Activism, Critique

BARC is Transforming

BARC is an international collective of women of colour scholar activists. We aim to build anti-racist pedagogic communities of students and university workers through sustained collective organizing, collaboration and radical thinking. Our practice is led by our commitments to critical theory, intersectional feminisms and decolonizing frameworks.

BARC is transforming. In the past two years we have built spaces for communities of colour to learn from our own truths how to resist white supremacy. We have taught each other, as we were teaching others, how to bring about a future we wish to inhabit. At times, we have felt moments of liberation in ways that have affirmed the necessity for changing the way we relate to each other in higher education. We heard this echoed throughout the responses to our work. Because we recognise that this liberatory mode of being is inherently difficult to sustain in white patriarchal capitalist higher education structures, we have made a political decision to morph into the next most elegant (brown, 2017) manifestation of the spirit of the collective. We are and will continue responding to the calls we are currently heeding. We are committed to our own healing, ancestral healing, and personal and political liberation, which for us means actively and creatively shaping the possibilities emergent from the trajectories curtailed by imperialist colonialism and neo-colonialism (Gopal, 2019). In this travel through time, we take forward the skills we have developed and the bonds of kinship we have grown.

To do so, we are taking some key decisions: we are winding down our limited company, and will no longer be taking commissions to train white staff. We believe this form of work needs to be undertaken by those who currently uphold white structures and only in pursuit of change at an institutional level. While we will retain and maintain resources on our website and social media, we refuse the additional emotional labour expended to combat or soothe white ignorance, guilt and fragility. We also refuse the labour of fighting intersectional capitalist structures that devalue, commodify and deny rightful compensation for our work.

At the same time, this experience brought into relief the magic we each bring to the table and what that means for what we make together. We laid out all our cards. We became foils for each other, allowing us to sharpen our vision of what the collective could be and what collective work can do. This vision includes walking directly into the unknown, building a reality that has not before been seen. BARC will continue to be a container for action, a shaper of change, a changer of worlds, recognising throughout that pleasure is a measure of freedom (brown 2017, 2019). We are committing to transformation as a practice of liberation.

A group photo of 24 workshop attendees, mostly women of colour, all skin tones and hair colours with colourful outfits, big smiles and positive energy. An Asian woman has an orange hijab, while a black woman is wearing a dashiki. few of them are holding up their right fists or a peace sign.Inaugural BARC Workshop Attendees, Oct 2018. Photo Credit: AMC Media

References

brown, a.m.b. 2019. Pleasure Activism. Chico: AK Press.

brown, a.m.b. 2017. Emergent Strategy. Chico: AK Press.

Gopal, P. 2019. Keynote Speech at International Critical Management Studies Conference, Milton Keynes, UK. 27 June 2019.

Activism, Critique, Workshops

The Origins of BARC

Business and management schools have a problem.

While we research diversity and teach it on the curriculum, the classroom
overwhelmingly focuses on whiteness, Eurocentric knowledge and North American corporate practice. Students of colour/Global South students are expected to engage with content that does not reflect their realities, theorisation that actively excludes them, and Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 15.34.13learning environments in which the voices of white students and the English medium are often dominant.

University management and teaching staff is also predominantly white as well as male, and most fail to interrogate their own positionality and privilege. Racialised perceptions lead staff to deem these same students less able, less networked, and lacking in aspiration and social capital. All of this feeds into an attainment gap that is not being meaningfully addressed.

In addition, staff of colour/Global South staff face issues with career progression, recognition, publishing, and doing a disproportionate amount of labour that is caring, feminised and emotional, and which is therefore undervalued. We are over-represented in professional services roles, lower academic pay grades, and on precarious contracts, and while our labour is the backbone of the university, our voices and power are restricted and suppressed accordingly. This is particularly true for women.  Despite the numbers of home students of colour growing year on year, this is not reflected in the makeup of staff, with home academics of colour having only grown from 4.8% in 2004 to 6.2% in 2015. As whiteness is the norm, and whiteness remains the unmarked and invisible standard of achievement, it is critical to talk about race.

Building the Anti-Racist Classroom aims to bring together scholars of colour and anti-racist allies around these issues. We believe that meaningful change only occurs through radical thinking and collective organising and that the time is ripe for these conditions to change.

Our aims are as follows:

    • To provide a safe space for management educators 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.
    • To facilitate mutual learning between established and new faculty who face different challenges in relation to anti-racist work
    • To enable participants to identify the key issues specific to their local and institutional contexts, share strategies for addressing them, and design activities to begin implementing and advocating for anti-racist practices in their universities.

In recognition of the fact our own discipline is lacking in critical racial analysis and anti-racist work, we have developed an interdisciplinary programme that features leading UK scholars in sociology and education, the disciplines in which cutting edge work in this area is being done. The schedule has been planned to be interactive, centring participants’ experiences of racism in the classroom, and from this, we will collectively develop practical tools, intervention pathways, and an anti-racist agenda for management and organisation studies in UK HE.

Our pilot event took place on Thursday 18- Friday 19 October 2018 at Queen Mary University of London. Please read a summary of the event here.