Monday, 20 November 2017

Brexit, Democracy and UK Trade Policy by Stephen Hurt

Last week the UK government published its Trade Bill, which formally starts the process of moving towards an independent trade policy. Member states of the European Union (EU) are part of a customs union. This means they operate a unified trade policy, which includes common external tariffs on imports from outside the EU. The UK government has already made it clear it intends to leave the customs union as part of the Brexit process.

Prior to the start of the legislative process, the Department for International Trade published a Trade White Paper on 9 October 2017, which set out the principles guiding the UK's future trade policy. This included numerous references to stakeholder engagement and as part of a consultation exercise it included an invitation for submissions on all aspects of the developing approach set out in the White Paper.

In this post I outline the major points of my submission to this consultation process. The deadline was Monday 6 November 2017 and it was therefore with some surprise that I discovered the following morning that the government was publishing its Trade Bill in parliament. This led to criticism from trade unions and NGOs who had also contributed to the consultation. For example, War on Want argued that given the timing of the publication of the bill it was clear that 'the input of thousands of responses from members of the public could not have been considered'.

Given my long-standing research interest in the EU’s trade and development policy to African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states, my response focused in the main on the fourth of the five principles outlined in the White Paper, namely ‘supporting developing countries to reduce poverty’. In doing so, I also explored some of the tensions between this ambition and the other four principles ('trade that is transparent and inclusive', 'supporting a rules-based global trading environment', 'boosting our trade relationships' and 'ensuring a level playing field').

My criticism of the White Paper ultimately rests on some of the problematic assumptions it makes about the relationship between trade and development. These assumptions were also demonstrated in an important speech made by Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, in Manchester on 29 September 2016, where he suggested that ‘free trade is often a ladder to the top’. A similar claim was made by former International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, in her speech at the Conservative Party conference on 3 October 2017, when she boldly claimed that 'trade, investment and free markets provide the route out of poverty'.

These claims are advanced in the first half of the White Paper where the role of trade in the global economy is discussed. The conclusion one is supposed to draw from this is that free trade was at the heart of the historical development of the British economy and hence this is something that should be recommended to developing countries today. However, as respected economist Ha-Joon Chang has convincingly demonstrated, Britain employed tariffs for a significant period before it was able to adopt a regime of free trade during the nineteenth century. Chang notes that ‘the overall liberalization of the British economy … of which trade liberalization was just a part, was a highly controlled affair overseen by the state, and not achieved through a laissez-faire approach’ (Ha-Joon Chang, Kicking Away the Ladder, p.24). Hence, what the White Paper suggests are protectionist measures (such as subsidies for domestic industry) could conversely be understood as legitimate development strategies.

The section of the White Paper on UK trade policy and how it can support developing countries includes a commitment that as the UK leaves the EU it ‘will maintain current access for the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to UK markets and aim to maintain preferential access of other (non-LDC) developing countries' (p.32). This is to be welcomed. However, the aim of replicating the EU’s existing Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) is much more problematic. It is clear to anyone who has followed the EU’s negotiation of EPAs with ACP countries, that they met significant resistance from both many ACP governments, and civil society organisations (CSOs) across Europe and regions within the ACP. In part, their concerns relate directly to the assumptions noted above about the ‘policy space’ needed for development. Both the Tanzanian and Nigerian governments have indicated that they are concerned that signing an EPA will undermine their ability to adopt government policies to support industrialization. In Nigeria, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria has been particularly effective in lobbying against the EPA, arguing that it will harm the domestic industrial sector.

Moreover, they have also voiced concerns over attempts by the EU to introduce the so-called ‘Singapore Issues’ (competition policy, transparency in government procurement, equal treatment for foreign investors, and trade facilitation measures) that were rejected at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2003 at the Cancún Ministerial. There is therefore a potential conflict of principles in the White Paper between the expressed concern for developing countries and the suggestion that the ‘UK will look to secure greater access to overseas markets for UK goods exports as well as push for greater liberalisation of global services, investment and procurement markets’ (p.27). These are precisely the issues that African states and CSOs have identified as problematic because they would constrain the ability of ACP states to seek to diversify their exports and support the development of an industrial sector.

