Gurminder K Bhambra
The Connected Sociologies Curriculum Project emerges from the urgent need to broaden our understandings of the past – to be inclusive of colonial and imperial histories – in order to better understand social and political issues in the present. Addressing the colonial histories of Britain as British history is an inclusive move that seeks to account for the shape of Britain today as a consequence of those histories.
By the early twentieth century, Britain, or, more properly, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, governed over a quarter of the Earth’s territory and over one-fifth of its population. Its subjects – those who would later be called citizens – were all the people of its multicultural Empire even if they did not have equal status. Yet, Britain’s extensive nature – including its internally differentiated relationships, for example, with Ireland – and the ongoing contemporary implications of this history, are missing in popular discourse and media commentary, particularly as Empire itself has receded.
So, what does this mean for Sociology?
Sociology’s orientation to the past tends to be based around an implicit consensus on the emergence of modernity as a consequence of developments in the West (Europe and North America). This, in turn, is based upon the privileging of Eurocentred histories and the elision of broader connected histories of empire and colonialism. In recent years, however, it has come to be accepted that the historical record is different to that found within standard sociological understandings.
While accounts of political modernity, for example, tend to focus on the US and French revolutions, it is becoming harder to ignore the significance of the Haitian Revolution. As a consequence, it is also more difficult not to re-evaluate our understandings of the US and French revolutions, and the very configurations of political modernity, in the light of the Haitian revolution. Indeed, our launch event on October 14 will address precisely these issues.
More generally, Sociology has begun to redress its previous neglect of those represented as ‘other’ by examining accounts of events, processes, and thinkers beyond standard presentations. Further work is needed to investigate how taking these issues into account would transform our disciplinary understandings. In addition to the significant work of recovery, what is needed is also to learn from what had previously been missing or erased.
This is the task that the Connected Sociologies Curriculum Project has set itself – to provide resources for the rethinking of sociological concepts, categories, and topics that will enable us to make better sense of the worlds we inhabit. It supplements and extends existing initiatives – such as the Runnymede Trust’s Our Migration Story and the Institute for Historical Research’s Teaching British Histories of Race, Migration, and Empire. As such, it supports the transformation of school, college, and university curricula through a critical engagement with the broader colonial and imperial histories that have shaped modern societies. It is an open access resource freely available for students and teachers alike.
Currently, we have 3 modules in active development – The Making of the Modern World; British Citizenship, Race, and Rights; Colonial Political Economy – and 2 further proposals under consideration – Policing; and Migration. We will be developing the content of the Project over the next academic year together with our Advisory Board and in consultation with the wider sociological community. The Connected Sociologies Curriculum Project is curated by Professor Gurminder K Bhambra and is funded by the Sociological Review Foundation. Amit Singh is the Project Manager and Design and Development is the responsibility of Ishan Khurana and Lukas Kikuchi. The website will go live on Wednesday 14 October. To find out more and to stay in touch, follow us on social media – Twitter and Instagram – and sign up to our mailing list here.
Gurminder Bhambra is Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies at the University of Sussex. She works in the areas of historical sociology and contemporary social theory and has spoken on her research around the world.
Image source: creative commons licensed (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Munnar Tea Plantation by jonbrew on flickr.