Race in Retrospective

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ISSUE NO. 29 | JUNE 2021






Contents Contributors List| 3 Editor’s Introduction | 4 The Story of RACE.ED | 6 Articles | 9-48 Making Sense of Silenced Archives: Hume, Scotland, and the “debate” about the Humanity of Black People | Dr. Chisomo Kalinga Listening to the Dead: How Historians Study Race | Dr. Richard Oosterhoff Spoken Gems: When Academia Meets Self-Care – A Conversational Piece | Dr. Katucha Bento & Dr. Azeezat Johnson Race, Science, and the University of Edinburgh | Lea Gagliardi Ventre Craniology and Scientific Racism in Late-Nineteenth-Century Edinburgh | Professor Ian Harper & Professor Roger Jeffery Arthur James Balfour: The Univerisity of Edinburgh’s Imperial Chancellor (1891-1930) | Dr. Shaira Vadasaria & Dr. Nicola Perugini “Race Relations” and the Limits of Social Anthropology | Professor Jonathan Spencer A “Little” Race Relations | Professor Robbie Shilliam Scotland and Racial Inequalities | Professor Nasar Meer Systemic Racism in Scotland increases Racial and Ethnic Minorities’ Vulnerability to COVID-19 Infection | Dr. Gwenetta Curry The School of History, Classics, and Archaeology and Institutional Racism – An Interview | Lucy Parfitt & Jack Liddall Wikipedia and the Problem with Neutrality | Dr. Suzanne R. Black Race, Space, and the Radical Paradox of Academia | Lucien Staddon Foster Confronting the Legacies of African Enslavement and Anti-Black Racism at the University of Edinburgh | Professor Tommy Curry & Dr. Nicola Frith Race Equality and the Academy: this far and no more? | Professor Emerita Rowena Arshad

Bibliographies | 49

Contributors List Professor Rowena Arshad is Professor Emerita at the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education and Sport.

Dr. Chisomo Kalinga is a Wellcome Trust Medical Humanities Fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Department of Social Anthropology.

Dr. Katucha Bento is Lecturer in Race and Decolonial Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Co-Founder of the Free AfroBrazilian University (UNAFRO), and Associate Director of RACE.ED.

Jack Liddall is a History and Politics Undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh, Secretary of The Broad, and President of Edinburgh Political Union.

Dr. Suzanne R. Black has recently completed a PhD in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh.

Professor Nasar Meer is Personal Chair of Race, Identity, and Citizenship at the University of Edinburgh and Director of RACE.ED.

Dr. Gwenetta D. Curry is Lecturer of Race, Ethnicity, and Health at the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute.

Dr. Richard Oosterhoff is Lecturer in Early Modern European History at the University of Edinburgh.

Professor Tommy J. Curry is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. He specialises in Critical Race Theory and Black Male Studies.

Lucy Parfitt is a History Graduate from the University of Edinburgh and President of the University of Edinburgh’s History Society. Dr. Nicola Perugini is Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh.

Dr. Nicola Frith is a Senior Lecturer of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She co-facilitates the International Network of Scholars and Activists for Afrikan Reparations (INOSAAR) with Professor Joyce Hope Scott (Boston University) and Esther Standford-Xosei (PanAfrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe, PARCOE).

Professor Robbie Shilliam is Professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University. Professor Jonathan Spencer is Regius Professor of South Asian Language, Culture and Society at the University of Edinburgh.

Lea Gagliardi Ventre is a Social Anthropology Graduate from the University of Edinburgh. She is a member of the UncoverED team.

Lucien Staddon Foster is a Fourth-Year Physical Geography Undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh. Currently, he is working with RACE.ED, Black Geographers, and the BlackED Movement to provide opportunities for Black individuals in Geosciences and ensure campuses are safe and fair for students of colour.

Professor Ian Harper is Professor of Anthropology of Health and Development at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Roger Jeffery is Professorial Fellow in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh and Associate Director of the Edinburgh India Institute. Dr. Azeezat Johnson is Leverhulme Early Career in the Department of Geography at Queen Mary University of London.

Dr. Shaira Vadasaria is Lecturer in Race and Decolonial Studies, Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, and Associate Director of RACE.ED.


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective

From the Editor The Retrospect Team: Editor in Chief (President) Jamie Gemmell Deputy Editor (Secretary) Tristan Craig Deputy Editor (Treasurer) Alice Goodwin Illustrators Tara Chintapatla Emily Geeson Melissa Kane Copy Editors Ebba Andersson Daisy Collins Colleen Gibbs Rebeka Luzaityte Sofia Parkinson Klimaschewski Martha Stutchbury Caroline Swartz Columnists Hazel Atkinson Jack Bennett Justin Biggi Inge Erdal Mhairi Ferrier Jenn Gosselin Alden Hill Kat Jivkova Melissa Kane Kvitka Perehinets Alex Smith Jess Womack Junior Columnists Fraser Barnes Amy Hendrie Finlay Cormack Sophie Whitehead Nikita Nandanwad

Race in Retrospective, Retrospect’s third print issue of this academic year, charts an unofficial genealogy of race and racialisation at the University of Edinburgh. The issue brings together scholars and students from a range of disciplines to examine the ways in which the University has shaped and been shaped by the dynamics of race, broadly conceived. Working in close collaboration with RACE.ED (a cross-university network concerned with race, racialisation, and decolonial studies), we present this special issue to focus minds on our institution’s racist past and its ongoing afterlives. This issue has emerged in the midst of an unprecedented year. The COVID-19 pandemic rages on, revealing racial inequalities embedded in global, national, and local systems. The resurgence of Black Lives Matter in the wake of the murder of George Floyd has dramatically changed conversations across societies, although we have yet to see whether that will translate into the dismantling of white supremacy. At the University itself, the BlackED Movement has organised to tackle racism. Statements have been made by senior administrators on the issue of reparations and scholars and activists have been working to turn words into acts (for more on this see Prof. Curry and Dr. Frith’s piece in this issue). RACE.ED, formed a year ago, has responded to all of these issues too, pooling knowledge and working to connect scholars concerned with race, racialisation, and decolonial studies across the institution. As part of their first anniversary, this issue tries to make sense of some of these changes, situating them in a broader historical context. As Editor in Chief, I have tried to take a light editorial approach. I reached out to a range of scholars, students, and societies with the following brief: “The issue will try to narrate two intertwined stories, one considering “race in the Academy” and another examining the thought and lived experiences of racialised individuals and communities at the University of Edinburgh. This first story looks at the ways in which the University of Edinburgh has developed discourses of race, whether that is the scientific racism of the late nineteenth century or ideas around “race relations” in the second half of the twentieth century. It seeks to understand how RACE.ED and its theoretical interventions have emerged and is working against this wider context. The second story is concerned with how racialised individuals and communities have navigated, contributed to, worked against, and worked with the institution. It seeks to historicise current movements and organisations in a wider context. Crucially, the whole issue recognises that these two stories are deeply entangled.” With this broad brief in mind, our contributors have worked from their own disciplines and specialisms to produce fifteen articles and an overview of RACE.ED. We begin with some reflections on approaching race and racialisation in the academy. These thoughts set the scene for a chronological narrative that moves from the scientific racism of the nineteenth century to


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective the racial inequalities that remain embedded across contemporary Scotland. Turning back to the institution, we highlight some of the work being done and reflect on the ongoing dynamics of race and racialisation. This issue is not conclusive and it has not tried to be conclusive. There are clear gaps – the University’s links to and role in Atlantic Slavery are largely absent. Instead, we have tried to collect some ideas and bring them together in one space. What emerges is an institution that has and remains embedded and entangled in the dynamics of race. My hope is that this issue will be one, small, contribution to the dismantling of those dynamics. This issue will be my last as Editor in Chief of Retrospect. My time at Retrospect has been a pleasure and a privilege. This year has been a big year for the journal. We have successfully expanded our team and increased our readership. Last May, our website attracted 1600 views – this May, we reached nearly 10,000. For the first time, Retrospect has produced three print issues. A particular highlight from my time as EIC was speaking to distinguished scholars of Atlantic Slavery, Dr. Sowande’ Mustakeem and Prof. Vincent Brown, at our online events in September and January. I am sad to be stepping down but look forward to seeing where the journal goes under Retrospect’s incoming Editor in Chief, Alice Goodwin. None of the work of the past year would have been possible without a number of people. The Retrospect Team have been phenomenal, contributing and editing articles throughout this very difficult year. Retrospect’s Deputy Editors, Alice Goodwin & Tristan Craig, have been truly phenomenal this year. It would be impractical to list their contributions to the journal and the work would have been impossible without them – it has been a pleasure working with them. For this issue, I would like to thank Professor Nasar Meer for his guidance and support. It has been fantastic working with him, and I thank him for reaching out with this opportunity. Retrospect would not be able to run without external funding so I would like to thank RACE.ED, Edinburgh University Student’s Association, and the School for History, Classics, and Archaeology for their contributions. Retrospect is a fantastic space for students and it is only with these contributions that we remain free and accessible to all. Finally, I would like to thank you, the reader, for your support and time. I hope you have enjoyed reading our work this year. Happy Reading! Jamie Gemmell Editor in Chief


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RACE.ED: Our Story So Far By The RACE.ED Team The story of RACE.ED very much represents its symbol: the tree of life – a source of rootedness and vitality. Conceived as a cross-university network to support work on race, racialization, and decolonial studies, RACE.ED is made up of more than one hundred colleagues across the three colleges of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, and Science and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. As such, RACE.ED reflects an ecosystem constellated across different traditions of thought, research, and teaching commitments, allowing for different genealogies of race and colonialism to be known. Contributors of RACE.ED have worked to stimulate and deepen conversations around the lasting, structural, and quotidian violence of race and its intersecting sites of power, covering a range of social issues that span the globe. Narrators within this collective also tell a counter-story of coloniality, often recasting the tropes and racial sensibilities that discipline and delimit our political imaginaries. Holding space to address modernity’s racial orders and our various modes of refusal, the story of RACE.ED is also one of alternatives. From the outset therefore, it has worked from multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary aspects of our exchange, to bring visibility to the means of racialisation and the conditions upon which race matters. Translated into three objectives, RACE.ED has worked to deepen and expand a broad and enduring intellectual culture. Firstly, to undergird teaching and learning. Secondly, to support research – within and in connection beyond the university. Thirdly, to insist these topics are not peripheral – or just used instrumentally – in the identity of the University of Edinburgh as an institution. Nothing is, of course, without a history and ours is inevitably connected to a longer institutional story so effectively detailed by others in this wonderful collection. Yet the specificities of RACE.ED merit a record, for this network emerges from a discussion amongst ourselves. Partly inspired by Gender. ED and the work of Professor Fiona MacKay and Dr Meryl Kenny, a number of us moved forward in 2017 with support from our incoming Head of the School of Social and Political Sciences (SPS) Professor Linda McKie and the then Head of Sociology Professor Jon Hearn. Together, Dr Lilliana Riga, Professor Rowena Arshad, Dr Ashlee Christofferson, and Professor Nasar Meer initiated a series of mapping exercises followed by three open meetings throughout 2018-2019, in which Dr Omolabake Fakunle joined us. The over-whelming view from our consultations with colleagues was that existing work in the areas of race broadly conceived, needed to be better connected across various disciplines and interdisciplinary fields and more proactively supported across the three colleges. We were joined by Dr Katucha Bento and Dr Shaira Vadasaria in the Spring/Summer of 2020, who, a year later, commenced two RACE.ED Associate Director roles for Content and Engagement respectively. Together, with Professor Nasar Meer, they have taken a lead on race curricula, including Race and Ethnicity, as well as a level ten honors practice course designed in collaboration with a set of multidisciplinary students in preparation for the launch of a university wide pre-honors course entitled Understanding Race and Colonialism. Dr Bento is a Black feminist teacher and educator inspired by samba, quilombo, Queer, and Brazilian Black movement communities to deploy her anti-racist and decolonial practices. She is the cofounder of the Free Afro-Brazilian University (UNAFRO), emerging in relation to her transnational work in Education involving adult’s literacy, children and youngsters Education, Higher Education


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective Institutions and grassroots educational projects. Dr Vadasaria completed her PhD at York University (Toronto) and based on her SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council) funded doctoral research, was awarded the 2018 Sociology Distinguished Dissertation Award. As an interdisciplinary social theorist concerned with the study of race, law, and decolonial studies, her research is informed by lived experiences researching and teaching in Palestine where she taught at Al-Quds University, Bard College, and lived for many years. Working with the Director (Nasar Meer) and the Steering Group, these roles formalised existing labour undertaken in these areas, and connected across new priorities to help to renew RACE.ED objectives and approaches. All of this is in many ways reiterate that in provenance, we are not a top-down invention, but a coming together of colleagues across the University, something reflected in our governance structure and the Cross-College Steering Group. So how have we gone about our work so far? We cannot summarize (at least in a way that does it justice) the work of RACE.ED colleagues so far, but important milestones include: Firstly, we’ve been developing and convening a new cross university course on Race and Coloniality to commence in 2022. This will be an interdisciplinary course that provides an overview of the major issues at stake in the study of race, racialization, and decoloniality from a broadly conceived social science and humanities tradition. It moves directly off an SPS in-Practice course that Dr Shaira Vadasaria, Dr Katucha Bento, and Professor Meer ran last semester. This team also adopted such a dialogical pedagogy in the honours option Race and Ethnicity and received the award as the “Outstanding Course” of 2021 by the Edinburgh University Students Association. Connected with this more broadly, RACE.ED has worked with colleagues in the Centre for Research Collections and the main library to develop a collection of resources on race and decolonial studies to support teaching and learning more widely. In partnership with research centres, networks and organisations across the university, RACE.ED co-organised a number of events to address the topic of race and racism from various standpoints. Gender.ED, CAS, CRITIQUE, IASH, ESALA and E-flux co-badged a few of our activities. We’ve had just as busy a start externally, with RACE.ED: • Partnering up with Edinburgh International Book Festival in hosting the author Brit Bennett; • Working with the Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences (SGSSS) during Black History Month; • Connecting with Wezi Mhura and Curious Edinburgh and all the incredible artists involved in the Scotland wide Black Lives Matter Mural Trail; • Publishing with the Coalition for Race Equality and Rights (CRER) and race-equality stakeholders and the Scottish Parliament on our report and panel discussion on Taking Stock – Race Equality in Scotland; • Bringing together race scholars within and outside of UoE to workshop book manuscripts including Professor Sherene Razack’s forthcoming book “Nothing Has to Make Sense: AntiMuslim Racism, Law and White Supremacy”. Each of these activities and more are detailed our site which was designed by Clare De Mowbray and Adam Cavill who developed our Tree of Life logo that has become so resonant in both our audio and visual presence.


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We this in our Podcast Undersong: Race and Conversations Otherwise, launched with the inaugural episode hosted by Dr Shaira Vadasaria in conversation with Dr Katucha Bento, Dr Radhika Govinda, and Prof Tommy Curry on Intersectionality and its usage between the Global North and South. The episode emerged as a welcome collaboration with Gender.ED, and was followed by episodes on public art and memorialization, the relationship between antisemitism and Islamophobia, antiChinese racism and a retrospective conversation with UncoverED colleagues. Most recently we have exhibited an especially curated collection of living images drawn by the artist Paola Rozo focusing the theme of collective and creative pedagogies that came out of our inaugural event, co-organised with Dr rashné limki in the business school, featuring contributions from Dr Katucha Bento, Dr Rama Dieng, Dr Carol Dixon, Dr Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra, Dr Radhika Govinda, Dr Kaveri Qureshi, Prof Meer, and Dr Shaira Vadasaria. Last but not least we are about to award the first of our Fellowships that have come through working with IASH colleagues on their Project on Decoloniality 2021-2024, to be offered in collaboration with The Centre for Research Collections (CRC) and the Stuart Hall Foundation in London. If then, you look at our network you can see the list of people involved in RACE.ED – some of whom have been part of this conversation for the last two years, and others are just joining. We look forward to being joined by others to come – and please do accept this as an open invitation to colleagues interested in these topics. A final note of thanks to reiterate that were it not for the support of School of Social and Political Science (SPS), there would be no RACE.ED, and its support that has continued through some really tough periods. In addition to brilliant academic colleagues across each of the subject areas in SPS, this especially includes colleagues in professional services: Michaelagh Broadbent, Joe Burrell, Adam Cavill, Jen Chambers, Gordon Coutts, Clare de Mowbray, Marie Storrar – and so just a continued thank you really to everybody for the time and support you’ve invested in this journey. It has been our privilege to collaborate with the Jamie Gemmell, Alice Goodwin, and Tristan Craig, and the entire Retrospect team on this special issue to mark the first anniversary of RACE.ED’s launch. This Retrospective issue has given us an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been through the past year and where we’re headed in the future. We aspire for the RACE.ED Network to continue to reflect anti-racist commitment and dialogue with Global South cosmo-visions, across situated knowledges, at the level of disciplines and experiences – grassroots activists, policy-makers, academics, artists, practitioners, and many other expressions in dialogue with race and the decolonial. Together, we look forward to building more.


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Making Sense of Silenced Archives: Hume, Scotland, and the ‘debate’ about the Humanity of Black People By Dr Chisomo Kalinga Last September, the University of Edinburgh found itself at the centre of international scrutiny after temporarily renaming the David Hume Tower (now referred to by its street designation 40 George Square). The decision to rename the building, and hold a review on the way forward, prompted much commentary – a great deal of which encouraged a reckoning on what David Hume means to the University, its staff, and students. These ideas include the full extent of Hume’s views on humanity, to establish whether he maintained any possible links (ideological or participatory) to the slave trade, and the role of Scotland in the African slave trade.

experience and the engaged intellectual abolition movement deserves prominence in this contemporary debate about Hume. For to defend “passive complicity” is to undermine both the Africans who rose in opposition against their oppression for hundreds of years and the explicit goals of white supremacy. For access to mass acquisition of resources on inhabited land requires violent dispossession of profitable lands and forced relocation of populations living on them. The “moral justification” of denying the humanity of the enslaved African people has historically been defended through the strategic and deliberate creation of “myths” – specifically Afrophobia – to validate these atrocities and to defend settler colonialism and exploitation. Any intellectual inquiry of the renaming of the tower must take the genuine concern into account: What was David Hume’s role in the strategic myth-making about African people in the Scottish imagination?

Hume’s belief that Black people were a sub-human species of lower intellectual and biological rank to Europeans have rightfully taken stage in reflecting whether his values deserve commemoration on a campus. “I am apt to suspect the negroes and in general all other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites …. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences.”

If we are starting with the archives as evidence of Scottish complicity in the slave trade, why ignore African voices on this matter? Does the Scottish archive adequately represent the African experience within the slave trade? How do we interpret their silence in the archives?

Deliberations are split on whether statues and buildings are being unfairly “targeted” or whether the totality of ideas held by individuals whose names are commemorated by these structures stand in opposition to a modern university’s values. Depending on who you ask, the debate over the tower fluctuates between moral and procedural. On the latter, it must be noted the University has in the past renamed buildings at the behest of calls for review across specific points in history. The Hastings “Kamuzu” Banda building on Hill Place was quietly renamed in 1995, with no clarity on whether there was a formal review process at the time. On the moral end, it is about either the legacy or demythologization of David Hume.

Decolonisation, the process Franz Fanon described as when “the ‘thing’ colonised becomes a human through the very process of liberation”, offers a radical praxis through which we can interrogate the role of the archive in affirming or disregarding the human experience. If we establish that the eighteenth-century Scottish archive was not invested in preserving “both sides” of the “debate”, then the next route is to establish knowledge outside of a colonial framework where the ideology, resistance, and liberation of Africans is centred. That knowledge is under the custodianship of African communities, who have relied on intricate and deeply entrenched oral traditions and practices which are still used to communicate culture, history, science, and methods.

Some opposing the name change argue against applying present moral standards to judge what was not recognised in the past. Furthermore, they point to the archives to argue that prior to the 1760s there is scant evidence that Scots were not anything more than complicit to the slave trade given the vast wealth it brought.

To reinforce a point raised by Professor Tommy Curry, the fact that Africans were aware of their humanity to attempt mutiny in slave ships and to overthrow colonial governance (the Haitian revolution) amidst the day-to-day attempts to evade slave traders is

I argue against this and insist that the African


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enough to refute the insistence that the debates must centre around what Scots understood about the slave trade in the eighteenth century. To make sense of these gaps in my own research, I have broadly excavated the archival records in Scotland if only to establish that a thorough documentation of the African-led resistance to Scottish participation in the slave trade and colonialism cannot be located in the archives. Dr David Livingstone (1813–1873), whose writing documenting the slave trade across the African Great Lakes galvanized the Scottish public to take control of the region to be named the Nyasaland Protectorate, would prove to be a redemptive figure in Scotland’s reconsideration of its role in the slave trade. However, in 1891, 153 years after Hume wrote his footnote, Sir Harry Hamilton Johnston (1858–1927), the first British colonial administrator of Nyasaland, would re-inforce similar myths about the “British Central African”: “to these [negroes] almost without arts and sciences and the refined pleasures of the senses, the only acute enjoyment offered them by nature is sexual intercourse”. Even at that time, the documented resistance is represented by Scottish missionaries who aimed to maintain Nyasaland under their sphere of control. Filling in the gaps that the archives cannot answer involves more complex and radical modalities of investigation. I rely on locally-recognised historians or documenters within communities, who preserve their histories, including the slave trade, through methodically structured oral traditions. The legacy of both the Arab and Portuguese slave trade and British colonialism in Nyasaland remains a raw

memory, even though there are no precise indigenous terms to describe these phenomena. I have visited and listened to oral histories about the importance of “ancestor caves” where families would conduct ceremonies and celebrations out of view to evade the slave catchers. These are the stories still being told about how children were hidden and raised indoors often only taken outside at night, keeping silent to escape the eyes and ears of the catchers. Embedded in these historical narratives are didactic tales, organised for ease of remembrance for the survival of future generations. Despite what was believed by Hume and his contemporaries, the arts and sciences have always been intrinsic in African cultural traditions. Decolonising is a framework contingent upon recognising knowledge productions within systems that often will never make their way into archival records. It centres the recognition and legitimization of the ways in which African people have collected and shared their histories. The knowledge we learn from these systems allows us to reckon with both the silence of archives and the fallacies of myth-making about African people. At very least, these debates should lead to investigations to understand the full extent of Hume’s participation in the dehumanization of enslaved Africans, and the role he played to support the justification for their enslavement.


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Listening to the Dead: How Historians Study Race By Dr Richard Oosterhoff Let us allow the premise that racism, and what counts as “race”, has a history. That is where we begin an Honours seminar I have been teaching since 2018. Like all courses, it bears a title that in the end crumbles under its own weight: The Invention of Race: Early Modern History and the Atlantic World. The subtitle aims to alert students to approaches, chronologies, and regions where I can advise with some credibility, though the themes we discuss apply more widely too. Being grandiose, the main title has obvious weaknesses – to admit just one, several timelines have been claimed for the “invention of race”, including both antiquity and the Middle Ages. But the tag has virtues too. It hints at histories with obvious current relevance: the histories of bad scientific thinking being harnessed in support of racist policies, in the centuries leading up to the nineteenth-century colonial empires that deployed “scientific” racism with devastating effects. The course title says that race isn’t given, but made. If it were merely natural, we could leave it to the scientists – and we’ve already seen how that goes. Yet this title is also a bit scary. I’ve found that when we walk into a class on The Invention of Race, we bring many worries. The only way to defuse those worries is to recognise them, so we try to work through them right away. Students put it better, but most worries boil down to something like this: “I’ve not thought hard about racism in my academic work before; am I going to say something stupid?” Or, “I’m not sure I’m qualified to have an opinion, because I’m not a visible minority.” Or, “I am a visible minority: will I have to have a particular viewpoint or be expected to say more?” And so on. These worries have been even closer to the forefront of our minds since George Floyd was murdered in May 2020. We all feel the conundrum. On the one hand, Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m Not Talking to White People About Race helped us to talk about the exhaustion caused by asking only black people, for example, to do the heavy lifting of diagnosing and remedying racist culture. On the other hand, white people can still suck the air out of the room by being the only ones speaking. This conundrum is difficult in the classroom too, but here we can – we must – afford some idealism: we have resources for addressing these worries as

historians. Some of what I mean is just the hospitality that we should all exercise in any classroom. By entering a seminar, we assume a frame of basic civility, recognising that we are going to misspeak, and we’re going to need grace from one another. We show this grace when we stick with the conversation, showing hospitality to strange ideas, even when they are stubborn and rude. We must do this because it helps us “know better”. Even with very different backgrounds, we all share the common goal of understanding the same things well (i.e. the history), and can only do so by sticking with it. But I want to go one step further, to claim that this civility is fundamental to historical understanding itself. Educators talk about the “epistemic value” of diversity, and that’s partly what I mean: because we have differing backgrounds, we’ll ask richer questions and offer the complementary perspectives needed to help us get to that shared goal. In fact, then, recognising our worries should help improve our knowledge. Historical study aims at diversity in a special way. That’s because we don’t just listen to one another when we do history. What makes us historians is our concerted effort to listen to the dead. As historians, we have a distinctive responsibility. Our civility – listen long enough to try to share another’s viewpoint, even for an irritating moment – should extend to the sources we read. The conversation is strangely one-sided; the sources can’t talk back, so we need to read with special attention. That special attention is perhaps the main thing a History degree ought to give us. The alternative is to condone another species of chauvinism: the assumption that living people – or those living some particular slice in time – are the only ones worth hearing from. This is the nub of it. It is not trivial for students at Edinburgh to take survey courses spanning ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern history. Our world bubbles with a thousand chauvinisms, calibrated to differences of wealth, skin or hair colour, smoking habits, geography, and so on. Some are petty and worth ignoring; others deserve censure. But any historian should be acutely sensitive to chauvinism against the past. It may seem that I’ve gotten far from “race”, but listening to the dead does enrich how we study race


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective and racism. More precisely, it changes how we study race, as historians. After all, attending to the past is the tool we have selected for examining our own assumptions. This really matters in a course on race, because race and racism have been configured differently in other times and places. The assumption that race is all about skin colour is not quite right even today; certainly in early modern Europe (c. 1400-1750), racial difference was more likely to be about “savagery”, or being “cultured”. The targets were likely to be groups now considered “white”: Irish, Romani people of Eastern Europe, or the Sami, sometimes known as Lapps; Scythians or “Turks”, were fearsome more because of their religion and culture, and less for their phenotypes. Russians, before Peter the Great, were defined largely as “Asiaticks”. Our chromatic assumptions need adjustment, if we want to consider

race in, say, 1600. Just now, I’m compelled by the example of Al-Hasan Al-Wassan, better known as Leo Africanus, whose Cosmography I am translating with a friend from the original Italian as a lockdown project. Leo came to Rome in 1518 as an enslaved person. Baptised, freed, and active in the literary set of Renaissance Rome, he took up writing about African peoples; his Cosmography became a bestseller that set the contours of “Africa” for Europeans for over two centuries. Born in the Emirate of Granada, raised in Fez, Leo was a Moroccan Muslim who described himself as white. For a course on the history of race, this sets up a whole series of questions. What does his experience of “white skin” mean, by the standards of the sixteenthcentury Mediterranean? What would he associate with


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective white skin? Leo’s Cosmography is full of value-laden references to black, white, and brown people, across his own North Africa as well as Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Sahel. Or take the question of slavery, which became linked ever closer to race by the nineteenth century. Does Leo’s own enslavement, much earlier, help us understand better the shifting associations of skin colour, African ethnicities, and race? Medieval Africa is Leo’s backdrop. He assumes a history in which the great Islamic caliphates of North Africa vie with the magnificent Songhai Empire – the imperial ambitions depicted in Michael Gomez’s African Dominion. This geographer’s Africa is the source of empire, not merely a target; he destabilises the points of reference we use to imagine the dynamics of race and empire. Even though European colonial writers reimagined Africa in part by drawing on his work, Leo’s own world does not neatly map onto colonial or post-colonial North Atlantic racial politics. My larger point is that dealing with this kind of difference is at the heart of what we do as historians when entering an archive – or when collecting or creating one. Our own anxieties and moral maps can blind us to the very real concerns, motivations, and indeed failings of people of the past. And then we may find ourselves sliding towards the “enormous condescension of posterity”, treating the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of past people as morally suspect or excusable simply because they’re dead and we’re not. It’s important, I think, to be alive to both sides of this dichotomy, to the two forms of disrespecting the past: we can excuse past behaviour too easily; or we can condemn it too swiftly. So we must stay in the conversation. Eddo-Lodge points out that we don’t get to skip to the resolution, without the conversation. If historians won’t commit to conversation with past peoples with real care and attention, who will?


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Spoken Gems: When Academia Meets Self-Care A conversational piece between Dr Katucha Bento & Dr Azeezat Johnson Since the pandemic began, things have been intense. Azeezat was increasingly unwell, and Katucha had two bereavements in her family in the space of two weeks in 2020. We were invited to talk about our experiences as Black women discussing race, racialisation, and decoloniality in the “Academy”. The following conversation sits with the tension between Black women thinking and creating alongside academic institutions that are, in many respects, grounded in the epistemic violence of white supremacy. This piece will frustrate the reader if a traditional academic format is expected. Our positionality is consistently situated in Black feminism as we exchanged voice notes between teachings, hospital visits, research projects, the birth of a family member, and the concomitant possibilities of tearful and delightful moments of our lives. As a methodological note, the voice notes exchanged were transcribed. The transcription is not presented in order of our conversation. To ease the reading process, we have divided the topics and weaved the conversation to offer a thematic flow. It is not about following a timeline, but rather a conversation that is spoken from the heart. Lacking conventional recordkeeping embraces the ethics of caring, as Patricia Hill Collins taught us, freeing us from the formality of notetaking and data records. In Azeezat’s words: “you don’t need a record in order to know that it’s real, right?!”. As we foreground a Black feminist ethics of caring, we decided to publish the transcription with the ways we speak to each other. The format is inspired by the language and presentation of the e-mails exchanged between Gloria Anzaldua, AnaLouise Keating, and her students. The language in that communication intertwined Spanish and English, setting the tone of attentive and caring possibilities of addressing people to formulate fruitful experiences, rather than hierarchical academic positions of power. As Anzaldua provokes: “I’d like to create a different sense of self (la nepantlera) that does not rest on external forms of identification (of family, race, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality), or attachments to power, privilege, and control, or romanticised self-images. But can we

talk about ourselves in ways that do not rest on some notion of identity when identity is the means by which we (both individuals and groups) attempt to create a sense of security and belonging in the midst of a fastpaced, ever-changing world?” Dwelling with complicated negotiations of how we are identified and how we rest in a temporary safety net where we build our identifications, we started our talk. Claiming our identification also requires unveiling the violence and microaggressions of the everyday. We do this to situate the urgency to demand and build new world-makings. Azeezat: “Thank you for inviting me. I can’t lie, things have been intense. While I’ve been unwell, I’ve had to drop so much ... with a rapidly accelerating disease, I was too busy navigating a healthcare system that was facing extreme pressure from all fronts (because of the skilled robbery of successive Conservative governments). And now that the illness has moved to a state beyond preemptive care and I’m trying to ease back into ways of working that bring me joy and nourishment … I jumped at the opportunity to participate in this dialogue. It feels like I’m trying to imagine ways of dwelling in and caring for my body while knowing that care for my Black cripped body is rarely guaranteed (or even offered). I’m trying to focus on living while also knowing that I’ll soon be passing through my own personal door of no return which is … uff. It’s heavy. And I want to work through this with a Black feminist who I trust to hold on to the light (also see Lombé in Grégoire & Ntambwe, 2019): I want to spend my time with those ready to fight for the something I believe in, you know? Ok. So that’s it from me – I hope you are taking care. I’m looking forward to having this conversation. I think it will be really fun. Sending loads of hugs and light from here m’dear.” Katucha: “I’m so happy to hear your voice and hear from you. Thank you for accepting and being in this conversation. Of course, whatever you prefer to make this entire conversation through voice notes. I am now in the park, able to share with you and send you the light and the good vibrations that I’m receiving from the Sun, and I hope you are receiving the warm


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective embrace from the Sun in your heart. I understand the need to step away from academia because it can be very toxic and unhealthy. I do that myself, of course, from a different perspective than you and different circumstances; I don’t mean to compare. Well, let’s talk about our journeys that took us to academia. My suggestion for this conversation is to create a dialogue with another Black woman – and my first idea was to talk to you – and explore, to borrow from Audre Lorde, a bit of our “biomythography” in academia. The paths that took us here that are not only academic but related to other aspects. As long as you feel comfortable, talk about the perils to travel into academia from our hearts. Please, share with us your experience in a way that doesn’t need to be linear or follow any Cartesian timeline, but highlighting the things you find important in your academic biography. From there, we can talk about how we arrive at a conclusion to attend to our needs to take breaks, breathe, and be outside the ivory tower.”

