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Decolonizing the Curriculum? Transformation, Emotion, and Positionality in Teaching

by Sarah Cheang & Shehnaz Suterwalla

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Decolonizing the curriculum involves more than broadening the canon and revising reading lists. In challenging Eurocentric frameworks and making definitions of “fashion” more inclusive, methods and approaches to teaching itself also require active reconceptualization in a closer questioning of the meaning of decolonized practice. This paper analyses experimental teaching within the MA History of Design program at the Royal College of Art, London, which aimed to explore decolonial praxis while training postgraduates to critique fashion historiography. The ambition was also to broaden students’ perspectives toward deeper reflexivity and wider professional development. We argue that the dismantling of Eurocentric bias and critiquing of institutional systems involves an uncomfortable unpicking of accustomed structures of knowledge that is both the ground zero and the end goal of decolonial histories. In modeling more collaborative modes of teaching, learning and writing, we suggest what a decolonized practice could look like for fashion studies, and the importance of emotion and position within a transformational potential.

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