The White Paper’s strong support for the conclusion of the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) also undermines the claim to be supporting developing countries. TiSA has emerged as a separate arrangement after talks on services stalled within the WTO due to resistance from developing countries. They have expressed concerns that it would allow transnational corporations to turn essential public services into commodities that can be traded.

It is therefore highly likely that the UK will meet significant resistance if it seeks to simply replicate EPAs. African states have been able to demonstrate significant agency in the EPA negotiations and there would be greater scope for this in negotiations with the UK. They have made it clear that rather than deep and comprehensive trade liberalisation, what they want is a gradual process of engagement with global markets, which if it is to be developmental, needs to be facilitated by state support. Therefore, a much better alternative would be for the UK to introduce an improved Generalised System of Preferences that goes above and beyond the EU’s current ‘Everything but Arms’ agreement with LDCs. Hence, I would support the recommendations made by Traidcraft in its February 2017 report for the adoption of 'a preference scheme offering duty-free, quota-free market access to imports from economically vulnerable countries, including but not limited to the least developed countries' (p.16).

My final concerns relate to the democratic accountability of any future UK trade policymaking. These were reinforced by the superficial nature of the process of consultation on the White Paper itself. While it is reassuring to note in the White Paper that there is a plan for regular engagement with stakeholders, it is unclear what is meant by the phrase ‘we will ensure that Parliament, the devolved administrations, devolved legislatures, business and civil society are engaged throughout’ (p.29). Prior to this there is reference to the need for a legislative framework that allows for the quick negotiation and ratification of trade agreements. Trade negotiations are notoriously long and difficult to conclude and this desire for speed should not come at the cost of democratic accountability. As I, and 54 other academics have argued in a recent letter published in The Telegraph on 20 October 2017, modern trade agreements cover a wide range of policy areas. It is therefore vital that government makes a clear and unequivocal commitment that parliament and the devolved administrations/legislatures will have a say in both formulating negotiating mandates and ratifying any future trade agreements agreed by the UK. Moreover, information related to trade negotiations should be made public so that stakeholders are able to provide proper democratic input into the process.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

What does social media discourse around the UK’s 2016 EU Referendum reveal about the interplay between English national identity and globalisation? By Harry Gable

This month's blog post features the work of one of our undergraduate students, Harry Gable, and a summary of his prize winning dissertation. The Politics external examiner considered it to be worthy of publication. Below is a synopsis of the main arguments.

In a recently written dissertation, I conducted research which sought to add to the scholarship around the complex and often contradictory effects of modern globalisation on national identity, using contemporary English society as a case-study. To do this, qualitative analysis was carried out based on the public Twitter discourses surrounding both Remain and Leave campaigns in the immediate build-up to the UK’s referendum on membership of the EU on June 23 2016. The utilisation of social media was central to the aims of the research, since Twitter has become an accessible medium for the recorded expression of opinion across an increasing variety of topics and demographics (Park and Kaye 2017:174). Although there are limits to the reliability of views expressed in a maximum of 140 characters, it provides researchers with a tool for accessing a previously unquantifiable body of public opinion. This helps to broaden understanding of public discussion around complex social phenomena in a way that analysis of conventional policy and media discourse cannot provide. This blog will briefly summarise the key trends evident from the Remain and Leave data-sets (30 Tweets were taken from each side, using Twitter searches of #VoteRemain and #VoteLeave from 22 June 2016). From here, I will consider subsequent implications for the future of English national identity in an increasingly globalised world, before detailing what further research would deepen understanding of this important dynamic.

It is clear from my research that national identity represents an increasingly sharp social divide in contemporary England. Identity politics has become pervasive influence on modern English socio-political culture, and debate over the future of the nation occupies a prominent position in this discourse (Reeves, 2016). The Referendum provided an unusually direct forum for observation of this phenomenon, and it is my contention that the discourse surrounding it is a reliable indicator of significant trends in public perceptions of English national identity, facilitating discussion of globalisation, supranationality and modernity. 

