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How does decolonising and diversifying the curriculum affect your subject?

This article looks more closely at decolonising and diversifying the curriculum in the context of different subjects within learning and teaching.
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© University of York

Thinking about decolonising and diversifying the curriculum in relation to specific subjects can often lead to uncomfortable and even difficult questions, especially in those subjects where the inherent inequalities of knowledge aren’t as apparent, like science and maths.

This article seeks to explore the idea that decolonising and diversifying the curriculum also takes place at a subject-specific level. Historical perspectives, including colonial legacies, influence different disciplines in different ways. We will provide some reflective questions at the end of the Article to help you explore ways in which you could think about your own subject.

Across all subjects, the process of decolonisation can be traced largely back to the production and distribution of knowledge. Where did this theory or practice come from? Who invented it, who popularised it? What area of the world does it impact? These can be some really good starting points to begin thinking about how to decolonise your subject. Across different disciplines and subjects there is a natural variation in the type of knowledge that is reproduced, and in the answers to these questions.

Some subjects, such as Sociology and Politics, raise obvious questions about geographical focus and who is taken to be a source of authority, for example. Humanities subjects, such as English or History, also raise questions of which social and cultural phenomena are thought to be worth studying and so raise questions about the value and importance of considering and engaging with alternative perspectives, core to the decolonising and diversifying the curriculum approach.

Comparable questions also arise when we consider STEM subjects (Science, technology, engineering, maths). For example, there is a concern that knowledge production has been dominated by western influences telling a single story of scientific discovery, indigenous ways of knowledge may have been disregarded and othered, its validity stripped from it. There has been a growth in movements to incorporate indigenous frameworks and knowledge into STEM education.The decolonisation of STEM begins with questioning these ‘single stories’ and exploring and valuing the knowledge of different voices.

The following questions are designed to help you think about decolonising and diversifying the curriculum in your subject. Of course they don’t provide an exhaustive list of questions. Each subject (and the different ways it is taught in different universities) will raise distinctive issues and topics for debate, and you will also arrive at new questions through the process of thinking about these ideas.

  • To what extent is your curriculum content informed by diverse global perspectives?
  • In what ways does your curriculum allow for discussion and understanding of the historical context and origins of the disciplinary field of study?
  • Are there any perspectives, theories or intellectual traditions that are presented as universal or dominant by your curriculum?
  • Are there significant efforts to incorporate bibliography and scholars from a diverse range of perspectives and identities?
© University of York
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