Critical Race Theory and Higher Education Research: In the Shadow of Bricolage

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Critical Race Theory (CRT) seems to face a never-ending baptism by fire. When the Trump administration sought to ban CRT from American federal training courses in 2020, this may have come as a shock to few. Perhaps of greater surprise was that mutual sentiments resonated with the UK Minister for Equalities Kemi Badenoch, a black female, who appears to oppose the teaching of CRT in principle (Thrilling, 2020). The resurgence of such denunciations is problematic in a Western world which is primed for social activism, particularly for scholars in higher education institutions (HEIs), where CRT has been gaining traction as a guiding framework for research into antiracism, fairness, and affirmative action. This chapter suggests that the condemnation of CRT is neither unexpected, nor is it altogether absurd. Nevertheless, it aims to provide a balanced metatheoretical ‘criticism’ of CRT and offer a view on the suitability of, and prospects for, its activist research agenda in HEIs. Quite often, criticisms of CRT (see Gillborn, 2006; Warmington, 2019) reflect issues with its origin as a troubled bricolage of conveniently assembled ‘tenets’, which do not lend themselves easily to the burden of evidentiary production required in higher education research and practice. In this review, I analyse CRT, through its bricolage-style characteristics, as primarily an explanatory theory (Abend, 2008), with respect to its application against racialised issues in higher education policy. It is hoped this chapter offers academic and activist researchers a way past the shadow of CRT’s bricolage, by defusing some of the misgivings towards its inherent limitations.

© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited. This is an author produced version of a chapter published in Theory and Method in Higher Education Research uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTheory and Method in Higher Education Research
EditorsJeroen Huisman, Malcolm Tight
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-80262-441-0
ISBN (Print)978-1-80262-442-7
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2021

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