Overall, my research revealed that Remain voters on social media appear to have a positive conception of modern globalised realities, embracing the prosperity it has brought and the need to accept that no country can succeed in isolation. The cohort collectively lends support to the modernist conception of national origins and promote a civic brand of nationalism. In line with the theory that social organisation is a fluid product of macro-economic forces (Gellner 1964, Anderson 2006), the Remain data demonstrates that globalisation is definitely altering, while not necessarily eroding, the nature of English national attachment.

The effect of globalisation on national identity appears to be less transformative among Leave voters; the sample strongly affirmed an emotional commitment to the future prosperity of the nation, although there were many different visions of who should be included and what this prosperity should be based on. In line with the scholarship, the data-set revealed a division between patriotic Leave voters who conceived of a prosperous nation as outward looking and globalised, but “independent” and in complete control of its political affairs, and those of a nationalistic primordialist disposition, who perceived globalisation as a threat to national culture led by a compliantly corrupt elite. The latter argument lends support to Jung’s conception of ‘resistance identities’ (2008:581). On the whole, the split in the data-set between those who were sceptical of the supranationality at the heart of the EU but broadly supportive of economic interconnectedness and those who espoused a brand of anti-globalisation nationalist populism was marked. The fact that opinion was divided in this way serves to demonstrate the complex, evolving and divisive effect of globalisation on English national identity, polarising even among those with a shared scepticism of supranationality.

Although the two campaigns represent a logical dividing line in the debate around English national identity and its relationship to globalisation, there was a surprising degree of similarity between certain aspects of both groups, as well as significant tensions within each cohort. First among these observations was the prevalence of patriotism (see Viroli 1995) within the two discourses. Though they disagreed on the merits of EU membership, the majority of both data-sets espoused a strong commitment to the future of the nation, marked by a desire for economic prosperity and political strength. The existence of such views among the Remain cohort demonstrates a comfortable co-existence between national pride and an endorsement of supranationality, vindicating the conclusions of previous cross-national studies (Antonsich 2009, Jung 2008). On the Leave side, the distinction made by many between supranational union and globalised modernity is extremely important. Crucially, this cohort of the data-set seemed equally keen for the nation to profit from the economic opportunities of globalisation as the Remain sample, but saw supranational cooperation as an inhibiter of this, rather than a facilitator. Contrary to some post-referendum analysis, these views do not demonstrate a belief that the nation should retreat from globalisation (Cowell, 2016), and are more in-line with Hahn’s notion of civic nationalism, as opposed to its ethnically-driven alternative (Kohn in Smith and Hutchinson 1994:163).

This said, there was a very wide spectrum of views across both data-sets, in places revealing a seismic difference in perception of the English nation. This trend could have significant implications for future discourse, suggesting that the intensification of globalisation is having divisive and contradictory effects on elements within English society (in-line with Ariely 2012:462). For some, globalisation appears to be directly weakening national attachment while cultivating global cosmopolitan identities, while those at the opposing end of the scale see globalised modernity as threatening the cultural integrity of the English community. Again, this observation vindicates previous analysis of the effects on globalisation on national identity, which has found that it can precipitate both a resurgence in insular nationalism and a growth in cosmopolitanism across developed societies (Ariely 2012:464).

In the case of England, it looks as if populist nationalism will continue to grow while cosmopolitan attachments remain on the fringe, (In-line with Jung 2008: 581), a trend with perhaps profound implications for future national political discourse (Jones, 2015). While both my research and that of other academics indicate that civic patriotism based on a broad acceptance of globalisation remains the dominant opinion, the growing electoral popularity of nationalist parties in England and across Europe shows no sign of abating (Lucassen and Lubbers 2012:552). If this trend holds true, the tensions between civic and ethic conceptions of the English nation evident in the data-sets can only be expected to widen, further exacerbating the political centre-ground and dragging political discourse to the ideological extremes, a phenomenon that can already be observed in British politics (Helm, 2016). In many ways, Kohn’s (1945) civic/ethnic dichotomy is representative of this divide, as the cleavages separating civic and ethnic identity attachments are neatly encapsulated by the differences between the modernist and primordialist positions respectively (Gellner 1983, Geertz 1963). Since it is almost impossible to conceive of a complete reversal of economic globalisation (Beck 2005:4), these tensions between contradictory visions of the English nation could become irreconcilable, with the potential to seriously disrupt the existing parameters of democratic politics and national discourse.

