Department of Political Science


Diversity or decolonization? Searching for the tools to dismantle the ‘master’s house’

8 July 2021

Dr Cathy Elliott and a team of students explore the diversity of our reading lists and what the impact of this may have on decolonisation.

science open

Within the literature on decolonizing the curriculum, a clear distinction is frequently made between diversity and decolonization. While decolonization entails dismantling colonial forms of knowledge, including practices that racialize and categorize, diversity is a policy discourse that advocates for adding different sorts of people to reading lists and the staff and student body.

As a team of staff and students, we are committed to decolonization, but we are also aware that within our discipline of political science, calls for diversity are more likely to be understood and accepted. We therefore bid for, and obtained, funding to conduct a quantitative review of our department’s reading lists in order to assess the range not only of authors, but also of topics and ideas. We found that male White authors wrote the majority of the readings, with women of colour authoring just 2.5 per cent of works on our curriculum. Our reading lists also featured disappointingly little theoretical diversity, with very little coverage of feminist, critical race or queer theory approaches, for example.

We therefore used the standard methodologies and approaches of our discipline in order to point towards the silences and gaps that a decolonizing approach would seek to remedy. In this article, we explain our approach and findings. The project has been educational in the best sense and has disrupted hierarchical relationships between staff and students. It has helped us think more deeply about how data and research inform, and sometimes limit, change, as well as how the process of learning about how knowledge, including reading lists, is generated can support decolonization in itself.

Read the full publication here

Author(s): Muminah Arshad , Rachel Dada , Cathy Elliott , Iweta Kalinowska , Mehreen Khan , Robert Lipiński , Varun Vassanth , Jotepreet Bhandal , Monica de Quinto Schneider , Ines Georgis , Fiona Shilston