Statement in Support of Diversity and Anti-Discrimination
The Department of English affirms its commitment to diversity and the promotion of anti-discriminatory practices in all areas of its staffing, teaching, research, and interactions with students and colleagues. We fully support the principles and aims of the global Black Lives Matter movement and the struggle for justice against all kinds of discrimination in the UK and across the world. We endorse the MLA Statement (US Modern Languages Association) against systemic racism and ‘The EA and anti-racism’ statement (UK English Association). We recognize our responsibility to promote educational projects that challenge and help to dismantle inequality and oppression.
As a discipline founded within the context of British imperialism in the nineteenth century, English Literature has been engaged in a process of self-reflection and interrogation since the middle of the twentieth century. Our department has made significant changes to our core curriculum to emphasise the work of Black British and American writers, to expose the linguistic strategies which institutionalise discrimination, and to make our research and our modes of teaching more inclusive and diverse. We recognize that ‘decolonialising’ the curriculum means more than expanding it to include a wider range of voices from former colonies, and demands that we address the ideologies and power relations that underpin and perpetuate colonialist and other discriminatory practices.
Literary studies have long championed the interrogation of discourses of power, and we are determined that the study of literatures in English and related languages must remain at the forefront of new thinking about how meanings are made, how inequalities can become institutionalised in writing, and how these processes can be challenged and overturned.
We recognize that a great deal more needs to be done, which is why we are:
- working on better ways to recruit more BAME students and students from under-represented sectors of the community;
- working to educate ourselves and our students by establishing shared resources on racism and inequality, a student forum, and a regular reading group;
- working with our current and former BAME students, to learn how we can better support them in their studies;
- reaffirming our commitment to further diversifying our staff;
- consulting on changing the name of the department;
- establishing a working group to produce concrete proposals on these activities, to review our curriculum with a focus on diversifying our teaching, and to facilitate an annual review of measurable progress towards inclusivity.
The department is committed to listening to students present, past, and future as well as to communities in Bristol, especially those that have historically been excluded from the spaces of the university.
Issued on behalf of the Department of English, University of Bristol, August 2020