Anorak | Debating the value of Birmingham University’s black studies course

Debating the value of Birmingham University’s black studies course

by | 23rd, May 2016

black studies birmingham


Kehinde Andrews, Associate Professor in Sociology at Birmingham City University, wants to talk about studying black subjectsBirmingham City University has opened a black studies university course. The black experience in Britain is worthy of study, of course it is. But doesn’t this course limit black students, make what should be a full education with all the navigating between opinion, debate and textual evidence into a ‘safe space’ where minds are narrowed? It’s more divisive than it is empowering, offering segregation over equality. He writes in the Guardian :

While in the UK the student body has also become undoubtedly more diverse, the staff and therefore academic interests have remained overwhelmingly exclusive and white. Black British-born staff make up only 1% of full-time staff, representing just 85 out of the UK’s 18,510 university professors and face barriers to promotion once employed. The unfortunate reality is that black studies has not emerged sooner because there has not been a critical mass of staff who could teach the subject.

We at BCU are able to offer a high-quality black studies degree because our department has six full-time black academic members of staff who work in the discipline.

Only black teachers can teach black subjects? Is work by non-black scholars like Harvard’s Roland Fryer into the causes of economic disparities between blacks and whites invalidated? What of non-black academic Eugene Genovese’s studies on slavery and the role of religion in black American history? Is black history only for blacks? As she asks, is the course about black justice, politics and rights or a bona fide filed of study?

We have started to build a network of scholars, a research community  and to publish work on black studies in Britain. Sadly the majority of academic departments in the UK have no black members of staff at all, let alone enough to even hold a conversation about starting a black studies degree.

Movements such as Why is My Curriculum White? and Rhodes Must Fall show that students are tired of some of the unrepresentative and outdated knowledge and experiences being reproduced in British universities.

John Ellis is uncertain:

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, large populations of poor immigrants arrived in the U.S.–Irish, Italians, and Jews from Russia and Poland. Their extreme poverty placed them at the bottom of the social ladder, and they were often treated with contempt. Yet just a few generations later they were assimilated, and

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Posted: 23rd, May 2016 | In: News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink