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This informal roundtable is meant as a moment of exchange, concerning the complex ways that social inequality is reproduced and sometimes challenged through teaching practices at the university. The premise is that the university is not separate from but part of an unequal society. Routine reproduction of disciplinary canons, for instance, may be carried out because of a conscientious desire to prepare our students to be experts, not least with respect to major thinkers in our field. Often, however, the reproduction of the canon re-centres (white, male, straight) voices from the Global North, while excluding those writing from relatively marginalized social locations — for instance, from disability, as well as the perspectives of racialized intellectuals, Indigenous and trans* researchers and those from the Global South. This conscientious reproduction of the canon problematically marginalizes the latter voices in the academy, including as experts about their own experiences. Another concern is that it is often assumed that the professor’s authority, not least to evaluate student work, means that the professor holds a relatively uncomplicated power over students. In fact, racialized and Indigenous university professors, LGBTQ professors, disabled professors and others may face challenges in the classroom, from some students, who may draw upon and reproduce racialized, (cis)gendered, heteronormative forms of power in the university classroom. Hence, the participants in the roundtable will speak frankly to these and other concerns around social inequality in the university classroom and the different ways these manifest in practice, including through seemingly innocuous or routine “best practices” and scholarly conscientiousness.
At the same time, there is room to challenge the routine reproduction of social inequality, in the academy, as well as outside of it. We can exercise our intellectual autonomy to transform narrow canons, not alone but through mutually supportive curricular innovations undertaken with colleagues. We can create new institutional and collegial supports and spaces, especially for faculty who teach from relatively marginalized social locations. Hence, this panel seeks, too, to discuss and share everyday ways of promoting solidarity across faculty, to support academic classrooms as spaces where the voices of each and all are taken seriously in both teaching and learning.
With the participation of Professors Uzo Anucha, George Sefa Dei, Ena Dua, Andil Gosine, Alice MacLachan, and Elaine Coburn.
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