Azeezat: “I’m so excited to do this with you. So much in what you said. I’ve been thinking a lot about using voice notes to connect at each individual’s own pace. This has been inspired by the time I’ve been fortunate to spend with my friend and long-time Black feminist mentor, Pat Noxolo. We’ve been talking about what it means to be in the middle of a really busy, really heavy moment, but also be able to send notes to one another, spend time with one another … And I feel like it is this power and possibility of spending time together in a different way; for showing care, slowing down enough to send a verbal letter ... that’s what I love about voice notes and I love you reaching out and suggesting this dialogue. It just reminds me of the best bits of academia … All of the parts that I actually care for and am excited by. So, thank you. So let’s talk about what comes from our hearts in these voice notes, and after transcribing, we can see if it is even necessary for us to organise another recorded session. I like what you were saying about speaking from your heart and how that connects to the decolonial possibilities that you are holding on to, you know?! And, yes! More than anything, what we are trying to teach, is to speak from the heart; to feel our embodiment, to feel how we actually connect with our multiple realities on a deep level. On a level that is based on care, care for ourselves, for our own wellbeing, but also for our collective wellbeing.

Source: Sandra Brewster, From Life 3, 2015, mixed media on wood, 60 x 48 in.


It makes me really excited and happy to think about such an exchange that begins with our hearts. I can’t let go of it, but also … Uff! When talking about my personal journey, I need to explore how I am feeling a deep sense of both anger and sadness at the world and the academic world in particular right now. I feel so … I don’t know … I think the word must be betrayed. Just really … I keep on remembering all of the moments where something really messed up happened or someone said something that was *clearly* out of order, and everyone else takes a step back and leaves me to do the labour of trying to hold the space. People who would otherwise claim to care and love me could still turn away when it came to addressing structures that privileged their bodies in our university and activist spaces. They could ask things of me, sit on panels with me, organise with me, send me messages of “well wishes” in and around various

Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective hospital treatments … and also look away when my pain or anger became a bit too inconvenient. Again and again I was left dealing with the after-effects of being seen as the angry and erratic Black woman: a Black woman who could never spend her life passing as a Sicilian princess (Mehri, 2021). I’ve been trying to breathe an imagination of self-care into worlds that keep seeing me as too Black to ever be incorporated into their way of doing things. I have to talk about my experiences in Feminist Review (FR) here, because, uff! Was it traumatising … Being so seriously unwell and realising that the free labour I was trying to do around my job was actually breaking me. And honestly, one of the most painful parts of this whole thing was how the belittling was designed to be a silencing technique: there were implicit and explicit attempts to force me to see myself as a problem, as an alien to my own body. Instead of dealing with the entwined violences of ableism, Islamophobia, and misogynoir that my presence had exposed, they chose to minimize my being and ignore my instincts. I remember having a meeting with some of the striking members and an active FR member. And I was overwhelmed and crying: I couldn’t focus on the work I had committed to finishing (for the collective) because I was too busy recovering from the latest round of gaslighting. And I had finally gotten a surgery date sorted for two days’ time. And the active collective member – who up until then had repeatedly looked away whenever her presence could have offered even the slightest of comforts – all of a sudden, she was “advising” me on how “you need to be careful you know, Surgeries are such a shock to your body, you really need to let yourself take care before da-dada-da …”. At this stage, I’d already been in surgery every six to ten months. I remember looking at her and thinking, “Wow. You have no idea … you have no comprehension of what it means for me to even be in this (Zoom) room with you right now. You have no concept of what it means to actually live my life. And I finally understand that you don’t care.” All of these feminists who built internationally renowned academic careers writing about feminist whatever, they still didn’t have to like … care about my reality, to care about the hurts directed towards my body, within the same academic institutions that they had found space to manoeuvre within. So instead of allowing them to continue hurting me in the hopes that they will one day recognise the harm they had caused, I left. And a year later, I can’t say that I’m over it, or that talking about it isn’t incredibly

painful. But I also know I won’t hold any untruths or silences in my body for any of them. I refuse to prioritise their care over my own: I will not use my body to cover for anyone that has helped to maintain FR’s multiple modes of institutional brutalisation. And now that I’m trying to return to aspects of academia – with an even more perilous health condition – I’ve been thinking about how to deal with the heartache and heaviness that academia can cause without letting that heaviness overshadow our being … And I think that is about spirituality for both of us in different ways … about how faith inspires us to work towards the possibility of worlds that exist beyond our current scope for imagination. But also it’s about trusting our lived experiences and holding on to the decolonial possibilities of like … Ruining it all (laughter). Abolition. You know what I mean?” Katucha: “Yes, sister! I feel your words. It’s hard to face these situations and be in spaces where the ordinariness of racism (Tate, 2014) is so present and yet feels so invisible to everyone’s eyes. My heart feels heavy to hear the details of what happened to you. I know we hold in our Black-feminist-spiritualloving the possibilities to find liberation from the poison there is in such situations, so have all my solidarity. Always. Facing such situations means doing an incredible level of emotional, mental/intellectual, physical and spiritual work that is exhausting. Sometimes it feels lonely, at least for me, but it is part of how we (re) connect with each other, you know what I mean? I believe this lonely work to understand how not to let “that heaviness overshadow our being” is how we find the uses of our erotic, like Audre Lorde taught us. This erotic helps us build communities, new connections, and imagine new decolonial forms of relationships with one another. In my case, I had to translate the makings of racism according to the “label” I received here in the UK. Here I’m not only Black, but Latina, Brazilian, Nota-proper-English-speaker, and so many other labels that sometimes I just can’t … This translation was not easy as, in Brazil, racialisation and racism are very different. To complicate, I did my Masters programme in Barcelona (Catalonia), where racism has a different colonial shape and expression. During that time, I didn’t have a scholarship or any source of income, my family could not send any financial support, and my friends helped me pay for my fees, so finishing my MA programme was a collective victory. I worked


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective in all different kinds of services, but especially the domestic work was where I felt safer and, at the same time, the typical stereotype. What helped me to understand my translation process was my supervisor, Shirley Anne Tate as she writes in the first person about the racist experiences she had in academic spaces. The racism I could identify in the everyday encounters were also in academia. Between the many examples we discussed, shared, and drafted, the word limit will not expand our narratives. So, I selected an iconic situation for my Herstory as I watch the debates in the UK about antiCritical Race Studies, the denial of institutional racism, and what it means the freedom of speech in this imperialistic and colonial setting that is Great Britain. Co-workers, like you mentioned, the white and whiteadjacent colleagues, believe that the good intention of not being racist is actually what makes them antiracist. When this happens, it becomes harder to have a conversation about their reproduction of racism, often because they get caught up in white fragility. After a few attempts to discuss how racism will be included as an issue to address in the pedagogical approach in the department, I had to mark essays and dissertations using the “n” word. In the same assessment batch, I received three essays using the “n” word. By this time, I was already the “angry” or at least the “annoying” Black woman in the department. The one and only Black woman, by the way. I flagged this to senior colleagues. One response. The person who had to deal with the administrative process of assessment came to my office – after all, these things are never written in an e-mail – and asked: “as my BAME colleague, what do you suggest that we do in this case?”. For me, those words resonated like “as a non-white person, I expect you to tell me how I deal with this racist situation to make it look like we care, but we are not willing to make any structural change in the ways students and staff discuss and reproduce orderings of race and racism. As the only Black woman in the department, in other words, the token, the ‘BAME’, what can I do so I don’t need to really engage with the meaning or practices of anti-racist pedagogies?”. I refused to answer that question to that person. Refused to do the emotional and psychological labour on top of the administrative labour he asked me to do. Refusal to engage with the comfort zone of whiteness, bringing answers or solutions to the problem that whiteness created. To get to that point, racism permeated academic relationships for a while, authorising ugly things to escalate in situations that I haven’t still found the means to verbalise.

Source: Luna Bastos, Travessia (‘Crossing’), 2020.

At that stage, I had lost weight, developed chronic pain that numbed my left leg and foot. It was mentally draining … I had students suggesting that my English was not good enough; was introduced by co-workers as a researcher instead of a lecturer; the co-workers who identify as “allies” whispered in my ear many times after hallway jokes or gossips related to my response to racism, sexism, and xenophobia “don’t worry about that …” or “I will talk to them for you” or “don’t give much attention to it!”. All these things were happening during the BLM demonstrations when I was asked to co-write two of them. It was when many universities were writing their solidarity statements. It is crazy how our experiences correlated! It is indeed heart-breaking to deal with the politics of not-caring in these toxic environments on the ground of those institutions. So, this exercise of sharing biomythographies is healing … And healing is political. Finding wellness is a slap in the face of racism. That is why building a loving space is sacred, political, and strategical to me. That is where the decolonial breathes (for me). As you mentioned in the beginning, taking breaks is part of our protection. Protecting ourselves can be spiritual (our meditation, prayers, rituals), can be related to our health, it can be everything or anything we want or need. I take my crystals, Orishas, and


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective herbs as part of the process. I also believe in the importance of creating a supportive collective in academia. This leads me to think about how or whether we have decolonial possibilities in the academic space. How are we doing that? I believe that we are doing something. I believe that you are doing something. The publications, the teachings, and even the tweets you post are somehow creating a bridge that enables a different experience in academia – and I love when students engage in that. It might be limited, but I will always have hope in our roles as educators. The new moon has just passed, so I wish you light and love for the new cycle. I also want to share with you that my sister is having a baby in the next few days. I’m happy with the news, and I hope I made you smile. Azeezat: “You made me smile multiple times. I trust us to navigate that. What does it look like to work in an academic institution, work within the heartache of it, sit in some very brutal systems of non-care and yet still choose one another and find a way to create systems of care? And congratulations about becoming an auntie. A couple of years ago, my brother had our first nextgeneration kid, and it’s just been a game-changer. She is amazing in every single way. So, I’m excited for you. Sending lots of love and speak soon”. As we wind towards an ending in this piece, we stay grounded in one certainty: we will continue honouring ourselves, taking care of ourselves, and speaking from our hearts. We end with this thought, instead of creating idealised homemade recipes that do not work (even for ourselves). There is no romanticism in the ways we are envisioning the decolonial and hoping for the transformation of academic spaces. Our conversation was deep, therapeutic, reflexive. It picked up on discomfort, pain, and harm; but it also returned to a Black feminist politics of care and consideration for our different embodied realities. In reading between these feelings, we finish this piece, actively working for transformations that lead people to speak from their hearts and think otherwise.


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Race, Science and the University of Edinburgh By Lea Gagliardi Ventre “This review ... will show the utter baselessness of the conclusions, that the white race is superior to the coloured races, and that the coloured races are inferior to the white race. And since the arguments supporting these groundless conclusions are tenaciously held, and eagerly followed by the majority of Christendom, as if valid, since also in their application they embrace a wide field, as well as represent those arguments by which commerce, religion, politics, etc., are in practice largely governed, then the conclusion is surely correct, that of the backward oscillation of the world, and the calamities concomitant therewith, lack of truth is primarily the cause.” - Theophilus Scholes, Preface to Glimpses of the Ages The following analysis suggests that racialised scientific theories at the University of Edinburgh lent support to nineteenth century imperial pursuits, and provided one source for present-day racial formations. These histories should not be treated as a matter of outdated prejudices, for this would erase the pertinence of the past to the present. To show this I draw on the legacy of Edinburgh alumnus Theophilus Scholes, whose work on evolution allows us to reengage with race as a materially and ideologically contingent phenomenon. Around the time of the publication of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in On the Origin of the Species (1859), many thinkers at the University of Edinburgh were theorising about race. Robert Knox, Edinburgh graduate and lecturer in Anatomy, wrote that “race in human affairs is everything, [it] is simply a fact, the most remarkable, the most comprehensive, which philosophy has ever announced. Race is everything: literature, science, art – in a word, civilization, depends on it”. In his best-selling The Races of Men (1850), he concluded that “there must be a physical and, consequently, a psychological inferiority in the dark races generally”. Indeed some historians, including Philip Curtin, consider him “the real founder of British racism and one of the key figures in the general western movement towards a dogmatic pseudo-scientific racism”. Robert Knox is by no means the only relevant figure when it comes to individuating scientific racism, but he is especially significant because he tended to disagree with other Edinburgh graduates – the likes of George Combe, George Murray Paterson, John William Jackson, and G.S. Mackenzie – who wrote

on the subject of phrenology. In The Races of Men, Knox declared himself wary of the study of the skull as evidence of the superiority of whiteness. He believed that a racial hierarchy should be self-evident not simply by physical and psychological characteristics, but also in national, cultural, and artistic features. I propose that these racist ideologies, popularised across Britain through his theory and practice as an anatomist who trained generations of doctors at the University of Edinburgh, developed in service of the empire to justify and strengthen further colonial expansion. What still remains overlooked is how Black scholars at the University of Edinburgh resisted and opposed these hegemonic categorisations. James Africanus Beale Horton disputed “some grave errors in generalization which men of science with restricted observation [had] arrived at respecting the capacity of progression in the African race”. He included “grave errors” by David Hume and Robert Knox, contesting the latter’s dogma that “everything [be] subservient to race”. Moreover in 1905, Theophilus Scholes “affirmed the physical identity, or sameness, of the different races. This proof of the absolute physical oneness of the three races also disproves the assertion that there exists between the coloured and colourless races differences of a radical character”. Scholes studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the first volume of his seminal work Glimpses of the Ages (1908), he debunked the racial hierarchy, confuting established theories of scientists and philosophers of the previous century. He contextualised scientific racism as an ideological categorisation that legitimised material oppression of colonised people by the West. He wrote that, while “[f]or many years after its announcement, this theory, in almost every quarter, found little or no credence … it was exhumed from the grave of its oblivion … by religion, commerce, literature, and all the other institutions of civilisation”. In short, he made a case for understanding science as a source of political power, countering reductionist views of knowledge as neutral production. He proposed a conscious politicisation and historicisation of evolution in order to rebalance this simplistic understanding. Amongst others, Scholes criticised Darwin for belonging to a category of thinkers who, while pursuing


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective truth “because of its love for truth”, still fell into error. In his fieldwork observations of South America, Charles Darwin wrote of the Yámana people from Cape Horn as existing “in a lower state of improvement than in any other part of the world”. Scholes deemed this proposition erroneous, “that high moral attainment is the equivalent of high intellectual development”, declaring it false on the basis that under imperial Rome the most barbaric of practices and institutions, including enslavement, were the norm alongside what could be seen as “intellectual development”.