At the core of these tensions sits the inherent conceptual ambiguity of globalisation, and the unequal distribution of benefits and costs across national societies. Consequently, globalisation, and its institutions like the EU, become symbolic of an immense variety of both opportunities and threats, dispersed among different social groups. In Ariely’s words, “different operationalisations of globalisation and national identity yield very different results” (2012:477). My research has very strongly vindicated this idea in relation to England, suggesting that without amelioration of the systemic economic and social inequalities that characterise modern globalisation, observers can expect the fundamental tensions between globalisation and English national identity to continue unabated. If the nation remains the primary unit of social and territorial organisation, it will be the logical vessel for the expression of grievances against globalisation, since it remains a tangible cultural entity in an increasingly uncertain world (Calhoun 2007:8). For this reason and based on my research, I expect nationalism to play an ever more prominent role in English political discourse in the coming years.

Further research is required to further explore the trends highlighted in this dissertation. The utility of a social media based discourse analysis has been discussed above, but this research model needs to be enlarged upon to comprehensively validate my conclusions.  Foremost among this should be a considerable expansion of the sample size and search parameters to facilitate investigation into the large cohort across both data-sets that espoused an acceptance of globalisation alongside a politically powerful, patriotic nation-state. If the current theorisations about the incompatibility of these two beliefs are proved correct and globalisation continues to undermine the formal capacities of the state (McGrew and Lewis 2013, Mann 1997), tracking the changing views of this cohort using tools like social media, will be crucial to understanding future political developments. Indeed, if contradictory interpretations of the nation can be explained by the differing formulations of globalisation subscribed to, more research is needed to isolate specific visions of globalisation in detail, and their direct relation to conceptions of the nation.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Uncomfortable Pedagogy: decolonising and diversifying the curriculum in Politics, IR, and Sociology by Maia Pal

As the 2016-2017 coordinator for PETAL (Peer-Enhancement of Teaching and Learning) in Politics, IR and Sociology, I organised on 17 February 2017 at Oxford Brookes University an event entitled ‘Uncomfortable Pedagogy: decolonising and diversifying the curriculum in Politics, IR, and Sociology’. This event was aimed at students and teaching staff in our subjects and in follow up of some of the conclusions from the previous PETAL project on ‘The experience of ‘BME’ students at Oxford Brookes’.

The event was attended by approximately 30 people, one half made up of academic staff and the other of students. It was livestreamed on Facebook, with approximately 150 views on the day and currently well over 400. The panel of speakers consisted of 5 individuals: Claire Vergerio, a past Associate Lecturer at Brookes and University of Oxford DPhil candidate involved in curriculum reform; Michaela Opoku-Mensah, a graduate from Brookes and now studying for an MA at the University of Edinburgh in African Studies; Mend Mariwani, a writer and editor working in London for media platforms dedicated to writers of colour such as Media Diversified, Skin Deep, and Bare Lit; Dalila Da Silva Lopez, a current Brookes Level 6 BME student and Politics and IR representative; and myself as a member of our teaching staff.

This blog entry discusses the context in which the structure of the event emerged, some of its main discussion points, and some future directions for both the PETAL and Diversifying the Curriculum projects being pursued at Brookes. Overall, the event was a successful opportunity to engage the student body on a pressing and timely subject that unites teachers' pedagogic and institutional concerns with broader social and community needs. Response from students speaking and participating from the audience was extremely positive and they had expectations and demands for more similar events to take place.

Yet the event also highlighted the complexity, confusions, and broader implications and interpretations of diversifying and decolonising, for which future initiatives and events should be attentive to by narrowing down the scope of discussion to specific areas of implementation. For example, future events could separate discussions regarding the representative constitution of programmes, modules and staff at institutional level from discussions regarding content, textbooks, and disciplinary requirements.

Overall, the aim that most strongly emerges from my analysis and experience of leading this PETAL project is to continue improving communication and transparency between teachers and students on 'what should my curriculum be?' and 'whose job is it to shape the curriculum?' Networking locally and nationally with student union officers, staff trade unions and other campaigns and initiatives would seem an appropriate way to move the project forward and find ways to institutionalise and protect the gains achieved while avoiding overburdening teaching staff without sufficient resources and support.

