This reflective essay explores some of the pedagogical challenges I have faced in teaching postcolonial literature and theory at the University of Edinburgh. There are particular social dynamics at work at Edinburgh that make engaging with intersectionality, particularly in the context of colonialism and racism, a rather complex endeavor. Edinburgh is a Russell Group university, and our undergraduate constituency is overwhelmingly white, middle class and British, with a high proportion of students coming from British public-school backgrounds. Many of these students approach postcolonial writing with well-meaning liberal intentions, but often adopt what Graham Huggan (2001) would term an exoticizing perspective on cultures that are entirely unfamiliar to them. The tiny proportion of students from ethnic-minority backgrounds who study within the department, on the other hand, can feel profoundly alienated due to what Les Back (2004) terms the “sheer weight of whiteness” at Edinburgh. However, I have found that by adopting critical pedagogical models from Paulo Freire, Sara Ahmed and others, it has been possible to foster an active, dialogical and transformative learning environment that has allowed students from these diverse backgrounds to extend their epistemological parameters and feel empowered to challenge dominant ideologies within and outside the university.
Keown, Michelle. 2018. "Teaching Postcolonial Literature in an Elite University: An Edinburgh Lecturer’s Perspective." Journal of Feminist Scholarship 7 (Fall): 102-109. https://digitalcommons.uri.edu/jfs/vol7/iss7/10
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