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Decolonise, democratise and diversify reading lists: Seeking diverse voices

Once you have assessed your reading list, you may need to find different sources to diversify, decolonise, and democratise the new version.

The list should reflect what is being taught, and your teaching should fully utilise the new sources. This may mean revising other teaching materials and activities to avoid tokenism. That is, adding diverse voices to a reading list is not a tick box activity; it is a fundamental part of developing an inclusive curriculum.

Academic publishing

 books and journals

In the section What do we mean by 'decolonising' the curricula?, we noted that "decolonising the curriculum is the process of recognising, challenging and dismantling the white-western male-elite domination of knowledge taught in the academy. This process leaves open the potential to re construct knowledge in partnership with diverse cultures and create inclusive ways of knowing and teaching."

An integral part of this is to reconsider the role of traditional academic publishing, and explore other sources of knowledge. This aligns to the final question in Assess your reading list: 'What kinds of sources do we perceive to be of most academic value and why?'

A handful of mega-publishing houses, all based in the Global North, dominate academic publishing. They continue to privilege white-western viewpoints and experiences. The metrics by which academic outputs are measured and assigned 'value' reinforce this privilege and bias.

Three useful introductions to these issues are:

Books and articles continue to be valuable sources of information, but they should be considered as just one facet of knowledge creation and exchange. A reading list that supports the 3Ds will look beyond these sources.

Academic practices

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The range of sources that can be included in reading lists requires a reconsideration of the academic practices that support the accurate and ethical use of those information sources.

Will your students need to develop new skills and practices? If so, how will they do this, and how will you support them? How will they know what progress they are making?

You may find it useful to refer to the elements of knowledge management and the source reliability section of the Finding books and journals SkillsGuide.

When you are selecting books, chapters, articles and reports, consider whether the citations are obscuring the identity of the author(s). See the section on Citation justice for more information.

Citation justice

scales of justice iconCitations are an essential part of academic practice and a key element of knowledge management but they hide an individual's identity and characteristics.

This makes it difficult to know whether the sources you are selecting to support your learning, teaching and research are contributing to the decolonisation, democratisation, and diversification of knowledge creation and transfer. Or whether those sources are perpetuating inequality and injustice.

The following works explore the idea of citation justice and how this can be achieved.

In March 2022, Nature published a news item about the emerging movement aiming to push researchers to pay more heed to inequities in scholarly citations. See The rise of citational justice: how scholars are making references fairer [University of Hull login required].

Related works include an LSE blog that notes the increasing evidence that women, people of colour, and other minoritised groups are systematically under cited in academic work. It suggests how academics and students can contribute to redressing this. See Aspirational metrics – A guide for working towards citational justice

That blog links to the UM Citation Guide , created by the blog's authors. The guide encourages everyone in academia to question why certain authors are “leaders in the field” and why they are the ones most quoted and referenced. Whether you are studying, researching, or teaching, the authors ask that you think about how you can increase the visibility of work by women and other people who have historically been marginalised in the production of knowledge.


Beware of the Internet

warning sign and internetThe internet can be a rich source of information, and it is one way to find voices and knowledge that are minoritised and marginalised by traditional publishing.

However, like many aspects of society, the internet is biased and unequal. In addition, search engines work in different, and not always obvious or transparent ways.

A useful introduction to the challenges of searching for information on the internet is Safiya Umoja Noble's Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. [University of Hull login required.]

In Digital Closet: How the Internet Became Straight Alexander Monea explores how heteronormative bias is deeply embedded in the internet, hidden in algorithms, keywords, content moderation, and argues that the internet became straight by suppressing everything that is not. [Edited extract from the DOAB description].

Race after technology by Ruha Benjamin investigates how emerging technologies, from everyday apps to complex algorithms, can reinforce White supremacy and deepen social inequity. [Edited extract from the book description].


Seeking marginalised and excluded voices and knowledge.



If you are not sure where to start looking, try Search for things, the Library's thematic A-Z.

The suggestions below include sources and support provided by the Library, crowd-sourced resources, open access content, and newer ways of sharing information.

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An aim of the University of Hull Education Strategy, 2020-2025 is to build strong educational communities of learning. A stated way of doing this is through co-creating the curriculum with students and partners - which extends to reading lists and the sources included in them.

Catherine Bovill (2020) states that “students and staff can critique knowledge together using shared expertise and perspectives. This co-creation approach recognises that knowledge is contingent and messy, and it accepts that students can play a role in knowledge co-creation. Students are making sense of what they are learning collaboratively with their teacher and peers.”

Consider how you can involve your students in co-creating a dynamic reading list that changes to include the diverse and democratic knowledge and voices that they find. How will you incorporate those sources into your teaching, and use them to help students develop effective knowledge management practices?

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Open access (OA) and OER

The Library's Open Collections page gives information about open-access articles, books, and other 'open' collections available via Library Search.

Search includes a number of OA sources, e.g. Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Open Library of the Humanities (OLH), and Open Book Publishers (OBP).

