Strategies and Further Resources

Resisting Curriculum Violence

Some strategies for resisting curriculum violence include:

  • Using stories of racial violence that are told from the perspectives of those who experienced violence can help anchor learning in approaches that are meaningful to those who have been subjugated.
  • When examining a text that uses violent language, consider ways of contextualizing the text to help prepare students for encountering the material (e.g. when reading about eugenics, you might prepare students by letting them know you’ll be reading this text to analyze or understand how biological determinism shaped racial inequality in the early 20th century).
  • Discussing racism and racial violence should not be avoided, but when discussed, consider:
    • Balancing scenes of victimization with those of resistance, self-determination, liberation, survival, resilience, and/or celebration;
    • Using “content” or “trigger warnings” for this kind of material (see Trigger Warnings in Navigating Difficult Pedagogical Dynamics);
    • Invite students who have been directly impacted by this violence to skip certain readings, class screenings, etc. or provide alternative readings that students can choose from.
  • Using the “E.H.R.R: Empathize, Historicize, Remove, then Replace” method developed by Jamilah Dei-Sharpe, PhD student in Sociology & Decolonial Hub founder, Concordia University:
Empathize
Historicize
Remove
Replace

Empathize

Empathize with the affected population, group or individual(s) by thinking about the potential impact that the content could have on people who have experienced harm before even entering the classroom;

Historicize

Historicize the content and learn more about how/why some content can be harmful and/or violent; make a distinction between violent content and unpleasant content;

Remove

Remove content that is harmful and that does not serve learning from the classroom and course materials—if the semester has already started, discuss with students why the content is being removed;

Replace

Replace the content with something generative and informative, don’t simply avoid learning about violence.


Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is there another way to learn about this form of violence other than showing images, videos, etc.?
  2. Who is at risk of being (re-)traumatized by these scenes?
    • e.g. racialized students watching members of their communities being killed and students who have experienced sexual violence watching scenes of assault.
  3. What preparation work do I need to develop to support student encounters with this material?
    • e.g. providing content warnings, offering alternative material, inviting students to leave, and offering excerpted sections.
  4. What support do I need to establish after engaging with this kind of material?
    • e.g. staying late after class or setting aside time at the end of class to debrief, starting the next class with a debrief, reaching out over email, offering dedicated office hours to support, inviting a community elder, health or well-being professional, or other support figure to join the class
  5. How can I provide a structure for supporting students who are situated differently in my course?
    • e.g. offering separate debriefing sessions for white and racialized students;
    • offering separate times during class to provide background and support for new learning about racial violence that is optional for students from the communities affected to develop collective knowledge without subjecting racialized students to discussions that may re-enact racial violence.

Common Scenarios & Possible Interventions

Common Scenarios and Possible Interventions [Skip Table]

Example Example Scenario Possible Interventions
Racially Charged & Racist Language A student uses a word in class discussion that is racially charged. It is clear the student does not intend to do harm, but others in class are visibly distressed by the use of this word. - Remind students that while we might not all share a common language, it is important that in the classroom we develop common forms of communication to ensure we are not unintentionally enacting harm.
 
- Provide clear alternatives to using specific language (e.g., in this class, you can say "the N-word" or refer to the word in the reading as "the racially charged language in this text...")
Racial Microaggressions While discussing racism in class, one student questions why we are focusing so much on race. - Encourage students to understand the context and the reasons for focusing on specific topics (e.g., because of the historic exclusion of groups).
 
- Depersonalize the response from the individual student and instead focus on the pedagogical importance of this work and discussion.
 
- Ensure racialized students are not left to defend against racism; take responsibility for facilitating the discussion and intervention.
Race to Innocence During the discussion, a student shared that they don't think it's fair to talk about white supremacy since there are white people who are not racist, and only some people are white supremacists. - Help to de-individualize racial concepts, such as whiteness, by focusing on the systemic and structural nature of white supremacy.
 
- Discuss the difference between individual prejudices and systemic racism/oppression.

Table 1.1. Examples of curriculum violence and offering possible interventions.

