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  • Effective Pedagogy of Diversity and Inclusivity at Sheffield
  • Minna Shkul (bio)

assessment, LGBT* studies, pedagogy, religion and social identity

This contribution discusses the representation of minority voices in the University of Sheffield, focusing on learning and teaching with Katie Edwards and myself.1 I propose that inclusive pedagogy is important for fostering twenty-first-century higher education that reflects and facilitates the study of humanity, culture, and society, in a post-heteronormative climate. I will discuss examples that illustrate a twofold pedagogical principle that evolved from our Hidden Perspectives collaboration.2 First, I provide examples from our Religion, Theology, and the Bible (RTB) program to argue that diversity and inclusivity should be embedded in any degree program to educate all students.3 Second, I discuss an LGBT* studies module I developed to argue that it is equally important to provide dedicated options in terms of module choice and a specialist focus on gender and sexual minorities. This has three strategic benefits: a) it provides skills to "read the world" in new ways; b) it focuses on skills rather than just content, which makes it useful for other modules; and c) it enables a questioning of traditional hegemonies of curriculum. [End Page 131]

First, from within our "hidden perspectives" orientation it is important to embed diversity throughout the curriculum, ensuring that our teaching not only engages privileged groups but also critically reflects the diversity of our society in terms of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, disability, age, and religion. Gender and sexuality are key elements of the Sheffield curriculum, in dedicated modules like Gender, Bible, and Religion (level 2), or embedded in mainstream modules. First, Edwards foregrounds gender in her modules blending critical theory, biblical studies, and cultural studies, in modules like Bible and Popular Culture (level 1) and Bible and Visual Culture (level 3). Edwards has also developed a module called Gender, Religion, and the Bible, which examines biblical narratives on sex, gender, pornography, incest, and sexual violence from different critical perspectives. Students write two essays relating various themes—such as feminist, gender critical, or queer biblical studies—to the syllabus. In 2018, Edwards and Meredith Warren will co-launch a so-called Texts of Terror module, which brings together Project Shiloh (an international research collaboration on rape culture, religion, and the Bible) and research on embodied religion, focusing on problematic texts depicting sexual violence in the Bible and English literature.4

However, there are always students who will not choose cultural or gender studies modules. If gender and sexual diversity—or other critical perspectives that challenge the norm—are only taught in clearly labeled modules, then students can choose "traditional" approaches and avoid topics they may find "liberal" or "marginal" to their degree. This is why it is important that we embed gender and sexuality, queer theory, and gay and lesbian readings of biblical texts into mainstream modules. For example, my Sociology and Anthropology of Religion module includes a session on how tourism sustains identities, contrasting Southeast Asian holy sites with pilgrimage to Mecca, and Cymene Howe's "Queer Pilgrimage."5 Similarly, we examine Brazilian carnival engaging with ritual studies, ethnicity, postcolonialism, and contemporary Marxism. In our sociological case studies, we consider a range of empirical research, including religious experience, masculinity in faith communities, and Andrew Yip's studies among nonheterosexual Christians and Muslims.6 Furthermore, when [End Page 132] discussing methods, we incorporate Yip's reflection of his work and compare this to Susannah Cornwall's account of doing empirical research among homeless and intersex people.7 In other words, a standard sociology of religion module engages critically with ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and postcolonialism to diversify learning.

However, other modules almost require inclusive pedagogical practice to be true to their content, like Bible and Literary Criticism, which I teach. This module focuses on intersectionality and theory, engaging with feminism, postcolonial gender studies, and queer theory, with other critical approaches, such as Marxism and ecocriticism.8 Sometimes, the student cohort has responded better than I anticipated to syllabus items aimed at LGBT* representation. For example, a third of the class recently chose "LGBT History Month" as their essay case study on social memory in a Bible and history...


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