ARP Reflection: What is the question?

I often circle or tip-toe around a subject.

This is a comment I feel to have received a number of times over my lifetime.

I cannot help but think of a predatory bird circling ahead, observing and watching from all angles, looking for the decisive moment.

Or in this case, the decisive question.

This has not been forthcoming, so this reflection seeks to hone in, to take a better look at the land of critique.

Critiqistan, if you like, I certainly do.

Because there is something in queering critique, decolonising and intersectionalising critique that is of deep interest.

But step back for a moment, the why of critique? I do this because I feel my own trauma has affected my studies throughout my life, in relation to tutors and peers, from primary to university and beyond.

It is this feeling of constantly being alien in a hostile environment, that I wish to quell. Or at the very least, temper.

It is my belief that for those of us with a cynical view towards the world, and therefore the institution, will often interoperate neutrality as negativity.

Perhaps they, like me, will also engage in self-sabotaging behaviours in relation to self-determination, that hinders their ability to honest with themselves and live a life with integrity consistent with their personal sense of morality and justice.

That is to say, what is not important, is to affect their journey. What is important, is to make sure they do not ‘go off piste’ or ‘off the rails’ as a result of neutral or negative criticism.

Ok, so now that’s clear(ish), how does this relate to the ARP?

The ARP is a series of questions, and so I will present a series of questions as my ARP.

I like the simplicity and self-referential nature of this creative action, fitting of Aikido or wu wei philosophy (approximately, action through inaction, flipping the question or the reverse uno card).

So the core part of ARP is action, reflection and personal practice. Now that I am clear that I wish to ‘leave no student behind’, what can I do?

To make a football analogy, I am thinking about the Belgium National Team, who are famous for their track record in developing young players. There are some useful takeaways that the Belgium Blueprint provides: a focus on education and resilience, and a desire to stop young players from slipping through the net. Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany have operated at the top level, but it is interesting that Simon Migniolet was signed by Sunderland because of his desire to balance studies alongside his playing career. There is too much focus on ‘superstars’ and that every player with the commitment and desire should be given the opportunity to develop. Given that football is one of the most competitive of competitive worlds, mental health for those that ‘don’t make it’ is a serious issue. Often these players feel isolated and cannot talk about their struggles.

Back to the ARP, I want to make sure I can account for every student in my care, and to do so in such a way that does not over-burden or overwhelm me.

The question I am asking now is, how can I develop a practice of critique that centres the student wellbeing?


How can I use trauma informed pedagogy to make sure that no student is left behind to struggle alone?


How can I create a connection with students who may be cynical towards institutions?


What information exists out there to help me best facilitate trauma-informed critique?

Thinking hollistically, I cannot check on each student individually on a weekly basis, but beyond best practice in the crit, when a challenge does arise, how can I check in a form of post-critique aftercare?

I am thinking of the student who cried in a crit adjacent to me.
I am thinking of the student who does not engage in the workshop.

I am thinking of these various opportunities that are not taken, and harm that may be caused. Some difficulty is part of the creative process, but it is not our jobs to add to the difficulty, it is our job to help students manage this challenge themselves.

Action Research Project: “Move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!”

— Kodos (as Bill Clinton) (“The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror VII”)

I look back on this particular series with some trepidation. At the time, like many, I watched the series constantly, it was everywhere. Its ubiquity manufactured affinity. Prevalence implied a it as a prerequisite. A ‘given’

Wading through the fog of creativity has now become somewhat of a joy. The excitement of finding solutions, or rather them finding you, stepping on a landmine propelling you to ‘the next level’.

In the case of the ARP, I am still deep within the fog of The Crit and critique more generally. There is certainly movement in this game of minesweeper. Setting flags for interesting points of investigation:

Labour. Data collection and processing is labour intensive, with much work existing already.
Analysis. Similarly, there are those more expert than I who have done this work.

I have the opportunity to speak to students about this and feel a pull towards highlighting the process element of critique. As The White Pube mention, art school is an ‘expansion pack’. (Paraphrasing) You go in, weird things happen you have to make sense of, at the end of it, you have a more expanded consciousness and are better for it…usually.

