Areas of focus

The Decolonise Sociology Working Group is currently focusing on six areas, detailed below:

  • Classroom & Curriculum
  • Training & Teaching
  • Essays & Exams
  • Supervisors & Supervisions
  • Reporting & Feedback
  • Whiteness & Culture Change
Classroom & Curriculum Training & Teaching Essays & Exams
Use the tools of sociology to examine HE as a context of social reproduction and critically examine what is being reproduced

Ask ourselves what we want the university/department to be reproducing, and for whom?

Possibly prepare a paper on the University itself, or integrate this into part 1.

Integrate more examples from the university itself into teaching, including histories of disciplines at Cambridge.

Build in more time to think about the curriculum and changing the culture of sociology more broadly

Prepare an annual audit of reading lists and annual reports on progress with the Decolonise Sociology agenda.

Better integration of authors from the global south across the curriculum, and not just inclusion of non-white, non-european scholars on the reading lists but prioritisation of their work in the required reading

Ensure more white members of staff are contributing to these efforts so that the burden doesn’t fall overwhelmingly on staff and students of colour

Make a list of the basic things all students should know about race, empire and colonialism and make sure these are integrated into all aspects of the curriculum

More attention to the historical contexts of colonialism and imperialism within which the now-canonical texts of the human sciences were written, and the imprint of this history on core concepts in sociology such as ‘modernity’, etc.

“I would love us to move to a situation where it is assumed you cannot answer any of the most important questions in sociology if you’re not talking about race” (Sociology Staff member)

More attention to different strategies of teaching and learning to make more room for critical reflection on the curriculum itself within and outside the classroom

Develop workshops on anti-racist pedagogy, introduce more racism awareness training, and pilot these and other initiatives in sociology so they can be shown to work to other departments

Challenge the expectations about self-presentation in the ‘best first-class essay style’ and allow for more personal forms of expression.

Create more examinable topics that allow students to write about social inequality, including race, gender, class, empire, etc.

Supervisors & Supervisions Reporting & Feedback Whiteness & Culture Change
Examine the basic pay structures for supervision and make sure supervisors are properly paid and supported as they are playing a critical and often undervalued role

Training for supervisors, and workshops on supervising that addresses a range of issues from how to create maximally inclusive feedback and meetings to the issue of why ‘writing like a white man’ is recommended to students as the best means to prepare for exams

Diversity in the supervision system to allow it to be more student led, and generate more mechanisms for students input into teaching and assessment systems

Enable reporting mechanisms that include anonymous reporting of specific incidents and examples, and keep a formal registry of these complaints to help improve practice

Encourage more critical feedback from students by improving feedback mechanisms, including social media mechanisms

Improve feedback mechanisms from students, especially 3rd years. Do more systematic investigation of what students are learning, what they want to be learning, and what is missing from what they are learning
“Sociologists should be socially responsible” (Sociology Postgrad)

“The single biggest problem is the overwhelming whiteness of Cambridge” (HSPS Student)

More attention to the problem of extreme whiteness of Cambridge and the curriculum, and more emphasis on disrupting the reproduction of whiteness

Standardise the use of whiteness as a concept, thus racializing white people – “and not just in race studies or whiteness studies but in everything”

“Challenging whiteness can’t just be something black students do” (HSPS Undergrad)

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