Diversity & Decolonising the Economics Curriculum

Words by Tree Watson, Co-Director, RE Support Team

After the huge success of our online festival stream ‘Diversifying and Decolonising Economics, we are continuing to reflect as a movement and an organisation on the work we need to do to make both our own spaces and the sphere of academic economics more inclusive, diverse and decolonised.

Students, academics and citizens from across the globe came together to debate, discuss and learn in events including ‘Economics in a Non-Western Framework’,’ An introduction to Feminist Economics’, ‘The Lack of Diversity in Economics’ – in which our research manager Dr. Nicola Scott presented research from our upcoming book on the lack of diversity in economics – ‘What do we mean by Decolonising Economics?’, ‘Practical tools for Decolonising the Economics Curriculum’ and ‘Challenges and Opportunities faced by Economists from the Global South’. ‘Can Black Lives Matter in the Mainstream Economic Paradigm?’ was a panel debate that also took place as part of another festival stream.

Systemic racism and marginalisation of particular social groups in society pervades not just our Economic systems but in our social and professional lives, our classrooms and our reading lists. For RE and many other organisations the work to address this is an ongoing process of effort and reflection. Some of the work taking place in RE at the moment is summarised below:

– Book on the Lack of Diversity within Economics

RE’s book on the lack of diversity in Economics, researched and written by RE’s Dr. Nicola Scott and Lucy Ambler and’s Joe Earle – with contributors from D-Econ and Rethinking Economics For Africa amongst others – will be published in 2021. The book examines why Economics needs to be diversified, decolonised and democratised in order to create a sustainable global economy in which one’s life chances are not, to a significant extent, determined by your race, gender, socioeconomic background or where you are born in the world.

– Curriculum Research Methodology

RE’s current curriculum research methodology provides a framework for students to assess their course material for a plurality of approaches, real world application and a requirement for critical thinking. We will work with students to develop that methodology to also examine how well undergraduate course address questions of race, colonial power structures and inequalities between social groups. This will enable local groups to accurately assess the issues at their university, and use this data to work constructively with their department on improving academic representation.

– Schools Workshops

Economics suffers from a ‘leaky pipeline’.  Social, political and financial barriers exist at every stage of Economics academia, which make it increasingly difficult for working class students, people of colour, women and LGBTQ+ people to participate and thrive. We are working with our sister charity to deliver workshops in schools that aim to inspire young people from a diversity of backgrounds to take up Economics as a field of study, and demonstrate that Economics is for them.

– Speaker Databases

We are building a database of speakers that local groups can use when looking for speakers for events. Student groups across the world regularly host panel discussion, workshops and debates. The shift towards online events due to COVID-19 has meant that local groups are able to engage with speakers and academics from all over the world, with some events hosting panelists calling in from several different continents. A diverse database of people who are engaged with the RE network enables us to platform speakers from a multitude of countries, disciplines and schools of thought.

– Examining our Organisational Structures

We are committed to continually reviewing our organisational structures to encourage autonomy amongst local groups, and support a diversity of student participation across the globe. The next few months will see us implement a dynamic governance structure that will enable student representatives to set the direction of RE. Democratically elected organisers will sit on a members’ council that will work to develop strategy, communications and feed into the framework of student engagement. This will distribute decision making power amongst our student networks and act as a balance against the Eurocentrism that can occur when the majority of the staff team are based in the Global North.

Dynamic governance will also ensure students have more input, improving the diversity of voices who have input into our organisational strategy and in building the international ‘voice’ of Rethinking Economics


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