I am also beginning to think that the point is not to try and do something new per se, but to re-direct ourselves to the scholarship that already exists as being beneficial. The form of experimentation in the critique will emerge naturally through reflecting on the challenges of the crit.

I would like to encourage depth of critique through iterative interviews. In an ideal situation, students I work with a few in number and are open to interacting in as many stages as possible.
Stage 1: 1:1s
Stage 2: Focus Groups
Stage 3: Questionaire
Stage 4: Aftercare

This feels ambitious, so I want these stages to be the simplest version of themselves.

I want questionnaires to be both ‘automatic’ and ‘arresting’.
BANG. BANG. BANG. woah. <- perhaps this is the structure, 3 quick fire questions (non-binary choice but scaled) and 1 open one.

Things to develop:
Chunking and formalising actions/processes. (i.e. opening/closing crits)
Questions to cover with students
Timeline & labour considerations/allocation.
Research Question

Final thoughts on the research question.
Will this emerge through the process?
Is it in aftercare? this is a word I have used a number of times and am sure that is where my interest in critique lies. Perhaps I would like to speak to these students directly and ask:
What did you feel?
What could have been done
What could now be done
How do you feel about this in relation to your journey?
Have you noticed any adjustments/changes in light of this?
Is your process developing?
What have you taken away from this intervention?
How do you feel about the event after having this intervention?

A Post-Script social post, post-submission deadline

Reflecting on the nature of deadlines, when given some respite, the nature of the creative mind will present something overlooked. This has often been the case for me, how about you?

Things I missed/didn’t/wish I’d addressed more deeply:

Gender, being a man on a course of mostly women staff and students, means my normal stance of listening should be extra attentive as should diligence towards expressions of sexism and intersectionality (especially, misogynoir). (Something I would cover in a Critical Thought seminar on the Dragonball franchise.

Race, the lack of Black representation in BA Illustration students is stark. I am reminded of friends who have expressed their routes of ‘social mobility’ being sports or music. Media is becoming more diverse, with many inspired by the scene legend, Jamal Edwards (Rest in Power).

Diversity of resources, which was covered in my previous hyperopic artefacts. (Fun fact, hyperopic is the opposite of myopic, I’m leaving this because I like the word, but more importantly I need to consider accessibility of language)

I would love to get rid of grading in favour of another system, one less binary than pass/fail. I am also in favour of making the process transparent to students if there is a form of distinction/grade, and a potential opening up.

“What grade would you give yourself?”
“This is where the tutors benchmark you”

Cases are stated, heard and discussed, with notes, wise feedback and feedforward.

More reflections to come, but not for this blog

Race – Teaching

Applying all this learning to the context of teaching racialised individuals is to listen for clear self-identification and expressions of self.

I am reminded to pay attention to the intersections of race, which in the context of illustration involve gender, geography, sexuality and interests. These are whole individuals and should be seen/treated/heard as such.

It is also vitally important to utilise trigger warnings and maintain a duty of care to our Black students. Anti-blackness and misogynoir exist within communities of colour.

In my practice, I will source more positive images of people of colour. I have seen plenty of pain.

In the context of BA Illustration, I will introduce more Black artists and Intersectional Artists of Colour, with specific attention paid to positive images of Black artists.

I will do more reading, there is so much to catch up on.

I will speak to my students about their creative dreams and fears.
I will bravely share mine.
We will speculate on strategies of survival.
We will survive.


Religion – Teaching

When it comes to religion, the demographics of BA Illustration skew highly towards ‘no religion’ (102 students 70%)

While this is indicative of a more secular society, I can remember two instances of students referencing Buddhism, one of whom identified as not practicing. It is important to note that this is now the norm in the UK and religion has been weaponised in politics as we have seen with islamophobia and anti-semitism.

As an inclusive practitioner, my main concern is to encourage healthy conversation and clear boundaries of respect. As a new practitioner, I must accept my lack of experience and seek advice on how to proceed, and engage in theological debates and critique.

Considering how this will impact my teaching, I will be mindful and remind students of our duty of care to one another in an educational space and their agency to leave if they so wish.

