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Religion Belief & Faith Part 2: ‘Religion in Britain: Challenges for Higher Education.’

March 5, 2017 in Inclusive Teaching & Learning

I read through the following three headings of this paper in detail to respond to:

Multiculturalism (Mahmood)

Minority identities (Mahmood)

Religion and knowledge of religion in UK universities (Calhoun)

The two aspects of this paper under the above headings that were new to my understanding of the challenges of religion in higher education are:

  1. There was a lack of explanation about intersections with religion or faith.

After reading up on Gender so intensely and becoming more aware of the implications in a learning environment as a result, I struggled with this paper barely mentioning the repercussions of not supporting a student who is not sure about their religion, faith or beliefs. Maybe they began their studies as a religious person and decided to become Agnostic. What if a student wishes to change these as a result of discovering who they feel more comfortable to identify as from perspectives of gender or sexual orientation. Some useful links I came across whilst pondering this:

What is a student becomes lost or aligns themselves as Agnostic, not Atheist? How does a teacher support that student, allow them to creatively explore that if they want to?

2. I hadn’t realised that the term ‘multiculturalism‘ had become an unpopular concept amongst politics and the public recently.

Personally, I don’t feel it is outdated, but perhaps an older form of our vocabulary that has since developed into more sophisticated terms such as ‘multiculturalist sensibility’. I experience that we have developed further vocabulary, just as we have created around terms to describe Gender as vastly to adapt and reflect the more subtle and wider range of religions the UK (and certainly London) has to represent its people.

Multiculturalism is perhaps too much of a generic term these days, but it’s definitely one I consider an important part of my vocabulary. When discussing these subjects you often reflect on your own identity within them. I’ve grown up knowing that I am from a ‘minority identity‘. I have a subtly different Bengali accent to someone who’s family is from Bangladesh, because my parents came from West Bengal. My mum and dad had a strong upbringing around Hinduism, so whilst I learnt about that, it was not through practice of Hinduism myself, it was through observing others, attending celebratory festivals surrounding the religion, and slowly learning about them alongside my observations of the English society in the Midlands I grew up in. A few generations have developed in which there has been a mix of people like me – where really, I am not fully ‘at home’ in either the Midlands or in West Bengal. But this transient feeling has interesting creative perspectives. I enjoy the artist Hate Copy for this reason. She plays on the American humour in which she lives to describe traditional traits of a culture she (the artists) has grown up amongst:

Illustration with Caption on saucer

by artist Hatecopy

Laddoo illustration on saucer

by artist Hatecopy

fairnlovely illustration

By artist Hate Copy

Trust no aunty illustration

by Hatecopy


From reading the ‘Religion and knowledge of religion in UK universities’ section of this paper, I began to wonder how we could progress from this tentative avoidance of discussing the subject within an art and design curriculum. So my question about this paper is about providing practical examples of good or bad teaching practices in a religious context. Where can we find such examples that can assist teachers to learn about the subtle and drastic implications? Where can teachers investigate, practice and learn how a design of a teaching session can impact upon someone’s learning because of their strong adherence to faith, a religion or their own beliefs, personal to just them? Should teachers be consulting the universities’ Chaplains to seek guidance on a regular basis, to share and build a religious literacy? At UAL can this be feasible, considering there are only two Chaplains providing support across 6 university sites?

Ultimately, is there a way to avoid ‘religious illiteracy’ unitedly, build confidence in teaching without individual research and interpretation (and fear of misinterpretation)?



Religion, Belief &Faith Part 1: responding to the UAL Webpage

March 5, 2017 in Inclusive Teaching & Learning

How could you apply the resources to your own teaching practice?

Having read and  explored the information available on the page,I feel I could use the resources in my teaching practice to engage further with the Community of Practice sessions that this blog has been created alongside. This will help to no doubt, increase my awareness, creativity in designing briefs to be inclusive of themes around religion, faith and beliefs, but also to refresh my existing awareness when engaging with students. It made me think about how it would be useful to ‘bookmark’ these resources here in the event that a student chooses to engage with a design brief by answering it with references to their own faith, religious practices or beliefs – especially if those may be unfamiliar or unknown to me. These resources could help me to be mindful of appropriate approaches, whilst encouraging students to explore their ideas with integrity in answering the design brief set.

How could you integrate the research/work your students do on this subject into your teaching/professional practice?

It’s a shame the original link ‘CSM Quiet Capsule Design Project‘ was not working from the website. However, I found myself so intrigued by the title that I searched for it and found an incredibly simple yet effective project brief for an architecture project, giving a very apt example of how research on this subject can be applied to a design project, and put into context to learn creative and inclusive thinking which, affecting all. The Quiet Capsule Design project at CSM demonstrates how religion, faith and beliefs can be incorporated into teaching creative subjects and design practice perspectives. Here is the actual link: . As with my answer to these questions in the ‘Gender’ blog tasks, I would  be keen to work similarly in my teaching practice by creating for example, a brief about illustrating intersectionalilty between faith and gender to raise awareness of their coexistence.

