discussed about developing a personal relationship and her two different experiences, she mentioned that there was no opportunity to express the personal issues that limited her and how all her meetings focused only on only on academic matters, versus the next mentorship. An experience that she had, where she felt free to express herself and mentor provided comfort, reassurance and showed genuine concern. And they also discussed issues outside of work in academia. Now, the second theme that emerged from her conversation was ongoing and meaningful follow up discussions. So comparing her two experiences, the one that she found unsuccessful showed a failure to follow up and maintain communication, despite the students initiative to establish contact and express her challenges versus the successful mentorship mentoring experience, where she said that meetings were very consistent. And the mentor listened actively remembering the students challenges to help monitor her progress. And finally, sensitivity to cultures specific concerns, her unsuccessful mentoring relationship had indifference when you know, she met with her mentor, you know, because there was no discussion on culture, or there was an indifference to the discussions on culture or cultural differences more specifically. So there was also no real attempt to engage or try to understand the students feelings. Versus during a successful relationship. There was that acknowledgement of the difference in cultural backgrounds, and engagement and fruitful dialogue without judgment or disapproval. So if I can go further and map the same, the same themes that extracted you know, I extracted from her conversation, it really does match up with what the study actually found on the themes that they identified, which is expectations and perception of the mentoring relationship, the actual mentoring relationship and what that entails, and the racial component where there is an acknowledgement and understanding that these differences exist, and the differences actually can, you know, impact how the relationship goes on. Now, if I could summarize, overall, based on my entire talk, I think under expectations and perceptions, it is important for to keep mentees goals and aspirations at the forefront. Along with of course, the supervisors or the mentors goals where you know, why they engage in the relationship, it needs to be, you know, both of their goals and aspirations need to be equally valuable. So it is also important to overcome negative perceptions, stereotypes and try and build that trust, which is important in developing mutual liking and the bond. In terms of the mentoring relationship, it is important to provide mentees with tools for growth and development, it is important to have an equal status relationship working towards that shared goal, and of course, effective communication. And finally, the racial component, which I always find very fascinating is demonstrating the awareness of race and ethnicity, acknowledging our own unconscious or implicit biases, being empathetic and allowing vulnerability as I first mentioned in the in the beginning, and having open conversations about racial dynamics that can play into the relationship and the success of the mentoring relationship.
Thursday Sep 15, 2022
Thursday Sep 15, 2022
The eleventh epsiode of the series will feature Shibani Das from the University of Exeter and her talk 'Decolonising 'National' heritage: How Indian museums and cultural spaces are addressing their colonial pasts.'
Hello, and welcome to rd in the in betweens. I'm your host Kelly Preece. And every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development, and everything in between. Hello, and welcome to the latest episode of Aldi in the in betweens, and this our 11th episode in the decolonizing research series. In this episode we're going to hear from University of Exeter PhD students Shivani does with her presentation decolonizing national heritage, how Indian museums and cultural spaces are addressing their colonial pasts.
This is a conversation that's been happening for about 10 years quite strongly within the mean this continent. And it addresses a couple of issues, branching from changing syllabus to changing architecture to changing public attitudes about our colonial past. So who am I to speak to you about all this, this is just to outline that I will be speaking to you not from a political perspective, but from a professional one. I have. I'm currently an HR CCDP doctoral candidate at the University of Exeter, and partly funded by BT archives. But my professional training back in India has been in and around museums and organizations that deal with cultural spaces. So just a list of the places that I have worked at. And I have been closely associated with the Government of India as well as private organizations. So the following five slides will just be an insight to what I have experienced and would not be a blanket statement I would be making across India, I'm sure there will be many people in the conversation, who want to have their own points of views. And I welcome that. Towards the end of the presentation. I've mentioned my email id and my profile. So I'll be happy to continue this conversation sometime later as well. But having said that, let's carry on. So, to begin with, I would like to talk to you about what decolonization means, in the Indian perspective. Across the past month, we've been having conversations about decolonization in the academic space or in the research space on how to how we deal with decolonization within the archives. But decolonization as a national conversation has taken a different route in India completely. So, the three main components of this conversation that are recognized the politician or the museums or cultural spaces, and the Academy space, so for a large part of Indian political history, the conversation has gone from the right hand side, the left hand side, what I mean by that is from the academic space through the cultural space into the cultural space, there was a large Academy conversation about when decolonization began, a lot of British historians believe that began when the Empire began to crumble. So with this second world war onwards, in the process of decolonization, Indian academicians did not appreciate how much focus was given to the British as actors in this conversation. So when the British decided to leave India that was a process of decolonization. What sort of nationalist historians or subaltern or postcolonial historians began arguing about was that decolonization would actually be the process of independent India, shedding the layers of its colonial past, which pushes a timeline back to 1950s 1970s. And the opening up of the Indian economy opening up the Indian quality to the larger world. This had an impact on cultural spaces and how they were designed, which led to opera how politics was designed, with regards to our colonial past, but ever since 2014, there has been a switch in how the Indian public and have been in government understands this, the conversation has switched course and short moving from the, from the from the left to the right, there is a there is a major sort of a tangible political movement to change or to manipulate or to edit, how Indians think of their past or react to their past and that political change has impacted cultural spaces and internal Academy spaces. This sort of two way conversation is quite an interesting one that we will discover more with examples that come ahead. So I've taken the liberty of sort of condensing condensing this conversation down to three simple steps. I do realize it's very reductive, but to have a good conversation, I feel some reduction is essential. So three steps for basically decolonization How would I as the government of India or as India, talk about decolonization and my approach to it. Number one, you remove, remove any selectively remove any tangible remnants of one's colonial past, if you can't remove it, then you appropriate symbolism, the conversation that we will be having would be around the India Gate and this coronation Park in New Delhi. And we'll go ahead and talk about that in a bit. Number two is God right or you
name whatever, you can't change immediately. So here we have conversations about rewriting how people react to your history or learn their histories, be it through syllabus, in schools, or in universities, or in how we interact with history on a day to day basis. For example, road names, metro station names, museum names, etc. And step number three, which is the final step, which is almost in completion right now in Delhi, is rebuild, undertake massive and drastic construction projects to change the historical landscape. Now, these steps, in my opinion happen over a long period of time, you have to begin to corrode a public's reaction or relationship with that history, to be able to take a drastic step like rebuilding a construction or tangible space. So the first conversation I'd like to have with you in the first case study we like to discuss is removed. So, on the left hand side of this presentation, you see a very interesting sculpture from coronation Park in North Delhi. It was built in 1911. On the right hand side of a familiar symbol of Indian democracy, which is India Gate built in 1921. In New Delhi, the coronation Park is a very interesting Park, it is largely abandoned, it is not it's not in the center of the city is not celebrated. It's not the focus of civic life in that area. It is sort of a graveyard of sculptures that, at the at the moment of independence when we had a lot of Imperial sculptures across the city on road crossings, and the government did not know what to do with it. They just picked everything up and the deposited in one land where the royal the bar was held in 1911. But when approaches when one approaches the park today, what one sees is just streams and streams of magnificent Imperial sculptures left and complete abandonment taken from taken out of where they were originally designed for out of that context. And not sort of responded to or agreed with or addressed by any any any person crossing the road. So that's one way of dealing with decolonization. That was when India did not know what to do with its past. So it decided to pick everything up and push it sort of like under the carpet or in a cupboard that you never want to open ever again. This park still exists and most of these sculptures are an absolute ruin. This is an example of one way of how one can deal with one's colonial past. If you can't remove the colonial symbol you can re appropriate the meaning of the colonial symbol which come which brings me to India Gate, possibly one of the most iconic symbols of Indian democracy. For Delhi at least. India Gate is a celebration of everybody who had passed away fighting for the British Empire in the First World War. It is an imperial symbol it isn't it is a power it is a symbol of all those Indians who lost their lives not for Indian freedom but for British freedom. However, this does not sit heavy on an A common Indian person's mind. The appropriate appropriation of the symbol has been so complete that it is it's visible on most sort of tourist banners, it's the center of our Republic Day celebrations. It is something that all Indians will in the evenings come and sit next to celebrate a very sort of personal relationship with it, you will have ice cream Windows walking up and down the street kids playing it's a very open space wherever we can walk in and it is understood to be a symbol of reverence and respect for one's past not not majorly sort of associated with our colonial history. So these are two ways that India has dealt with some of these major symbols of its colonial history. I spend a lot of time trying to wonder what causes this selection. Why in the India Gate did not have the same do not suffer the same destiny as sculptures from the coronation Park and the within the comes to mind. It wasn't that you can't physically remove it and you can't physically break it down. But I'll be happy to to know what you guys would feel about this as well.