Furthermore, how can I create an environment where students feel they can express their religion, without fear of reproach or judgement? The wise strategy of honest positivity comes into play. Reminded by my conversation with a hospitality colleague, I would direct the individual towards a colleague with lived experience, offering my experience and strategies if appropriate.

Perhaps ending by asking them a question,

“Who is this for?”

Alternative ability – Teaching

When reflecting on alternative ability with specific consideration of my students, I will make sure to have a clear list of my students with “declared disabilities” and engage them regarding their access needs.

I think taking an extra step to be consistent in seeing and hearing them as individuals will go a long way to aiding their inclusivity.

Beyond this, I must work harder to diversify my archive to include more practitioners that explore inter-sensorial translation, such as Christine Kim. While this has added benefits for my personal artistic practice, interesting resources are always useful in the most surprising of situations.

Finally the most important is to listen and consider their whole intersectional selves.


On the surface, I am racialised and gendered as a brown man.

Underneath, my identity is less binary.

Pronouns: he/him (currently)

As a Brit(ish) African Asian twice-migrant born into the Isma’ili Muslim community, I inherit a complex history of religious persecution, misinformation and colonial subjugation. 

In Tanganyika (now Tanzania), Asians became an imported middle class to maintain, and benefit from, the colonial image of racial hierarchy. “Asians tended to acquiesce in this system” due to conservatism, capitalist ambition and “low political consciousness” (Ghai, 1965). Trapped in the resulting middle-class immigrant narrative, private education provided further privileges but belie the generational and personal trauma, racism and islamophobia that sowed the seeds of social justice. 

Brainwashed by neoliberalism, studying Economics and Mathematics, I was destined for a death in finance before Marx reignited creative desires. Burnout-induced introspection cut short my advertising art direction career; manifesting an embodied knowledge of Manufacturing Consent. 

Acknowledging my complicity in generational Racial Capitalism inspired my decolonial practice of critical thought with respect to the Broadcast Image.


My first university teach experience with year 2 BA Illustration at Camberwell comes courtesy of Shades of Noir’s Teaching Within program. 

Considering this cohort (144 students), I am mindful to avoid surface level assumptions. To look at and beyond demographics, as data masks nuanced histories that must be recognised for students to feel valued, heard and seen. 

Within the overseas group (73), I recognise the self-identified introverted non-binary Black student from the USA, whose positionality requires different considerations to non-anglophones, of whom the largest contingent are from China. 

Traditional reliance on language in knowledge exchange generates my artefact and question:
How to bridge the communication gap with East Asian Students?

“The percentage of staff of colour at present is very small at 3.6% and does not in any way reflect the student cohort. These staff bring a positive experience to diverse students on course in the form of role models.” (Finnigan & Richards, 2016)

Framing overseas student-teacher representation in terms of native role models simplified the problem to create an entry point for discussion with the course leader: “Have you considered hiring a native speaker?”

Regarding English requirements and student reticence to engage with language support; “I think its [culturally] to do with not wanting to admit you need help.” In retrospect, individual characteristics (positionality/neurodiversity/mental health) bring complexity to communication and require care. In the future, when students flag their ‘poor English’ and create a hurdle to practise, I will pause, patiently encourage and guide them to work through it. And direct them to language support.

The UCA Farnham case we discussed is unique; a fully Chinese cohort and one, clearly overworked, native speaking tutor. Feedback with the IPU lead tutor notes that students and tutors are drawn to one another based on a number of identity markers (gender, complexion, fashion, introversion…etc). In the UAL context, the cohort is more diverse than Farnham, so is it not more important to centre the students’ sense of being valued: seen, heard and respected? 

Personally, TW and the IPU have provided my first experience of intersectional leadership and tutorship. This experience of connection and difference has been integral for considering gender and misogynoir. More readily transgressing institutional distrust and forming bonds of solidarity. This intersectional perspective has been essential for my academic and personal growth, supporting my belief in the benefit of extending representative inclusion to the East Asian contingent. 

Opening the premise to external critique was helpful. Noting passive role, introducing specificity and agency yields: 

How can I communicate with East Asian students on their terms?

As an auditory and visual learner, I appreciate resources that lie outside the written word. With 51% overseas students, it would be fair to offer alternative entry points and de-centre the English language. Seeing an opportunity in an anime I am reminded of Lecturer feedback: “Do students still watch Dragonball Z?” 

