A woman’s place is on the syllabus

We’ve been busy. Organizing, mourning, resting, strategizing, spending time with loved ones – not to mention all our paid (+unpaid) labor as academics.

As TSW writers and readers know all too well, our work (every dimension of it) didn’t just begin nor will it end with the change of any administration. For many of us though, the work  (every dimension of it) feels more urgent now than ever.

There’s a lot more to say, and lots of voices we want to feature in this space to speak, to listen, to make change.

And we also need to – and do – act “in real life.” *

There is SO MUCH to do though, that it can feel overwhelming. And in our role as academics, especially in a climate that wants to censure topics and conversations in the classroom (Exhibit A, Exhibit B) and eliminate academic freedom by eliminating tenure (Exhibit A, Exhibit B), what can we do?

I think lots of things, and lots of “small” things that add up. Which brings me to:

A woman’s place is in the syllabus.

One of the most concrete steps we as educators can take is to decolonize our teaching (and our research, and our outreach, and our mentoring).  Many of us, unconsciously or not, claim we are merely finding the “best” material or the “right” material for our classes (and the “right” students, etc). With so much scholarship and so many scholars to choose from, what does that mean?  Doesn’t that claim sound awfully familiar lately?

So as many of us start our semesters today or started them recently, let’s reflect on our choices for our syllabi. Who are we asking students to read? Who aren’t we? What topics are we covering? What aren’t we?

It should go without saying that I am not here with definitive answers, as this is a continuous process for everyone.  I’d like to share a few readings that help think through the work of syllabus building and revisiting as vital (if seemingly mundane, as it’s “backgrounded” and invisible) work in the academy:

Decolonizing the University

Please post syllabus here

Celebrate Black History Month to Decolonize STEM

Decolonizing Science Reading List


What are you reading and doing to decolonize your teaching? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.


*I mean, the internet is part of my real life, so I find that term not meaningful.


4 thoughts on “A woman’s place is on the syllabus

  1. Thank you for this post. It’s encouraging to read this after attending the Women’s March on Washington this weekend, which left me with both hope and concern about what steps to take next. I’ve been contemplating this issue of decolonizing academia and how to incorporate feminist theory and practice into my own field (film and communication studies) a great deal lately. While this is long term work, I hope we can continue to engage in conversations like this, to make incremental steps in disassembling these structures of oppression within higher education. May the force be with all of us.

  2. I agree with the above comment – I felt less alone after the march, and this post makes me feel less alone as a woman in academia.

  3. In my lectures, I always try to find pictures of the scientists doing the work, and I try to make sure that there is diversity in those pictures (because there IS diversity in scientists). I’ve heard students comment on this in the past.

    • BTW: what I mean is the person who led the discovery (not generic discoveries). That is, when you talk about pulsars, put up a picture of Jocelyn Bell.

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