Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 18 Issue 1 (January/February 2008), Pages 1-90

Teaching critical psychology of ‘race’ issues: problems in promoting anti‐racist practice (pages 54-67)

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to illustrate the difficulties faced by teachers of issues related to ‘race’ and racism in psychology when trying to develop anti‐racist practice in their teaching. I argue that the promotion of anti‐racist practice can be impeded by the institutionalised cultures of some psychology departments and that such cultures have developed out of an over‐reliance on positivist ideas. Positivism obscures the fact that knowledge is constructed from positions of power and privilege, which in turn obscures the social and ideological construction of ‘race’. This is clearly a problem when trying to develop anti‐racist practice in teaching. It also leads to fixed ideas about what should be included in teaching content and what can be considered as good pedagogical practice, where notions of ‘balance’ and ‘neutrality’ are advocated, effectively overriding arguments for understanding the dynamics of knowledge production. It also obscures the power and privilege associated with workings of ‘whiteness’. I illustrate this by presenting examples from my own experiences of teaching ‘race’ issues on undergraduate degree courses. I conclude with suggestions for developing anti‐racist teaching by proposing a collective reflexive approach to changing institutional cultures that are currently at odds with anti‐racist practice. I also invite further discussion and suggestions on how best to achieve such collective conscientisation. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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