Though my assumption was confirmed, why not start with students and co-curate content? 

Thinking back to Term 2, students’ references include the Korean Alphabet, Confucius, cultural myths and untranslatable words. Co-curation will democratise resource positionality across the range of cohort cultures and interests in line with social identity theory. This real-time feedback will also benefit my teaching practice.

The IPU session Who’s Who is an interesting example of gestalt design. Simplicity allows the session to be translated across geographic and political contexts to affect the same feeling of (un)conscious bias. It is important to reflect that the notion of inclusive design is subject to discourse. Notions of Foucauldian power and normativity necessitate a turning towards the student body, after all, it is their needs I am trying to meet. 

Lacking the Vocabulary

Critique is vital to development. With personal experiences across the spectrum, lacking vocabulary had resulted in both intellectual bullying and transformative feedback. As a tutor, I will explicitly acknowledge my positionality and privilege to mitigate historical mistrust. At the same time I will employ (n)etiquette and body scan meditations to set behavioural standards, focus the group and promote empathy, discourse and knowledge exchange. Intervening when necessary.

Moving from ‘safe’ to ‘brave spaces’ requires ‘wise’ strategies, including: honest positivity, an explicit articulation of high standards when expressing critical feedback and the assurance that feedback is given with the belief that the student can meet the aforementioned high standards. (Yeager, 2013)

Bravery has to start with the teacher. Reflecting on the task of critiquing a Shades of Noir webpace, I faltered. Discomfort ensued. It felt challenging to question an authority to which you hold proximity and affinity bias. As a teacher, this is ultimately a disservice, as holding back critique removes the opportunity for learning. To help, a question from cognitive behavioural therapy: “is this feedback helpful?”

Like many students, I move between multiple contexts, currently working in hospitality to financially support this report. In these spaces, (un)conscious bias presents a number of challenges that are likely to disproportionately affect marginalised genders, People of Colour and/or those from low socio-economic backgrounds. 

In these situations I will offer my experiences and survival strategies, detailing successes and failures, citing our differing positionalities and student agency. I will avoid giving direct advice, in favour of directing students to external resources for reflection. And where appropriate, offering to guide the student in unpacking and working through the problem to develop internal resources. (Francois, 2019)

Tick. Tock.

Reflecting on ability and access, I am flooded with memories of debilitating glandular fever during my second year of university. Feelings of pain, isolation and helplessness without an end in sight. The IPU has reminded me to reflect on healthcare as an intersectional issue. Historic failings, abuses and mis(sed) diagnosis. For intersectional students, some may find it difficult to report illness, under/over exaggerating symptoms in good faith. As a tutor, I will assume goodwill and apply time, attentiveness and care to build trust.

Time being a scarce resource I hope to redress via digital pedagogic tools. 

As a self-described ‘slow learner’ (potentially undiagnosed neurodivergent), digital sessions alleviate schedule and geographic challenges. While recordings provide the ability to pause/replay/rewatch, which is helpful for ‘slow learners’ and those with declared disabilities and/or learning difficulties. 

Going forward I will record sessions where appropriate and pre-share resources with students to focus on dialectic exchange. Considering access, I will utilise basic translation, dictation and notation tools in resource sharing. Whilst giving students options to self-direct critique format, where slower exchanges over digital platforms (myblog/miro/email) will have added access benefits for inclusivity beyond language and into access needs.

“It is only the oppressed who, by freeing themselves, can free their oppressors” (Freire, 1970)

To conclude, I will reflect on feedback from two previous artefacts:
Artefact 1: “a complex matrix of words codes and format…potentially all barriers to students”
Artefact 2: “You’re overdoing it, you’re overcomplicating”

Having already acknowledged the complicated nature of artefact 2 with the course leader, I continued.  

Why did I do this? 

Perhaps, still disappointed with my TPP grade, I am still mentally stuck, trying to correct those failures. 

Unpacking further, I see learnt behaviour from banking education and capitalist ‘creative direction’. Acquiescing to white male ‘creative directors’ who have ignored, stolen and dictated my creative work. Shell shocked from burnout. Dutifully awaiting orders. Unable to hear myself. 