The second idea is to rewrite and to rename Now these are two heavy ideas that are on the same slide. But they have a similar logic behind them. So there has been a move to rewrite history, not just within the larger Academy historiography, but also within how schools and students understand or learn that history is. So between the two major examples I can give you, the nCrt school syllabus changes, and the undergraduate course changes. Within the school syllabus changes. We've had a series of educational reforms that have moved ideas like say caste politics, or Mughal history, or communal writing or communal violence in Indians. In Indian Indian past, there's also been a move as a fairly political move to suppress the role of the Congress in the independence movement. Just to give a little bit of a background Congress was the larger political force that has been largely defeated now by the current incumbent government, which is the BJP. So ideas like for example, codes from the hero have been removed. The role of rural county in certain movements has been reduced in text. Even as far as population data about how many Hindus versus how many Muslims live in a country, or that their employment rates have been smashed. In school, the textbooks now we need to understand the sort of the sanctity with which a normal school child or or sort of a parent would regard what is it mean a text given that it is published by the government, it is considered to be of a certain value that cannot be questioned, and has been marked up and used for like school learning or passing exams. So the level of questioning that happens at this level is very minimal, which makes change like this very dangerous. This change is going to expounded when one reaches the undergraduate courses. Over the last five years, the undergraduate courses for history learning for the BA in history has been has changed drastically. Just one example that like to begin with is changing the name of, say, history of India to history of Wrath of Hara thrash, which is sort of more in a commercial dualistic Hindu approach to looking at the history of, of India. There's also been a move to sort of have courses that are titled
Indus Valley Civilization so so the Civilization and its Vedic connection. So when you have courses title like this, there's an assumption that be the history or Hindu history goes back as far as Indus Valley Civilization, which is not a historical fact. But I think through strategies like titling, like making titles like there's so many courses like this, a lot of students would not be able to exercise their ability to critically, critically address this issue, or critically understand the politics behind these kinds of changes. You also have changes in the administration of colleges, you have, in recent past, we've had a massive change in the removal of certain Dean's of principals who don't agree with political changes happening across the country. And those who are ideologically inclined tend to find themselves in positions where they can control, for example, which PhD thesis gets passed or which PhD application is successful. So you have sort of a systematic change and a sieve and a syllabus change happening at the same time. On the right hand side. It's a very interesting list. Initially, I was thinking of doing an entire background or just the number of name changes that have happened in India across and this is just a small summary of it. It's a conglomeration of CTG city name changes, road name changes, museum name changes, and it's color coded. So, when I was looking at this list, I was trying to break down logic behind it. And I found a three way logic. The first is changing a name from a British name to a secular name. The second is from Google name or a Muslim name to a Hindu name. And the third is from a Imperial name to a Hindu name. As you can see that there is a large movement towards making every name more indica, more Hindu. And the definition of indica is largely becoming a non Muslim or, or isolation like a separation change. So I've just made a color. I've just made a color coding happening. So everything in blue is your secular changes. So how Kingsway has been renamed to rajpath Queensway to Janpath all these names are largely understood to be a common secular common communal shared nomenclature, but as we move on to everything in yellow or everything in white, you see either change from for example, the web, the most interesting one was the Mughal museum that was changed to Chatrapati Shivaji Museum in 2020, which is a very recent example, this museum was to be built in Agra, which was a city made by a permaculture ruler. It was supposed to champion the Mughal contributions to Indian culture such as miniature painting or architecture. But in 2020 20, after the museum was already in construction, the Chief Minister of particular state announced that the name has to change initially to brasure Museum, which is a local Indic population or the local language population. And later, it was argued that you would have Chatrapati Shivaji, who is a very strong Mahabharata, Africa from Maharashtra, West India. So this is a trend that we all see happening very often, there are tangible repercussions to these trends, where you have a lot of financial investment in changing names, in rotations, as well. But mostly what it does is it tries to manipulate or change how the public addresses or reacts to history on a day to day basis.
The second idea is rebuilding. And this is something that I feel very personally sort of passionate about these two particular projects, and they are very recent projects. The idea of rebuilding is when you have managed to have sort of I feel discrete changes to how the public reacts to their history, or public understands their history, you've taken the time of changing the syllabus, you've taken the time of changing the road names, slowly, you're corroding how the population is reacting or responding to their own past. What you can then do is commissioned large scale projects, which undertake massive construction, either breaking down and rebuilding or building once again, and there is a trend in recent past that is creating a lot more like this, the India's moving to a more aggressive, symbolic front, a very aggressive, nationalistic kind of jingoistic front that they are putting across this. There are many examples of this one way one common example that a lot of Indians who have joined this conversation will be familiar with is something called the angry Hanuman motif. There was there is a deity called Hanuman. He's a part of the larger epic of Ramayana, which is an ancient epic in India. He's the symbolism of that figure has changed in the recent past. Initially, he was a symbol of loyalty of servitude, of bravery, and always depicted in a sort of amicable manner in paintings. In the recent past, in the past five years, there was a graphic artist in the south of India, who created a sort of a more aggressive muscled version of the same day. And before you knew it, that symbol serve spread across subcontinent at a speed that nobody predicted by be it either in car stickers or in WhatsApp profile photos. It began to be adopted by a lot of population in India because they began at some level, responding positively to this change, of attitude of change of nature to a more aggressive or more sort of nationalist or jingoistic front. But the two examples I've taken up over here, the first is the central reverse the central Vista redesign project in in September 2019, the government of India undertook a project, they made a sudden announcement that they would undertake major reconstruction on the Kings way and the Queen's were erstwhile kings and queens. So, now the Janpath and the rajpath, which isn't center of Delhi, which is called Docklands, Delhi, are bakers and latrines Delhi. because of two reasons, the first was pragmatic reasons or, for example, government offices are very old buildings, they need remodeling they need re they need to accommodate more people, they need to have a lot more efficient working by putting everybody in one building so all these pragmatic concerns that were coming up the second reason was a sort of an ideological opposition to who design this part of the city be it meant specifically Latvians and Baker B them specifically being British, artists, architects, and the idea of the entirety of central value being a British project or a Brit British construction and the government sort of expressed some concerns with how the British chose to depict or chose which aesthetic elements from which design path design history of India did they choose to incorporate and how the current India the powerful current modern India should rebuild something that is more in tune with a more authentic Indian aesthetic. So there was is a large sort of pushback to this decision, especially in a pre pandemic time, there were protests happening about the level of construction that will be required, specifically in a time where India was suffering through a pandemic and needed sources resources in other in other parts of the, of the country. The scheme of this redesign was extremely massive from breaking down any building that is not heritage sites or anything built after 1950s will be broken down, including the National Museum, the entire central secretariat will be evacuated and made into museums of freedom and democracy. And a massive construction would take place that would eradicate all these parks and public space that you see on the side.
