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Decolonising identity

Exploring how people of colour identify in different spaces masking their authentic identity.

Decolonising Identity is the second of the three strands which is part of our initiative on Tackling structural race inequality in HE’ which will run through our member benefits for 20-21. The strand will launch in February 2021.

This strand will focus on how people of colour identify in different spaces – personal familiar space; in the institutional space; and in wider society. 

It will interrogate how identity changes in different spaces, and how structural inequality forces people to mask their authentic identity and reinforces white privilege. It builds on the following model (Miller, P): 

Decolonising identity

Decolonising identity is part of our member benefit theme ‘Tackling structural race inequality in higher education’.

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1. Meritocratic Agency: 

Belief that the system we inhabit is fair for all (but the reality is that it isn’t).


2. Expedient Agency: 

Recognition people of colour have to change/adapt to the circumstance in order to succeed (i.e. become inauthentic) e.g. changing accent, clothes, hairstyles, behaviours

3. White Sanction: 

People of colour have to rely on white people to broker for them. White people are the gamekeepers who use their privilege to ‘help’ people of colour.

4. Institutional Habitus: 

Where the structures are in places for shared agency and leadership of all people. Where wide array of thoughts are valued. 

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Outputs for this strand - Podcast series

This strand has one main output which is the podcast series. The aim of this output is to examine how the environment can affect how a person of colour identifies. Register your interest below to join the discussion.

To explore the different ways the higher education sector, institutions and individuals are discussing and understanding structural inequality, with a focus on the complexity of identity within this. We hope to explore the following topics as part of the podcast series: 

Episode 1: ‘What’s in a name?’

This episode will explore how people of colour are categorised in the UK, its history and implications. Reflecting on the limitations and challenges of categorising certain identities and backgrounds. It will explore how identity has been racialized through the lens of intersectionality.  

Access the podcast and transcription

Episode 2: ‘Today world I will play the part of...’

This episode will explore how people of colour navigate personally and professionally spaces, when self-identity comes up against assumed identity. It will explore how to be authentic in different spaces and the tensions that can arise. 

Access the podcast and transcription

Episode 3 ‘Can I get my ally badge now?’

This episode asks, in tackling structural racism what is the role of the ‘ally’? What does it mean within Higher and Further Education to be an anti-racist advocate, and what do staff and students of colour truly need from white colleagues. 

Access the podcast and transcription

Podcast series

The podcasts will align to Advance HE’s wider race equality work, focusing on centring the voices of people of colour and will be co-created with staff and students. Register your interest below to receive an update when episodes two and three are released. 

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Additional support related to this strand from Advance HE

BAME summit 2019

Race Equality Symposium

Offering insights and solutions to issues of race and racism within higher education
Find out more
Group in discussion

Race Equality Charter

Supporting the improvement of representation, progression and success
Find out more
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Tackling structural race inequality in higher education

There are two other strands in support of this member benefit:

Find out more
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Register your interest in our Decolonising identity theme

Enter your details below to register your interest in our member benefits Tackling structural race inequality in higher education theme strand on Decolonising Identity to receive further updates and information.


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