So I will listen. 

I don’t want this for my students. 

So I will continue use research, critique and reflection to unlearn and question the thoughts/patterns/behaviors of ingrained imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy and to centre inclusivity in my practice.

Inside the academy, I will develop my inclusive praxis through student/colleague/mentor feedback for clarification, challenge and advice.

Outside the academy, I engage in talking therapies for guided reflection and challenge. This combination of internal and external community of care and solidarity helps people of colour “survive and thrive in the ivory tower” (Gabriel & Tate, 2017).

“If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else” – Toni Morrison

Word Count: 1498


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hooks, b. (1994) ‘Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom’. London: Routledge. 

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Me: “One of the reflections was the difficulty of the language barrier…
…Have you considered hiring a native speaker?”

Course Leader: “…I know some other Universities that have done that, at UCA Farnham…”
“…We do have language support …international students don’t like going…”

“…I think it’s [culturally] to do with not wanting to admit you need help…”

Course Leader “…they’re meant to be at a certain level of language before we start.”
“In the meeting I was in, people were talking about the reason they got rid
of the dissertation was along those lines [language barrier]”
“getting translators…was also problematic”
“does [translating dissertations into English] make English the hierarchy?”

Me: “Is it also problematic to say, we have lots of Chinese students, we need a Chinese tutor”

Course Leader “There is a push to hire staff from different backgrounds but it would be problematic to say,
We’re only hiring from someone from this country and this language”
“[at Farnham where] she’s a Chinese Lecture, the student body is 100% Chinese,
a couple of the staff are English and the students are all going to her all the time
so she’s massively overworking…because their interaction with her is much easier.”

bell hooks

thank you for everything, your work brought me back to the academy.

ain’t i a woman
outlaw culture
conversation with aj
the will to change: men, masculinity and love
teaching to transgress: education and the practice of freedom

and many many more,

rest in power.


A word whose multiple meanings are rather revealing…

Positionality & Notes

Key themes: Twice Migrant, British Raj, Indic region, India, Tanganyika, Tanzania, East Africa, Non-Black African, African Asian, Brit-ish, Male presenting, Brown, ‘Racially Ambiguous’.

Format Notes

Key theme: Spoken truth


Key themes: Intersectional Space, Archive, Broadcast, Healing, Reflection, Historical and Contemporary resistance. Academic Terms of Reference, Communal dissemination of knowledge.

Un-(concious bias & the ‘Room of Silence’)

Key themes: 2 in 1, linguistics, prefix, implicit v explicit, un(considered/explored/believed/respected/critical/comfortable/safe spaces), lived experience, pain, disillusionment, stagnation, harm,

Pedagogy of Social Justice – H. Tapper

What steps are you taking to present a wide array of resources/content to cover ALL involved perspectives?
How are you encouraging reflection in your process?
– can this be formalised, (like the IPU post-tasks)

Key Themes: Intersectionality, Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, SIT (Social Identity Theory), Chosen Identity, Core Pillars, explicit aims & intentions, embodied knowledge of intersectionality, group dynamics as indicators of global group dynamics, students as ‘living texts’, facilitation (process focus) v teaching (content focus), Non primordial approach to identity, Complicate understandings, questions > answers, no socialisation or brainwashing, critical thinking & reflection to form own opinions, post-program challenges, alumni experiences, reexamine/reconstruct relationships and commitment to individual and group narratives. Balance: activist burnout & compassion fatigue.

Retention and attainment

Key Themes: Belonging, Class & Opportunity, Slay in your lane, Role Models, Spinning data, PoC Staff Retention and attainment, Creative Attraction Gap, Immigrant Narrative, Publication Critique Published, Qualitative reasoning behind attainment gaps, individual circumstances & structural problems, Creative Comfort/Safety & Ambiguity/Risk, Trust, Facilitation, Public Critique, Practicing Tutors with Diverse Backgrounds, Decolonising the curriculum & Diversifying resources, P2P, Students not customers, bell hooks, student-centred, Tell Us About It, Lessons from Film Crew, ‘The Oppressed must free themselves’ – Freire, GEMS: Visibility, Community, Influence, Gaps, Collective solutions (power), Recommendations.


