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Like many individuals, institutions, and businesses, we in the Curriculum in Global Studies were tremendously affected by the events of 2020, particularly for what they revealed about the ongoing effects of white supremacy within the United States and globally. While for many years Global Studies has been committed to anti-racism and decolonization as a core pillar of our scholarly agenda, the events of this past year—including the disproportionate effects on communities of color of the virus itself, the inequities in healthcare and vaccine distribution domestically and abroad, and the horrific state of ongoing police violence and vigilante terror facing people of color, especially black Americans—compelled us to devote more time and resources to addressing the ways we as a department and discipline can further the work of Dismantling Racism and Decolonizing Global Studies. This included taking a hard look at how we are involved and implicated in white supremacy/coloniality, intellectually, institutionally, and otherwise.

After surveying our student population and holding a listening session in September*, our key focus turned to creating resources for our faculty to better redress the ways racism and white supremacy show up in our classes and our scholarly work. Throughout the year, we held three workshops for faculty affiliated with the curriculum dealing with different aspects of pedagogy. The first in October 2020, part of our faculty retreat, addressed the ways in which all global courses and research were implicated in white supremacy, whether conceived of as such or not. As Dylan Rodriguez asserts, “The Global is very much a racialized concept, as are many of the imaginaries that underpin and go with it.” And moreover, that, “White supremacy, in its historical totality, constitutes the organization and production of the world in which we live and move, from the local to the global.” As such whether focused on Europe, politics, culture, local or global forces, all courses are implicated. Moreover, any discussion of key tropes often seen as “universal”—i.e. development, progress, poverty/inequality, human rights—are often mired in racialized perspectives that implicitly situate the world’s non-white majorities as deficient. We also reviewed micro-aggressions and micro-affirmations and created space for faculty to have honest and difficult conversations about how racism shows up in their classes. In this initial discussion, faculty acknowledged the importance of continuing to hold such spaces for honest and critical discussion. As a result, we created a committee focused on Anti-racism, Decolonization and Inclusion that includes faculty, staff and students, and planned for ongoing events.  In the Spring semester, in collaboration with a new initiative building towards a Globally Oriented Interdisciplinary Pedagogy, we hosted two more events, mostly geared towards faculty.

In February 2021, we hosted a roundtable with Yousuf Al-Bulushi, Assistant Professor and Philip McCarty, Associate Professor of Teaching and Director of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies from the Department of Global & International Studies at the University of California-Irvine, a department that has recently embarked on an ambitious agenda —institutionally, methodologically and pedagogically— for addressing racism and coloniality in Global Studies, with implications for Higher Education more broadly. They discussed the day to day work of building a diverse department with a PhD program, with anti-racism at its core.

Finally, in May we held a workshop entitled, Creating More Diverse and Inclusive Syllabi that we hope will serve as the model for how to regularly and ongoingly assess and address white supremacy and coloniality in our courses and syllabi. Following a presentation by Navin Bapat, who showed the extent of the problem in the syllabi of a sister department, we began to evaluate existing syllabi for our core course, GLBL 210. The course will be revised over the summer and we plan to host such a workshop at least once a year for faculty interested in working collaboratively to improve their courses.

We recognize that this is all just the beginning of what will require a great deal of ongoing and dedicated work. We are particularly proud of the culture of the department and the willingness to dive into the work with open minds and hearts, a willingness to own mistakes and accept that we all have a great deal of room for improvement.

 

*Please feel free to email Michal Osterweil, with any questions or for further information on these initiatives. (osterwei@email.unc.edu)