The BME/BAME Staff Action Group supported by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, which is discussed below and emerged in parallel with - but independently from - the PETAL event, is a promising example of how to continue pursuing some of these goals. Other ideas could be applied to rethinking Brookes's Core Attributes and the Higher Education Academy's UK Professional Standards Framework by including more diversity and decolonising criteria to their requirements.

Background and Broader Context

The event was shaped in continuation of the 2015-2016 PETAL project and one of its major conclusions that 'diverse and alternative perspectives should be included and integrated more thoroughly into the curriculum'. This project was led by Dr. Victoria Browne, and assisted by Dr. Tamsin Barber, who conducted focus groups on ‘The experience of ‘BME’ students at Oxford Brookes’. These took place on Wednesday 13 April 2016 and were attended by 10 students from across Politics, IR, Sociology, Geography and Psychology. Their aim was 'to find out more about how ‘BME’ students experience life at Oxford Brookes, and if there are any ways that we as academic staff can improve their experience and education.'

The need to diversify the range of social backgrounds and ethnic origins of students and staff in academic institutions is based on serious discrepancies in the attainment gap of BME students.[1] Recent figures show that 'only 60 per cent of ethnic minority learners at English universities achieved a first or a 2:1 in 2013-14, compared with 76 per cent of their white peers.' These national trends are also observed at Oxford Brookes University.[2] The fact that some of these students are not performing as well as their colleagues can be partly attributed to an institutional context in which it is more difficult for them to reach university and they have less resources to insure their success. Moreover, the focus groups also revealed the added negative psychological impact that awareness and pressure from the attainment gap can produce. One way in which this problem can be remedied, alongside making more resources available, is to counter the assumption that BME students cannot perform well by making institutions actively promote universities as spaces less dominated by white students and staff.

Towards this end, the event was focused on discussing how such efforts can lead to what Laura Routley has inspired me to call 'uncomfortable pedagogies'. Routley stresses the ‘importance of both teachers and students remaining uncomfortable’, because, with the example of the African context:

‘Teaching Africa within IR carries a responsibility to engage students with the power relations that dominate Africa’s global position and ‘western’ knowledge of the continent… Who is in the class room particularly matters when teaching material embedded in ongoing colonial relations. Disrupting student’s assumptions, such as their alignment with Western actors who will ‘solve’ Africa’s problem, may therefore involve disempowering them. By doing so, it is possible to potentially establish more productive starting points for learning about Africa within IR.’[3]

In other words, uncomfortable pedagogy needs to be understood as the realisation of certain inequalities and disturbing facts and ideas about one’s position in the world - and in the classroom – in order to provide an alternative - and arguably more productive - starting point for teaching and learning.

Concern with the curriculum also follows from a national campaign by the NUS called ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ and other campaigns such as 'Why isn't my professor black?' These occurred in parallel to a series of more local campaigns, led by students and staff across the UK organising events and societies around the challenge of decolonising and diversifying curricula, such as notably the Oxford Rhodes Must Fall campaign and others at LSE, SOAS, Queen Mary, Leeds, Sussex, UCL, Edinburgh, Warwick, and Goldsmiths. These campaigns all relate to supporting learning in terms of diversity and explore different pedagogical approaches to delivering content. They also provide the basis to a potentially deeply transformative and wide-ranging movement about the structure and values of higher education. This potential movement has implications at a pedagogical and political level by ensuring widening participation, and acknowledging that supporting learning is a dialectical process that must involve teachers and students.

