Decolonising reading lists

Esta-Rose Nyeko-Lacek supervised by Nina Wardleworth

About the student researcher

I’m Esta and I study History. I am going into my third year at the University and am about to undertake a placement year. I was enthusiastic to partake in the Reading Lists, Decolonization and Student Success Project as the decolonization of British academia plays such a significant role in wider decolonization and unlearning efforts. I believe that the project has an important role in increasing accessibility, representation, and feelings of belonging, and will expand the narratives that we engage with as a university. As a black women representation has had a significant role in increasing my confidence and I am enthusiastic to be a part of giving this experience to others who experienced university as a racial ‘other’.

Project overview

This project aimed to enrich student’s engagement with resources by contextualizing the researchers and their environments, to engage with academia beyond the dominant narratives in a process of decolonization, and to be a part of a wider movement within the University to close awarding gaps by thinking about how current reading lists could limit students. I was to collect data on what resources reading lists consist of. I took random samples from a variety of reading lists given to me by my supervisors, and then I looked into the authors of those materials, where they are from, where they are published, what language they were published in, where they work and what university they were affiliated with.

The main focus of my project was the decolonization of reading lists at the university as part of a wide movement to decolonize British academia. The data revealed how current reading lists could pose a barrier to the university’s decolonizing agenda. For example, the favouring of anglophone works, particularly anglophone works from native speakers. If an author does not have access to English or a translator then their work could be overlooked. We also considered the inferences of the domination of books and journal articles. To publish books and journal articles one must have access to a publisher and funding, often aided by a university affiliation. Additionally, authors are more likely to make it onto our reading if they affiliated with a university in the US or UK. This implies that the processes by which authors end up our reading lists excludes demographics by de facto from academic and university knowledge distribution due to the languages that they have access to, and their location and their jobs part of giving this experience to others who experienced university as a racial ‘other’.

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