Decolonising curriculum practice: developing the indigenous cultural capability of university graduates

Neil Harrison*, Ivan Clarke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


The pedagogical urge to decolonise student thinking has been at the heart of the drive to embed Indigenous knowledge in universities throughout the western world. Despite ongoing efforts in the Pacific, North America and South Africa, there is little in the way of explicit curriculum scholarship informing approaches to the inclusion of Indigenous knowledges in higher education. Some universities are currently developing policy directed at embedding an Indigenous cultural capability in curriculum. The capability is commonly conceptualised in terms of three main pedagogical approaches: teaching knowledge about Indigenous people, promoting empathy with others and decolonising one’s own knowledge and values through reflexivity. The paper highlights how higher education curriculum as representational practice remains largely unproblematised in the application of these three approaches. Two key contributions are presented. The first proposes an understanding of reflexivity as an unconscious enactment of a common world. The second lies in the proposition that narrative is more than a practice of knowing about others, it is a means of bringing people together through the creation of an interdependent life. We draw specifically on Butler’s understanding of the performativity of face-to-face narrative as a means of understanding how narrative can be leveraged in university curriculum to support a vision of enhanced social cohesion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-197
Number of pages15
JournalHigher Education
Issue number1
Early online date2 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • reflexivity
  • curriculum practice
  • narrative
  • cultural capability
  • indigenous
  • decolonisation


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