Scholes understood race as a tool of imperial states and their corporations to divide and enact exceptionally aggressive arrays of violence on colonised people. This conception of race in some ways anticipated philosopher Achille Mbembe’s conception of necropolitics, which describes a system of modern sovereignty sitting within the logic of British and European imperialism to enable capitalistic racialised subjugation. Briefly described, it is the monopoly on the politics of death, by which a sovereign entity may decide who gets to live and who gets to die under racialised imperial and colonial conditions, a system most blatantly exemplified by the colonial plantation. Mbembe argues that in the world of the post-colony, whereby the Euro-American world is undergoing a process of decentralisation, the rules of empire remain permanent – however hidden in the “everpresence and the phantomlike world of race in general”. Using the framework of necropolitics offered by Mbembe, it is pertinent to focus on the racist aggressiveness of British academia in the 1800s as a major ideological driver of colonial violence. Most importantly, this framing seeks to put to rest any dismissal of institutional racism as a thing of the past. While the most blatant theorisation can be found in the 1800s, its legacies reach and even surpass the present moment of globality. The historian Frederick Cooper argues that global modernity is a convenient narrative of development that obscures, rather than clarifies, the imperial realities of today’s world. It remains necessary to underpin our comprehension of the material world of nation-states with an approach that accounts for driving processes such as racialisation – while, at the same time, rejecting race as a natural fact, like proponents of scientific racism intended it to be. The imperialist civilising mission of Britain and Europe has always been based on the understanding of history as an essentially progressive movement – ‘it’ is said to move from a ‘lower’ to a ‘higher’ point on a singular developmental line that should follow the rules of chronology. “On the contrary”, Scholes says, “since the improvement of the world is the work of changeable man, and not of changeless time, we should expect that its course would be irregular.” He goes on to present three propositions:


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective “I. that the world is in the throes of a backward oscillation. II. that the cause is lack of truth III. that, sooner or later, the result will be a great social upheaval.” History is said to be more accurately described as an irregular oscillation between progression and retrogression, swinging without fixed trajectories. The past and the present are not “connected by an unbroken chain of improvement” and are thus not substantially, but only formally, separate. Scholes’ preoccupations with the backward oscillation of the world, its lack of truth, and impending social upheaval resonate with the historic realities of the current moment, which urgently requires “impelling forward”. Here and now, the inseparable forces of imperialism, capitalism, and racism become unrecognisable from ongoing globalisation – in fact, they constitute

its architecture. The corporate University remains invested in the process and its profits, presently contributing to the backward force This theory of history seems to be particularly generative with regards to this particular analysis of racism and racialisation in the context of the University of Edinburgh, as it helps us bridge the perceived gap between the past and the present, the imperial and the global. Scholes foresaw the longevity of racialisation as configured and propelled by the likes of Knox. He maintained that the theoretical products of racism were not merely a sign of a prejudiced mentality, but a lasting asset of subjugation for imperialism. Even after deconstructing racism and racialisation scientifically, he argued, the “backward oscillation” of history may not be stopped. The force of race still dominates the biopowerful, institutionalised dimensions of life and death in ways that must be tackled ideologically and materially.


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Craniology and Scientific Racism in Late Nineteenth-Century Edinburgh By Professor Ian Harper & Professor Roger Jeffery Edinburgh’s nineteenth-century scientific fascination with skulls began with the phrenologists and this fascination reached its apogee in the career of William Turner, Professor of Anatomy from 18671903, and Principal of the University of Edinburgh from 1903 until his death in 1916 at the age of eightyfour. A leading public intellectual, he was involved in “scientific racial” debates of the day – craniometry or craniology – that linked skull shapes and sizes, on the one hand, with the theoretical origins of humans and the behaviour of human groups on the other. The status of anatomy as a scientific discipline was such that Turner could create a two-storey room off the new Anatomy Lecture Theatre to house his growing collection of human skulls from around the world. The skull-room, with most of its skulls, still exists, and embodies Turner’s publications. Indian and other skulls — many procured for him by a network of Edinburgh-trained colonial medical officers — fuelled a particular kind of racial theorising. The skulls tell a story of colonial science through a trail of bones. The skull-room’s aesthetic is striking. It is an extraordinary space, arresting, startling, emotive: the space demands silence, like a mausoleum. The room itself is tiered, with a balcony running around three walls, reaching up across two floors. Rows of skulls (1600 or so), two deep, are housed in wall-towall glass cabinets and stare down and across the room. Displayed thus, its intentionality reaches out. The skulls are categorised on the basis of where they were collected. Their origins include many parts of the British Empire as well as the British Isles. Clearly, none of these people had been asked for the use of their skulls in this way. The provenance, the very fact of the existence of the collection, reflects a set of prevailing (and pervasive) attitudes. Around 250 are from India, Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. Turner’s former pupils were the main sources for these skulls, but others also helped. One of these helpers was F.M. Bailey, whose father had worked in the Indian Forest Service and was friends with Turner. Bailey presented six skulls to Turner for his Anatomical Museum; he obtained them in Tibet. In December 1903 Colonel Francis Younghusband led a military mission from India into Tibetan-held territory, supposedly to limit Russian influence and its potential expansion into India. This orientalist

imperial adventurism left over 3,000 dead (95 per cent of whom were Tibetan). Bailey acted as British Agent, forced on the Tibetan government when Younghusband withdrew in 1904. It is extraordinary how skull collectors like Bailey and medical officers who were part of this expedition, or

who participated in other small wars, seemed to have few qualms about their collecting habits: it seemed to feed a sense of transgressive, yet higher scientific purpose. What did Turner do with such skulls? Firstly, he carried out a series of measurements, in all possible directions inside the skull. But this led him into a meditation on “the physical characteristics and affinities of the Tibetans”. He concluded that he now had proof that “in Tibet a dolichocephalic race exists in addition to the brachycephalic Mongolian race, the latter of which constitutes probably the main stock of the people of the great Upland Valley of Tibet, who form perhaps a large proportion of the inhabitants of the Buddhist monasteries; whilst the Khams, the warrior or fighting race, are derived from the Kham province situated in the east of Tibet”. Turner’s interest in Tibetan skulls led him to believe that these semi-nomadic pastoral tribes were “short-


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective headed, flat-faced, and oblique-eyed, presenting the Mongolian type”, and he was able to compare these to people who spoke similar languages from the hills of Burma, who may have been from the same race. The Tibetan skulls thus formed part of a broader analysis that charted the full racial characteristics of Indian skulls. Over the course of the nineteenth century, the study of skulls became increasingly central to the formation of the discipline of physical anthropology. Phrenology was popular in the early part of the 1800s, and the Edinburgh Phrenology Society – one of the key locations for this highly contested scientific practice – was founded by George Coombe in 1820. Phrenology linked personality traits with the size of parts of the cranial skull, believing that these reflected the requisite areas of the brain. The supply of skulls from India and elsewhere increased over the latter half of the century to feed this scientific enterprise. Turner re-measured “Thug” skulls, and as Wagner suggests, entered them into a different scientific register, where, for a while, they – combined with the other skulls sent to Edinburgh – briefly illuminated another racial line of scientific thinking. Craniology came to replace Phrenology, a key component of the foundations of physical anthropology. Turner, with his wide reading of, and correspondence with, those who had travelled through the areas where the skulls were collected, was central to the formation of physical anthropology, not just at Edinburgh. He was part of a European network as well, all its members classifying the human races and their origins.

in Drummond Place. These included taxonomic displays of weapons, animal specimens and heads, spears, etc. A medical officer for the Younghusband expedition (Major L.A. Wadell) was also “Antiquarian and Collector of Bhuddist (sic) knowledge and Curios for the British Museum”. He sent back hundreds of objects and manuscripts to London. Bailey, Wadell and others were amongst the men of empire “Born in India and Educated in Britain” who made up the network of connections that linked us between here and there. These skull collectors took part in a late Enlightenment project of classifying, cataloguing, and ordering the natural world; part of a broad network of natural historians. Was this project racist? Certainly. The challenge in the present is to keep in mind the intellectual and cultural currents that lit up Turner’s study. Nonetheless, as Wagner has written in his compelling micro-biography of the skull of Alum Bheg, the practices of skull collecting from the colonies cannot, nor should be, separated from the racial logic that underpinned the violence of the British imperial project, both in India, and more broadly. This piece is based on Ian Harper and Roger Jeffery’s chapter, “The Skull Room: Craniological past of Edinburgh and India”, in India in Edinburgh published by Routledge in 2019.

Skulls were thus included in an “Empire of Things” – part of the colonial processes of both control and knowledge production, an aspect of the gathering process of civil servants. Bailey sent back over 200 objects to Edinburgh, initially to his family home


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Arthur James Balfour: The University of Edinburgh’s Imperial Chancellor (1891-1930) By Dr Shaira Vadasaria & Dr Nicola Perugini This piece was co-authored in full collaboration. Over the past twelve months, we have witnessed a renewed energy towards calls around decolonisation and anti-racism across the globe. These critiques of racism proliferating on a planetary scale, reveal the persistence and rearticulation of what Denise Ferreira da Silva identifies as the global idea of race, or as differently framed by David Theo Goldberg and Ann Laura Stoler, the globalization of the racial – namely, the relational, multidirectional, and experimental ways that race travels between empire, its colonial frontiers and settler colonies. Instead of engaging with these interconnected genealogies, attempts to “decolonise the university” are too often folded into neoliberal incentives around inclusion and diversity rather than substantive engagements with colonial history and its role in the proliferation of ongoing racial violence enacted against Black, indigenous, and other racialized communities. If we are to engage critically with various stated commitments to “decolonise the university,” we might begin by first investigating how the global histories of our academic institutions have come to form our racial present. This requires re-examining our past with and against the archival grain upon which it is represented and paying close attention to what traces of our institutional history shape contemporary racial politics. It is in this spirit of inquiry, that the questions that animate our project ask: what legacies come to bear on the University of Edinburgh when we open its imperial archive, conceived of in both its material and symbolic heritage? Which kind of proximities, continuities, and mutual influences characterise this racialised global order within which the University is embedded in? Further, how can an examination of these colonial entanglements help us realize the foundational work required for a decolonial present? In thinking further about these questions, we pause on one particular legacy that has received surprisingly scant attention over the past century despite being driven by one of the most influential imperial figures of the twentieth century: Arthur James Balfour. As scholars of colonial history, race, and the MiddleEast have evidenced, Balfour’s decisive role as the British Foreign Secretary reconstituted Palestine as

a national homeland for the Jewish people, while simultaneously denying Palestine’s indigenous community from recognition as peoplehood with rights to self-determination. As Sherene Seikaly has theorized, this form of juridical erasure of Palestinian political rights became possible through the signing of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which came to define Palestinians “by who they were not,” while rendering an incoming Jewish settler society a “national home” with rights as an “ethno-national category in Palestine.” This juridical framework consequently deepened a process for the partitioning of a land based upon these racialized categories, which took fuller effect thirty years later through the proposed partition plan of UN Resolution 181. It is noteworthy that this resolution was rejected by Palestinian leadership at the time and only partially accepted by Zionist leadership who sought further parts of the land, which they took by military force resulting in, what is often referred to in Palestinian lexicon as the Nakba (“catastrophe”): the process by which in 1947-1948, 531 Palestinian villages were destroyed, eleven urban neighbourhoods were emptied, and 122 Palestinian localities were expelled at gun point. In total, approximately 750,000 Palestinians were forced to leave their homes and villages through methods of massacre and forced displacement. As well documented by Palestinian scholars, including Fayez A. Sayegh, Nur Masalha, Walid Khalidi, Rana Barakat, Lana Tatour, and Noura Erakat to name just a few, this key moment set in place a larger structure for settler colonialism, as consecrated today through dispersed technologies of colonial domination including an apartheid structure, unlawful occupation of the West Bank, illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and the fourteen-year siege on Gaza. In effect, the signing of the Balfour Declaration – a sixty-seven-word memorandum – put in effect what historian Rashid Khalidi defined in 2017 as the “onehundred-year war” on Palestine. Two interconnected elements of the Balfour Declaration mark its contribution to the construction of a settler colonial order in Palestine: first, as Edward Said succinctly described in The Question of Palestine, Balfour took “for granted the higher right of a colonial power to dispose of a territory as it saw fit.” Second, as described above, his declaration gave


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective credence to the rights of an incoming settler society that gradually but forcefully secured their settlement through colonial dispossession, theft, and expulsion, ultimately producing what is today one of the largest protracted refugee crises worldwide. In effect, this declaration licensed what would later become a wide-scale and ongoing settler colonial process with no mechanism in place at the time to protect the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and national sovereignty. As the recent Israeli settler state attempts to expel Palestinian families from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah reveal – these attempted practices of dispossession and forced expulsion have only intensified, evidencing the continuity of an on-going and everyday Nakba.

Balfour and the Constitution of a Racialised Global Order While the salience of the Balfour Declaration was known to us prior to stepping foot on the grounds of the University of Edinburgh, it was indeed both curious and revelatory to learn that Balfour was our own University Chancellor and that the declaration was in fact signed while he held the most representative and esteemed appointment at our academic institution. A closer examination of Balfour’s biography, at the threshold between political and academic affairs, reveals that Balfour-the-imperial-statesman and Balfour-the-university-chancellor are hardly separable. The years of his very appointment as Chancellor, from 1891 to 1930, when he was representing our university and enhancing its global prestige, coincide as the same years in which Balfour played a decisive role in British imperial foreign policy. As historian Jason Tomes noted, this period “witnessed the zenith of the British Empire.” It is in this specific context that we read Balfour’s imperial footprint on Palestine not as an exception in his career, but as an indicator of his commitments to racial ideology and settler-colonialism more broadly. Reading Balfour’s decision on Palestine within this wider genealogy is key to understanding his political sensibilities at the height of British empire and in the endorsement of settler colonial policies predicated on ideas about racial difference. Let us consider here a few key additional examples that illuminate his imperial and racial thinking. Immediately after briefly serving as Secretary of State for Scotland in 1886, Balfour was nominated Chief Secretary for Ireland and administered the oldest British settler colony until 1891. Similar

to his disregard of the Palestinians’ right to selfdetermination as an indigenous society, Balfour also opposed self-determination for the Irish people. He introduced repressive emergency laws and quelled the political agitations caused by economic depression and anti-British sentiments, earning the epithet of “bloody Balfour.” As an imperial administrator in Ireland, Balfour acquired a prominent political position, and in 1891 he became leader of the House of Commons. Significantly, his growing stature in public national life translated also into a series of prestigious appointments in Scottish academic institutions: Rector of the University of St Andrews in 1886; Rector of the University of Glasgow in 1890; and, finally, the highest position in the most prominent Scottish university: Chancellor at the University of Edinburgh in 1891. A decade later, Balfour’s political career achieved one of its peaks. In 1902, he became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and in this position, he continued to play a decisive role in imperial affairs. Balfour was already directing the Foreign Office during the Second Anglo-Boer-War (1899-1902) but it was only later that he articulated his vision for the British dominion of South Africa. Our Chancellor upheld the racial logic that “One European race” had to govern and dominate. He also claimed that “all men are from some point of view, equal; but to suppose that the races of Africa are in any sense the equals of men of European descent, so far as government, as society, as the higher interests of civilisation is concerned is really, I think, an absurdity”. While the South African apartheid regime was in the making, Balfour viewed racial segregation as a crucial means to preserve the racial purity of white supremacist democracies. As he explained in one of his reflections on imperial political reforms, “Where racial differences are clear cut and profound,” and “where a [white] race obviously superior is mixed with a race obviously inferior, the superior race may be constituted as a democracy, but into that democracy the inferior race will never be admitted. It may be kept out by law, as in South Africa, or it may be kept out by practice, as in the Southern States of America; but kept out it will be.” In 1907, two years after the end of Balfour’s mandate as Prime Minister though still in post as Chancellor, the Eugenics Education Society was established in the United Kingdom. Its creation was also a response to the social unrest resulting from capitalist development. The focus of the Society, which expressed a Conservative agenda of social reform and control of the proletariat (while including


