University of Alberta: New website offers a worldwide hub for research on decolonization and anti-racism

A new online hub is bringing together scholars and students from around the world to share research, amplify voices and encourage conversations about decolonization and anti-racism in universities.

“One of the things that’s really important for us to think about as educators in universities is the racial trauma that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) students have to carry with them throughout their university careers, and the impact that then has on them as learners,” said University of Alberta professor Shirley Anne Tate, who leads the seven-year Anti-Racism Lab project as the Canada Research Chair in Feminism and Intersectionality.

As Tate explained, research indicates that BIPOC learners and faculty face particular barriers due to institutional racism, and the Anti-Racism Lab seeks to explore that subject matter on an international scale.

The Anti-Racism Lab is a collaborative international network of researchers in Finland, Sweden, South Africa, Brazil, the United States, Canada and the Métis Nation, showcasing the work of the researchers involved, Tate explained. The unifying factor in the collaboration is that universities involved in the research project are in settler-colonial states.

“These states are variously positioned in how they’re dealing with racism in terms of law and what that means in terms of equality,” said Tate, a professor in the Faculty of Arts.

It also serves as a connection point for scholars in this subject area, and people who work in equity, diversity and inclusivity or on racism, who can often be isolated, Tate noted.

It’s through these types of connections and networks that another component of the website, a speaker series, came about. The University of Alberta Black Graduate Students’ Association hosted Tate’s keynote address for the Congress 2021 Big Thinking lecture series. When the association switched gears from an annual conference to a seminar series, partnering with Tate and her project seemed a natural fit.

“I think the website offers a space, a medium for education, a medium for enlightenment around these issues,” said Prof-Collins Ifeonu, PhD candidate and president of the BGSA. “I see the project as a hub and repository of valuable scholarship that can really stimulate ideas, educate, and get people thinking critically about these topics.”

The seminars have been virtual and free to attend. “There’s always lots of searching, intimate, uncomfortable, stimulating questions that show people are really engaged,” Ifeonu added.

It’s not only the researchers or the speakers whose voices are shared on the new platform. The website features a blog, de.col.o.nize, which Tate envisions as a space for post-graduate students. Anyone in the world can submit a post on the topic of decolonization.

While the website has one private component related to the international research project — a confidential portal for research participant diaries — everything else, from the blog posts to the speaker series to the research itself, is accessible to the public.

“The job of a scholar is to complicate, then simplify. We need to scratch beneath the surface a bit and really get into a more intimate, critical understanding,” said Ifeonu. “Once that is achieved, we make our knowledge and our perspectives understandable, digestible, to everyone.”

The website, developed with the help of the Arts Resource Centre, is constantly evolving with new content, new research and new voices, all in conversation about the major issues affecting BIPOC students and creating an “attainment gap,” which Tate spoke about in a TedxRoyalCentralSchool talk.

Tate noted that having a strong network is key to her research and anti-racism work.

“Surround yourself with people you trust, because you have to feel that people support you.”

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