Absence, distortion and disconnection with Professor Richard Harris (CRRE Seminar)

Wednesday 16 March 2022 (12:30-13:30)

Professor Dina Kiwan, d.j.kiwan@bham.ac.uk

Absence, distortion and disconnection: the challenge of history teaching, identity and ethnicity

Professor Richard Harris, University of Reading

This talk is based on a study involving 20 young adults, aged between 18-23. The majority of the participants identified as having a Black or Asian heritage and described themselves as having a hyphenated identity. The study focuses on the participants’ experiences of learning history in school and outside (either through family or participants’ own research), and how this has affected their sense of self.

There have been previous small-scale studies on secondary aged Black, Asian and other minority ethnic students and their engagement with school history, but this study is unusual in looking at young adults, who have finished their compulsory schooling and the extent to which history continues to affect their understanding of their identity. There is a particular focus on participants’ knowledge of the British Empire and the impact of this. The findings focus on four main issues: what the participants see as the value of history; what narrative templates these young adults experienced; how this affects their sense of connection to Britain; and how this in turn shapes their sense of identity. 


Richard Harris is a Professor of Education at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education. They have worked extensively in the field of history education, as a teacher, then teacher trainer, and has worked as a consultant for the Council of Europe, and various government agencies. Their research interests have largely centred on different aspects of history education. In particular, the nature of the history curriculum (in terms of its purpose and content), the relationship between the history curriculum and diversity, how young people, especially those from minority ethnic backgrounds engage with the history curriculum, and the decisions history teachers make about what the curriculum should cover. More recently their research has explored how secondary school students who identify as LGBTQ experience school, and the barriers to education these young people face.