So this project has sort of divided India a lot in the recent past, specifically with having sort of all academicians to one side and say, sort of a push back from a more pragmatic part of India on the other side, and that only Gupta, who's very respected historian from Delhi spoke about how Janpath or Raj producible was supposed to be a more like a more civic friendly space, for example, to allow a car like a classless a costless space for Indian Indians to come in enjoy their own city, their own capital, to come in have picnics here to have football games here to have walks around India Gate was something that was supposed to be a very common practice amongst delegates who would do this on a day to day basis. However, the current project plans to eradicate all these civic spaces and change a lot of what India Delhi sees as its historical past or its landscape. Now, it is an argument that hasn't been cited as of yet the construction project is ongoing. But one this is I feel one way of handling or decolonizing. One one's own past is sort of pushing back and breaking down these remnants. And then it begs the question of at what point do we stop? At what point do we understand that, like, we put a limit of how much we can go back into a pure version of Indian past, right. The the next example, that came away recently, this month actually was the revealing of a new national symbol. So on the parliament building on top of the parliament building, we would have the Ashokan, Lion Capital head, which you see on the left hand side, this is from 250 BC, from the Shogun empire. It was it sort of Pope's entire pillar, that was the pillars that were built up across India. On the left hand side, you see a line that is a lot more aesthetic it is it shows us an idea of sort of protectiveness or of pride, as opposed to as opposed to the right hand side that can that tone, like in terms of tonality, in terms of aesthetic shows a lot more of an aggressive militant, or sort of an anger that was absent in how India perceived itself in the past. My personal opinions aside, there is a larger collage conversation happening about this sort of tonal tonality change or aesthetic change that one is noticing across India, but this is another example of how we are sort of decolonizing or changing how we want to be perceived across the world. Which I found very, very interesting. However, I mean, I can I can understand how it would be would feel that I'm being very negative about these changes. So I'd have a nice slide about how I think that decolonization also has positive impact on how museums portraying themselves. So on the top you have my favorite museum in Delhi, which is the National Museum as you can see, this is a picture from the basement. I think it's the one early medieval crafts and constructions and that's what the gallery is called. As you can see, it's a very sort of old institution. There are large glass cabinets separating the viewer from the artifact. It's air conditioned, it's very sanitary. It's very Imperial.
Everything is shut off behind certain glass and wooden cabinets, Kavita Singh, who is the head of department of art and aesthetics department in JNU. Jawaharlal Nehru University has written a very nice article called The museum is national where she discusses the impact or the influence of Imperial thought on Indian history on how the national museum itself is designed. So the initial galleries that you have are periodic galleries such as in this Valley Civilization mariage manga Setswana. Moving on to your early medieval late medieval but the moment Indian history starts approaching this Mughal phase National Museum changes its galleries name to materiality. So it becomes from early medieval late medieval becomes brutal architecture, or metal work or musical instruments are most in a way, denying the Mughal aspect of the Islamic aspect of Indian history by how it's designed. It's a very Imperial institution. So also it sort of repels a lot of Indians from entering the institution who feel like they don't belong inside of they don't have a right to walk inside. So it does create a space of otherness. It does elevate civil, I mean culture towards sort of upper level of only being accessible to the elite who feel like they can enter the museum and walk in whenever they want. On the bottom, we have a nicer a much a much more different way of approaching Indian culture, which is the National Museum in Japan. This is an open open design museum that celebrates village life and broom and poo making that's a local culture. The space is a lot more welcoming to a larger class of Indians, it is a lot more spread out is more in tune with indigenous architecture, and indigenous weather, it also would have employed a lot more locals in the construction and maintenance of the museum. So it does have a lot more specialized focus in terms of where the load the location or the locality of what it is celebrating as opposed to a national mall mostly sort of dominating centralizing figure, the National Museum, which has captured the artifacts from across the Indian subcontinent. As the last line to my conversation, today, I'm gonna be starting the cutting to talk to you about opening up the conversation, I want to talk to you about the thin line between decolonization and re colonization. There's something that I began thinking about when I was thinking, what how India is dealing with its past where, in order to address a past, we are trying to replace it with another idea of our history, which has very tangible repercussions on how future generations will see India and how future generations will think about India. So at what point? Do we sort of white like, at what point we fill the vacuum that decolonization that? The idea of removing a colonial perspective of our past? At what point will the bathroom become so strong that we need to fill it with something else? Is that something that will always happen? Can we have an absence? Or can we have can we deal as a people with a change in our how we perceive our history without putting another ideology on top of it and making sure that gets accepted. So when I think about how India is dealing with its colonial past, I feel that there are some negatives of house aggressively it is trying to do so. At the same time, I do believe that there are a lot of positives in the sense of making, changing how we perceive design or how we perceive our cultural spaces, who is supposed to be what's meant for who who understands or appreciates, or, or is able to access it. But it is a thin line that we do need to discuss and address at some point. I do understand I've been speaking for a good 30 minutes now. And I could go on for much longer. But I would like to now open the field, open the conversation up to any questions that anybody might have. Please feel free to use the chat or unmute yourselves. We can talk about I have a lot of examples on my notes that I would love to discuss with you. We can compare how other nations are dealing with that as well. But in the long list of lectures where I saw a lot of conversations about research, and sort of African African reaction, etc. I felt this conversation about how India is dealing with it in its own way, was an important one to have. Thank you so much for your time. It's been a pleasure.
And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe. And join me next time where I'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between
Wednesday Sep 14, 2022
Wednesday Sep 14, 2022
The tenth epsiode of the series will feature Larissa Kennedy from the National Union of Students and her talk 'Reimagining undegraduate research: Student agency throuhg a decolonial lens.'
Hello, and welcome to rd in the in betweens. I'm your host Kelly Preece. And every fortnight I talk to a different guest, about researchers development, and everything in between.
