Metaphoric Representations of Women of Colour in the Academy: Teaching Race, Disrupting Power

Adrienne Chan, Rita Dhamoon, Lisa Moy
The subject of race entails learning 'difficult knowledge', namely knowledge that students find emotionally charged and controversial, or where students are resistant to learning because the knowledge challenges the status quo. Through the lens of critical race theory and critical race feminism we examine the role of faculty of colour in teaching difficult topics about race, racism, anti-racism at a university. We contend that because faculty of colour are often left the task of disrupting
more » ... ant racial ideologies and hegemonies, and are engaged and surveilled by students in the classroom, there are multiple roles and boundaries inhabited by nonwhite faculty who teach about race and racism. Drawing from interviews with students, collective interviews amongst us as women of colour academics, and as part of a larger study on teaching and learning about race and racism, we identify five distinctive instructional roles designated to faculty of colour. These five roles-curator and choreographer of emotions; tour-guide; puzzler; instructor as 'book'; and s**t disturber and catalyst-are framed as metaphoric representations to make explicit assumptions and expectations about faculty who teach difficult knowledge. This research indicates that nonwhite faculty teach in the context of invisibilized norms and expectations that are weighty, borderlands 13:2 2 confining and, although unspoken, omnipresent. We conclude that naming these issues of power is a means of politicizing and contextualizing our work, developing critical pedagogical practices, and identifying institutional changes that may mitigate the additional labour that nonwhite faculty undertake in teaching difficult topics of race. This was the first class that challenged my knowledge. Every other class ... has offered me information. (student interview)