Decentering Whiteness: An anti-racism institute

Fall Professional Institute

This Institute draws from the understanding that structural racism starts from the social structures of language and thought. From this, we will explore approaches to decentering whiteness.


Our foundational texts will be the work of Achille Mbembe, in particular his Critique of Black Reason (2013), Necropolitics (2019), and Out of the Dark Night (2021). The expectation is that colleagues joining the institute will commit to:

  • reading extracts and articles identified for each session;
  • independently listening to the suggested musicians and viewing the suggested art and film material prior to sessions;
  • signing up to present one of the secondary readings;
  • sharing additional readings of their own and share music/poetry/art/film that helps to deepen our experience.

Sessions are thematically structured and will include F2F and remote learning, plenary and group discussion. Sessions one through four focus on contemporary and historical centerings of whiteness and constructions of blackness … and consequences of these. Our last two sessions extend our insights into explorations of intersectionality and emergence. Colleagues will work individually and collectively; guest facilitators from various community-based organizations will enrich discussion by raising and situating their learning and experience of decentering whiteness in diverse contexts of struggle and learning.

The course will be offered through the University of British Columbia but will take place at UBC, the offices of the Vancouver Secondary Teacher’s Association (VSTA), and at Magee Secondary in Vancouver. Colleagues not located in the Lower Mainland can participate remotely using Zoom.

Sessions will be held early evenings with specific dates and times to follow shortly!

On Power/Knowledge: Introducing Mbembe

Keynote facilitator: Alpha Kirabira: Help change my city

Book discussed:

  • Mbembe, A. (2013). Critique of Black Reason.

Secondary Reading:

  • Hochschild, A. (1998/2006). King Leopold’s Ghost.
  • Musician/artist: Mzwakhe Mbuli: Change is Pain. (Watch The day shall dawn)
  • Video/film: Any of Hollywood’s Tarzan depictions of Africa: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) / Tarzan finds a son! (1939) / Tarzan’s Revenge (1938) (eg: watch from 1:00:00 to 1:06:34- note link to session 4 and Ed Said readings)
  • Another example: Blonde Savage (1947) from minute 17:40 to 22:40.

White supremacy and anti-blackness

Keynote facilitator: Vince Chan, Vancouver Tenant’s Union.

Book discussed:

  • Mbembe, A. (2013). Critique of Black Reason.

Secondary Reading:

  • James, C.L.R. (1938/1989). The Black Jacobins: Toussant L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution.
  • De Sousa Santos, B. (2018). The End of the Cognitive Empire: The Coming of Age of Epistemologies of the South.
  • Musician/artist: Lynton Kwesi Johnson: Forces of Victory
  • Video/film: 13th (Dir. Ava DuVernay. 2016). Achille Mbembe: Lecture given remotely at Stanford University, 2020.

Photo activity:

  • please take 3 photos of your worksite and/or home environment and/or social event that you feel comfortable sharing and send them to one of the facilitators. We will use the photos in an activity during the session’s discussion.

Indigenous experience

Keynote facilitator: Glenn Coulthard/Dene land schools

Book discussed:

  • Coulthard, G. (2014). Red Skin, White Masks. (Extracts available)

Secondary Reading:

Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism

Keynote facilitator: Azza Rojbi and Wala Zaidan: Mobilization against War and Occupation (MAWO).

Book discussed:

  • Edward Said (1978). Orientalism. (Extracts available)

Secondary Reading:

Intersections

Keynote facilitator: Vanessa McKittrick: Downtown Eastside (DTES) Women’s Center.

Book discussed:

  • Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. (2011). Dancing on our Turtle’s back.

Secondary Reading:

Pathways

Keynote facilitator: TBA

Book discussed:

  • Escobar, A. (2020). Pluriversal Politics: The Real and the Possible.
  • Shiva, V. (2020). Reclaiming the Commons. Ch. 5-7. Shiva, V. (2015). Earth Democracy. Intro. & Ch. 3. (Extracts available)

Secondary Reading:

George Kanavos and Andrew Schofield

George Kanavos and Andrew Schofield are VSB employees, both white males, both settlers, who are exploring theoretical and organizational aspects of antiracist work to surface our own racist practices, work towards unlearning these, and contribute to building an anti-racist and safe learning environment for our colleagues and students. We are both in extremely privileged positions of power- we work together at Magee Secondary in Vancouver, BC; George is a counsellor and Andrew is the principal of the school. George has a MEd (UBC, 2014); Andrew’s PhD (UBC, 2013) focused on school reconstruction in a South African township in the post-liberation period. Our organizational experience ranges across union movements, various forms of political mobilization, to local, regional and national levels of engagement.

The cost of the course is $120 + GST. Upon completion of the course participants will receive a certificate.

Registration will be opening in Spring 2022