Black Arts and Humanities Research Cluster / Why Is My Curriculum White campaign
The Black Arts and Humanities research cluster intends to develop and connect the wide range of research within the Faculty of Arts around the work (artistic and intellectual) of black people.
It’s an interdisciplinary space using research from English, History, Philosophy, Music, History of Art, Modern Languages to explore black consciousness, critical race theory, diaspora, migration, transnationalism, globalisation.
Why is My Curriculum White (WIMCW), a campaign founded at UCL, is a response to the lack of diversity found on our reading lists and course content. It aims to challenge this and highlight the lack of diversity in our education. Since the campaign came to Bristol in 2014, the BME students association has been lobbying for a decolonised curriculum and for more students to be aware of the whiteness of their reading lists.
Both initiatives intend to support academic research and student learning by addressing the omission of non-white voices.
Who's it for?
Both seek to improve education for staff and students because representation is an issue that affects us all. Learning about the theory of blackness, as well as the history of people of colour within the UK and beyond, is relevant to everyone.
Why is it excellent?
Both demonstrate an excellent attitude to improving education. With Bristol Uni’s historic connections to slavery, as well its disproportionately low intake of home black students, WIMCW and BAHRC are making necessary movements towards a liberated university.
Research into the BME attainment gap, including our own qualitative research into home BME students’ experiences at Bristol, find that the lack of representation in the curriculum is one of many isolating aspects that lead to BME students achieving lower grades. Therefore, a movement to decolonise both the curriculum and teaching practices is fundamental to address inequality in HE.
As a grassroots campaign, WIMCW at Bristol Uni was inclusive of any student. The student organisers packed out rooms for book talks, spoke articulately on University committees about the need to decolonise curricula, and, most importantly, normalised the conversation around challenging whiteness in our teaching and research.
The Research Cluster followed on from this important start and continued the dialogue in terms of our research work. The academics in the cluster are making exciting movements towards a possible degree programme in black arts and humanities. This would be transformative and one of its kind in the UK. A university that prioritises the least privileged in its academic work is one that benefits all.
This institution clearly has educational inequality in both intake and curriculum. However, it has fostered an environment where students and staff are empowered to challenge these structures and hold the University to account, and in response, the University is becoming ever more open-minded and progressive.