Hi, my name is Larissa, my pronouns are she her. And over the past two years, just up to two weeks ago, I had the joy and privilege of being national president at NUS, which is the National Union of Students representing the 7 million students across Further and Higher Education. Prior to that, I've kind of been in the anti racist space around education for practically my kind of entire university life and college life too. And now, kind of with all of that, under my belt, I'm continuing to do stuff around anti racism and education, decolonization and so on. Because this is yeah, it's really my bread and butter are in activism in our work in a lot of different spaces that climate justice and so now, kind of decolonizing education is for me a core of the work. So I'm going to share my screen, we can jump into it. But please feel free to stop me along the way to write in the chat ask questions, because I want to make it really clear that you know, even though this is stuff that I've I've been doing for a while I know kind of authority, you know, I'm just a black student who was sick and tired of being sick and tired. And and kind of launched into this work in that sense. So please do contribute as and when you see fit. So as it says on the screen, this session is titled reimagining undergraduate research student agency through a decolonial lens. And the reason that, you know, I really wanted to explore student agencies, and part of this is because of the system that we are navigating now. Because, you know, we see the ways that the democratize University kind of quell student agency, the ways that it diminishes student's capacity to be seen beyond individualists consumers or knowledge. And by extension, we have to think about how that impacts a student's capacity or even orientation towards research towards research that captures decolonial knowledge is that is bringing the subaltern into play. And so I really wanted to explore that in this talk today. So, you know, I think, head of really getting into the meat of it. I also want to say that if I'm making sweeping statements about kind of the system as it is, this really isn't to invisible eyes, the incredible efforts that are happening on the ground, by individuals who are seeking to undo colonialism in education, but it's to recognize that they are often jumping through endless bureaucratic hoops in order to make this possible. And so even if they do make it, and even if they do, kind of disrupt the academy in those ways, it's in spite of our institutions, not because of them. So with that in mind, thinking about the marketized University as a colonial export, I think is a really important starting point for recognizing how we got here, how we got to a position where, you know, undergraduate research, and particularly undergraduate research that is calling on deep learning and knowledge is so few and far between, but also kind of the levels of passivity that we have in our education system. So I start over this to kind of emphasize through the title through from the from the off that reimagining undergraduate research and student agency through decolonial lens is not about harking back to the kind of good old days that we often hear about in the education system and in higher education in particular, you know, it's not about reinventing these, the kind of romanticized era of the early 60s through to the 90s, where, you know, education was free at the point of use. And so you supposedly have this point where education was this beacon of possibility and an incredible feat that it was to have free education. And although, you know, I absolutely do see free education as a core part of a core principle of kind of reimagined education. I think we also have to be honest about the fact that that free education at the point of views for shoots in the UK was reliant even then, on different went through international student feeds. But it was also relying on kind of the supremacy of the British education system it
was relying on, you know, as I say, this education as a colonial export, because students around the world had been sold the story of a superior British education system. You know, for myself, I come from Jamaica, Barbados, and St. Vincent, of western Indian heritage. And from early days, it is taught to children and young people, but also to their parents, that the British education system is that which should be coveted. And as such, there was always baked into the system. And understanding that even when we had free education for students in the UK, that this was going to be subsidized by the kind of colonial export of he in UK. So this kind of historic fact paved the way for where we are now paved the way for students being positioned as passive consumers in the kind of 21st century mark marketized. University. And you know, this, it also paved the way for this construct, that the purpose of education as the kind of wind is just doing a lot here, sorry. And it paved the way for the way that, you know, the construct of the former education secretary Gavin Williamson, often said that the purpose of education is to lead people to a fulfilling working life emphasis on working them. It moved us from this idea that education is a tool of liberation, it removed us from the idea that education can be this, you know, opportunity to fulfill purpose to fulfill, you know, joy, even all of this was extracted such that education from this point, we're talking about, you know, decades and decades before the imposition of home student fees, you know, we were always on the journey to ensuring that, you know, markets, democratize university be that for international students, or for all of us, could be a colonial export. And so I think it's important to see that from the very beginning, such that we understand how we got to where we are. And then that begs the question, how does this impact the status of undergraduate students? How does that inform undergrad teaching, learning and research? Because, you know, we've seen kind of the recent criticisms over the past decade or so, around the kind of false neutrality of knowledge that we receive, around kind of the role of decolonization or prior to those campaigns were often heard of the wider my curriculum, white campaigns, which were, you know, encouraging us to be critical and so on of the knowledge that we receive. But what we rarely see is students positioned as actors in informing you know, these, this status quo, or reshaping or transforming the status quo rather, is about okay, receiving the knowledge that
there's an issue here. Not being people that are given agency to do something about it. And again, I think it's important to look backwards about how we got here, why this is the case. And fundamentally, this is as true throughout our education system as it is in higher education. If you look at schools, and colleges, this rings true. And, you know, speaking to a kind of anti racist educator, Geoffrey beracha, recently, and he described it by saying that activism is not on the curriculum, meaning that politically, kids are being reared to stay still. And so what is it about the kind of transience of the student population kind of juxtaposed with this stagnant, that is being taught to us? This kind of disempowering dampening of our impulses to make change? And what is it about that that kind of informs the way that undergraduates in particular are approaching their own teaching, learning and research? Because I think when you see the kind of rapturous reaction to the like, so, students at Pimlico Academy, resisting Islamophobic and anti black policies, when you see kind of rapturous reaction to the climate strikes that students are leading schools, it's this kind of inclination to inaction and then the kind of shock horror approach to to student agency being exercise. Those teacher Lesson Two Right, they teach students they teach young people, that for you to act against your education system for you to speak up against your education system is unexpected, and will face backlash. And again, if we go further back, you know this, in the same way that we know that this schooling model was built on the kind of Victorian model of education, which was essentially trying to explore, you know, factory workers. We also know that the university system was built in the image of the so called system, the Masters model of education, which was predicated on the idea that those who hold power know best what should be taught and how it should be taught. So where does agency fit within that, because day in day out, that passivity has been communicated to us structurally through schools and colleges, through higher education, and so on. So this ultimately kind of yields the systemic erasure of black knowledge and forms of knowledge production, I would argue, and particularly so at undergraduate level where there is far less capacity to shape your own journey, and where, you know, when I when I do these workshops with students, when I talk to students across the country, they're often talking about kind of trying to make their education more pliable, trying to twist and shape and like, look for blackness into play, rather than it being possible to exist in tandem with the current educational system. So I really to speak slightly here about okay, if we begin thinking about what does reimagination look like if we start to use that as a jumping off point from which we can think of new? How do we reckon with this kind of hyper visibility and invisibility of black students that often comes up in that sense? You know, invisibility, in the sense of black knowledge is being disregarded and delegitimize by the Academy, but hyper visibility, in that whenever students do bring those kind of whether it's lived experiences, or kind of black colleges, and this isn't just black students, but bringing black knowledges and black studies into play, there is often a kind of, you know, hyper visibility in the sense of a magnifying glass on the students and on their work, you know, which we often see in reports, regarding the BAC, attainment gap, and so on, which, of course, is is a kind of symptom of this broader structural issue. And then, you know, to add to that hyper visibility, it's not just about how it's perceived within the academy, we also see that kind of sense, I've sensationalized reports of anti racist efforts happening within our universities, I'm sure I don't need to tell those in the in this space about the kind of Daily Mail reports and so on, about kind of removal of the Queen. And we're talking about kind of colleges and universities that have taken very simple actions which have been blown out of proportion for sensationalist headlines.
