The EA and Anti-Racism

Our policy and practices. Updated 03/02/2021

The English Association and Anti-Racism

With thanks to the Fellows and members of the EA who have contributed to this document and to the anti-racism work of the EA.

Mission Statement

The EA has formed an Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG) to lead the development and implementation of concrete and tangible actions that will identify and challenge discriminatory practices and systemic disadvantages, within the EA’s structures and within the discipline at large, to the benefit of all within our community. We (the members of the ARWG) will hold ourselves accountable using the measures set out in this Plan, and we commit to being open and transparent about our failures as well as our successes.

The EA intends to acknowledge and address social inequalities of all kinds, particularly those that exclude or marginalise anyone because of race, gender, ability, age, and/or sexuality. While this particular Action Plan focuses on addressing racial inequality, we recognise that to achieve true diversity we need to work on all domains contributing to injustice. It is reasonable to hope that the scrutiny and reform of our practices and organisational infrastructure will improve equality, diversity, and inclusion for all our members, and particularly for those who have previously been excluded or marginalised.


The ARWG will:

  • Share our thinking and our work across the discipline to avoid duplication, to link up complementary work, and further amplify our voices as a collective;
  • Ensure transparency by sharing the minutes of meetings with the Primary, Secondary, and Higher Education Committees and the Board of Trustees, and providing a report to members on the ARWG’s activity in each EA Newsletter (published three times a year);
  • Take an inter-stage approach, working from early years and primary education up to tertiary/higher education;
  • Remain small in size in order to facilitate effective working, with regular ‘pulses’ of concentric rings of feedback and consultation that radiate out from the ARWG to the wider EA community, and beyond (e.g. sister associations such as the History and Geography Associations).

Diversity We commit to increasing the diversity of races and ethnicities represented in the EA’s governance and leadership, membership, publications, and events.

Equality We commit to actively challenging structural biases, discriminatory practices, and systemic disadvantages.

Inclusion We commit to making the EA an organisation that welcomes and celebrates differences and fosters a sense of belonging for all involved.

Our objectives

Ensuring anti-racist governance and leadership of the EA

We will increase the diversity of the EA’s structures and ensure that the EA explicitly welcomes Black and racialised peoples in all its work and projects.

a. Designate a trustee to lead on the EA’s work on anti-racism and equality/diversity/inclusion.

b. Actively build more diverse governance structures by increasing representation of Black and racialized minorities on the Board, sub-committees, and within the Fellowship.

c. Define more clearly what we mean by ‘English’, potentially with a new ‘tagline’ for the EA.

d. Review the EA’s existing Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion policy.

e. Coordinate our actions with that of parallel bodies such as the IES, UE, the UKLA, and NATE through regular and frequent information-sharing.

Identifying and removing barriers to participation in EA publications and events

We will carry out a review of the practices that underpin our suite of publications and events, ensuring that there are no systemic or structural barriers to participation.

a. Provide clear guidelines to all editors of EA publications to ensure that all aspects of the publication process (commissioning, recruitment of contributors and editors, article submission, review, editing, etc.) are transparent, adhere to clear professional standards, and allow Black and racialized peoples to work on equal terms to authors without any protected characteristics. These will be based on the excellent recommendations of RaceB4Race.

b. Introduce a Publications Committee to urgently review, support, and professionalise all EA publications with the RaceB4Race guidelines in mind.

c. Provide clear guidelines for anyone organising an event on behalf of or affiliated with the EA to ensure that our events are relevant to, accessible by, and representative of Black and racialised peoples.

Share good practice with the EA’s stakeholders and networks

We will create opportunities for colleagues in early years/primary, secondary, and higher education to share good practice, facilitating an inter-stage approach to confronting racism in classrooms, schools, and universities.

a. Develop an Action On event that brings together colleagues to explore how to confront racism through children’s literature.

b. Develop an Action On event which will offer concrete, hands-on support, advice and good practice for colleagues seeking to advance anti-racist initiatives in HE institutions. This will include discipline-specific challenges such as the problematic relationship between literature and cultural capital; freedom of speech vs. censorship; and difficulties in distinguishing (or not) between authors and their works.

c. Create an edition of Issues in English to share our work with the wider subject community.

d. As ambassadors for the EA and for the discipline, the EA Fellows will be central to the success of this work. We will:

i. Carry out a review of the structures that underpin the nomination and governance of the Fellows, seeking to replace the structures that only reward those most likely to benefit from the privileges of age, race, class, etc. with structures that seek to recognise those who are most likely to face the greatest barriers.

ii. Develop ways to mobilise the Fellowship to support and sustain the EA’s work on anti-racism.

iii. Work to increase the diversity of the Fellowship as well as fostering a greater sense of community and belonging within the Fellowship.

