Race Equality Action Group (REAG)
The Faculty of History has established a Race Equality Action Group (REAG) that will build on and consolidate past initiatives in taking significant action to address racism in the Faculty. The project is led by a committee including expert External Advisors and drawing on existing Faculty, Staff and Student expertise. The plan includes short-, medium- and long-term projects that will focus on five key areas, in liaison with other relevant bodies.
- Data collection and listening
- Recruitment and staff experience
- Admissions and student experience
- Events and community history
The first year of the project focused on collecting both quantitative and qualitative information about race in the History Faculty, both in terms of the experience of staff and students, and in terms of how ideas of race and raced experience are taught and studied. Alongside this, we have developed concrete proposals to swiftly address some of the concerns and issues identified, as well as starting to identify and develop longer-term projects. Over the course of the 2021-22 academic year, the REAG will produce a report on race equality in the History Faculty that will draw on the results of student and staff surveys and listening exercises, on data relating to admissions, progression and outcomes, and make policy and strategy recommendations for consideration by the History Faculty Board. The fundamental objective of the REAG is to embed sustained anti-racist practices and structures within the Faculty, to make a significant contribution to improving understanding of the histories of raced experience in Britain and globally, and to foster the careers of Black, Asian and minority ethnic students and scholars. An interim report summarising the REAG’s activities in 2020-21 is available here.
Events and Activities planned for 2021-22:
- Friday 8 October: Approaches to History: Histories of Race – A teaching workshop. We held an online workshop attended by twenty-five Faculty members preparing to teaching the new Approaches to History strand on Histories of Race
- Wednesday 16 February (Week 5): Using Race as a Category of Historical Analysis in Research - seminar in collaboration with the Transnational and Global Histories Seminar: A conversation on the intricacies of using race as a category of historical analysis in research with panellists Caine Lewin-Turner, Zobia Haq and Shamara Wettimuny
- Monday 7 March, 11-12:30 (Week 8): Race Equality Action Group Coffee Morning – an informal occasion for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students, administrative and academic staff to meet in a social and supportive environment, the first in what we hope will become a regular event.
- Dissemination of a resource list for students considering developing an undergraduate thesis exploring the Histories of Race, Empire, and the experiences of minoritised communities
- Monday 25 April (Week 1) Histories of Race & Empire Thesis Fair – A thesis resource fair, featuring presentations from current graduates and undergraduates, and Q&A with potential supervisors; full details tbc
- Presentation to the History Faculty Board of the REAG Report
- Publication of the Race Equality Action Group Report
We also encourage all members of the History Faculty to respond to the University’s Race Equality Task Force’s consultation here (closing on 1 December 2021).
Events and Activities coordinated by the REAG for the 2020-21 academic year included:
- Lectures on Histories of Race: three introductory historiographical lectures available on Canvas until the end of Trinity Term 2021 (see Panopto folder: General, including skills lectures > Histories of Race)
- Race and Medieval History – Dr Mirela Ivanova
- Race and Early Modern History – Professor Giuseppe Marcocci
- Race and Modern History – Dr Michael Joseph
- A Q&A session with all three speakers was held on Friday 5 March
- Student Surveys on race equality in the History Faculty - all current History Faculty Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students were invited to respond to an anonymised questionnaire gathering information about matters relating to race equality in the History Faculty. The data collected will be drawn on to develop proposals for improvements in welfare support and to inform reflections on the shape and content of the curriculum
- Undergraduate and Postgraduate Listening Fora, facilitated respectively by REAG Steering Committee External Advisor Naomi Kellman, founder of Target Oxbridge, and REAG Steering Committee External Advisor Dr Sadiah Qureshi. Feedback from these events has helped to inform the development of new guidance for Tutors and Seminar Convenors, and the development of a new first year methodology course (Approaches to History) on Histories of Race
- Nomination of a History Faculty Harassment Officer, Professor Maria Misra, particularly available to Black, Asian and minority ethnic students with concerns
- Reading Groups in collaboration with The Oxford Transnational and Global History Seminar on ‘Race, Research and the University’ and on ‘Race, Teaching and the University: Historians’ Approaches’
The REAG draws on and reinforces the important work already undertaken in a number of areas by students and staff, particularly in the wake of the Rhodes Must Fall Campaign since 2016, and in response to the Royal Historical Society’s 2018 report on Race, Ethnicity and Equality in UK History. That work includes initiatives across several areas:
- Our UNIQ summer schools, designed to widen participation at Oxford, have included one on ‘Race and Protest’ and another on ‘Global Encounters in the Pre-Modern World’.
- In 2019 we organised our first study day specifically aimed at BAME school students and focusing on histories of race in a national and global setting.
- In 2020 and 2021, we co-organised online BAME Humanities Study Days for students across the country.