For example, these campaigns have led to broader public debates in national and international newspapers and various blogs (Media Diversified and Verso Books). As Claire Vergerio, one of the contributors to the event, raised in her talk, attempts such as Professor Karma Nabulsi's project on the Palestinian Revolution are a prime example of efforts to develop teaching resources developed by staff and students to remedy the lack of diversity and discussions of coloniality in politics and IR curricula.[4]

'Uncomfortable Pedagogy': A One Day Event on Diversifying and Decolonising

As I introduced the event to a crowd of both students and staff, I outlined three dimensions in which diversifying and decolonising could be discussed: in terms of topics listed in our curricula; in terms of the social and ethnic background of the staff employed to design and deliver curricula; and thirdly, in terms of the social and ethnic background of authors chosen for the curricula. I used the contents page of a common North American IR textbook to start a discussion with the audience of how they would go about diversifying and decolonising its topics.[5]

Questions asked by myself and by the audience to the speakers included: What is decolonisation in the context of education? How has it impacted your work and study? Do you think there is a growing movement across the UK, and elsewhere forming out of it and/or influencing it? How is it linked to diversifying? What do you think of the notion of 'uncomfortable pedagogy'? What are the main challenges facing efforts to decolonise and diversify? What does decolonising mean for non-BME authors and staff, do they get ‘erased’ from the curriculum? What experiences in the classroom have speakers felt were problematic?

As Claire Vergerio explained, a crucial aspect of improving curricula is to avoid simply adding 'token' topics, staff, or authors so as to in a sense tick the 'diversity and decolonial' box. The deeper issue at stake is epistemological, in the sense that we need to 'change the nature of the questions we're asking' as teachers. She used examples from her experience as part of committees and fora made up of students and staff at the University of Oxford to decolonise the IR and Politics curriculum. She showed on a screen a proposal that has been put forward for how to reshape the syllabus for an intro to IR module in terms of concepts and questions e.g. replacing the concept of anarchy with hierarchy so as to move away from a narrow conception of the history of international relations based on states, and instead should include more the study of empires which is the political organisation which has overwhelmingly dominated human political history.

Students Michaela Opoku-Mensah and Dalila Da Silva Lopez also shared crucial experiences about how they felt their BME backgrounds were not represented, e.g. no or too few modules or topics on African politics, or a lack of library resources. Both students therefore went on exchange programmes but nevertheless were often the only black student on a course on African politics. They discussed how this lack of collective experience was crucial to their pedagogical experience, speaking directly to the need to improve BME staff and student ratios. For Michaela, teaching is crucial because it shapes how we behave as individuals in society. It is not just the opportunity to gain a degree and by extension employment. This goes against assumptions that all students are primarily concerned by their employability, and this makes diversifying and decolonising curricula particularly important, as arguments against these efforts are often made in relation to what students need to know to compete on the job market.

Discussions during the event - from speakers and participants in the audience - proved that students are very mature in their understanding of pedagogy as a social process shaped by power struggles. For example, Michaela discussed the problem of how Black history is overwhelmingly portrayed by slavery and the slave trade, in all the institutions she has been taught at. This is a fundamental way in which Politics, IR and Sociology need to rethink their teaching of history, and acknowledge the implications that ignoring thousands of years of Black history leads to determining the existence of Black people only in relation to that of white colonisers, and only as a story of domination. It is therefore essential to teach the diversity of Black societies and their particular political and social experiences.

Diversifying and Decolonising at Brookes: Future Directions

At Brookes, a BME/BAME Staff Action Group has been set up in 2016-2017 led by Mariama Sheriff as part of the PESE2 Inclusive, Multi-Modal Learning Environment Project focused on Diversifying the Curriculum. My participation in this group, as a representative for the department of Social Sciences, will take into account students and staff's contributions to diversifying and decolonising their pedagogical experiences, and will aim to continue the work of the two PETAL projects presented here.

According to the website, the university-wide project's aims are to:

- increase the visibility of BME/BAME representation in Western contexts;
- improve critical thinking by using taught content to build conceptual frameworks to prevent unconscious bias and challenge assumptions;
- provide varied biographic references (spoken, visual and printed) in taught content;
- sustain work to internationalise reading lists;
- enable all students to gain further insight into their fields of study by looking at a subject through a wider range of lenses (e.g. historical, legal, ethical, cultural, social or political dimensions).

A significant conclusion from the event was the need for more discussion between teachers and students at the beginning of modules or in handbooks about the diversity and coloniality of their module; to discuss what resources are available, and to have more openness about this availability, so that students are made aware that they might need to consult other libraries or find different types of resources. Students might be blaming tutors, who are themselves limited by institutional resources themselves. Therefore, we need to work towards reducing the gap between students’ expectations and staff limitations or conflicting pedagogical considerations.