Can you cite examples?

Interestingly enough, I’m working on the preparation of some one-off workshops to be delivered to two secondary schools in which I will use a collection of religious manuscripts from the ‘Mingana Collection’ at the University of Birmingham. With the manuscripts as a source of inspiration, I will be asking the groups to collaborate (mixing the two school groups) to produce an illustrated manuscript of a story, just like any of the collection manuscripts portray. I will ask them to use illustration, typographic and design layout skills combined with their own attempts at hand lettering design to achieve the final manuscripts (two for each workshop, to take back to their own schools). The challenge and success of heir own intended outcomes will derive from their collaboration and communication skills amongst their groups. For this younger set of groups, I will guide them into formats of working so that they can utilise as much of the short amounts of production time they have together. This at higher education levels, is something that I feel would be pertinent for students and groups to work out for themselves. I think this could have an equally, if not more in depth and effective impact on students and their collaborative outputs, if delivered to a  group of students at high education. I wonder if others reading this would think it would be more difficult? That as we mature, people are more aware of boundaries, questions about faith and beliefs that are too sensitive to approach a new peer with?

Here is a link to some examples from the exquisite Mingana Collection:

Inclusive Teaching & Learning Unit: Gender – Part 3

February 15, 2017 in Inclusive Teaching & Learning

‘Boy you’re just a stupid bitch and girl you’re just a no-good dick’

(Words from ‘Black Tongue’ by Karen O of the New York pop rock band YeahYeahYeahs)

These words make me laugh as they play on a twist of making gender assumptions in language and treating one gender identity as a derogatory term to call what is actually the opposite in gender.

This leads me in to my reflection of the Museum of Transology exhibition which was a positively defining experience for me. My visit reconfirmed what I believe to be a strong method of inclusive learning – understanding and increasing knowledge through an exhibition of objects, people and experiences (and I also think I’m a museum-loving geek).

The exhibition was curated incredibly carefully, as I felt it invited you in to see stories of importance to all, whether as a visitor, you know much about transgender communities, are curious in yourself or have family members or friends with gender fluid identities.

The exhibition highlighted the situations where gender is questioned unnecessarily from the small social acceptances amongst friends through to security procedures at airports. It also explained the peripherals in a person’s life that can be key to developing their gender confidence, such as a person’s wealth in order to afford hormones or high quality fake breasts, ‘packing’ and binding. A survey mentioned in the exhibition text also revealed that many transgenders go through years of homelessness as a result of being unaccepted as their true selves by families and support networks. This is not a phase, this is a person’s lifelines, shattering.

These stories of struggle, acceptance, loss of time, love, family, mental health, confidence really resonated with me in the set up of this exhibition, whilst walking amongst the broken closets. I wanted to reach up to read every story written on labels, even those that I couldn’t access which were inside cabinets mounted higher on the walls, and those suspended high above, amongst the gender gradation of undergarments. But actually, in not being able to read all of them, illustrated a concept perfectly that maybe stories can be there, dangling right in front of your face, but it may not be the time to read them. We may need to work carefully to find out how to read them and understand these stories.

Alongside the films the exhibition made me internally ask questions to myself about how I would approach teaching from a pastoral perspective to students going through any gender confidence issues. I felt an overwhelming amount of empathy mixed with positivity and sadness. How could I address and implement appropriate support and inclusive learning to make a student who is in a crisis, confusion, suppression or a determination phase of expressing their gender identity? This exhibition gave me some wonderfully simple, yet grounding insights into how I could be a positive support anchor in a student’s status or journey of gender confidence.

Inclusive Teaching & Learning Unit: Gender – Part 2

February 14, 2017 in Inclusive Teaching & Learning

Part 2 – A response to reading “Understanding Patriarchy” by Bell Hooks

I learned quite a lot from reading this text, just from visualising the scenarios from Bell Hooks’ childhood highlighted that I have understood and recognised Patriarchy for many years. However I did not necessarily know how to label it with this definition as eloquently has Hooks has.