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective also socialist members), was predominantly on the prevention of the “degeneration of race” at the national level. In spite of his reluctance to embrace its most radical biologising versions, Balfour endorsed scientific racism. He considered eugenics a “splendid applied science” and directly supported the Eugenics Education Society. In 1912 our Chancellor was the principal guest at the Eugenics International Congress in London, and in 1913 he became honorary vice president of the British Eugenics Education Society, reiterating the special place that racial reason played in his understanding of the world. These details of his intellectual and public life are not an aberration from his political views as an imperial statesman; nor are they a deviation from his involvement in global affairs such as on the question of Palestine. On the contrary, we can trace the continuity of his race-thinking in the establishment of a settler colony in the Middle East. In fact, what the 1917 Balfour Declaration on Palestine evidences most explicitly are the ways that his forms of race-

thinking matured into explicitly racist policy. The significance of this point is that Balfour did not only hold racist attitudes while occupying the highest seats in government and within the university. Balfour enacted policy decisions that reflected these racial hierarchies of humanity. He simultaneously accepted these ideas about racial difference and actively instituted them on a global scale. In this context, we must appreciate the fuller extent to which his ceremonial role at the University carried the weight of British empire behind it. To borrow from critical race scholar Sherene H. Razack’s articulation of these racial processes: “when race thinking unites with bureaucracy, when in other words it is systematized .... it loses its standing as a prejudice and becomes instead an organizing principle.” Let us articulate further how Balfour’s race-thinking united with a Zionist policy in Palestine. His political plans for Palestine were informed by and coordinated with modern political Zionism, a nationalist project that promoted the creation of


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective a settler colonial state in the Middle East with the support of imperial powers. In fact, Balfour endorsed the creation of a territorial based national home for (to use his own words) the “Jewish race” (cit.) in the form of an exclusionary-settler version of the principle of Jewish self-determination, at the expense of recognition of Palestinians with national rights. Hence, his recognition of a Jewish national home in Palestine was shaped by racial ideas about who had rights to the land as national and indeed sovereign subjects and who did not. To say it in the words of our Chancellor, “the deep underlying principle of self-determination really points to a Zionist policy” which excludes Palestinians. Indeed, as Balfour later admitted, his ultimate goal with his declaration was to create the conditions for “a [Jewish settler] numerical majority in the future.” According to our Chancellor, the Jewish people were entitled to national sovereignty in virtue of their alleged superior civilisation and capacity to govern themselves, when compared with the Arabs, which Balfour, in his book Decadence (1908), conceived as inherently inclined towards “Oriental despotism” and authoritarian forms of political organisation. Simultaneously, the declaration reduced the remaining non-Jewish population – 94 per cent of the overall population of Palestine at the time of the declaration – to a political minority, according to a logic of ethno-racial “minoritisation” of the indigenous populations common to other settler colonial projects, as highlighted recently by Mahmood Mamdani in Neither Settler Nor Native. It is precisely Balfour’s racial-demographic policy rationale informed by an idealist support for Zionism that relegated Palestinians to the role of a political minority that, in the best of cases, could have aspired to civil and religious rights within the ethno-national settler state as licensed by the declaration.

Public Decolonial Knowledge Over the past one hundred and sixty-two years, our university has held eight Chancellorship appointments. Balfour sat in post for almost forty years (1891-1930). Since 1859, when the Chancellorship commenced, the prestigious role of chancellorship appointment has been taken up by only men, with the exception of the current chancellor, Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal. It is also notable that two of the other eight chancellors were imperial governors: John Buchan and Victor Hope. The Chancellor role is recognized to be the highest position in the University. It is elected by the University’s General Council

and remains a life-long appointment. As stated by University of Edinburgh, “the Chancellor confers degrees and enhances the profile and reputation of the University on national and global levels.” As ceremonial heads of the University, the Chancellor engenders the institutional character of the University, past and present. In effect, they represent the ethos of who and what the University stands for. It is within this context that we ought to ask, what are the underlying logics and implications then in appointing imperial figures to occupy the highest seat in power at the University? While the ceremonial role of this appointment may give the veneer that the Chancellorship position is merely an administrative one, how are we to understand the appointment of highly politicized figures that are deeply embedded in the constitution of the British Empire? Further, how might the process of opening our archive and confronting our imperial past, help us reconstitute a different relationship with the communities that have been the subjects of colonial violence? Decolonising the university requires that we examine, first and foremost, how our institution and its several parts – including the chancellorship appointments – are imbricated in the proliferation of colonial violence, dispossession, and racism established through the British empire. For this work to be meaningful, this kind of research requires that we pay close attention to its long-term and systemic effects, both on those whose lives continue to be affected by conditions of coloniality – and indeed on our own University’s institutional culture and history. Examining the role of the University and its global collaborations, alongside its epistemic inheritances, is part of the wider process of understanding our stake and responsibility in racial and colonial violence. We offer this piece and open this project on the history of Balfour as imperial statesmen-chancellor as an entry point to critically examining an important chapter of the global history of our institution. The act of opening and interrogating the archive is an act of producing public knowledge – thus a form of knowledge able to nurture, deepen, and critically inform these ongoing calls towards decolonisation and anti-racism.


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Race Relations and the Limits of Social Anthropology By Professor Jonathan Spencer NOTE: The academics whose work I discuss used the language of their own times, in which terms like “negro” and “coloured” were considered unproblematic. On grounds of accuracy, the terms are quoted in their original form in what follows.

On an Edinburgh Wednesday afternoon in late 1974 or early 1975 I was present at a minor moment of academic history. The moment could be thought of as the death of a quarter century of teaching, research, and publication on race in Britain, led by a strikingly diverse group of anthropologists – British, Jamaican, Nigerian, American – based in Edinburgh. The specific occasion was the meeting of a Board of Studies to decide on the Department of Social Anthropology’s request to withdraw a second-year undergraduate course called “Race Relations 2”. The course, it was explained, had been established when “race” was a central interest of many members of the department, all of whom had now moved on, leaving an orphan course to be looked after by whoever was sufficiently junior to be unable to say no when the year’s tasks were being handed out. The meeting was unusually lively. The proposal was unanimously opposed by staff from the sociology department (who, nonetheless, showed no enthusiasm for taking on the course themselves). As a student representative on the Board, I voted with the anthropologists. The course was removed from the University Calendar. The central figure in the story of the anthropology of race at the University of Edinburgh was Kenneth Little. Little arrived in Edinburgh in 1950 as a replacement for Ralph Piddington, the first social anthropologist appointed by the University. In 1940 Little had been sent to Cardiff on a dubious physical anthropological mission to collect anthropometric information on the children of mixed marriages. His experience turned him instead towards social anthropology and a PhD under the supervision of Raymond Firth at LSE. The shift can be seen clearly enough in the title and location of two early articles. Little’s first publication on “race” appeared in the Eugenics Review in 1941 and reads like a literature review for his investigation into the physical properties of “hybrid” populations. The following year he published a note on “race relations” in the mainstream journal Man, and the year after that, a further note on “colour prejudice” among the English middle-class. In those three papers, Little had moved from a study of race in terms of physiology, to

a study of the social relations around race, and then to “colour prejudice” (or “racism” as it would now be known) among the white middle-class. Little’s PhD was the basis for his first book Negroes in Britain: A Study of Racial Relations in English Society (1948). As well as his more conventionally academic work, Little had an obvious flair for public comment. Even while completing his PhD, he participated in a 1943 radio programme called The Colour Bar, in which black guests were invited to share their experiences of racism in Britain by “well-known host anthropologist Kenneth Little”. (Although recorded and readied for broadcast, the programme was shelved by senior BBC management, nervous at the possibility of controversy.) Through the 1950s and into the 1960s he was a frequent contributor to the New Statesman. In 1968 he was appointed chair of the Home Secretary’s advisory committee on race relations. Little’s health collapsed soon after, and he was moved sideways in the University, to a personal chair with a token teaching load. By the time of the Board of Studies meeting, he was a marginal figure, unknown to most students, and ignored by most of his colleagues. The work in Edinburgh was not a one-person band. Little recruited Michael Banton to conduct a study of Stepney, which produced the book The Coloured Quarter: Negro Immigrants in an English City (1954), and then five years later, White and Coloured: The Behaviour of British People Towards Coloured Immigrants (1959), a book which drew heavily on the work of other anthropologists in Edinburgh, especially Sheila Webster, Sydney Collins, and Eyo Bassey N’dem. Webster (now most often remembered as the natural childbirth activist Sheila Kitzinger) and N’dem had researched the experience of students of colour in Oxford and Manchester. Collins had already published the fruits of his own PhD research, with a range of minority communities on Tyneside, as Coloured Minorities in Britain: Studies in British Race Relations based on African, West Indian and Asiatic Immigrants (1957). Collins starts his book with a contrast between the “structural” place of race in the US and its diffusion through “personal factors” in Britain: “Consequently, a coloured person is not always able to predict the kind of response to expect in a relationship to a British individual or group”. There is nothing in this impeccably detached


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective academic prose to alert the reader to the fact that Collins himself, who had originally come to Edinburgh as a PhD student in Ralph Piddington’s time, was a black Jamaican – and thus would have had a great deal of personal experience to draw on. The group of anthropologists collected around Little in Edinburgh in the 1950s and early 1960s seem to have practised a very different kind of anthropology from their contemporaries at the established disciplinary centres in London, Oxford, and Cambridge. British anthropology in the 1950s was heavily skewed to the study of Africa, and those doing the studying were overwhelmingly white and male. Among the Edinburgh research staff at least, there were as many women as men. While Nigerian and Jamaican researchers set out to conduct fieldwork in English cities, the senior white anthropologists (Banton, Little, and James Littlejohn) started their careers with fieldwork in the UK, before travelling to establish secondary field sites in West Africa. Little himself “behaved erratically, with mood swings that were variously attributed to alcoholism, depression, and undiagnosed cerebral malaria”. He hosted noisy parties. (On at least one occasion the police were called to deal with the disturbance.) In the early 1950s, he divorced his first wife and remarried a Jamaican nurse. Controversially, and somewhat bizarrely, the visiting American anthropologist Ruth Landes, whose project was partly sponsored by Little, used Little’s second marriage as one of only two case studies in her own study of “negro-white relations in Britain”. Despite the appearance of vision, energy, coordination, and teamwork, the Edinburgh work on race in Britain seemed to amount to less than the sum of its parts. For a naïve undergraduate in the 1970s, the innovations and excitement generated by this group of researchers only two decades earlier, were more or less imperceptible. The sense that here might have been an experiment in a radically cosmopolitan anthropology, where the object of study was as likely to be an English middle-class racist as a member of an African voluntary association, and researchers themselves came from all over the world – an anthropology otherwise in today’s terms – would have seemed preposterous. Why was this? A simple answer would be part-personal, part-institutional. Little’s entrepreneurial energies ran out of steam as his health failed. His obvious successor, Michael Banton, took his own organizational talents to Bristol, where in 1965 he took up a chair in Sociology and subsequently established the UK’s first specialist research centre in race and ethnicity. With that move, the intellectual question of “race” moved from anthropology to sociology – and then to cultural

studies – in Britain. David Mills, whose research first opened my eyes to this forgotten history of anthropology and race in Edinburgh, reflects on this conundrum. Was the erasure of the Edinburgh initiative all a result of Little’s own personal failings (as I had always assumed) or was there something deeper. Mills points to the lack of a coherent theoretical core to the Edinburgh work, and to the paradox that such a core had been developed by the South African Max Gluckman and his colleagues in Manchester, self-consciously working against the grain of apartheid ideology – yet Gluckman showed no interest in sponsoring research in Britain on race, and Gluckman’s ideas were not much considered in Edinburgh in its research heyday (or so Banton told Mills). The fragments did not connect: the white anthropologists who worked in both Africa and the UK, found it hard, if not impossible, to draw connections between the two sites. Littlejohn published innovative analyses of class in rural Scotland and exquisite phenomenological accounts of time and space in Sierra Leone; Banton said his work in Africa and in the UK “occupied separate intellectual spheres”. Interest in the work of Little and his colleagues has picked up in recent years. Bailkin makes productive use of the Edinburgh example in her sensitive history of decolonization in postwar Britain. More recently, Shilliam has discussed it at length in his synoptic account of the “problem” of black presence in late colonial and postcolonial British academia. Shilliam draws heavily on Banton’s contribution, not least because this was the one strand of the work to outlive the energetic efforts of the early years. But a concentration on Banton’s theoretical framings of the problem of “the stranger”, necessarily misses a lot of what was distinctive in what had been a very un-theoretical body of work. Read instead as a series of experiments in practice – in which researchers of colour immersed themselves in what were thought to be overwhelmingly white cities, and white researchers zigzagged back and forth between colony and metropolis – there is still much to learn from this this almost forgotten history. I am grateful to Lea Ventre for bring the BBC Colour Bar episode to my attention. Fatima Seck has blogged about the “negroes-in-Britain industry” on the RACE. ED website and there is more on Sydney Collins at the Mixed Museum site. Kenneth Little’s personal papers are archived at the University of Edinburgh library, where they await appropriately generous readers.


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A “Little” Race-Relations By Professor Robbie Shilliam This is an extract from Robbie Shilliam’s “Behind the Rhodes statue: Black competency and the imperial academy.” History of the Human Sciences 32, no. 5 (2019): 3–27. In the summer of 1940, Kenneth Little began a research project in physical anthropology on the Black community of Cardiff’s Tiger Bay. Having interacted with the community, Little quickly came to shift his focus towards an investigation of the colour bar experienced by the Bay’s residents. He published Negroes in Britain: A Study of Race Relations in English Society in 1947. Through his research, Little became normatively concerned about racial injustice, and wrote a briefing paper to the Colonial Office wherein he took issue with the “implications of inferiority, meniality, unintelligence etc which are attributed to coloured people and more particularly the Negro”. Crucially, while Little criticized the prevailing racist assumptions of colonial rule, including attributions of Black cognitive incompetency, his disposition towards these problems was heavily informed by social anthropology and the challenge of colonial development that the field had sought to meet. The same year as finishing his PhD on Tiger Bay, Little undertook his “first spell of fieldwork in Africa”. Although investigating the Mende of Sierra Leone in West Africa, it is clear that his research, funded in part by the Social Science Research Council of the Colonial Office, was influenced by the framings of urbanization drawn from investigations of the Empire’s southern African interest. For instance, Little tracked movements from rural tribal areas to mines and townships; he explored the adoption by migrants of European mores and values, including schooling; he assessed – in a Malinowskian frame – the increasing consciousness of European/African “hybridity”; and he considered the social and political tensions arising from an increase in such a population. In 1949, Little replaced Ralph Piddington (a supervisee of Malinowski) as lead academic for Edinburgh University’s new Social Sciences Research Unit. At Edinburgh, Little supported and supervised a host of academics who made key contributions to the study of Commonwealth citizens residing in Britain. If not a “school” per se, the Edinburgh research did cohere around an assumption that the study of urbanization in Africa and race relations in Britain

was one field joined by the methods and premises of social science. Most importantly, Little’s associates at Edinburgh were invested in critically transposing the social anthropology of colonial development into a sociology of British race relations. To this effect, Edinburgh scholarship focused especially, albeit not exclusively, on the African-Caribbean and continental African – in other words, Black – presence in Britain. One reason for this focus can be gleaned from Little’s belief that the English population were more prejudiced against persons of African heritage “than against other coloured nationalities”, and that this prejudice was “more widespread” when accompanied by physical proximity. A brief survey of the Edinburgh scholarship is instructive. Black Jamaican scholar Sydney Collins actually joined Edinburgh before Little and undertook the first comparative study of “asiatic” (predominantly Muslim) and African communities in Britain, focusing on northern English towns. Nigerian scholar Eyo Bassey N’dem undertook a study of “coloured communities” in Manchester, the city that had hosted the 1945 PanAfrican Congress in which Ndem had taken part as representative for the Calabar Improvement League. A. T. Carey and Sheila Kitzinger (nee Webster) investigated Commonwealth students in London. Sheila Patterson documented the Caribbean presence in Brixton, while Michael Banton, later to become a pre-eminent figure in the sociology of race relations, undertook an investigation of the “coloured quarter” in London’s docklands. North American intellectual currents were partially influential to Edinburgh scholarship. After all, the term “race relations” was coined in Chicago in the 1920s. Yet I would strongly argue that what the Chicago school provided to the research programme at Edinburgh was less the disposition of race relations per se and much more a set of sociological methods appropriate for analysing race in urban settings, such as the notion of “district” differentiation and the parsing of household data. The analytical framing of race relations in Britain owed most to social anthropological dispositions towards the Empire’s southern African interest; it was not a North American derivative. To demonstrate this point, and especially to clarify the ways in which Black


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective cognitive competency was central to the evolving academic disposition towards race relations, I want to turn to Eyo N’dem’s study of Manchester. Addressing the question of whether the Empire’s Black subjects could assimilate into English life, N’dem focused upon the difference between status gained by ascription – which he associated with the “traditional African system” – and status gained by achievement – associated with the “British social system”. N’dem noticed that Africans resident in Britain could sidestep their ascriptive inferiority through achievement and so raise their “class”.

while the path to civilization for the Black individual lay in self-development from the traditional-ascriptivecolonial world to the modern-achieving-industrial world, such a path was in practice racialized. Impartial social advance was overwhelmingly moderated through an informal colour bar that adjudicated an individual’s competency to inhabit Englishness. N’dem’s work demonstrates how key elements of the colonial development disposition – urbanization, the colour bar, culture clash, and uneven power relations – were transposed to analytically frame the study of race relations in Britain.

