BARC Community Resists Attacks on Critical Research and Knowledge Creation


#SaveUEL @saveUEL  

#NoOneIsRedundant @leicesterucu


Members and friends of Building the Anti-Racist Classroom write this statement to explicitly resist a web of systematic and structural violence being enacted upon the integrity of UK Higher Education and the present-future of research and knowledge creation in the UK and beyond. We write to express solidarity with our colleagues at the University of East LondonGoldsmiths, University of London, and University of Leicester, who are suffering from drastic planned cuts to departments in which critical academics, some of whom are union branch leaders of colour, are being targeted. Actions taken by these institutions reflect an intensifying hostile environment for critical thought, including feminist, anti-racist, and decolonial scholarship.  

We denounce the set of moves now being made destabilise, derail, or defuse scholarship that critiques the extractivist, colonial and white supremacist logics of neoliberal and surveillance capitalism. We reject the UK government’s reactionary steps to chip away at both: 1) the legitimacy of critical race theory and 2) the humanity and right to self-determination of poor, disabled, and trans people, especially women and femmes of colour, and all people subject to gender-based violence, through damaging public policy, discourse, and funding withdrawal. Finally, we find it outrageous that amid calls to protect freedom of speech, we are seeing the further consolidation of power to control the creation of knowledge through higher education with the formation of the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency, the design of which makes it opaque and inscrutable

We critique the way metropolitan universities, rather than meaningfully advancing diverse sets of knowledges, consistently seek to silence dissent that challenges and interrupts ‘business as usual’. We identify that this activity is taking place in the context of multiple interconnected international catastrophes, including the parallel pandemics of COVID19 and white supremacist racism, conservative backlash and jingoism behind neo-imperial Anglo-American foreign policy, and the race to a data-driven future dominated by hypercapitalistic giant technology corporations. We bear witness to the economic violence caused by the eregious corruption of the Conservative government who have used public funds without due process, wasting billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money at a time of desperation for so many.

We recognise that it is the intergenerational power and traction of our solidarity and movements over decades that has made liberatory knowledge and practice thinkable, speakable, and livable. We see these ideas performatively appear as rhetoric across international journal statements, conference themes, and university marketing materials, and mark the cruel irony of these appearing at a time when people of colour are dying, losing jobs, targeted with misinformation because of the failings of a well-designed system of health inequality.  

Taking a global view, we call for solidarity from our colleagues in higher education for those acting tirelessly to bring about democracy, justice, and positive social transformation not only in the UK but internationally, such as in: Haiti, Palestine, Myanmar, Brazil, Syria, Hong Kong, India, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Philippines, Chi’chil Bildagoteel on Turtle Island, and other regions that are advancing the Movement For Black Lives, including in refugee camps and migration pathways worldwide. We recognise the commonalities and connections between these internationally distributed uprisings of the people against the powerful. We care about and offer solidarity to Black, Indigenous, people of colour and allies worldwide who continue to speak out, organise, mobilise and risk their lives to oppose the atrocities and horrors of the present, as they dare to imagine a different, more humane and equitable future for all.

We invite readers of this statement to take a moment to reflect on the above, consider and propose some next steps for the BARC community, and/or co-sign this statement. We will share these ideas anonymously via our Twitter in order to begin conversations with our community. In the meantime, please follow and engage with these hashtags and accounts on Twitter and continue to advocate for and support colleagues whose livelihoods and work are under attack:


#SaveUEL @saveUEL  

#NoOneIsRedundant @leicesterucu #ULSB16

BARC Collective 

  • Angela Martinez Dy, Loughborough University London, UK
  • Sadhvi Dar, Queen Mary, University of London, UK 
  • Deborah Brewis, University of Bath, UK
  • Helena Liu, University of Technology Sydney, Australia

Friends of BARC 

Thank you also to the members of our community who contributed feedback on this statement.


BARC reflections: #Org4Lib 1 Weekender

Assembling at the Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality at Leeds Beckett, BARC were welcomed by Professor Shirley Anne Tate for a weekend of reflection, community-building, and imagination for the future of higher education.

The Organising for Liberation workshop was held 15-16th June 2019, conceived and facilitated by the BARC Collective. The workshop sought to provide a space for mutual learning among educators and students of colour and white allies to engage with contemporary anti-racist theory in order to develop critique, knowledge tools and resources supporting the enhancement of pedagogy.

Day 1 – Context and conditions

After establishing our collective agreement for the principles of the space, the opening of the workshop invited discussion that centered our thoughts on the student. On one hand, the student that we typically see being positioned as ‘good’ through the practices, structures, and assumptions of our institutions, and on the other, the student who we – as educators and student-peers – yearn to see being recognised for their excellence. We examined our struggles with the marginalising effects of presenteeism, consumerism, and assessment regulations; and exchanged strategies for taking control of classroom power dynamics, sharing knowledge about rights and resources, and affirming the expertise that students of colour bring to the classroom.

In our Day 1 Keynote Conversation, Dr Akile Ahmet presented her stunning co-led photographic research project Race in the Academy that interrogates how spaces within higher education can be racialised and excluding. In conversation with Professor Shirley Anne Tate, our speakers highlighted the numerous institutional pressures faced by people of colour to alter our appearance and voice; and reflected on contexts and people who had resisted these to offer a sense of belonging.

Connecting with this idea of transforming spaces, actor, playwright, producer and teacher Dr Mojisola Adebayo led the group in an exercise exploring what an anti-racist classroom might look like. Drawing from her expertise in theatrical techniques, we were invited to experiment with embodying the changes needed to build it, and how situations might unfold differently in future.

In a final session, we led the group in an emergent process to generate concrete ideas about what our goals and capacities are both individually and collectively. Ideas to which we returned on Day 2.

Day 2 – Transformation and liberation

Energised by the first day of discussion, Day 2 started with a centering of voices on the topic of student activism in higher education, by mobilising a long table technique that we have adapted for decolonising work. We learnt from the experiences of students and staff involved in facilitating transformational movements, considering the responsibilities and issues of safety involved for all, the need for care of the self and others, and frustrations arising from responses to this work. A strong message was conveyed about the great impact that key mentors can have in the experiences of students of colour.

Engaging with the conversations held over the course of the workshop so far, Dr Francesca Sobande‘s Keynote talk delivered an incisive critique of the challenges and opportunitites of digital spaces for activism. Drawing on her co-edited volume To Exist is to Resist and her work on digital spacesshe shed light on the precariousness of people of colour in the academy, the dangers of co-optation, and the importance of being resistant.

The workshop was drawn to a close by Professor Tate, who, following her own reflections on how we might each engage in challenging the system of oppressions that face us, invited participants to come forward and occupy her own speaker’s chair.


The Organising for Liberation weekender represented an exceptional event held in the academy, where students and staff of colour and anti-racist allies could assemble, talk freely, be our whole selves, and form community. Respecting the principles of the space, we are circumspect in what we judge may be shared here regarding the discussions held, but we were truly overwhelmed by the positive comments from participants on the value of the space that the workshop had created. It is also important that we continue to learn from feedback, from our mistakes and successes, and take our work forward to further conversations around important issues not yet held. We thank the participants of the weekender for raising these issues, for their generous participation, for trusting us, and for being with us as we move onwards together.