Diversity Day: "Making racism discussable and audible"

2022-05-31 Dr. Aysun Doğmuş, research assistant at Helmut-Schmidt University Hamburg, and Dr. Friederike Dobutowitsch, research assistant at the Institute for German Language and Literature and its Didactics, as well as a member of the ConnEx project in the teaching service at Leuphana University Lüneburg, talk in an interview about racism in teaching, necessary reflections and perspectives.

[Translate to Englisch:] Interview Icon ©Leuphana
“The thematisation and theorisation of racism in university teaching always bears the danger of reproducing racism“, says Friederike Dobutowitsch.
How has the topic of racism developed in your respective subject contexts and how is it currently perceived?
Friederike Dobutowitsch: 
In "my" field of research, educational multilingualism research, perspectives on educational processes that are critical of racism and questions about linguistical practices are in part developing an increasing dynamic. 

Aysun Doğmuş: 
I can agree with the increasing dynamic. Racism seems more discussable. The analytical perspective of the critique of racism can also be found in many more educational studies and qualification papers that focus on various aspects of educational processes, school and classroom research or the professionalism and professionalisation of (prospective) teachers. At the same time, however, it can still be stated that the thematisation of racism in our subject contexts remains contested. It is remarkable that this often does not seem to be a typical academic discourse in the struggle over methodological questions, theoretical perspectives or practical research disputes. Rather, social negotiations on racism are also reflected in our subject contexts.
What do you see as particular challenges in your field of work or research in addressing racism? Can you give us some examples?
Friederike Dobutowitsch: 
In an educationally informed perspective, it is proposed to understand racism as a social phenomenon that structures society and orders hierarchies. This means that an institution like the university is also structured and influenced by mechanisms and modes of action of racism. Accompanying learning and reflection processes in a seminar therefore requires to considerdifferent levels of involvement of those participating, both lecturers and students. 

Aysun Doğmuş: 
For the implementation of seminars, it is also a particular challenge that racism is on occasion an everyday concept. Discussions in seminars often take place within the horizon of 'opinions'. The challenge is to work out the implicit knowledge of these 'opinions' with students and to convey that it is necessary in (educational) science to know theories of racism and, if necessary, to contrast them with other theoretical approaches, such as discrimination, in order to analyse and reflect on racism in a context-specific way. This is also necessary, because racism encompasses different manifestations and is not immediately recognisable. 

Friederike Dobutowitsch: 
Related to the subject of societal multilingualism, theoretical offerings on language and racism can, for example, contribute to revealing notions of normality in the designation and evaluation of linguistic practices. Who speaks about whom in what way? Which (supposed) group is named, which is not? 
As part of the complementary studies in the Bachelor's programme, you conducted the seminar "Critique of Racism in School and in Extracurricular Fields" together. What experiences and insights did you gain in the seminar?
Friederike Dobutowitsch: 
Overall, we noticed a high level of interest in this seminar on the part of the students. This was already evident during the registration phase and was confirmed by the active participation of the students and the intensive discussions in the seminar. In planning the seminar, it was important for us to differentiate between theory-based, (empirically-based) case-based and experience-based reflections and to communicate these different approaches transparently to the seminar group. We also repeatedly asked ourselves whether and at what points it makes sense to offer the group different spaces for reflection and empowerment in phases along different levels of involvement. 

Aysun Doğmuş: 
In the process and during the implementation of the seminar, we as lecturers also perceived some areas of tension. These related in particular to racism-relevant speech in the seminar and related positioning possibilities. In addition to the safe spaces, some of which students had set up themselves, we therefore offered students the opportunity to withdraw at times or to communicate directly with us as lecturers. 
What role does dealing with racism play in your own professionalisation? Is racism a topic in teacher training, for example? What does it mean to deal with the topic of racism in teaching?
Friederike Dobutowitsch: 
The thematisation and theorisation of racism in university teaching always bears the danger of reproducing racism. One question that concerns me in this context is how theory and (self-)reflection can be combined. And also, how professionalisation-relevant reflection processes can be stimulated and uncertainties made possible at the same time.

Aysun Doğmuş: 
Therefore, we as lecturers are urged to reflect on our initiated teaching/learning settings and to explore possibilities of mediation. In teacher education, racism is a central topic for me, among other things in the examination of migration-societal and postcolonial constellations in schools as educational spaces and possibilities of transforming habitual routines in pedagogical practice. It is important to me to develop analytical tools with (student) teachers that help to decode racism even in seemingly everyday situations. Furthermore, it is central to expand the possibilities of articulation of different actors both in teaching and for future professional practice in order to bring racism to the foreground, to make it discussable and audible. 
Thank you for the conversation!

On 2 June 2022, as part of this year's Diversity Day, a reflection workshop for lecturers will be offered on the topic of "Racism in university teaching" with Dr. Aysun Doğmuş. The workshop in German provides a collaborative reflection space for lecturers. After a dialogical introduction to racism-theoretical understandings and their critical relation to teaching, experiences from teaching practice will be exchanged, reflected on and individually appropriate options for action will be explored on the basis of selected cases. Registration for this workshop is possible via the pages of the teaching service.


Dr. Aysun Doğmuş
Dr. Friederike Dobutowitsch