You can include more OA sources by selecting the 'Add results beyond Hull library's collection' box at the top left of the Search screen. This may greatly increase the number of results, and you may need to refine your search terms and/or use the other filters.

OER are not included in Library Search. Two places to search are:

  • EBSCO's Faculty Select. Provided by the Library, the licence limits usage to members of staff .
  • Explore individual OER sites, several of which are listed in the Open Education Resources (OERs) for teaching section of the Library's Copyright guide.

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Databases covering research outputs from the Global South

A crowd-sourced list of databases, curated by the University of Leeds.

The list is divided into sections starting with multi-disciplinary databases, and then by subject area.

If you'd like to suggest additions to this list, please contact the Library via the Support Portal.

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Finding the histories of women, people from ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ+ people can be difficult.

The Diversity in Archives SkillsGuide, created by Hull University Archives, provides advice on searching for records of diverse voices held at Hull History Centre. The principles can be applied to all archives and special collections.

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TV, film, and radio

The Library provides access to TV, film, and radio services. They can be found individually via the Databases A-Z or the dedicated Films, TV, and radio search option on the Library Search homepage and include:

Kanopy is a streaming service for films and documentaries.

Box of Broadcasts, or BoB, is an online TV and radio recording service allows you to choose and record broadcast programmes from over 75 free-to-air channels. It is part of Learning on Screen, alongside TRILT (Television and Radio Index for Learning and Teaching) which has listings for more than 560 TV and radio channels with data from 1923 onwards.

Gale Research Complete includes National Public Radio (USA) programs, links to videos from and other news media, including regular updates to 2,300 global newspapers, radio and TV broadcasts and transcripts.

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The Library provides access to TV, film, and radio services. They can be found individually via the Databases A-Z or the dedicated News and news archive search on the Search for things A-Z listing.

Current newspapers can be found in Lexis+ (on the Lexis+ homepage, go to Newspapers, not News), and in Gale Research Complete, OneFile News.

The Library's newspaper archives include The Guardian and Observer 1791-2003; The Times Digital Archive 1785-2019; The Daily Mail Historical Archive 1896-2016; and The British Newspaper Archives parts 1-3.

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Blogs and podcasts

Blogs, podcasts, and other social media are used by researchers to disseminate their findings, and build networks.

They can be particularly important for researchers in the Global South with limited access to traditional academic publishing routes.

For these reasons, these media are useful when seeking under-represented people, and non-Western ways of creating knowledge.

For more about using social media in study and research, see the Digital Student SkillsGuide which has links to information about the Digital Teacher and Digital Researcher courses.

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TED talks, YouTube, etc.

As with social media, both Ted talks and YouTube can provide access to minoritised and marginalised people and their experiences.

Grey literature

According to the Oxford English Dictionary grey literature is "documentary material which is not commercially published or publicly available, such as technical reports or internal business documents." This includes technical and government reports, statistics, and social media outputs.

For an overview of grey literature and how to search for it, see the What is grey literature? guide by the University of Leeds Library.

See the Library's grey literature page to access three databases: Overton; Policy Commons - Global Think Tanks; and


Themed databases

The Library provides access to a number of themed databases, including:

LGBT Magazine Archive is a static collection covering the archives of 26 leading LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) magazines including the complete backfile of The Advocate, the oldest surviving continuously published US title of its type. LGBT Magazine Archive also includes the principal UK titles, notably Gay News and its successor publication Gay Times.

LGBTQ+ Source provides scholarly and popular LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning) publications in full-text, including journals, magazines, regional newspapers, and eBooks. Titles include: The Advocate; Gay Parent Magazine; Girlfriends; GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian & Gay Studies; Classics in Lesbian Studies; Gay Science: The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research; Handbook of Research with Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Populations; Queer Theory & Social Change, and more.

Black Freedom Struggles in the United States is a selection of primary sources related to critical people and events in African American History aimed at imbuing the study of Black history with a deeper understanding of the humanity of people who have pursued the quest for freedom, and the significance of movements like Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter, Exact Editions is a freely available Black Lives Matter learning resource, featuring a rich collection of handpicked articles from the digital archives of over 50 different publications covering arts, business, culture, history, politics and current affairs.

Black Lives Matter, Springer Collection is a collection of books, journal articles and magazine content from Springer that amplifies Black voices and the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. Springer’s aim is to amplify Black voices within their collection by sharing their research, personal stories and journey.


References and acknowledgements

The University Library would like to acknowledge the work of Kaye Towlson at De Montfort University in inspiring the creation of this guide. Thanks also to all of the people who contribute to the creation and curation of the crowd-sourced list of databases covering research outputs from the Global South.

Bovill, C. (2020) Co-creation in learning and teaching: the case for a whole-class approach in higher education. Higher education, 79 (6)

Crilly, J., Panesar, L. & Suka-Bill, Z. (2020) Co-constructing a Liberated / Decolonised Arts Curriculum.  Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 17(2).