Meet the lecturer: Kehinde Andrews

Each month we chat to a university lecturer about their passion for their subject – and for teaching

An academic, activist and author, Kehinde Andrews is the UK’s first professor of Black studies, at Birmingham City University. His research projects have included examining the role of Black radicalism in contemporary organising against racial oppression.

You helped found the first Black studies course in Europe – what was the impetus behind it?

Student-led mobilisations like ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ and ‘Rhodes must fall’ raised the curtain on the racism that lies at the heart of the university sector. Until 1992, universities in Britain were almost entirely the reserve of elite white men and that basic structure is still in place in terms of what is taught, researched, staffing and student outcomes. Having navigated the white institutions as staff and students, we wanted to create a space that affirmed our Blackness rather than rejected it. Black studies is not new in the UK, just to the university sector – there is at least a 50-year tradition based on different content and a community approach to knowledge. We wanted to bring this into the university as a space to nurture critical approaches to education.

Prof Kehinde Andrews helped start the first Black studies course at Birmingham City University.


What is the key to teaching Black studies effectively?

It’s really important to understand that it is not just teaching about Black people. There is a particular approach rooted in ideas found mostly outside the university and a method based in trying to improve the conditions impacting Black communities. Most Black scholars do not do Black studies, we have to learn to take our work more seriously. There is also a key element of changing how we teach – the environment students learn in is as important as the content.

The course began in 2017. What has been the reaction of students, and what paths have early graduates embarked upon?

The students have been a breath of fresh air.

Their commitment to applying what they have learnt in practice has been inspirational to all of us in the university. Their work has been outstanding and we have shown that mature students with few formal qualifications are just as capable of producing high-quality work as anyone else. Student satisfaction is as high as it could possibly be – it feels like we have built something special. Students have gone on to postgraduate courses (including our MA Black studies); work in schools; run their own projects; and get graduate-level jobs in a range of settings.

“There has been a lot of interest… But, in general, I’d say that the interest has been superficial”

What has been the response of the academic world more broadly?

There has been a lot of interest; we are regularly asked to deliver sessions to staff and leaders at other institutions. But, in general, I’d say that the interest has been superficial. We are still the only university in Europe that could offer a Black studies undergraduate a master’s programme because it seems that other institutions remain as allergic as ever to hiring Black scholars.

You have described the course as an experiment in raising Black consciousness. Could a wider teaching/understanding of Black history, culture and influence negate future need for Black studies?

Black studies is more than just teaching about our contributions, experiences and perspectives, so even if this were commonplace we would still need the course. In fact, demand would increase, because we would realise that we need to study how to solve the issues that impact us; that it is why Black studies is so important.

You’ve just submitted the manuscript of your latest book, The Psychosis of Whiteness. Please tell us a little about it.

I argue that whiteness (the discourse, not the people) is so irrational and deluded that the only metaphor that captures its nature is psychosis. I give examples – like the government advertising anti-knife crime messages in fried chicken boxes – to show that there is no point in trying to rationally engage.

We can’t educate out racism, we have to change the conditions that create the psychosis of whiteness.

Follow Kehinde on Twitter @kehinde_andrews

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