The framework is not a panacea, and not intended as a substitute for ongoing efforts to decolonise, tackle racism or gender and sexuality related oppressions in higher education in the UK. Rather, it is an attempt to bolster these efforts by guiding the creation of a shared reflective space for learners that allows examination of and actioning concrete steps to tackle intersecting discrimination. The framework should be seen in conjunction with other guidelines and practices for inclusive teaching and supported with appropriate institutional reforms for accountable and responsible governance (eg effective anonymous reporting mechanisms and independent committees to investigate issues of racism, sexual harassment).
Adoption of an intersectional perspective is particularly useful in informing an HEIs work on racism as it allows a fuller grasp and appreciation of “context, politics, social divisions and outcomes vis-à-vis inclusive equalities”. The perspective allows us to go beyond the victim-perpetrator dichotomy and labels (eg racist-non-racist; sexist; homophobic), which make important conversations on racial (in)equality in the workplace and classrooms difficult and increase resistance to change, to bring centre-stage the underlying forces that determine these inequalities.
Instead, the framework is an attempt to unpack and inform our thinking about equality. Its focus on raising consciousness of privileges and oppressions, and how these translate to power differences in our interactions, is not only a critical step in emancipation of self but also a political commitment to transformational change in education.
However, like most conceptual frameworks and guidance documents, its success lies in adequate resourcing, support for building capacities, and a paradigm shift in understanding the systemic nature of discrimination. Failing this, some of the proposed actions, especially those that challenge traditional ways of thinking, may cause discomfort, backlash and even be utilised to discipline people of colour, preventing us from righting the historic wrongs.
Professor Kapilashrami presented her ‘Intersectionality-informed framework for tackling racism and embedding inclusion and diversity on teaching and learning’ at an Athena Swan Good Practice event in 2020. Download the framework here
Anuj Kapilashrami is an Interdisciplinary social scientist trained in Sociology and Public health. She is Professor in Global Health Policy and Equity and Director of Global Engagement & Partnerships in the School of Health & Social Care at University of Essex. Her work lies at the intersections of health policy and development praxis, with particular interest in their interface with gender, human rights and social justice.
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