Yet N’dem also noted that Black aspiration was dependent upon whether their white “class” peers would accept their new status. Furthermore, acceptance was based not on Black achievement, but upon the degree to which aspirants were able to eschew the inferior behaviour and incompetent norms of sociality ascribed to the African “native”, such as raucous laughter. N’dem’s study suggested that,


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective

Scotland and Racial Inequalities Professor Nasar Meer How should we explain racial inequalities when they are seemingly opposed in public policy? It is a question as relevant to Scotland as anywhere else, but rarely asked outside race-equality circles. For it is over twenty years since devolution, and in 2015 the Scottish Government initiated a wide-ranging consultation in partnership with the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER), and on the basis of which introduced a new Race Equality Framework, something that went well beyond anything previously attempted in Scotland. Some political actors have argued that such policy developments are consistent with the ways in which Scotland is more inclusive and may be positively contrasted with the rest of the UK. Others take a different view, as the then Independent Race Equality Advisor concluded in her pathfinder, that “inclusive policy making is not yet embedded in the DNA of the Scottish Government or public bodies in Scotland”. Over the last decade or so, I have explored how racial inequalities are in fact no better in Scotland than England, and are indeed evident across key sectors in Scotland in ways that demand public policy interventions. We know, for example, that black and ethnic minorities are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty, and that there is both a substantial “employment gap” and, for those in work, a “pay gap”, where white Scottish workers earn, on average, ten per cent more. This is greater than the gender pay-gap and key to understanding experience of in-work poverty amongst non-white Scottish groups (and means a double whammy for black and ethnic minority women). So it was unsurprising to see these inequalities also be reflected in the COVID-19 pandemic, where rates of infection by ethnic group populations compared to White Scottish groups is around three-fold higher in Pakistani and Mixed groups, and around two-fold higher in Indian and Other Asian groups. Meanwhile racially motivated hate crime remains the most commonly reported type of hate crime in Scotland, and attitude polling has shown, about a third of non-white black, Asian and minority ethnic people in Scotland consistently report experiences of racial discrimination, and a slightly higher proportion consider racial discrimination to be a widespread issue in Scotland.

Interestingly, in the quantitative parts of my research I have found that the majority of respondents who had experienced discrimination did not report it to any kind of authority. This was despite large majorities of the same samples insisting that they would encourage a friend or family member to make a formal complaint if they thought they had experienced discrimination. How should we understand these and other examples in a country where the prevailing political rhetoric leans against racial inequalities? One answer comes in reminding ourselves that race equality is more than public policy, because it takes on the character of the very identity of society, and goes beyond policy and administration to invoke debates about national belonging. This has been true of England where race equality was historically enmeshed in a post-colonial critique that held a mirror up to their respective society in light of race related social and political contestation. It is debatable as to whether something similar has happened in Scotland and, equally, which parts of the policy problem come to be included then is key. This is reflected in one stakeholder’s observation that “if you talk about institutional racism people get scared and they withdraw. Because obviously it harks back to Stephen Lawrence, and I think people think that we have moved on from there”. Another elaborates this at length with the following story concerning a facilitation exercise between stakeholders and the Scottish Government: “One of our professional stake holders was a very senior police officer who spoke at length about institutional racism and believed that Police Scotland was institutionally racist. We were not allowed to include a synopsis of it in the conference report because there was wide spread panic in Government that that would hit the press and look terrible. So basically unless public institutions are comfortable with the fact that things may temporally look terrible, we won’t be able to meaningfully have that public conversation because we haven’t got the issues into the open.” Minimally, we might say that if there is a burgeoning Scottish approach, this is also characterised by an active reticence to speak publicly about structural racism. For what is at work here is a “normalisation” described in in Delgado’s classic text Critical Race


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective Theory: The Cutting Edge. This is something that allows us to understand how racism is “an ingrained feature of our landscape, [where] it looks ordinary and natural to persons in the culture.” He continued: “Formal equal opportunity rules and laws that insist on treating Blacks and whites (for example) alike, can thus remedy only the more extreme and shocking sorts of injustice… Formal equality can do little about the business-as-usual forms of racism that people of color confront every day and that account for much misery, alienation, and despair.” Perhaps an under-recognised feature of this process is the notion of a wider social desensitization to racism; possibly signalled in Delgado’s description of racism as “business as usual”. For while tackling racism has come a long way in Scotland since academic Martin MacEwen wondered if it was best characterised by “ignorance or apathy”, something of the charge remains. How can something so morally unjust sit comfortably as normalised social outcomes in Scotland, despite successive governments wielding the means to address it? This question may seem odd to those who feel that Scotland has achieved a broadly inclusive ‘big tent’ national identity. In this view, Scotland is comfortable with its multi-racial difference because it does not anchor itself in ideas of blood and soil. It is reflected in a trend amongst ethnic minorities in identifying themselves with the nation. Scottish-Pakistanis, for example, are twice as likely to identify themselves as Scottish than their counterparts in England are likely to identify as English (who otherwise overwhelmingly identify as British). Does this revise how Scottish identity is imagined by the majority too? Not necessarily, it would seem. In a survey of attitudes of Scottish majorities, sociologists David McCrone and Frank Bechhofer highlighted a small but consistent “ethnic penalty” that associated being “Scottish” with “being white”, where being accepted as Scottish relied more on markers of accent and ancestry. It is important not to over-state the data, but we should agree that Scotland cannot rely on the view that, in promoting itself as civic, it will secure a future in which ethnic and racial minorities are self-evidently included. Nation builders need to acknowledge ethnic hierarchies if they wish to pursue a genuinely pluralist project. To misquote the political historian Tom Nairn, Scottish politicians need to invite the masses into a future-oriented version of Scottish history.

concerned with social and constitutional reform in Scotland make little mention of race equality as distinct from a generic concern with “fairness”. This includes both the report of the Commission on Scottish Devolution and the Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services in Scotland. One way to address this is to consider the extent to which race equality is being taken up across the policy process of different government departments in Scotland. There are responsibilities here too for the raceequality sector outside government, including the need to build successful policy coalitions amongst themselves. It is clear that divisions and competition has undermined successful lobbying from equality groups in the past. “If you go to the race movement and ask the same question, and you get 40 different things, of course people will start to gravitate away from you because you lack coherence,” one former minister told me. The reasons for this include genuine disagreement on the root causes of racial inequality in Scotland, and specifically the difference between people’s capacity and social structure, between education and training needs on the one hand, and institutional discrimination and racism on the other. No less relevant is that there is here a real challenge for organisations that receive funding for a variety of matters associated, but perhaps not directly related to, race-equality policy work, to labour with agendas outside this remit. Going forward and as our report shows, the only way to make meaningful progress on race equality is to work across sectors, government departments and stakeholders, and recognise this continues to be the urgent challenge.

It is striking that prominent reports and commissions


Issue 28 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective

Systemic Racism in Scotland increases Racial and Ethnic Minorities Vulnerability to COVID-19 Infection By Gwenetta D. Curry The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on people across the world and continues to ravish some lower-middle-income countries. After a year since the first lockdown began in Scotland, we have made substantial progress in understanding how COVID-19 is transmitted and developed four vaccines. While the positive impact lockdowns have had on reducing COVID-19 cannot be denied, the “knock-on” effects of COVID-19 are still being felt. The recent ethnicity data out of Public Health Scotland continue to show that racial and ethnic minority populations continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Specifically, South Asian populations in Scotland appear to have the greatest risk of hospitalization, with some ethnic groups having a three-fold increase in the risk of COVID-19 compared to whites. In December 2020, the data also indicated that Black Caribbean people had an increased risk of hospitalization. Many people have contemplated why this disparity exists in a nation with socialized medicine where access should not be an issue. While access to medical care is one component, structural racism remains an obstacle for many. According to Bailey in 2017, structural racism refers to the totality of ways in which societies foster racial discrimination through mutually reinforcing systems of housing, education, employment, earnings, benefits, credit, media, health care, and criminal justice. These data demonstrate the vulnerability of racial and ethnic minorities to COVID-19 and the need to ensure that these populations have access to the vaccine. As with the initial COVID-19 data, the current data on vaccine uptake does not include ethnicity or race. The history of structural and systemic racism experienced by racial and ethnic minorities in the UK can have an impact on their willingness to take the vaccine. This paper aims to highlight the need to address systemic racism to increase the trust between racial and ethnic communities and the healthcare system.

in the most deprived areas in Scotland. The relegating of Black and Brown people to these areas did not happen by chance and housing discrimination has had a major impact on these populations gaining access to more affluent areas. According to the UK Office of National Statistics, living in overcrowded housing increases the risk of contracting COVID-19 and Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic populations are more likely to live in these crowded spaces. People living in crowded areas are less likely to be able to socially isolate to prevent transmission. Data from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey in 2015 found that a sizeable portion of the population felt that Scotland would begin to lose its identity if more Black and Asian people came to live in Scotland. These prejudiced attitudes toward Black and Asian people contribute to discriminatory practice in housing rentals. William and Sternhal’s research outline the pathways in which segregation can adversely affect the health of a population:

The current data on COVID-19 has made it clear that where you live and work has a major impact on your risk of contracting the virus. According to a report by Public Health Scotland, “Age-standardised death rates for COVID-19 have been twice as high as for people living in the 20% most deprived areas compared to the 20% least deprived areas.” Racial and ethnic minority populations are overrepresented

“First, segregation restricts socioeconomic status attainment by limiting access to quality education and job opportunities. Secondly, residential conditions of concentrated poverty and social disorder created by segregation make it difficult for residents to eat nutritiously, exercise regularly and avoid advertising for tobacco and alcohol. Third, the concentration of poverty can lead to exposure to elevated levels of financial stress and hardship as well as other chronic and acute stressors at the individual, household and neighbourhood infrastructure in segregated areas can also adversely affect interpersonal relationships and trust among neighbours. Fifth, the institutional neglect and disinvestment in poor, segregated communities contribute to increased exposure to environmental toxins, poor quality housing and criminal victimization. Finally, segregation adversely affects both access to care and the quality of care.” In 2011, the Poverty and Ethnicity in Scotland report indicated that unemployment rates were higher for all visible minority ethnic groups compared to white Scottish (7 per cent) and for some groups were twice as high (15 per cent for people of African and Black Scottish origin, 14 per cent for Other South


Issue 28 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective Asian, and 12 per cent for Pakistanis). More recent data from 2014-2019 showed that the poverty rate for Asian or Asian British ethnic groups was 39 per cent and 40 per cent for “Mixed, Black or Black British and Other ethnic groups” compared to 18 per cent for white British. Not only are these groups disproportionately impacted by unemployment, Black and Asian people are also overrepresented in precarious occupations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Black and Asian populations were less likely to have access to working from home which left them vulnerable to infection by travelling to work

in the UK do not believe their health is as equally protected by the NHS compared to white people.” One drug trial carried out in Nigeria’s northern state of Kano in 1996 by Pfizer led to the death of eleven children and dozens were left disabled during a meningitis outbreak after being given an experimental antibiotic. Events like this are in the memory of many Black people and reduce their trust in pharmaceutical companies and the fear of being used as test subjects.

and working in front-facing jobs. Ethnic minorities are more likely to have low income, be in zero-hours contracts, and non-salaried jobs than white ethnic groups.

conditions on COVID-19 to just a class issue there is a need to address racism and discrimination. Systemic racism in Scotland has led to an increased vulnerability of racial and ethnic minorities to the deadly COVID-19 virus. The positionality of Black and Asian people in the UK is a direct result of the discriminatory housing and working practices leaving them vulnerable to infections. Discriminatory treatment has led to an overwhelming distrust of the healthcare system and, thus, limited vaccine uptake.

In a move to reduce the number of deaths due to COVID-19 vaccines have been rolled out but uptake has not been consistent across all ethnic groups. The latest Public Health Scotland data shows that the African community has a lower level of vaccine uptake at every age group. The data indicate the 72 per cent of Africans in Scotland aged over fifty have had their first jab compared to 92 per cent overall. There has been a lack of community outreach in the African communities and there is a high level of distrust. The Clearview Research from November 2020 report states that “over 60% of Black people

While many will limit the impact of working and living


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective

Abbreviated Podcast Transcript, History Society and The Broadcast: History Classics and Archaeology School and Institutional Racism – Highlights from the Conversation By Lucy Parfitt & Jack Liddall In February 2021, History Society (represented by Jack Liddall, Treasurer and Lucy Parfitt, President) recorded a podcast with Professor Ewen Cameron, Dr Talat Ahmed, and Dr Fabian Hilfrich. Using a survey circulated throughout the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology (HCA), the Society put questions to HCA’s senior management concerning the issues of diversifying the department, decolonising the curriculum, dealing with sensitive content in the classroom, and student support for black and minority ethnic students. You can listen to the podcast in full through the QR Code. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, the History Society’s new committee spoke a lot about what our responsibility was, both as a student society and as a history society, in tackling issues of racism within the university and more widely. Whilst the Society facilitated this conversation, we recognise that as a majority white committee and as white hosts of the discussion, we were not only far from representative of the student body in the School, but could not speak for all those students who are underrepresented and have experienced racial prejudice. In order to mitigate some of these problems we facilitated this discussion and tried our utmost to democratise the process. The Society circulated a survey for all HCA students asking them what questions they wanted to put to senior management and what issues were most important to them. Our discussion was rooted in those responses. On Diversifying Academic Staff in HCA Lucy and Jack: The Edinburgh University Student Association’s 2018-1019 Thematic Review recommended that “the University commit to increase the percentage of Black and Minority Ethnic staff”. Not having enough black and minority ethnic representation in academic staff has contributed to the overrepresentation of Eurocentric and Western history in the department. One survey response highlighted how in 2020/2021, the HCA school offered around seventy courses to undergraduates and of these, only about 20 per cent

were courses focused on any kind of non-European or North American History at all and only five were focused on African history specifically. Does HCA have a plan to diversify its expertise and how are you addressing calls from the Black Lives Matter movement to tackle the overrepresentation of Eurocentric and Western history? Responses Professor Ewen Cameron: “In the time that I’ve been head of school … we have been seeking to diversify the kind of history that we teach. In 2017, we appointed a colleague [Dr. Jacob Blanc] who teaches Latin American History. In 2019, we appointed someone who teaches the history of indigeneity [Dr. Julie Gibbings]. In 2020, we appointed a historian of the Islamic history of Africa [Dr. Jeremy Dell], which takes our African history provision into completely new territory. Probably most interestingly, this week we have put into the public domain an advert for a lecturer in Black British History. This is a recognition that in regard to the British history that we do at Edinburgh … the black experience and the growing historiography of Black British history is not well-represented in what we teach and research. As head of school, I would say that we have got a long way to go.” Dr Fabian Hilfrich: “We fully recognise that hiring is a very important tool because ultimately only when the faculty is more diverse will that also encourage a more diverse student body.” Dr Talat Ahmed: “It is important to understand where our school has come from to where it is today. I’ve been here now nine years and if we’re talking about the demographics of staff that has changed quite dramatically at every level. Most pronounced has been the appointment of more women colleagues. Before I arrived here, I don’t think we had a permanent black and minority ethnic member of staff and now we have about six or seven.” “As a member of staff who is from a black and minority ethnic background, I feel that our school is a very different school to what it perhaps was like over


