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The graffiti that inspired Tim to make a change

Inclusive practice enhances my studies and my future!

What is the Inclusive Practice Partnerships Scheme?

The Inclusive Practice Partnerships (IPP) Scheme is a collaborative, student-staff partnership that is developing a more inclusive curriculum for the University of Brighton. The scheme focuses on the representation of racial, ethnic and cultural identities in module content and how it is delivered across the university. Recommendations are made to module leaders that will help in diversifying and decolonising the curriculum.

Why I wanted to be an Inclusive Practice Partner

Some years ago, I came across graffiti scrawled across a wall with the words, “Be the change you want to see in the world”, a paraphrased quote attributed to Gandhi that kept repeating itself in my mind (I’m autistic – trapped thoughts are a thing!) I have met many people who collect job titles without taking responsibility or meaningfully contributing to the role , something I didn’t want to be guilty of. I’m a mature student with a decent skillset so becoming an Inclusive Practice Partner was my chance to ‘be the change’. 

To this day many people still look back at the British Empire as a highpoint in history; an idea perpetuated by media cashing in on national pride and political groups pushing ideologies. In a chaotic world that often leaves us feeling helpless, I understand the allure of exceptionalism and the sense of control and confidence if offers. Exceptionalism is, however, built upon a tower of assumptions that will collapse under any scrutiny. Decolonisation is not about blowing it all down, but finding stronger truths that are inclusive and beneficial to us all. Decolonisation does not offer solutions – nobody knows what a decolonised world will look like. It is the first step towards a future where we can trust rather than fear each other. 

I am half Iranian, but white with an English accent. I don’t have to live with the daily existential crisis of being told or having it implied that I am somehow different. Conversely my mum remains foreign by skin tone, accent, understanding and behaviour formed from a different culture to ours. She hid her language and culture from me, and working on the decolonisation programme helped me understand how she had been shamed by others into doing so.

Diversifying my curriculum

Shah Abbas I and Vali Muhammad Khan from Chehel Sotoun palace, Isfahan.Artwork that Tim has been researching - Shah Abbas I and Vali Muhammad Khan. From Chehel Sotoun palace, Isfahan

As well as the IPP, I am also part of the International School of ReConstruction (SoRC), hosted by UoB and the legendary Duncan Baker-Brown, where I am practicing the principles of decolonisation by identifying 20 artworks that look at the idea of ‘home’. I decided to focus on Iranian artwork like the picture above.

Having presented my work to fellow SoRC students, one of them took notice and commented that she had only looked at European art, subsequently asking whether she could revisit her own selection and change her choices to look at her own culture’s artwork as well. I’ll admit to crying afterwards. The colonial mindset has done a number on us all. 

Continuing this important work

I will carry on the work of decolonisation for the rest of my life with pride. Having asked various questions inspired by the IPP work, I was invited to join the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) Taskforce at the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT), which validates my degree programme. I am now developing a new EDI officer role for CIAT’s regional committees. I finally get to be the change I want to see. 

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Tim Danson • 23rd September 2021

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