Create relevant, accessible, and representative resources

We will ensure that all the resources the EA offers to its members and the wider subject community are relevant to, accessible by, and representative of Black and racialised peoples.

a. Review the new EA website to ensure that the EA’s commitment to anti-racism is clearly  and visibly articulated.

b. Develop a critical framework around English language texts to support teachers, critics, reviewers, broadcasters, etc., to contextualise writings by those from Black and racialised minorities.

c. Work with the Education Committees to curate a collection of resources on anti-racist classroom practices and recommended diverse non-fiction and fiction texts for the classroom (“classics” and more recent works), to be continually added to and developed over time.

d. Recommend to the PEC and the English 4-11 Editorial Board that we create a specific prize for children’s picture books written by/featuring/illustrated by Black and other racialised minorities.

Broaden the EA’s engagement with schools

a. Develop ways of working with university schools of education to broaden involvement in the EA beyond independent/fee-charging schools and academies.

b. Develop relationships with schools that are based on reciprocity and recompense for the time and emotional investment of Black and racialised colleagues.

c. Ensure that meetings and events are accessible to teachers who can’t rely on being released from school (e.g. virtual meetings, twilight meetings).

Membership and governance of the ARWG

The ARWG will have a rotating Chair to ensure that we maintain momentum without overloading any specific individual. Small clusters (“task forces”) within the ARWG will focus on the different streams of the Plan (governance and leadership, publications and events, stakeholders and networks, resources and support, and working with schools).

David Duff teaches at QMUL and is a Trustee of the EA. He is Deputy Chair of the EA, and Chair of the Common English Forum.

Becky Fisher is the Chief Executive Officer of the English Association.

Martin Halliwell is the President of the EA, and Chair of the Fellowship Committee. He is a Professor of American Studies and Head of the School of Arts at the University of Leicester.

Nicole King is a Trustee of the EA, and a member of HEC; she teaches African American literature and culture at Goldsmiths University of London.

Anshuman Mondal is a Professor of Modern Literature at the University of East Anglia. He is also the Chair of the Postcolonial Studies Association, and a member of the HEC.

Mathelinda Nabugodi is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the University of Cambridge. She also sits on the Advisory Council of the Institute of English Studies.

Rob Penman is the Chair of the Board of Trustees, and a member of the Secondary Education Committee.

Jenny Richards is the Joseph Cowen Professor of English Literature and Director of Newcastle University Humanities Research Institute (NUHRI) at Newcastle University. Jenny is also the Chair of the HEC.

Elaine Treharne is the Roberta Bowman Denning Professor of Humanities and Professor of English at Stanford University, California.

We are so sad to hear of the death of Eli Power, who represented the Primary Education Committee on the Working Group. Her contributions were invaluable, and we will continue to build on the ideas she suggested. We will appoint a new representative from the PEC to the Working Group in the coming weeks. 

What we talk about when we talk about ‘English’

The English Association is dedicated to ‘English’ as an international language and a wide diversity of literatures, and as a basis for global cultural co-operation and the pursuit of peace. It has no affiliations with English national identity or with theories of English cultural or political exceptionalism. We want to state unambiguously that languages, literatures, cultures are bred out of migrations, interchanges, translations, and border crossings, and that their continuing health and vitality depends on welcoming and celebrating that ongoing process. In doing so, we emphasise that what is studied under the heading ‘English’ arises from a diversity of languages, dialects, and cultures.

The history of the English Association

Created in 1906, the English Association founders included school teachers, educationalists and academics such as A.C. Bradley. Its aims were “to promote the due recognition of English as an essential element in the national education and to help in maintaining the effectiveness of the language in both its spoken and its written use”. Forever protean, the Association has survived the ravages of two world wars, and traumatic transformations in English studies and in the educational universe.

Though the initial impetus of the EA was national – the aim being to raise standards of English teaching in English schools – the Association quickly developed an international reach, with many overseas branches, mostly in countries that were or had been British colonies. An indicative statement is the Presidential Address by Lord Ernle in 1921, which described how we should “send out” to the world “the great models of English literature” as a representation of “our national characteristics” and “our finest thoughts and ideals”, concluding: “It is for that missionary work and enterprise, ladies and gentlemen, that the English Association exists” ( Baker and Treharne, p.121).

We regard this colonial approach as antithetical to our values; the formation of this Working Group signals a break with this element of our history. We are taking a good hard look at ourselves and making changes to ensure the EA will serve in a way that will be right - properly representative, inclusive - for the discipline of English Studies and its fields.

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