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective ten years ago. It’s far more open, far more diverse. We still have a long way to go but I think that we are committed on this path.” On Experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic Students in the Classroom Lucy and Jack: “Some students have called for improved methodological instruction for students dealing with offensive source material and institutional support for students who work with difficult material”. “Are you aware of these experiences of black and minority ethnic students in the classroom concerning problematic comments and traumatising source material? Has there been any progress in HCA with implementing “racial literacy training”? Responses Dr Ahmed: “I teach about the Partition of India which is a very distressing issue. I know that when I’ve given lectures on it, I always stipulate that some of the graphic images that will be on the slides will be very distressing and obviously if anybody wishes to be excused, that’s absolutely fine and if anybody wishes to come and speak to me afterwards at my office hours, there’s absolutely no problem in that. I think the issue is that we can’t not teach this material. This is something that happened … you cannot suddenly gloss over these issues. It’s about introducing it in such a manner that everybody in the classroom is aware about how difficult some of the material is going to be, and that also that you are giving it a proper context.” “Many colleagues are aware of this issue and we are attempting to address this … At institutional level there is room for us to think about the kind of training and awareness that we have within our staff, both academic and non-academic . If you asked me what my vision would be for the institution, I’d want to have a situation where every single member of staff, whether it’s security staff or colleagues involved in cleaning … all the way to the professors and vice-chancellor, for everyone to have overgone real meaningful training on anti-racism and to increase not just racial literacy but also to have a greater sense of awareness and sensitivity in terms of what may happen to students and staff.” On ensuring that staff and students are trained in racial awareness Lucy and Jack:

“What is being done in the History department to further the agenda of training and awareness in racial literacy to deal with these negative black and minority ethnic student experiences … ? Is there a Schoolwide approach?” Responses Dr Hilfrich: “We have a regular teaching circle. Most recently we have discussed online teaching and teaching methodology. One teaching circle was devoted to teaching sensitive materials. So, we are very aware of this issue. We have also discussed it in department meetings; graduate students have founded a group on emotionally challenging historical topics … Members of staff also join them.” Professor Cameron: “I would add that it is a subject of discussion across the School … Any new member of staff has to undergo training … as part of their induction to the university where these issues are very high on the agenda of that training.” “The Royal Historical Society, which is the main professional body of historians in the UK, of which most university teachers are fellows, did a fantastic report … on issues of race and ethnicity in the history profession. One of our colleagues [Dr. Adam Budd] was a member of the committee who drew up that report … so this is a very live discussion across the profession as a whole” “Sometimes there are very obvious areas of traumatic history … but I think that we have to be extremely careful. So, I teach contemporary Scottish history … and you might think that compared to the Partition of India and the history of conflict in … Vietnam, that those might be fairly anodyne topics where trauma is not likely to manifest itself quite so readily … we really have to guard against that assumption because our own position—where we come from—may be very different from the students’” On supporting Black and Minority Ethnic students in the School Lucy and Jack: “From the History Society’s perspective, we very unfortunately had an experience where a racist incident occurred ... We reported it to the School, but we weren’t really directed to any resources that we felt were very helpful. We had a lot of delays in our communications with student support. We felt the student was left with no support from the School, and this was brought up by respondents in the survey


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective “What support is available to marginalised black and minority ethnic students? How can we be confident that racist incidents will we dealt with in the most appropriate manner? Will you open those channels of communication?” Responses Dr Hilfrich: “One problem is, since we don’t ask our students to self-identify, we have to become aware of black and minority ethnic students ... so we absolutely invite [black and minority ethnic students to] come forward with their concerns … I would hope that on a personal basis black and minority ethnic students are supported by their Personal Tutors … it would obviously be appropriate for the personal tutors to then talk to me or Ewen or Talat and take matters forward … I was not aware of the incident that you just referred to … but by all means I would invite anyone who experience aggression, microaggression, or racism to come forward.” Dr Ahmed: “As Fabian has said, we do certainly wish students to come forward on any matter … the incident that you referred to I’ve been made aware of … it was very distressing to hear … this is something that we have addressed already. What we would like to emphasise is that we want students to feel like our doors are open (virtually or otherwise!) I want to emphasise to students that we will believe you … The other thing to emphasise is that within our School … I certainly recognise that perhaps we can be a little bit more proactive …. I‘d certainly encourage greater involvement of the History Society because I suspect that you may become more aware … of issues … than we are sometimes”

“I do think we have to be more proactive … One way might be through the good offices of the History Society or Retrospect … to set up some kind of forum/safe place/focus group where people could … engaged in a full, open, frank discussion … I would certainly be very happy as Head of School to facilitate it” Conclusion We were pleased to have this conversation with senior members from the School. We felt that there were many positives to come out of the discussion, namely that the senior members agreed that societies should play an increasing and extensive role in improving communication channels between black and minority ethnic students and the School. However, this conversation should clearly just be an entry point for further discussions about race and racism at the university. It was apparent to us throughout the conversation that senior members of staff continually accepted that there was still “a lot more to be done”; that there was still “a long way to go”, whilst insisting on highlighting “how far we have come”. Specifically, it seems that in terms of student support, there is not enough active engagement by the School in the lived experiences of black and ethnic minority students. What exact shape and form this engagement should take requires direct communication by the School with these students. History Society would love to hear about any student feedback or ideas on this ongoing conversation. Email us here: edinburghunihistorysociety@gmail.com Participants Details:

Professor Cameron: “I was also made aware of that incident … we have apologised to the student concerned … we have also been engaged in an internal discussion …”

Dr. Talat Ahmed is Director of Equality and Diversity at the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology, Senior Lecturer in South Asian History, and CoDirector for the Centre of South Asian Studies.

“As the Head of School, if something goes really badly wrong, then almost inevitably it crosses my desk … I’ve been involved both at School-level and at institutional-level in investigating incidents that … have contravened various policies … The difficulty is that once something gets sucked into that … the results of it becomes confidential and it is not always very easy to make the outcomes of those investigations visible. But … any incident which comes to my attention and that I think contravenes those policies does get investigated. It has to get investigated.

Professor Ewen Cameron is Head of the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology and Sir William Fraser Professor of Scottish History and Paleography Dr. Fabian Hilfrich is Head of the History Department and Senior Lecturer in American History


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective

Wikipedia and the Problem with Neutrality By Dr Suzanne R. Black The infrastructures that determine the construction, organisation, and dissemination of knowledge necessarily affect the content of that information, and Wikipedia, as one of the most-consulted sites of historical information, is no exception. Both the editors who donate their time to create and amend articles and the guidelines imposed by Wikipedia have implications for the historical narratives that can reside in such a knowledge repository, and this can be seen in the site’s struggles with issues of racial bias. Wikipedia was launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger whose ethos of radical openness and decentralisation allowed it to grow quickly, and now the site has over six million articles in English and, according to The Economist, is ranked as the thirteenth-most-popular site on the internet. On its landing page, Wikipedia describes itself as a “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” and such egalitarian promises are echoed in praise for the site. Roy Rosenzweig, in his consideration of Wikipedia as a vehicle for historical knowledge, argues that the site is “the most widely read work of digital history, and the most important free historical resource on the World Wide Web”. For Scott Rettberg, who describes the site as a successful collaborative narrative, it “empower[s] literally anyone to not only opine but act in the formation of … knowledge”. Such endorsements of Wikipedia focus on the site’s ability to enable ‘anyone’ to participate in the construction of knowledge. However, the reality is that although theoretically anyone can edit, not everyone does, and a small number of people create the majority of the site’s content. In addition to global inequalities in access to internet technology, leisure time, and literacy skills, not everyone has the desire to contribute to Wikipedia, and those who do are summarised by Michael Mandiberg as being “disproportionately cis white men from the global North”. As a result, the knowledge available on Wikipedia is constructed by a small, non-representative sector of the globe. Jackie Koerner captures the consequences of such an imbalance where “[u]neven participation and representation … reproduce[s] knowledge inequality”. Various projects have been undertaken to redress this imbalance in the representativeness of editors

and articles on Wikipedia, such as the “AfroCrowd” initiative to create and improve information about black culture and history, and the “WikiProject Black Lives Matter” which, during June 2020, sought to improve articles on topics relating to racism, racialised violence, and the African diaspora. The “Scotland, Slavery and Black History” project was set up with a similar purpose: to increase the website’s representation of Scotland’s Black history and connections with the slave trade. The project took place from November 2020 to February 2021 and was organised by the University of Edinburgh History Society with faculty support from Diana Paton, William Robertson Professor of History, training and guidance from Ewan McAndrew, the University’s Wikimedian in Residence, whose job is to support Wikimedia projects like Wikipedia, and input from the Edinburgh Caribbean Association and the studentled archival project UncoverEd. As can be seen from McAndrew’s account of the project, it was successful in training new editors and in increasing coverage of Scotland’s engagement with Black history, adding over 16,000 words in edits and new articles to the site, and garnering over 2.3 million page views. My participation in this attempt to increase the historical subjects and perspectives represented on Wikipedia brought me into direct contact with some of the criticisms levelled at the site, which pertain not just to the people who are doing the editing, but the infrastructure and rules put in place by Wikipedia to guide those editors. While endeavouring to add new material to the site detailing the African members of King James IV of Scotland’s court, I encountered methodological challenges. The guidance for Wikipedia editors from the site heavily emphasises writing information from a “Neutral Point of View” or “NPOV”, which is described as “representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic”. Immediately this raises questions about whether history can be written from a neutral perspective, whether texts can be written without bias, and what constitutes reliability in a source. In attempting to achieve a workable solution to NPOV, Rosenzweig suggests that what is being promoted is not an unattainable objectivity but “to characterize differing positions fairly”. Characterising the


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective

historiographical views on the presence of Africans in James IV’s court provides a test case for this practice, as sources vary in their interpretation of the status and agency of the African individuals. For example, Mairi Cowan refutes Mary Robbins’ suggestion that the African individuals were “productive members of a flourishing and energetic court environment” to argue that they were relegated to the status of fashion accessories. Meanwhile, James Kinsley puts forward the objectionable idea that they were subject to “a benevolent form of black slavery”. The idea that these differing positions – especially that the enslavement of other human beings could ever be cast as “benevolent” – deserve equal space has ideological consequences when some of those positions negate the subjectivity and personhood of large swathes of humanity. If it is not possible to write from a neutral perspective, then perhaps unbiased historical sources can be located. However, as Edward Said argues in Orientalism, scholarship is not exempt from politics: “No one has ever devised a method for detaching the scholar from the circumstances of life, from the fact of his involvement (conscious or unconscious) with a class, a set of beliefs, a social position, or from the mere activity of being a member of society. These continue to bear on what he does professionally.”

scholarship. With neutrality and unbiased scholarship both contested, the final aspect of “Neutral Point of View” is to represent credible views “published by reliable sources” and Wikipedia clarifies on its ‘Verifiability’ page that “academic and peerreviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources in topics such as history”. But this supposes that the academic institutions that lend these sources credibility are themselves free from bias. Wikipedia’s assertion of a “neutral point of view” founders when sources gain their credibility within structural forms of oppression that validate some perspectives, ideas, and knowledge traditions over others. Jerel M. Ezell writes that attempts to redirect Wikipedia in a more representative direction, “have failed to address historic, epistemologicallyembedded forms of racism that anchor and validate repressive informatics structures and thereby enable knowledge colonization”. Wikipedia is comprised of both the people who write it and the infrastructural guidelines that insist upon neutrality, unbiased scholarship, and credibility. As long as Wikipedia operates within privileged epistemologies, even if it widens its pool of editors, it is limited to promoting historical narratives from the perspective of a small segment of the world rather than achieving its stated ‘Purpose’ of representing the “sum of all human knowledge”. The “Scotland, Slavery, and Black History Project” created the following two Wikipedia articles: “Jesse Ewing Glasgow.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Ewing_ Glasgow. “Jean-Baptiste Philip’. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Baptiste_ Philip. We created another article, on the Lothian Black Forum, however this was subsequently removed from live view by another Wikipedia editor with the suggestion that it requires expansion. You can find out more about the project via Ewan McAndrew’s blog: thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/wir/scotlandslavery-and-black-history-and-wikipedia/

Scholars are people with specific lived experiences and this, argues Said, necessarily inflects their


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective

Race, Space and the Paradox of Radical Academia By Lucien Staddon Foster Over the last few years, decolonisation has become a buzzword in academic institutions as they begin to respond to the mounting pressure to recognise their roles in establishing and maintaining colonial power and its afterlives. Despite this commitment to decolonisation and creating a fairer, more inclusive academic culture, many institutions fail to protect and support their ethnic minority students. Speaking from my own field of Geosciences, there appears a great contradiction between engagement with increasingly radical and progressive theory and a failure to appeal to and support marginalised people. Geoscience is an interdisciplinary subject, considering both the Physical, Social and Cultural Geographies of the Earth and our relation to it. As such, it intersects with many other disciplines, including Economics, Politics, History, and Sociology. Historically, it has been deeply entangled with Europe’s colonial projects. Whether it is the prospecting of foreign lands for exploitation or coordinating the redlining of diasporic populations in urban areas, the discipline of Geoscience has been at the heart of oppressing Black and Brown people. However, like many academic disciplines crucial to upholding colonial practices and white supremacy, there grew an acute resistance from within the field to examine and contend with these colonial roots. Consequentially, contemporary Geosciences, particularly Geography, have wellestablished radical components, as illustrated by the recent inception of a dedicated Geographies of Social Justice department here at the University of Edinburgh. Despite the established and growing body of scholarship on race, decolonisation, and critical political theory, the field of Geosciences is extremely inaccessible to low income and non-white individuals. Natasha Dowey and others report that just 1.6 per cent of prospective Geography students in the UK are Black, despite making up 7.2 per cent of the national student cohort. Worse still, in Edinburgh, Geosciences hold the widest racial attainment gap at the university – with BME students 18 per cent less likely to achieve at least a 2:1 degree classification than their white peers. But why are Geosciences so overwhelmingly white? Why are there so many barriers to studying and working in the field? Fundamentally, Black and Brown students are

disenfranchised from Geosciences due to illmanaged curriculums and the inaccessibility of outdoor space. For instance, as most people of colour in the UK live in urban areas, they have reduced access to natural environments and green spaces, reducing their participation in nature-based activities and disconnecting them from much of the focus of Geoscience. This is then exacerbated amongst low-income households, as travel costs become another crucial barrier to green space, further disenfranchising BME individuals from the outdoors. Consequently, with little opportunity to establish a connection with nature, BME children are less likely to pursue Geography at school and engage with Geosciences in higher education. Why care about coastal geomorphology if you have never even seen the sea? This disengagement is then compounded by outdated and Eurocentric Geography curriculums in schools, deterring many from pursuing the discipline further. Due to an over-obsession with the ”developed-developing country” binary, which reinforces prejudiced values and glosses over colonialism’s impact, Black students often encounter their cultures and heritages as overly scrutinised case studies, painted as backwards, other, and primal. It becomes traumatic for Black students to encounter their Blackness exclusively through its negative connotations; it should mean more than just the losing side of racism. Thus, for many Black students, Geography appears a vague, scathing, and unengaging subject, rife with ignorance and whitewashing. Ultimately, this reduced participation contributes to extreme under-representation in higher education and professional roles, which further perpetuates the lack of diversity by reducing visibility. While university degree programmes address many of the curriculum-based issues, the damage is already done. After years of reductionist and uncritical teaching, enrolling Geoscience students are often burdened with ignorant views and inaccurate understandings of history, leaving Black students feeling outspoken, unheard, and isolated in classes. But it should not have to be Black students’ responsibility to keep their classmates in check when their views stem directly from their high school Geography textbooks. It is not good enough for students to forget everything they have been taught


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective once they enter university. Decolonisation must occur at all levels rather than kept as a privilege for those willing to study Geosciences in higher education. To address Geoscience’s racial divide and the shortcomings of its teachings, exam boards must commit to adapting their curriculums to embrace more widely relevant and accessible topics, teach more accurate and diverse histories, and prevent the further reproduction of colonial views. Additionally, schools and universities must work with grassroots organisations providing opportunities for Black people to engage with and work in natural environments – see Black Girls Hike or Wild in The City. Further, universities must invest in scholarships, fully-funded places, and widening participation schemes for low-income Black students, or collaborate with groups already providing these opportunities, such as Black Geographers. Otherwise, Geosciences will remain widely inaccessible for Black, Brown, and low-income youths, thus failing to support a pipeline for Black researchers and educators, further exacerbating the lack of diversity.

more work is needed to amplify marginalised voices, uncentre whiteness from academic discourse, and undo hundreds of years of exclusionary scientific practice. Once Geosciences embrace these challenges, perhaps then its radical sub-disciplines will appear a little less out of place.

