Teaching race and cultivating an anti-racist classroom has taken on a new urgency in our current moment. The ongoing protests against police brutality and for the humanity and dignity of Black lives have mobilized our institutions, departments, and programs to stand in solidarity with our Black faculty, students, staff, and community.
In this “Critical Race Conversation,” Dr. Ambereen Dadabhoy (she/her/hers) and Dr. Nedda Mehdizadeh (she/her/hers) discuss methods of manifesting such solidarity through pedagogical practice and demonstrate successful approaches to engaging in meaningful, ongoing discussions with their students about race. Drawing on their own pedagogical experiences teaching early modern literature and Shakespeare, Dadabhoy and Mehdizadeh will share strategies for creating space for conversations about race that can sometimes be difficult or fraught for students and teachers alike. They will focus on ways to overcome the fear of talking about race, provide ideas for constructing courses that reflect the centrality and importance of race, and present examples of premodern critical race pedagogy.
About the Speakers
Dr. Ambereen Dadabhoy is an Assistant Professor of Literature at Harvey Mudd College. Her research focuses on cross-cultural encounters in the early modern Mediterranean and race and religion in early modern English drama. She investigates the various discourses that construct and reinforce human difference and how they are mobilized in the global imperial projects that characterize much of the early modern period. Dadabhoy’s work also seeks to bridge the past to the present to illustrate how early modern racial and religious discourses and their prejudices manifest in our own contemporary moment. Dadabhoy has written several articles on teaching race, including “The Moor of America: Approaching the Crisis of Race and Religion in the Renaissance and the Twenty-First Century,” and the forthcoming articles “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being (in) Shakespeare,” in Postmedieval, and “Skin in the Game: Teaching Race in Early Modern Literature” in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching.
Dr. Nedda Mehdizadeh teaches in Writing Programs at UCLA. Her research and pedagogical interests center on early modern transnational encounter, particularly between Persia’s Safavid natives and their English visitors, as well as Shakespeare, Critical Race Studies, and Critical Diversity Studies. Her composition courses focus on critical diversity and critical race instruction, and she trains graduate student teachers in anti-racist and inclusive classroom design and practice in her graduate seminar, “Diversity and Student-Centered Pedagogy,” for the program’s Certificate in Writing Pedagogy. She likewise designs and facilitates anti-racist and inclusive pedagogy workshops for UCLA Writing Programs’ faculty and graduate students, more broadly. She has won fellowships through UCLA’s Mellon-funded EPIC program which gives educators the opportunity to develop inclusive curriculum. Her most recent article, “Othello in Harlem: Transforming Theater in Djanet Sears’s Harlem Duet,” was inspired by conversations she had with her students during her undergraduate course, “Global Othellos.”
The presenters for “Critical Race Conversations: Cultivating an Anti-Racist Pedagogy” recommend reading these three pieces in advance:
Blake, Felice. “Why Black Lives Matter in the Humanities” in Seeing Race Again: Countering Colorblindness across the Disciplines, edited by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Luke Charles Harris, Daniel Martinez HoSang, and George Lipsitz, Oakland: University of California Press, 2019.
Hall, Kim F. “Introduction” in Things of Darkness : Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995.
hooks, bell. “Embracing Change: Teaching in a Multicultural World,” in Teaching to Transgress: Education As the Practice of Freedom, New York: Routledge, 1994.