I think, in addition to talking about that reality for black students, and for black colleges, it's also important to see how this systemic erasure is kind of propped up by the fact that this is operating in tandem with the exploitation of black people and people of color within the academy to, you know, I often talk about the fact that if you put every single if you kind of in a graph or on paper, put down every single person, demographically, that's that's working in the university, you would almost get a kind of pyramid structure with the number of black and brown folks in maintenance role, be that cleaning or otherwise being kind of overwhelmingly disproportionate. And then you see that that the numbers of black and brown folks in roles, you know, first of all, your early careers, academics, you have far more than you do in terms of your your professors and lecturers and senior management, of course, we know is historically very white and middle class. So this isn't happening in isolation. And so it's important to see how this systemic erasure is enabled by that kind of structural ratio of black people and black bodies. So we're often then told off the back of the ad that it's going to take time to diversify the academy. We're kind of expected to wait the number of generations that will Take for black folks to work their way up, you know, this myth of meritocracy and so on feeding into this idea that, you know, in order to enable the research of black colleges, we have to wait for more black friends to come up to be interested in at school, you have no idea and the process continues. But for me this this begs the question, what if students were empowered to redefine the academy now, rather than continuing to absorb knowledge is that have been kind of extracted from the canon? What if the spaces of education that we have today work kind of propelling this action and seeing students as agents of this change, rather than passive consumers of things as they are? And so that obviously requires a kind of considerable shift from our present education system to some kind of reimagined future one, because it present undergraduate research is an extension of the academy that exists within you know, if things are if opportunities for research, the outside of core course content, often they are inaccessible to marginalized students, if those opportunities aren't fully funded, you know, if, you know those opportunities aren't accessible for other reasons, such as even levels of publicity and and people's awareness of them, which often comes with levels of cultural and social capital. There are so many reasons, endless reasons be that kind of black students disproportionately having countless possibilities and so on that the list is endless as to why these things aren't always possible. But how do we bring that future lens into play? How do we think of both the practical interim opportunities that we can can pursue to reimagine undergraduate research within the present education system, on the way to on the path to a reimagined education, which of course we'd have this at the core, then, you know, that's what we can start to think about. So I don't know if folks have any thoughts about what those steps might be, feel free to put things in the chat or to just have a think about them yourself.
But what I'm gonna do now is take us on to talk a little bit about decolonial theory, and how that applies to undergraduate research. And let's talk a bit more about what that reimagination looks like practically. So I often go back to Poker laneways processes of decolonization and these five stages, which I feel are really useful, the third of which is involved, because it's perhaps my favorite. But it's also important to note that Elaine, we refer to these processes as necessitating or kind of iterative process of them all in tandem. And yeah, I'll just speak a little bit to what these are at the moment. So the first of these stages is rediscovery and recovery, the idea that there is so much to unlock when it comes to forms of knowledge and knowledge production that hasn't been lost by the processes of color, colonialism and imperialism, that this in itself is a necessary process to go through, you know, we have to begin to unlock things that you know, that we don't know that we don't know, that we have to kind of utilize funding and kind of an orientation and an inclination towards uncovering these analogies. And that has to be done with intention. So that's rediscovery and recovery, then the second stage of this is about mourning. And it's about recognizing that there are some things that are lost that cannot be recovered. But there are some things that have been raised that that cannot be undone, and that to reckon with that is a very emotionally taxing thing, and particularly so for those who have lived experience of colonial violence or racist violence. The third process, as I say, is my favorite and that's about dreaming. It's about you know, recognizing that even the barriers of what we think when we are outside the box, we are pushing the boundaries of this and thinking really imaginatively, even that is so tied to where we are at present, and to dream to really think beyond the balance with no limits were blown kind of logic, as I said at the beginning, and kind of prior to the recording for folks, which after we did a bit of a free writing, exercise just to start tapping into our capacity to dream. And I think that this is so so important because as soon as we become bogged down in the kind of what is possible, what is considered impossible. That's when we start to lose possibilities here. So I think it's really, really important to dwell on dreaming as a process. And so I'm going to go into that in a bit more detail in a second. The fourth stage in these processes is around commitment. How do you build that groundswell of community support? How do you kind of tap into, you know, the pupil powered energy that you need to move these processes forward. And often in practice, this looks like things like solidarity between students unions, trade unions, those organizing on the ground and community led initiatives and so on. But this could be even more to. And then the fifth and final stage is action. You know, I love this one, because it's simple. It is what it says on the team is about how do we kind of put in place transformative action that is ready to reckon with the fact that the educational system that we have today, is the very product of colonialism, imperialism, displacement, enslavement, and racial violence and without transformative action. You know, if we keep tinkering at the edges, it's not just, it's just not going to cut in. So to talk about dreaming in a bit more detail, you know, I think there are a number of things that we can begin to tap into, when it comes to reimagining undergraduate students agency and dreaming of an education that is built, not bought that is shared, not sold, dreaming of an education that is kind of free from exploitation, and empowering in the quest for liberation. And the kind of starting point, and this and these, literally, the Eastern kind of ideas are just a starting point, because as I say, this dreaming process has to be collective. But where it seems to start for me, is about tapping into kind of decolonial knowledge is, and I'll start on the screen there, I've
mentioned Fred mountains kind of concept around blackness and Academy is future tivity. What I really love about this concept is that it recognizes that the existence of black people in the academy as it is, can only be one of theft, right? It can only be one of trying to extract what you can in service of community in a way that isn't permitted by the educational system. But what if we move this from future tivity to function in terms of meaning this would be the norm and not the exception. By being able to move into a kind of reimagined University where we are centering community in research where we are centering kind of the solidarity between students and staff and community in building what needs to be researched in in kind of actioning, that practical recovery, rediscovery and so on. I think that would be a kind of one, but you still have a reimagined University for me, because I feel like the way that that would shape undergraduate student agency in being able to tap into the things that really, really matter to them and to their communities. And being able to use that as a kind of springboard for even thinking about research will be incredibly transformative. I would love to know what you think about that in the chat. And again, in terms of decolonial knowledges, I think a second piece of this is about centering the Western Academy and carving out space to do things differently. And why that I'm not only talking about kind of research at a post grad and staff level, but I'm also talking about how do we begin to see intergeneration knowledge is as important as is kind of aligned with African tradition. How do we start to see Indigenous Knowledges or stop the kind of process by which the academy delegitimize us indigenous knowledge is and use that to start propelling an agency towards tapping into things that haven't yet been done in the west or haven't yet been accepted in the worse. And then kind of thinking about decolonial pedagogy as well. I think this for me is about changing that. How in order to transform the wallet, because at the moment, we have, as I say, an education system built from this masters law that says, You should learn this, you should be taught in this way about this. And if we begin to descend to authority in the classroom, making space for people to bring their whole selves into an educational setting, and not just doing this at higher education, but doing this from afar earlier on, I think we have the opportunity to unlock different ideas, different things, even beyond our imagination, because of the way that we're engaging with knowledge. And I think that's really important. And to be honest, I could talk about decolonial pedagogy all day, but I'm just touching on it here, because I think it is absolutely core to unlocking undergraduate students agency. And then, ultimately, you know, this is about building decolonial spaces for knowledge. And I say spaces rather than institutions. Because perhaps the reimagined University isn't an institution in the sense that we know today. But really, if we are talking about democratizing education, and not just for one set of students, but in a kind of universal sense, if we're talking about democratizing universities, and kind of giving us some forms of agency to students to set the agenda, or to talk about the knowledges that connect with and impact their communities, and so on. And if we're talking about decolonizing institutions, and you know, thinking differently about knowledge about pedagogy about all of this, the kind of structural exploitation of black folks of,
you know, the Global South, and so on. This is how we begin to build a new, but it also yields towards the kind of abolition of the university as we know it, right? Because the, the university, the institution that we know, today, as I say, is the product of all of these forms of colonialism, imperialism, and so on, if we are to extract and take out and undo, and dismantle all of these kind of real forms of how racism is sewn into the fabric of the academy. Ultimately, this is about the abolition of the university. And for me, the most important thing to note here is how do we connect students and their agency in this process? What would the abolition of the university mean for students? What would it mean for student simulation to staff and community? What would that democratize, democratize, decolonized education actually look like? And How could our spaces of education construct student agency as central rather than kind of the kind of marginal considerations of our education? So this really is about positing students as creators, positive students as architects, not as passive consumers, building spaces both within and beyond the academy to start answering these questions. And this has been kind of some of the journey that under my time as NUS president that we were on. We had something called a student strike where we had students walk out of the educational settings and come to this imaginative space when we will hosting sessions and students themselves are hosting sessions about kind of its presence or absence about building life affirming institutions in the world. As of Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Ruth wheels and Gilmore Girls being one of my favorite Instagram Twitter accounts. And but I do think there is great capacity to think differently about what does it mean to be a student to reconstruct who is seen as a student, because, you know, ultimately, all of us are potential students in the communities that we're in. And to kind of almost weaponize weaponize the position that students have for good to talk about the fact that the university would not run without students without staff without communities fueling into and finally into these spaces. And using that, to leverage your capacity for students to be agents of change in reshaping and reimagining University. So I was hoping to pause at this point to see if there were any questions, contributions, thoughts, reflections on any of that, so far But yeah, I mean, I hope that was helpful as a kind of starting point for these discussions. As I say, I don't want to position myself as any kind of an authority on this, but rather just kind of a black student and a black underground who wants to, you know, be in community with others who are seeking to reimagine the university and to reimagine undergrad student research women that
and that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe. And join me next time where I'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between
Tuesday Sep 13, 2022
Tuesday Sep 13, 2022
The ninth epsiode of the series will feature Olabisi Obamakin from the University of Exeter and her talk 'Afropean theology: Utilising Nigerian/British novels as autoethnography in New Testament Studies.'
