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Democratising the Curriculum


Taking inspiration from Durham University’s initiatives around decolonising the curriculum, in Archaeology some of our staff and students are involved in a project evaluating and exploring the diverse nature of our subject and opening up archaeology as a discipline to make it more inclusive and accessible to all and to realise a more global archaeology that is oriented towards social change.

Why democratising the curriculum?

This work takes inspiration from the decolonisation (or decolonialisation) movement. Common consensus uses this term to refer to the undoing of colonialism, but we seek a broader and more ambitious programme of change. Definitions  refer to 'decolonisation' as a powerful metaphor for a critical approach that examines the reproduction of dominant power, social structures and cultural epistemes, which have historically privileged certain groups while exploiting, dehumanising, marginalising, and ultimately erasing other groups. We recognise that to achieve our ambitious aims for an inclusive and global archaeology we need to democratise our subject even more broadly. Our project thus aims to create a space in which all marginalised groups and individuals can begin to have a voice on how we research and teach the human past. It embraces activism and thinking on decolonising, and recognises that a broader portfolio of engagement and change is needed if we are to create a truly inclusive world archaeology.

Under these circumstances, we are not only discussing colonialism and its legacies academically, but exploring broader inequities and imbalances in our discipline and addressing these in our own teaching, research, and employment practices to eradicate the perpetuation, however inadvertently, of social inequalities and injustices.


Our Mission Statement

Our programme of work was initiated in 2019 by a group of staff and students who are taking forward a dialogue interrogating our curriculum, research, practices and culture and exploring to what extent they continue to perpetuate exclusions of aspects of the past and people, and/or negative stereotypes, as well as museums and heritage sector practices. This is a voluntary initiative and includes those committed to exploring decolonialising methodologies, but we recognise a need for an even broader and more inclusive approach.

Our group is voluntary only and is comprised of members of the student body, from undergraduates to research post-graduates, staff, and alumni, of diverse countries of origin, class, ethnic identities, ages, religions, abilities, genders and sexualities and is committed to the following activities and works within the framework and management of our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Education Committee and Board of Studies.

Our Aims

  • To enhance visibility and awareness of the issue through organised action such as, for example, sharing information, hosting workshops or other activities;
  • To share information on approaches and best practice in other relevant organizations;
  • To provide spaces for meaningful discussion of pertinent issues and critical questions through meetings, workshops and social media;
  • To collaboratively evaluate and areas of work in the department and in the curriculum (module content and coverage, modes of delivery and assessment) for exclusionary practices and create greater inclusivity in research culture and practices (seminars, collaborations, agendas) and in recruitment (student and staff);
  • To promote epistemic diversity by stimulating the critical engagement of the Department’s academic community with alternative modes of knowledge production;
  • To build on the advice of our International Advisory Board on diversifying and internationalising our curriculum;
  • To form liaisons across and beyond academia to explore and share good practice in comparable decolonising and democratising initiatives, prioritizing Durham University and communities in the Northeast;
  • To encourage the development of ethical standards in the ways in which Department members engage and collaborate with communities and stakeholders.


We are currently focused on supporting the University-led internship programme and piloting our first project centred on discussions of how to develop a new inclusive narrative for the module Archaeology in Britain. Changes are considered holistically and within the broader context of our curriculum as a whole.

All contributions, suggestions and ideas for this project will be collected anonymously. We will collate and review all information we receive, and create a short public report outlining our response, highlighting the resources and projects we will be integrating into our teaching. Once this is completed, we will share the final report on our website.