Ultimately, after a long history of establishing, maintaining, and mourning colonial systems of exploitation, things are looking better for Geosciences. In the last year alone, there have been significant advancements towards decolonisation and widening participation, spurred by the advocacy of groups like Black Geographers, the Decolonising Geography Educators Group, and the Anti-Racist Geography Curriculum. Since, syllabuses at schools and universities are actively using increasingly diverse reading lists, and the Royal Geographical Society has begun supporting Black-led research projects whilst committing to decolonisation throughout the discipline. However, while many of these changes are fundamental to creating a fairer space within Geosciences, diversification does not mean decolonisation. Widening participation and visibility is an essential starting point but much


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective

Confronting the Legacies of African Enslavement and AntiBlack Racism at the University of Edinburgh By Professor Tommy J. Curry & Dr Nicola Frith In recent years, we have seen increasing calls for the academy to decolonize and for universities to address the harms linked to the histories of African enslavement,  colonialism,  and the production of racial thinking, all of which are echoed in structural and institutional forms of racism today. As a result, many further and higher education institutions have been reflecting on ways to engage in this much-needed push for cultural change. One example of this is that nine UK-based institutions, including Edinburgh, have now signed up to the Universities Studying Slavery Consortium (Virginia,  USA), which aims to facilitate ideas about confronting and addressing institutional links to chattel enslavement. While there are plenty of examples of how this should be done, each institution is in effect defining its own approach, from the creation of scholarship programmes to fund Caribbean graduates  (All Souls College) to the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Glasgow University and the University of the West Indies in which it commits to raising £20 million and establishing a research centre. What is often lacking, however, is a commitment to engaging properly with, and ensuring, that these measures truly respond to the needs and demands of African heritage and Black students, scholars, and related communities of reparatory justice interest.    In January of this year, Principal and Vice Chancellor, Peter Mathieson, issued an important statement that the University of Edinburgh would be leading  its own  consultation and preparing “a report for the University Executive listing reparatory recommendations” to address the University’s legacies of contemporary and historic racism. To oversee this process, Sir Geoff Palmer, an Edinburgh alumnus and a respected figure on issues of race and racism, was appointed to chair the Steering Group. The authors of this article, Professor Curry and Dr Frith, were simultaneously asked to cochair  a  Working Group tasked with researching and compiling the report.  At this critical turning point, where many institutions are reflecting on their histories and questions of repair, we wanted to take this opportunity to present some of our initial thoughts on what we will bring to the work ahead and how it will  respond to those wider demands by contributing to deep and long-lasting institutional change.

Using our combined  research knowledges  and experiences, we have put together a  proposal to begin an aggressive decolonization and reparatory justice  programme,  dedicated to correcting the institutional wrongs committed against Black and African peoples. We believe that restoring the dignity of Black and/or African-descended people harmed by the University requires an action plan designed to both recognize the past while providing a vision for institutional and cultural development in the future. Decolonization proper is understood here a process that, to quote Tuck and Yang, “brings about the repatriation of Indigenous [African] land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools,” which may risk detracting from the importance of social justice. The commissioned report will therefore emphasize the need to establish administrative actions and protocols which direct departmental and college level action, as well as annual accountability reports which assess efforts and measure units of progress to the goals of reparative justice, decolonization, and diversification.  Key to making this work is the recognition that there are particular publics (internally and externally) that need to be actively incorporated into any process that calls itself reparative. It is for this reason that  proper consultation with these groups — based on Principles of Participation created by the International Network of Scholars and Activists for Afrikan Reparations (INOSAAR) — will be at the heart of any process to verify the relevancy of the work we are doing. Internally, these publics can be any member of the student or staff body (academic or non-academic). While externally, there are publics who represent community-based interests that need to be specifically highlighted, including activist and heritage groups who also have a stake in any action. For without this recognition, no university effort can truly call itself reparative.      Our  report will  look at three key areas. First, it will think about why the past matters within today’s socio-political context. We will explore the role of the University, its academic staff, and its alumni in the development of racist and anti-racist thought, and will establish the historical links between our institution and slavery and colonialism. There are multiple avenues of exploration here, from the role of David Hume


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective and other Enlightenment thinkers in developing anti-Black thinking, through to investigating the sources of donors linked to wealth accumulated through slavery and colonialism, or even understanding the role of the University in educating physicians and surgeons who worked on the ships that trafficked African peoples across the Atlantic. Conversely, there is also the need to recognize and reclaim, in line with the work of existing projects such as UncoverEd, the central role of African descended peoples at the University of Edinburgh as alumni, academics, activists, and theorists in the development of anti-racist thinking within our institution.

Secondly, our report will assess the current situation of race  and  racism  in the University. Our focus will be on anti-Black racism generally, as well as specific forms of “Afriphobia” — or the prejudice and discrimination against, or fear, hatred, or bigotry towards people of African heritage and all things African — thereby joining the dots between the past and the present. This work will contribute to that of existing bodies within the University, such as the  Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee (EDIC), while building on the efforts that the University is already taking in this direction, such as the Thematic Review 2018-2019: Black and Minority Ethnic Students report. Through an open process of consultation with students, staff, and relevant communities of reparatory justice interest within and outside of the institution, we will build up an evidence base attesting to the key issues relating to recruitment and retention of staff and students, processes for dealing with discrimination,  and pay  and attainment gaps, among other issues. Framed by the INOSAAR’s Principles of Participation and its emphasis on cognitive justice (or the equity of all knowledges), interviews, workshops, focus groups, and surveys  will be  some of the consultative  tools that will allow us to conduct a thorough analysis of the harms of structural and institutional racism and identify recommendations for repair.  And third and finally, our report will set out an institutional vision on how the University should seek to repair both past and present legacies of harm as a way to shape its future action, which will amplify the University’s existing equality and diversity action plan. Our recommendations will evolve directly out of our extensive and inclusive process of consultation. In co-creating this vision, with buy-in from local and wider communities and support at all levels of our University, we will identify: ways to ensure that the University is held to account for implementing structural change (for example, through a reward system); recommendations on how to create a climate in which African heritage and other Black students and faculty can thrive; and strategies for implementing a lasting and deep-rooted commitment to the reparatory justice and decolonization.


As Robert Staples states, decolonization is a verifiable process “by which the oppressed group begins to determine its own destiny and run its own affairs ... A genuine decolonization effort requires breaking the psychological, cultural, political and economic shackles of the old order.” This report attempts to create institutional structures and

Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective practices that allow for the University of Edinburgh to address its colonial heritage and history of antiBlackness in a substantive and forward looking way. A twenty-first century university dedicated to the central aims and spirit of decolonization must not only diversify but also remedy the universalist supposition that locates Europe and European knowledge as the centre of human consciousness. This requires a new order of knowledge and an investment in the minds of scholars that have not often been seen on the grounds of the University of Edinburgh. This report is merely the pronouncement in the University of Edinburgh’s belief in the knowledge of all humanity rather than in the provincialism of Europe.


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective

Race Equality and the Academy: this far and no more? By Professor Emerita Rowena Arshad I joined higher education in Scotland as a member of staff in 1991. It was to the Moray House College of Education which in 1998 merged into the University of Edinburgh to become the School of Education. While education in Scotland was long associated with improvement and enlightenment, at the time Scotland as a whole did not discuss “race”. My understanding was that the general acceptance by the education polity was that Scottish society was divided on the basis of class, religion, gender and geography. ‘Race’ did not feature. On the matter of “race”, it was widely assumed that Scotland had ‘good race relations’ and that there was ‘no problem here’. Consequently, racism and its effects did not become a subject of study or research within Scottish politics, policy, or academia. My temporary contract was to the post of Lecturer in Multicultural Education. I would have preferred my title to have had the words “anti-racist” but concluded that as someone on a temporary contract, junior, and without a doctorate degree, that perhaps a wiser move would be to wait and look for opportunities to create change. At that point in the early 1990s, the School of Education was overwhelmingly white, and my subject area was regarded as of lower status within the overall Academy. The existence of the post, however, provided the ability for the institution to be seen as progressive as it was the first of such posts in a School of Education in Scotland. However, there remained caution about issues of difference and diversity. There was a strong narrative that everyone should be treated exactly the same, as basic human needs are universal. There was an assimilationist approach where people who were different were expected to fit in. For those more enlightened, there was acknowledgement that diversities (particularly in the area of food, music, and sport) should be recognised and celebrated yet there remained an issue of ‘them and us’. For example, in Religious and Moral Education, student teachers were schooled on how to teach ‘Christianity and Other world religions’. Over the period of the next three decades, from the world of teacher education where I was located, concepts like inclusion and diversity were more palatable than discussing racism or anti-racism.

These warm and fluffy concepts enabled educators not to trouble themselves with having to consider issues of racism and other forms of discrimination. I used to (and still do) challenge student teachers to reflect on the ways in which we might include diverse pupils when we are unsure of how they are being excluded at first. My students were taught that they had to engage with concepts like discrimination and structural and institutional inequality if they were serious about tackling inequities for their pupils. I would suggest that these warm and fluffy terms are still preferable now. Those in teacher education in Scotland are currently playing catch-up as changes are occurring within the wider school sector in Scotland through the emboldened voices of black and minority ethnic pupils and parents as well as white anti-racist educators spurred on by the events of Black Lives Matter. Fast forward to 2020, the year of the murder of Mr George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, and we find concepts like social justice, intersectionality, white allyship, privilege, equality, diversity and inclusion are now in vogue and part of everyday discourse in the Academy. However, I would argue that the focus is still on what is fair, which does not facilitate reflection on and interrogation of what causes inequity, injustice, and discrimination. If these are not to become meaningless words, then the task in 2021 and beyond is the need to see the bigger picture and to critically unpack what we mean by the words just and right. We need to do so with an international lens, moving beyond Western notions of justice. Rather than talk about social justice, let’s just talk about justice. Over my thirty-six years of being in the Academy, I have observed that equality and inclusion is lived very differently in the workplace. This is not limited to individual characteristics but also to your job type, your subject/discipline area, the location of your work, the range of responsibilities you have. The Orwellian phrase of “some being more equal than others” comes to mind. Those who experience racism, particularly at a daily, micro level, will have a very different conception of racial justice and what needs to change than those who engage with race equality as an abstract concept.


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective It is at this point that I reflect on whether racial justice can ever be achieved in The Academies of the Western world. As long as the shaping of race discourses and of race equality action remains largely from the perspective of those in leadership and power positions rather than from the perspectives of those who experience everyday racism, then I would suggest the journey to racial equality will remain glacial. For example, when racist incidents occur in the Academy, those who have been on the receiving end of everyday racism might seek justice from the Academy with a clear rebuttal and swift action to hold to account those that perpetuate it. However, those in positions of power who understand racism at a theoretical level are likely to offer a more cautionary and sanitised response. What has been interesting in the digital age is that social media has become a vehicle to mobilise and the pandemic, with its months of lockdown, has meant we are now living even more online. Time will tell whether online campaigns are sustainable engagements that create structural change or if they are simply outlets for frustration as well as a platform for those who want to engage without risk. In the University of Edinburgh, black students have been effective in making their voices heard by setting up a Facebook page called Edi BAMEfess as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement. The purpose of those pages is

aspect of interest convergence can be seen in the way higher education institutions have adopted equality, inclusion, and diversity policies as they want to generate an ethos that is welcoming to diverse students. Convergence is easier to achieve if it impacts positively on the financial bottom line. However, does that interest convergence extend to placing the ability to take forward race equality as a condition of tenure and promotion? Can there ever be genuine interest convergence between those with power and those without? Will there be convergence to ensure representational justice for black and minority ethnic people at decision making tables? And when is white allyship an act of solidarity and when is it just part of symbolism and good intentions? Over the time that I have been in this post, I have used different strategies to push the anti-racist agenda forward. Where I have been able to, I have used my positional authority to affect change. For example, when I was Head of School, by using positive action measures allowed under the Equality Act 2010, I set up bursaries to tackle persistent under-representation by certain groups in teacher education. These bursaries were to encourage women into science subjects,

is to record racism as experienced by students from the University. Since it started, almost a year ago, it has recorded hundreds of examples of racism (on and off campus). It has been effective as a space for students to report and gain support but also for University leads taking forward equality and anti-discrimination work to understand the types of racism occurring, particularly everyday racial micro-aggressions. Institutionally, the Academy can be more pro-active in using its various social media channels to talk about racism and to call out racial abuse of its staff and students. While higher education institutions now communicate to students and staff about expected behaviours online, there is less evidence of any sanctions for breaches being applied. The Academy’s general concern about its reputation and encountering a backlash from those who do not approve of anti-racist activities (including donors) usually means, action is slow, hidden, negligible rather than bold and reassuring. The theory of interest convergence coined by the late Derrick Bell, a law professor from Harvard, and the more recent concept of white allyship are worth problematising here. An example of an


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective men into primary education and black and minority ethnic people into teaching. However, positional authority is meaningless if you do not have support from your colleagues doing the work on the ground. I have worked hard to develop relational authority that comes from working respectfully and collaboratively with your peers. Positional and relational authority is insufficient if you do not have expert authority that comes from knowing your subject matter well, so I have researched, taught and engaged in knowledge exchange in this area. The most insidious example of backlash I am now beginning to see is not from those who have always retained a view that anti-racism is purely ideological and lacking in any intellectual substance but from those who would regard themselves as people serious about social disparities and the lack of equity and equality. The debate around the tearing down of statues and renaming of buildings within the Academy is a case in point. While I accept that it is important these issues are debated and that decolonising the curriculum should not be about cancelling the past, what is also clear is that when what is held precious is questioned, or when an established canon (which could be argued to be an aspect of a master

narrative) is threatened, then those that seek change are labelled as intellectually poor or inconsequential. So, is race equality in the Academy a case of “… this far and no more”? Audre Lorde’s declaration that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” was a call for people to depend on each other to bring about change and not always rely on institutional rules and frameworks. As I move into retirement, I am buoyed by the increasing number of staff and students from all backgrounds in the Academy who are supporting each other in the journey for change and racial justice through the establishment of peer networks and collaborations. I hope it will feel less like running up a downward escalator.


Issue 29 | Retrospect Journal | Race in Retrospective

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Race, Space, and the Paradox of Radical Academia Batty, David. “Only a Fifth of UK Universities Say They Are ‘decolonising’ Curriculum.” The Guardian. June 11, 2020. Cureton, Debra, Julie Hughes, and Jenni Jones. “Towards Bridging the Belongingness, Progression and Attainment Gap for Our BAME


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