Hello, and welcome to rd in the in betweens. I'm your host Kelly Preece. And every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development and everything in between. Hello, and welcome to the latest episode of rd in the in betweens. This will be the ninth now in our series on decolonizing research and for this episode we're going to hear from University of Exeter PGR Olabisi abama kin, and her presentation Afro pIan theology, utilizing Nigerian British novels and auto ethnography in New Testament studies. I am to
be the first scholar to construct and apply a feminist Nigerian British hermeneutical framework. This hybrid location is referred to as living with liminality. And it was coined African by David Byron, who first used the word with regard to the afro pop band zap mama in 1993. Afro paganism is unique in that it moves beyond the parochial West and the West thinking that has dominated Biblical Studies for centuries. And it moves towards an unfixed heterogeneous concept of identity that finally recognizes the long standing complex and heterogeneous relationship between Africa and Europe. Next slide please. My rationale for choosing to locate myself specifically within the subset of Nigerian Britishness within Afro pianism. It originates from my criticism of Johnny Pitts seminal book entitled Afro peon notes from a black Europe, in which he traveled across Europe in order to catch up black Europe from the streets up. He has been criticized for creating a uniform template in which all black people in Europe should fix. His methodology, which was an abstract travel narrative across Europe can also be accused of uncontrollably mimicking Neo colonial dynamic dynamics. Plus, demonstrating how ingrained colonial thought patterns aren't within scholarship. I argue that pits could be seen to have constructed another a morphism label in which to place black Europeans that takes insufficient amount of the nuances within hybrid ethnic cultural identities. My thesis therefore contends that one must particularize Afro paganism within an individual's lived experience, specific locations and relevant traditions. As a black Nigerian woman, black British Nigerian women of Nigerian descent. This formed my rationale for locating my project within the specific context of being a Nigerian British feminist. Rooting my thesis when the specific location allows me to nest my own specific identity and experience under the umbrella term of Afro pianism. Donna Haraway refers to this as situated knowledge. I will therefore henceforth be referring to this lens as a feminist Nigerian British lens. This new lens aims to address the gaps in current feminist womanist and post colonial feminist interpretation, which completely leaves out the experiences of Nigerian British women and your Parker's new book. If God stories why can't I highlights the cutting edge voice of women scholars in America within the field of Biblical studies, but notable by their absence is a specific black British, or here, Nigerian British feminists biblical interpretation. Next slide, please. Within Oh, sorry. Next slide, please. How's my project decolonial. Within biblical research in history, Europe and North America have been situated as the center of knowledge production, in order to maintain the ideology or superiority and the suppression of the other. These anchor centric and Euro American interpretive traditions have presented cerebral historical critical methods of interpreting scripture as the only founded an academic method of studying scripture when this is not the case, with regards to Africa, Adrian Hastings dates that African songs, musical instruments, languages and dance light at the very heart of its communal and artistic inheritance. I aim to therefore show this creative aspects of African epistemology by using novels as an important source of anthropology within my thesis, and also by incorporating autobiographical criticism.
This therefore, introduces a much needed rich diversity of global north and global south epistemologies within scholarship. Next slide, please. So my research has three main questions. The first question, please, Laura, is how can New Testament characters be read and interpreted in new ways through a feminist Nigerian British lens? The second question is, what are the unique questions that a feminist Nigerian British Africans will have been approaching the biblical text? And finally, what challenge does this approach pose to a discipline of Biblical Studies? Next slide please. In my thesis, I aim to look at six female New Testament biblical characters. The first is the Canaanite woman in Matthew chapter 15, verses 21 to 28. Then the woman who washed his feet with her hair, in Luke chapter seven, verse 36, to 50, the Samaritan woman at the well, in John chapter four, verses seven to 42, the Pythian slave girl, in Acts chapter 16, verses 16 to 34 and finally commodious, his daughter, in Mark chapter six verses 1721. And Nigerian British hermeneutical lens aims to provide a new way in which to ask questions of this biblical characters. That that, for the first time reflects the specific concerns, values, and interpretive interests of the female Nigerian British experience. My lens does not provide historically grounded solutions to these questions. Rather, it aims to present the new possibilities and maybe the biblical text that have not been explored before and biblical interpretation. It is to be noted that this new feminist Nigerian British lens is not primarily intended to offer constructive theology, or to resource pastors with material with which to preach the church context. It is specifically intended to be disruptive be not destructive sorry, disruptive to the euro North American biblical interpretation daven domination within the academy. Next slide, please. Do too much complexity of the Nigerian British context. This study lends itself to a multidisciplinary methodology, method method methodological approach that incorporates methods from both the global north and Global South. Now therefore, it's five main elements within my African feminist Nigerian British lens. First, it includes Nigerian participants. Secondly, it includes feminist critical readings. Third, includes creative actualization. Fourth, is includes secular novels. And finally, it draws upon critical autobiography. In this way, it draws upon methods rooted in both global north and global south epistemology. It takes a multidisciplinary approach, drawing upon literary criticism, feminist studies, gender studies, postcolonial studies and anthropology. Next slide, please. To ensure that my feminist Nigerian British lens truly addresses the specific concerns and interpretive interests of female Nigerian British people, it is crucial that the key themes within this unique context are identified. In order to do this, I first studied several novels, written by Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi, who originates from a similar hybrid context to to meet so she is an American Nigerian novelist. So I use her work in order to create a scaffold of the potential scenes that might that may be present in Nigerian British identity. Next slide please.
