International Relations (IR) has been slower than many other social science disciplines to look at its origins and the role it continues to play in reinforcing colonial and extractive research and educational practices. This work is long overdue and ‘Whitewashed’ aims to contribute to the wider movement taking place in universities across the globe to ensure that academia recognises its colonial history and the need to create an educational system that is truly reflective of the realities of the international system instead of seeing the international system largely through a Western-centric lens.

Our Project

In line with TGP’s broader commitment to reflexivity and ensuring that research is held to account, our team is carrying out a comprehensive review of reading lists for IR courses at our own university. Despite being notoriously slow to change, reading lists serve as a snapshot of the discipline, revealing a great deal about hierarchies of knowledge by signposting which ideas and perspectives are privileged in the classroom and which are consistently side-lined or erased altogether.

Our Approach

We are working with student organisations at St Andrews to organise student-driven focus groups that invite participants to reflect on their experiences in the classroom and to play an active role in their education. We ask participants to consider the limitations of the ‘traditional’ (i.e. nearly all-white, all-male and hetero/cisnormative) IR canon and to brainstorm ideas to diversify the curriculum, foreground critical approaches to IR, and improve the learning experience. We are also conducting interviews with faculty and university administrators to better understand how staff are responding to increased pressure from students to engage in meaningful conversations about the need to ‘decolonise education.’

If you are a student (UG or PG) at St Andrews and want to take part in our focus groups please email Ali Watson at amsw@st-andrews.ac.uk. For our initial phase of research we are particularly interested in talking to students who have taken IR courses. If you are a faculty member or university administrator who would like to be interviewed please contact Ali Watson at amsw@st-andrews.ac.uk.

For more info about the project and links to reading recommendations please click the icon below (PDF).

Our Aim

Our goal is to work with our student collaborators to organize a symposium in the Candlemas Semester (second semester) of 2021 in which we hope to present our findings to staff and students across the university and ignite timely and important conversations about institutional racism and the Eurocentric curriculum in higher education.

Project Team

Ali Watson 
Managing Director

Meghan Laws
Research Director

Juanita Barreto Monje
Emerging Researcher 2019


This project is funded by The Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Fund at the University of St Andrews. The project began in September 2019.