Academic journal article Composition Studies

Decolonial Theory and Methodology

Academic journal article Composition Studies

Decolonial Theory and Methodology

Article excerpt

Course Description

ENG 6800/ACS 6820: Decolonial Theory and Methodology was offered as a fully online course within the English department at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). The department offers two online master's programs: a general degree in English with three possible specializations, and another in professional and technical writing. In addition, BGSU offers a doctoral degree in rhetoric and writing.

Decolonial Theory and Methodology introduces students to decolonial thinking, situates the course materials within the historical and contemporary circumstances that necessitate a decolonial approach, and encourages students to develop a decolonial scholarly and pedagogical practice reflective of their intellectual and professional goals. This course was cross-listed with the Department ofAmerican Culture Studies. Due to these circumstances, the course roster included graduate students, both fee-paying and assistantship-supported, from a variety of humanities-based programs. Students did not need previous experience in decolonial theory to enroll. In addition to using the university platform, Canvas, we also used a Google+ community to interact with each other.

Institutional Context

BGSU was built on the settled, indigenous land of the Miami and Eastern Shawnee. Each semester, I provide students with an indigenous history of Ohio and encourage them to research the peoples-both past and present- of the land on which the students live and work. Drawing from Janice Gould, it is crucial to consider the role of indigenous spaces in institutional contexts as this information provides further understanding regarding the relationship between colonial impact and knowledge making.

I designed Decolonial Theory and Methodology for multiple audiences with varied professional goals, including doctoral students in rhetoric and writing, the online master's students in English, and graduate students from English education and American culture studies. The programs that offer an online component attract returning teachers who seek certification to teach at the community-college level or in the College Credit Plus program (an Ohio-based higher education initiative that offers high school students the opportunity to take college classes before graduation and receive college credit). Students come into this class with little to no knowledge about decolonial theory, cultural rhetorics, or the contemporary experiences of American Indians. Yet, they are drawn to this course because of their interest in adding multicultural voices to their curricula. Knowing this, I make sure to provide students with foundational theories while making space for them to consider how to apply these theories in situations they find meaningful-typically, their classrooms.

Currently, the English department does not consistently offer graduate courses on non-Western theories, histories, or perspectives (with the exception of an Ethnic American Literature course as an elective for master's students in literary and textual studies). As such, the decolonial theory course fills a muchneeded gap in the curriculum. While the course's presence in the curriculum has many positive outcomes, I want to note that "filling a gap" puts marginalized faculty in difficult situations where we must navigate an institutional system that does not make space for us, underrepresented people, and our lived experiences. For example, departments at BGSU must follow a university-wide enrollment policy that requires all courses to meet a particular number to run. This requirement might seem reasonable and typical in many contexts, but in small departments special topics courses compete with each other to attract students who choose from a variety of electives. Facing these obstacles, faculty develop strategies to appeal to students to enroll in the course. To put additional pressure on faculty, when students elect to take a course where the lived experiences of people of color are at the center, they will most likely not encounter these intellectual traditions in the remainder of course work. …

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