As participant Mend Mariwani emphasised, the first sense in which we should diversify is in the rapport between staff and students. Moreover, in our efforts to diversify staff, we should avoid relying too much on what we could call 'ghettoising' teaching and research staff, either through specialised institutions such as the SOAS, or by expecting staff from specific backgrounds to only teach about their background. Diversifying should instead be about ensuring that more BAME and working class staff participate in the general curriculum reforms required, and that all staff are involved in updating their teaching.

Mend also stressed that a central problem with initiatives that aim to develop their own work is unpaid labour. It is therefore crucial to institutionalise the work we do and as Mend notes, insure 'ownership', inside and outside the academy. His work in the media sector, for example, is particularly prone to such appropriation. Work in this sector is essential, as Mend shockingly noted that although 30% of London's population is constituted of people of colour, only 3% of the media sector employs people of colour. This concern, he agued, might be more important than diversification which has tended to not look enough into the causes and implications of how to diversify. For Anamik Saha, 'one of the most troubling outcomes of the commodification of diversity, as Leong outlines, is that it pressures individuals into performing their otherness in a way that meets with the approval of the dominant culture.’

Participation in the Staff Action Group at Brookes and in diversifying - and decolonising - the curriculum is therefore an essential initiative to support and provide with resources. It will thereby be able to respond to the general and growing concern regarding persisting inequalities of race, class and gender affecting staff and students, and do so in a continuous, sustained and reflective way to avoid dangers of tokenisation and quick-fix diversification. There is an urgent need for our profession to be more aware of and able to share the various practices it is engaging in to remedy these issues. This follows from NUS and staff-led campaigns across UK HE institutions to acknowledge and act on staff gender pay gaps, BAME student attainment gaps, protect low-paid and immigrant workers on campuses, resist casualisation of teaching staff, and counter the preponderance of Eurocentric 'white' curricula in terms of topics, authors read, and teaching staff.

Finally, these concerns will also be further pursued by my personal research projects on observing, analysing and building relationships with students' 'involvement in rewriting curricula and reworking pedagogic practice'.[6] My past projects have looked at student occupations and other forms of resistance to neoliberal education, and future ones will continue to explore radical and useful ways to produce uncomfortable pedagogies. Mend Mariwani powerfully visualised this process in his intervention. For him, being uncomfortable, such as in a crowded space, means we should 'move aside' and 'make space' for others. Doing so by including more staff and by engaging more with students will only enrich our own teaching and research. Finally, as Dalila Da Silva Lopes also related from her experience in class, it is not sufficient that staff 'don't have time' to cover certain topics and regions, because 'it makes us feel as if we're not important, not relevant'. She reminded me that uncomfortable pedagogies is also about recognising that many students are already 'uncomfortable' everyday, to say the least, by the narrowness of the dominant curriculum. We owe it to them to raise these questions and act on them.

[1] Broecke, S. and Nicholls, T. (2007) Ethnicity and Degree Attainment, Dept. for Education and Skills Research Report RW92
[2] 'Oxford Brookes' performance against widening participation milestones', December 2014, by Sudarshana Chaudari (Strategic Planning Analyst in the Strategic and Business Planning Office)
[3] Routley, Laura (2016) 'Teaching Africa, Presenting, Representing and the Importance of Who Is in the Classroom' Politics 36: 482–94
[4] Karma Nabulsi, professor of politics at the University of Oxford, was recently The Guardian Higher Education Network’s 2017 Inspiring Leader award winner for her project on The Palestinian Revolution.
[5] Grieco J, Ikenberry GJ and Mastanduno M (2015) Introduction to International Relations: Enduring Questions and Contemporary Perspectives. London and New York: Palgrave.
[6] Louiza Odysseos and Maïa Pal (2017) 'Towards Critical Pedagogies of the International? Student Resistance, Other-regardedness and Self-formation in the Neoliberal University', International Studies Perspectives, Online View; Kerem Nisancıoğlu and Maïa Pal (2016) ‘Counter-Conduct in the University Factory: Locating the Occupy Sussex Campaign’, Global Society, Vol. 30, Issue 2, 279-300