Key Themes: Whiteness, Naming the problem – Sara Ahmed & SoN TORs, Terry Finnigan’s growing comfort in discomfort, Linda Stupart breaks the 4th wall, ‘I don’t know myself or my whiteness well enough to tell’, ‘most of the policemen [in SA] are black’,

Faith: Blind, Wavering, Scaffolding, Hidden and Otherwise

I was born into the Islamic faith, a sect of Shi’a called the Nizari Isma’ili community.
This is an important distinction that I will explore further.
Having dabbled in buddhism there was a time i felt comfortable with the description. ex-muslim.

But after some time, I’ve found my own esoteric interpretation of Isma’ilism, channeled through my art practice. As Artist, Lecturer and friend, Abbas Zahedi would say, ‘why don’t you switch it up, instead of ex-muslim, complex muslim…dunh kno.’
The process of decolonisation required considering the affect of eurocentricity on this turning away from Islamic culture. The shadow of assimilation lurks. Various creative and spiritual rituals are aided by through interventions from experienced Artistic and Psychodynamic practitioners.

Secular Britain?

I feel to challenge a key premise in ‘Religion in Britain: Challenges for Higher Education’; how can this nation be secular when our calendar is Christian?

Furthermore, from a linguistic point of view, the terms are peculiar. The public ‘celebrate’ a break from performing labour on “Bank holidays“. Meanwhile, “Bank Holiday” and “National Public Holiday” are used interchangeably to describe Christian celebrations (Easter/Christmas) speaks to a deliberate blurring of Capital, Faith and Nation.

As such, I believe the path of ‘secularisation’ described by both authors belies an act of normalising eurocentricity or western hegemony. There is something in mainstream co-option as an act of obfuscation. The normalisation of these events obscures and displaces.

Christmas as a calendar fixture, 25th December, has less to do with the birth of Jesus, and may have more to do with traditional Roman winter solstice of Saturnalia, an act of absorbtion/erasure/assimilation of Pagan customs into the Christian religion.

Easter & Christmas have roots in Paganism. 
the USA has 'In God we trust' written on its currency.
Declining religious fervour, increasing financial fervour. 
Capital as the New religion.

Religion, belief and faith identities in learning and teaching
The good, the bad and the ugly.

(Aside: I am so happy that some visual/audio resources have been provided)

The Good,
“Professor Reina Lewis. Dress, Politics, and Belonging post-Brexit, 30 November 2016”
Love it. This is the sort of decolonial work I joined the academy for. I would love to watch more things like this. Eventually I will go over this resource and add the images and references to my personal archive for direct use when discussing the aesthetics of religion & religious garb.

The Bad & The Ugly,
On the flipside is Alain de Botton and the pop philosopher’s Atheism 2.0.
The crux of his argument is that the secular world is bereft of ideas and the solution lies in extracting and exploiting religion. Neo-colonialism from a contemporary pop philosopher comes as no real surprise for an individual who simultaneously claims to fight the cult of individualism, while being a founder of ‘The School of Life’. I’d like to sit there for a moment to consider the implication…founder….of the school of life….right…
A quick google of ‘Alain de Botton critique’ yields About 80,700 results (0.57 seconds).


“The empire of Alain de Botton – Financial Times”

I didn’t make it past the headline.
I have learnt from Alain first hand, I will take what I want (and leave the rest.


Religion is not fixed but fluid.

As such relations towards it are individual. As noted above, my faith position is denoted by birth, belief, position and collective, all of which (but birth) are subject to change over time.

[Anecdotal Conversation]
I recently met a Pakistani LSE Law undergraduate who relayed to me a desire to wear a hijab to university. 

R: I want to wear the Hijab
Z: Go for it, Why don't you?
Z:...Are you worried about safety?
R: No. I feel like the other girls will judge me
Z: Are you wearing it for them?
R: No, I am wearing it because I want to.
Z: Then why are you worried, have you worn one Pakistan?
R: Yes of course, sometimes but not all the time. I just feel like they will judge me, like ohh you weren't wearing it before but now you are. 
Z: I understand you might be feeling self-conscious about how others may perceive this change, but choosing to wear a hijab is up to you. No one can tell you how to practice your faith as long as it's your choice. 
R: This is true
Z: I am not going to lie to you and say that you will be treated the same as before, by your university peers or the wider public. Some people see the hijab as anti-feminist and oppressive. From my understanding, the feminist perspective centres your agency. If you choose to wear the Hijab, that is your choice and your right and I for one will be proud of you.