Example Example Scenario Possible Interventions
Racially Charged & Racist Language A student uses a word in class discussion that is racially charged. It is clear the student does not intend to do harm, but others in class are visibly distressed by the use of this word. - Remind students that while we might not all share a common language, it is important that in the classroom we develop common forms of communication to ensure we are not unintentionally enacting harm.
 
- Provide clear alternatives to using specific language (e.g., in this class, you can say "the N-word" or refer to the word in the reading as "the racially charged language in this text...")
Racial Microaggressions While discussing racism in class, one student questions why we are focusing so much on race. - Encourage students to understand the context and the reasons for focusing on specific topics (e.g., because of the historic exclusion of groups).
 
- Depersonalize the response from the individual student and instead focus on the pedagogical importance of this work and discussion.
 
- Ensure racialized students are not left to defend against racism; take responsibility for facilitating the discussion and intervention.
Example Example Scenario Possible Interventions
Race to Innocence During the discussion, a student shared that they don't think it's fair to talk about white supremacy since there are white people who are not racist, and only some people are white supremacists. - Help to de-individualize racial concepts, such as whiteness, by focusing on the systemic and structural nature of white supremacy.
 
- Discuss the difference between individual prejudices and systemic racism/oppression.

Table 1.1 Examples of curriculum violence and offering possible interventions.


Resources

Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion
Intersectionality
On Racism and Sexuality

Access to this chapter’s Zotero

Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion

Ahmed, Sara. 2012. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Durham: Duke University Press.
Brown, Brené with Aiko Bethea. 2020. Inclusivity at Work: The Heart of Hard Conversations. Podcast. November 9.
Curtis, Christopher. 2021. “The other side of ‘cancel culture’: Students open up about racial abuse on campus.” Ricochet. September 17.
Dutt-Ballterstadt, Reshmi. 2020. “In Our Own Words: Institutional Betrayals.” Inside Higher Ed, March 5, 2020.
Gagliardi, Meghan. 2024. “Wielding the ‘Empowered Student’ Narrative: Examining how the Responsibility for Anti-racism is Assigned and Denied in Higher Education.” Reading the Room: Lessons on Pedagogy and Curriculum from the Gender and Sexualities Studies Classroom. Ed. Natalie Kouri-Towe. Montreal: Concordia University Press.
Jones, Stephanie. 2020. “Ending Curriculum Violence.” Teaching Tolerance. Issue 64.
Toolkits for Equity. 2020. Antiracism Toolkit.
Wiegman, Robyn. 2016. “No Guarantee: Feminism’s Academic Affect and Political Fantasy [PDF].” Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture and Social Justice! 37.2 (2): 83–95.
Antiracism Pedagogy Project. The Decolonial Perspectives & Practices Access (DPP) Hub. 2023.

Intersectionality

Carastathis, Anna. 2016. Intersectionality: Origins, Contestations, Horizons. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 1991. Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review 43 (6): 1241-1299. (https://doi.org/10.2307/1229039)
Hill Collins, Patricia. 2019. Intersectionality As Critical Social Theory. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Hill Collins, Patricia, and Sirma Bilge. 2016. Intersectionality. Key Concepts. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Nash, Jennifer C. 2019. Black Feminism Reimagined: After Intersectionality. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Spade, Dean. 2013. Intersectional Resistance and Law Reform. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 38 (4): 1031-1055.

On Racism and Sexuality

Gill-Peterson, Jules. 2018. Histories of the Transgender Child. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
LaFleur, Greta. 2018. The Natural History of Sexuality in Early America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Schuller, Kyla. 2018. The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century. Durham: Duke University Press.
Somerville, Siobhan. 1994. Scientific Racism and the Emergence of the Homosexual Body. Journal of the History of Sexuality 5 (2): 243–66.
Stoler, Ann Laura. 1995. Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things. Durham: Duke University Press.
TallBear, Kim. 2013-2021. Critical Polyamorist Blog.
TallBear, Kim. 2018. “Making Love and Relations Beyond Settler Sex and Family [PDF].” In Making Kin Not Population. Edited by Adele E. Clarke and Donna Haraway. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.

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