Then read novels, specifically by female Nigerian British authors, such as Bernadine Evaristo inhabit gold and other and Emma theory and habit, don't touch my hair. I also drew upon my own experiences of being in Nigeria and British women, in order to help choose the themes that I felt most reflected the specific concerns, values and interpreted interests of Nigeria of British women. From my research, I found that there were there were four main themes that emerged from these novels. The first mother and daughter is generally intergenerational relationships. Second, Afro hair, third, marital relationships, and fourth, retrieving a last Nigerian epistemology. In order to stimulate and inform a fresh engagement with the biblical characters, I will be using the themes within these novels. The rationale for using novels secular novels, to illuminate themes within the biblical text originates from the 1870s, in which fictional novels began to acquire the respect once only accorded exclusively the biblical narrative. Previous scholars, such as Northrop, have since used sector novels alongside the biblical text, in order to illuminate mythological structures within the Scripture. scholars such as Alison Longfellow have also reached reimagined scriptural themes using secular novels. In her book, Bible and Bedlam, Louise Lawrence also use novels written by the author, Betsy head to elucidate new lines of inquiry than the Pythian slave girl in Acts chapter two. Oh, next slide, please. So on the next slide, okay, sorry, previous slide. My thesis uses novels in a similar way to Lawrence, by using secular novels written by Nigerian feminist offers, in order to illuminate the theme within Afro paganism. Although these authors did not have an explicit interest in biblical interpretation, and do not identify themselves explicitly as Afro pIan. My rationale for choosing them to embody the afro pIan theme is because they're written by Nigerian British women. As such, their work offers a new way into New Testament biblical study that moves beyond the binary ethnic categories within feminist postcolonial scholarship, and develops a more hybrid intersectional approach. These novels will be used to stimulate creative imagination about the possibilities within the story by using the characters but then, as analogies for the biblical biblical characters. I will not explore each thing and outline how you use it to illuminate new questions of the biblical character. Next slide, please. So the social location of Afro paganism brings a unique complexity to intergenerational family relationships, specifically with regards to mothers and daughters. The implications of occupying a hybrid racial identity, a multi generational as each generation moves beyond a national identity towards the unfixed heterogeneous concept of identity. This thing, and specifically explore the theme of mother and daughter relationships. And in order to do that I use Ben Dean every stone is gone women either. As an author ever Risto strives to explore the hidden narratives of the African diaspora diaspora, to play with ideas, conjure up original and innovative fiction and forms and to subvert expectations and assumptions. Her novel go woman either, especially able to disrupt flats, and parochial assumptions regarding black female characters in the UK, in order to convey the diverse ways that characters respond to their context. The incident and the intergenerational relationship between mothers and daughters is a central theme then, then this novel is amplified by generational element within the novel girl woman other
This theme is going to help me re reimagine the Canaanite woman. And it does so by making me aware of issues such as race and ethnicity and in intergenerational patterns. Next slide, please. Don't touch my hair, written by Mr. Barbieri. It's an iconic piece of literature, which is half autobiography and half black cultural history, and it has captured the attention of scholars. within it. The theory presents her own autobiographical experience of having Afro hair of having her hair policed and denigrated as a child brought up in in Ireland. It also explores the cultural and colonial history behind the decimation of Afro hair that stands right from the afro from ancient times, right up until social media in modern times. In this book, to bury aim to uncover the racist underpinnings of the categorization of Afro hair in the UK. Hair is the central theme within Afro paganism. This theme of Han will be used to explore the assumptions that previous scholarship has made with regards to the woman who was Jesus's feet with her hair in Luke chapter seven. The aim is to bring out new questions and new possibilities that no one has ever thought before. Did this woman have normative hair in her context? Does she have Straight European hair? Was she perceived as other because of her? What pretty what prejudice prejudices? Could she have faced on account of her hair? How did these insights offer a new reading also women who washed his feet with her hair in the chapter seven perspectives, the 15th. We will be revisiting this at the end and you'll be using it as an example of how to apply my new framework. Next slide please. In QA, Where is your husband, written by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn opens with his mother praying for her to be delivered from singledom and completely humiliated her in front of her friends and her family. This incident highlights two unique and significant themes within black bands. But that could open a whole new door for new interpretation of the women as as in John chapter four. Nigerian British women are especially subjected to parental and wider kinship obligations to marry. Ideally, a Nigerian or a member of Nigerian diaspora and they are pressured to reproduce. This phenomenon is endemic within the UK and is known to result in psychological pressure and most Nigerian British young women. This insight regarding Blackburn's book creates a whole new and exciting line of inquiry with regards to the Samaritan woman. Was she pressured potentially into getting married? Was she a victim of her parents pressure? These are questions that this book illuminates when biblical text net five years historic epistemic injustice has deemed all non western cultures to be inferior, and enforced the marginalization of elements of indigenous epistemic frameworks. Over time, due to a colonial mentality rooted in the erasure of Britain the arrival of British missionaries to Nigeria in 1842. Europe a diaspora like myself have become increasingly distant from their culture and language. The novel butterflyfish Britain by relevant ecology allies with nascent movement scholarship that have sought to objectively contextualize indigenous social relations and culture, which in the past has been described as primitive, crude, backward and they have Koji, who is a female black British author, born in Benin, uses her novel to successfully tilt the worlds of Western reasons, and introduce them to new ways of looking at the world based on an African epistemology.
Within her narrative, a koji intentionally shifts between the real and the unreal and explores multiple temporalities in concurrent It tracks in order to radically disrupt Western epistemic readings, and to affirm that Africa symbology is valid. This book seeks to retrieve and affirm a lost Europe epistemology that has inspired me to look at the Pythian slave girl in Acts chapter 16 in a different light, it has inspired me actually to think about questions that hasn't been asked before of the text. How is money viewed in an African context? These questions haven't been illuminated by the text by the by the nozzle, and open a new line of inquiry from political text. Next slide, please. So this is my supervisor. Her name is Professor with Lawrence and I'm talking about her earlier about the rationale behind us novels as as tools in which to really illuminate things from the biblical text. So in her book by William Bedlam, she used a book by Betsy head of question of power, which is kind of like a magnet narrative. And she's an African author Bessie head. So Louise retinues, used her work in order to illuminate new question of the Pythian safeguard, and her work really inspired me to do the same. Next slide. Lost my place. Yes, in my work, I also incorporate my own personal experiences of being a Nigerian British women. In the last 20 years, the genre of memoir has gone undergone a complete shift. This shift has led to the creation of a sub genre called critical autobiography that reflects the craft of classic. What's great that critical autobiography is a sub genre of memoir, and does not conform to the traditional definition of nonfiction. This allows room for this ever evolving stop genre of memoir that contains attributes that is not normally attributes nonfiction, is a trickster methodology that is particularly relevant to liberation are in orientated African Bible reading. In a call critical autobiography, is successful and liberated reading of biblical characters, as it provides context specific language that can enrich and complicate older biblical images that have become timeworn, one dimensional and dualistic. Due to the effects of of the global north colonizing Africa, black people, like myself, have only encountered representations of themselves as the object of the surveyors gaze, the exotic native other of anthropology. In southern theory, Raewyn. Connell highlights that historically, westward expansion for the Global North, including silencing the voice of the Global South, leading to the global north domination, but as currently seen in literature, autobiography, or auto ethnography is therefore a powerful method of methodological tool, especially with an African feminism, as it avidly contest essentialism and recognises the plurality of women's lives, rather than privilege for a theory. One notion of a woman black women's voices have been doubly oppressed with regards to race and gender. Due to the intersection of both racial and gender discrimination or spa graphic cuisine therefore, is a powerful means for previous colonized women to take back control of their voice and assert cultural agency and uncover their original native views. As interesting a quote, my personal experience is a valid source of research.