Note: memories may present me in a favourable light :)

Creed – Mistaken Identities – The Reith Lectures

When reflecting on how Kwame Anthony Appiah deconstructs religion into Practice, Community and Belief was quite interesting. As per my reflection, these three aspects have played a large role in the formation of my academic and artistic practices. As such, when thinking about a student in my care, I must consider the nuances of their beliefs. Which are, by nature, hidden. Here, particular care must be taken as it is often a site of microagressions or outright racism.

I believe that this deconstruction is helpful when considering the nature of people and how we can remain connected to our biographies. Personally, I perceived much performance of faith linked to community and practice more than belief. Especially when there has been religious conflict. As such a notion of Taqiya is present in my community, which translates to prudence/fear, a denial of beliefs in the face of extreme religious persecution. Collective histories are complex, as are the practices and beliefs of a community when forced conversion or absorption and erasure have taken place.

Another key point centred on interpretation and implementation: scriptural determinism and double standards. Religion and contemporary religions (celebrity/sports/tech bros/etc) can have the potential for abuse. See God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens. What this shows is the issue lies within humanity.

The cult of the individual, power, hierarchy and information asymmetry are utilised as tools of control. This is seen in the religious conversions by christian missionaries associated with colonialism. A way out is similarly offered by Kwame Anthony Appiah, in a world desiring certainty, having relaxed convictions while keeping your belief system open for challenge + revision is a super healthy mode of navigating academia.

Religion in Britain: Challenges for Higher Education

Secular states and public religions – That I had written the above comment about the Gregorian calendar and Paganism speaks to an inherent fallacy in the idea of Britain as a secular state.

The ‘vaguely Christian’ UK – Consider the prominence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the recent gaff concerning Pr*nce Andr£w ‘making amends’.

The question the I have falls from these observations, how deep is the doublespeak?

When we consider the notion of representation and broadcast message, who is a guest and who is permanent? Who represents what in optics and message?

A true secular state would require a de-centring of Christian institutions. Writing this made me think about Christ’s college, founded in 1437 as “God’s House”.

Christ’s college presenting the image of Racial Diversity

I digress, the point is about the student experience. These resources have re-affirmed some beliefs I’ve had and given me ideas to carry forward as my perspective continues to change as I grow. When considering students, I will seek to seek moments to celebrate student positionality, allowing them to centre their faith, if they wish. Similarly, it is also important to consider how inter-belief relations manifest & play out. How to encourage groups to be open with one another, to bridge gaps in culture and community to learn from one another.

Higher Power

The questions that the ToR aims to explore were particularly resonant, and it was no surprise that the wide array of voices chimed in a myriad of ways.

Having travelled the spectrum of relations to religion, spirituality, faith and the lack thereof.

I am reminded of the potential for connection and community, as noted by Muslim Sisterhood (of which one of our colleagues, Zeinab Saleh, is a founding member). Likewise, I have my own experiences of continued Islamaphobia that shaped my positionality and perspective. Reading God is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens helps me understand the perspective of Bridgett Crutchfield. (I never understood gender segregated prayer areas). Likewise I understand Montana Williamson’s description of foundational values, in her Note from the lead. This journey has ultimately led me back to a very personal interpretation of isma’ili spirituality

This resource has highlighted the need to centre students perspective with respect to others. Though this term is near equal to relation, the notion of respect is poignant for inclusive practice.

My personal art practice investigates Dream Work, so the chapter Surah Yusuf, was also of particular note. Of course, the key question of gender springs to mind. The story highlights patriarchal notions entwined with the divine spirit. Yusma the slave harrased by her ‘master’, paints a quite different picture. This provocation may (not?) be productive, but it is important to facilitate such a conversation carefully if a student were to make such a statement.