- At graduate level, in 2019, the Faculty established a Masters scholarship for a UK BAME applicant, paid out of Faculty funds (£25k) – awarded for entry in October.
Environment and staff and student experience:
- A Race Equality Working Group was established in 2016 and has met regularly since to discuss issues around questions of equity and discrimination, and to develop proposals to address concerns arising. The Working Group seeks to integrate student activist organisations keen to address issues of equality among the student body and curriculum into the Faculty’s decision-making processes. In 2018 the REWG met to discuss the Royal Historical Society Report on Race and Ethnicity, and agreed 11 points of action, some of which are underway, some of which it is hoped the REAP will address.
- The History Faculty is contributing to the work of the University’s Bullying and Harassment Group with a view to developing more effective mechanisms for reporting inappropriate behaviour.
- The Faculty has published a Statement of Values including an expression of our commitment to creating an environment in which everyone – at every academic level from undergraduate to professor, and among professional and support staff, regardless of background and identity – can fulfil their potential.
- In the Faculty building, a seminar room has been dedicated to Professor Merze Tate, the first African American woman to graduate from Oxford. In 2018-19, we had the opportunity to learn more about Merze Tate from Harmsworth Visiting Professor, Barbara Savage, who has been working on her social and intellectual milieu.
- The ‘Oxford and Empire’ project, headed by Erica Charters, funded initially by the Humanities Division through a teaching award, and subsequently directly funded by the History Faculty has led to a series of plaques in the city that commemorate individuals whose lives help to demonstrate the range of scholars who have been part of Oxford.
- The Faculty also supported the development of the Uncomfortable Oxford project, founded by students, which offers tours of the city that raise awareness and create conversations about racial inequality, gender and class discrimination and legacies of empire.
Staff Recruitment and training:
- The Faculty has identified Black British History as the target for the next available position in Modern History in the Faculty to be appointed in 2020.
- Incoming academic staff, admissions interviewers and selection panel members are provided with implicit bias training; face to face when possible, online if not.
- The History syllabus was substantially reformed in 2017-18. They now have to study at least one period of global history along with British and European history. New options have been introduced, including (second year) ‘The Global Twentieth Century, 1930-2003’ and (first year) ‘Haiti and Louisiana: the problem of Revolution in the Age of Slavery’. There is a Masters degree in Global and Imperial History and global and colonial options make up a good part of the revamped masters courses launched in 2018. More information can be found here.
- The Faculty ran Race ‘Teach-In’ events in 2018 and 2019.
- Research on colonialism in the Faculty is feeding into the school curriculum. Miles Larmer received a Vice Chancellor's Diversity Award in 2018 for providing resources to underpin a new GSCE module on ‘Migration, Empires and Peoples’.
- The Oxford Centre for Global History holds regular seminars and supports powerful and innovative research at the frontiers of colonial and postcolonial history. In 2018, it hosted the Royal Historical Society’s Symposium in its 150th anniversary year on ‘The Future of History: Going Global in the University’. Among its many research projects, both funded by the European Research Council, are Pekka Hämäläinen’s ‘Nomadic Empires: a World-historical approach’, which covers two millennia of history and Miles Larmer’s ‘Comparing the Copper Belt. Political Culture and Knowledge Production in Central Africa’, which explores how both social-science models of development and African collective memory of a golden age have misrepresented the history of the copperfields of Zambia and Katanga.
Selected Events and Exhibitions:
- A Black History Month Roundtable (2016) chaired by Imaobong Umoren, with contributions from Dr Nicole King, Dr Yasmin Khan, Professor Elleke Boehmer, Professor Robert Gildea and Dr Ryan Hanley
- The Empire WIndrush and Black British History (2018) a lecture by Professor Hakim Adi
- Decolonising the History Curriculum – a panel discussion co-hosted with Common Ground (2018)
- A Nice Cup of Tea (2018) - an exploration of the colonial histories of Britain’s national drink in collaboration with the African Caribbean Cultural Heritage Initiative
- Early Black Lives Special Seminar (2019) – a discussion of Black British History in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, featuring presentations by Dr Miranda Kaufmann, Dr Onyeka Nubia and Dr Katherine Paugh, and Dr Anders Ingram
- Empires of the Mind – Robert Gildea in Conversation with Catherine Hall (2019) - a discussion of Professor Gildea’s recent work exposing the brutal realities of decolonisation and neo-colonialism in the postwar world
- Faculty and Student visit to Woking Mosque and introduction to the Everyday Muslim project (2020)
- The Faculty has provided support to the Annual BAME Staff Network Black History Month Lecture, in October 2020, given by Margaret Casely-Hayford, CBE on the subject of ‘Diversity Activism: to do or not to do?’ on Thursday 22 October, 17.30-19.00