Autobiography enables female researchers from ethnic minority like myself, to specifically locate themselves and in their research, and gift their readers with a privileged insight into their worldviews and ontology, which otherwise would be completely unacceptable. It gives an invaluable opportunity for minority researchers to feel empowered to share their story. arrays were before they had been silenced. Next slide, please. And return this book chapter, liberating African theology. He states that if now if there is no responsibility for post colonial scholars to expose the dehumanization of Africans, colonial Imperial dispossession, robbery and oppression, all of which have 14 African peoples, and to ensure that African culture and custom ologies are revived and resented. In his article, what is African biblical hermeneutics, a Darmowe desire scholars of African descent to be liberated from internalized colonized consciousness in which they adopt the colonizers epistemology in conducting Biblical Studies. He empowers them to instead use their genius to redefine their own particular hermeneutics. Contrary to global North epistemology, the African worldview can be described as mythopoetic, placing a heavy emphasis on symbols, myths, and stories. Global South epistemology places a heavy emphasis on orality and memoirs. This is shown in the many works of memoirs by black female authors such as a woman alone, by Betty head, or unbowed.
Women have been told in the past, that their experiences cannot be considered universal, but only particular and trivial. By using autobiography. It gives women like myself a voice within scholarship, where previously we have been silenced. Next slide, please. Finally, I use creative actualization to create a new interpretation. Creative actualization allows women to enter the biblical story with the help of historical imagination, artists that were creation and creativity. It gives the biblical interpreter creative license with which to create new possibilities to the assumptions that have been made about female New Testament biblical characters in western paradigms. Although this methodology originated in the Global North, women in Africa have always invented creative ways of retelling biblical events in a way that African women specifically can relate to. My feminist Nigerian British reading of biblical characters, aims to combine both global north and global south mythologies by using logos written by Nigerian British women in order to stimulate new creative possibilities. Okay, that's five G's. We can quickly do it really quick quickly. So the steps needed to apply my feminist hermeneutical framework because of biblical text, I wanted to make it as simple as quick as possible, quick and easy as possible. So the first step is to pick an afro peon theme. So like the ones that I picked that I said at the beginning, so you would pick one, and then you would pick a New Testament character that you would like to explore. Second step is to pick a novel. So any Nigerian British novel that you feel could illuminate new questions of the biblical text of the of the biblical character? Step three. So then you would think about your own autobiographical experience of being in that context with with regards to the thing, whether it be about hair or about marriage. So we're gonna see an example of that at the end. Step four. So you will apply a feminist critical lens to the biblical text. This means applying what Firenza calls a hermeneutics of suspicion with with regards to the biblical text, which means that you'd be suspicious of how it's been interpreted and interrogate the text. Basically, it will recognize that actually, the Bible was written by men, and therefore men will privilege men, and therefore, as a woman, now, looking at the biblical text, my work aims to put women at the center and look at their stories. Finally, you will use creative actualization in order to think about the possibilities that have been ignored or or that could have occurred that had been ignored by Western paradigms. And next slide, please. Okay, so today we're gonna just do a really brief example of applying this hermeneutical framework to the woman who was Jesus's feet with her hair in Luke chapter 35 to 50. So throughout the centuries, oh, click please. Thank you. Dominant Western interpretations of this woman have hyper sexualized her hair in order to portray her as a prostitute who erotically massage the feet of Jesus. Next slide, please. However, in the West, or sorry, the No, back east, so long hair in the West, has for centuries, been both a gender side and a sex symbol in our society. Doorman exegesis has therefore ignored alternative possibilities to explain this woman's on bound hair. And for those who don't know the story of this woman in the Bible, so this woman,
Jesus is sitting down, and she comes completely uninvited, and lets down her hair, and washes her feet, what's it what is His feet with her hair, and I noticed it with oil. For scholars have always interpreted this woman as being some sort of prostitute or of being some sort of erotic woman, because in that context, apparently, having long hair was indicative of being a prostitute. But when you interrogate the text further, you realize that actually this assumption is based on Western epistemologies. It's based on Western context, where bear in in the West, long hair has been used as a sex symbol. It may not be that concept in African concept. So next slide, please. By using me to Barry's book, don't touch my hair. She introduces the key concepts that will be Afro pain, epistemology, hair has power in different ways. Click please. She goes on to say to this day, oh, back is, to this day, an African and Afro diasporic cultures, people remain hesitant about their cell falling into a stranger's hands. If someone had access to your hair from a comb. For example, they could do witchcraft or a bear on you. Clip please. My ultimate biographical experience of othered hair in a western context also highlights the fact that hair can be a symbol of displacement and rejection, not just sexuality. This is reflected in the fact that I am often asked, When am I going to do my hair, alluding to the fact that my hair is bad and needs to be tamed. By juxtaposing Don't touch my hair, and my own autobiographical experience along kind of give a context, it allows me to ask new and exciting questions. What was the potential power of this woman's hair at that time? If we desexualize her hair? What could she have been doing? If not erotically inside in the feet of Jesus? My feminist Nigerian participants exposes the male dominated Eurocentric assumptions regarding hat that has informed this dominant interpretation of this woman being a prostitute. And it has highlighted the fact that hair is considered completely differently within a Nigerian British context. Therefore, within Nigerian British interpretation, this woman's hat could be a symbol of colonization, otherness, and displacement within a context for women's hair, had a cultural and religious barriers. How taken out her hair therefore, may not be an indication that she was a prostitute, but could be an act of liberation, as she can refuse to conform to the expectations placed upon her this allies with my experience of having an afro within a Eurocentric context. Next slide. And then next slide please. Next, please, skip this because of time. Oh, no backpack back please. So Oh, back please. On one. Thank you. In this light, and a feminist Nigerian British Oh, no, forward please. Sorry. In light of this, a feminist Nigerian interpretation of this character. Ultimately, two picks her as the positive, heroic female prophet s, who vocalized her resistance to the claim realism and patriarchal control of her day through the haptic of her hair. This woman, on doing her hair in public, in order to dry Jesus's feet, was not a sexual thing at all, as Western Western Think Western interpretation has said, Instead, it could be a prophetic act. She could have been using her her to symbolically. Yeah, you could have been using a hat to embody Christ's function within the end the end times to wipe every tear from people's eyes. She could have also been touching, touching his hair, talking Jesus's feet in order to prophetically prepare Jesus's body for burial. So next slide. So yeah, how? How could an African interpretation, challenge Biblical Studies? Firstly,
it disrupts your North American domination within Biblical studies. So it interrogate interpretations that have just been taken as normal and taken as normative. Secondly, it exposes the assumptions that have been made about identity and where it lies. So a lot of these interpretations haven't been questioned. And so my interpretation exposes these assumptions that have been made. And finally, it challenges the academy about what constitutes realistic knowledge. So by using autobiography, and using novels within biblical texts, that hasn't been done before, that kind of challenges Western epistemology by saying, Actually, no, you can use novel as a source of data, you can use my own experience as a source of research is valid. And actually, the fact that it hasn't been valid up to this point is actually a indication of colonialism. That needs to be decolonized. And we need to make sure that other people have a voice at the table.