Acceptable and unacceptable Patriarchy:

I was able to relate the various scenarios Hooks talks the reader through with my own experiences of understanding Patriarchy. For example, it reminded me of speaking to a friend who’s male cousin had committed suicide and how their family members got uncomfortable talking about this young, male adult with depression (a large contribution to his suicide). On the flipside, my friend’s family deemed it absolutely fine to speak about the same (depression) to do with a female within their family, and better yet, openly speak about this female’s mental health at public gatherings to mock them or define them as weak. This was not to do with age / generations / or traditions in culture, my friend was confused and surprised by the vast range of family members that acted out their patriarchy towards both situations. It is very similar to the story Hooks described when her father angrily told her to stop playing with marbles and her mother almost said ‘I told you so’ after telling Bell quietly to stop playing the marbles

Familiarity is a big friend to Patriarchy:

Again, reading through this text made me think about how I’ve challenged my own review of situations and environments, as those I’ve experienced over the years have broadened. For example, I have grown up visiting India regularly and I can remember the first time I saw two adult heterosexual, male members of my family, walking down the street in Kolkata holding hands, thinking to myself ‘that is uncomfortable to look at’. Now I see it so many times I think the familiarity has taken away the ‘weird’ factor for me, but if I saw that same scene in my home town of Leicester, I would (for a split second) have that uncomfortable feeling return to me – and then think, why? Is it out of fear of local people’s reactions to this scene more than my own? Why is it not ‘weird’ if I see the same in London? Is it because I am familiar with seeing people feeling more open about their gender and sexuality in public (in London) compared to Leicester? Bell Hooks paraphrases some content in her text from  ‘How Can I Get Through to You?’ by family therapist Terence Real, in which his sons decided between themselves and their friends, what was appropriate for boys to play. A stern look – body language – communicated that ‘play’ did not include dressing up as a Barbie doll. With this in mind I wonder if I ever received such communication growing up in majority amongst friends in the UK, which embedded patriarchy in me, almost as if it was through a ‘reality facade’.

Having read this text, overall I believe it is always good to reflect on your decisions to design or make a choice that affects others and keep this understanding of patriarchy in mind to who we want it to benefit. I do wonder if, in today’s global society are we largely having struggles internally about gender and patriarchy, as well as acting out our struggles externally? I suspect the internal struggle will always exist to a degree, but I do wonder, can societies ever become fully ex-patriarchic, or fully dispel taboos that any one person might feel towards gender fluid behaviours in themselves and in others around them? I am hopeful that more understanding can be developed at the very least.

Inclusive Teaching & Learning Unit: Gender – Part 1

February 14, 2017 in Inclusive Teaching & Learning

Looking at the ‘Student Diversity at UAL‘ webpage, I started to ponder on how I would answer those 3 questions provided in our brief. It’s a pretty overwhelming page as it’s filled with a lot of information, though it is all useful. As a female, British Indian, Dyslexic student myself, I did wonder how a student would cope with looking at all of this with regards to Intersectionality.

Whether I am interpreting this brief correctly or thoroughly enough, I am not sure, but here goes:

  • How could you apply the resources to your own teaching practice?

I was intrigued by the small little ‘Supporting transgender students‘ blog page. I thought it contained useful information (albeit simple) that would be good to include on the university’s main website so that everyone visiting the website would know that teachers at UAL have an awareness.

In particular, I think  that the link provided to ‘Gendered Intelligence‘ is an essential form of training for teachers to undertake. From my own experience of working in UAL’s Disability Service I think it is hugely important to continue refreshing your awareness of Disability, so I don’t see any difference in teachers making an effort to refresh their awareness of gender fluidity and continue to revise or update knowledge of appropriate or used language around Gender Diversity.

In fact, just as I believe that Disability Equality training should be compulsory for staff at universities, why isn’t Trans Awareness and Inclusion training also essential? I would always find this information and resources received from these training sessions to be useful tools to help build a students’ confidence, especially in the context of teaching art & design subjects, where students often create work which expresses their own selves or their situation in life.

  •  How could you integrate the research/work your students do on this subject into your teaching/professional practice?

Thinking about this aspect feels a very exciting and creative area for me. I would definitely think about setting this subject within a Graphic Communication Design brief. Without writing a full brief here, it could involve students researching the support networks/social groups for Gender Diversity out in the public realm already, and getting them to look at these organisations’ branding. What does this brand say about that organisation? What audiences are they speaking to? Is it different from the audiences they want? How has their branding design influenced that? I could then ask students to rebrand their researched organisation, to capture a different audience. One of the key learning outcomes from this type of brief could be to build an awareness amongst peers that is positive and supportive. Not only that, I would hope it would build students’ design skills to integrate this awareness in their professional practice.

  • Can you cite examples?

I don’t have any direct examples of integrating this into my teaching practice, as I am just beginning as part of the Teaching Within programme. But as an example of a reference, ‘Centred‘ is a type of organisation I could use as a starting point in the brief I mentioned above. I could ask them questions about branding, about providing illustrations for their organisation to attract a different audience and capture a wider support network. This I hope would act as a catalyst to the students researching their own organisation to re-brand. It may either have their attention by widening their minds to learning about social groups and networks they were not aware of before, or it will challenge them to reinterpret organisations they are already familiar with, from a design perspective.

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