This page describes the principles that guide Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom as a whole and determine its processes as a digital project that collaborates with individuals and institutions around the world.
Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom is a digital humanities project that reimagines how to teach Victorian Studies through a positive, race-conscious lens. The project anchors itself on the idea that teaching must be taken seriously as a critical practice, as a site of disciplinary formation and transformation, and as an integral part of antiracist, anti-colonial, and decolonial organizing and activism.
Through its practices, the project works in solidarity with the critical interventions made by “Undisciplining Victorian Studies” (Chatterjee, Christoff, Wong 2020) and Christina Sharpe’s call for scholars to “become undisciplined” as a way to undo the racist epistemologies that scholars have inherited, unknowingly or not, from their predecessors (In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, 2016). The project also advocates for engaging scholarship from a wide array of fields, including Black, African, African American, Indigenous, Native American, Asian, Asian American, Latinx, Postcolonial, Decolonial, Feminist, Queer, Transgender, Disability, and Critical Ethnic Studies.
Such diverse intellectual commitments not only inform our content, but also, more importantly, shape how we relate to one another in our processes of classroom-based creation and collaboration. Our project, therefore, seeks to:
- Foster the application of innovative, interdisciplinary teaching approaches to Victorian-era literatures and cultural objects of all kinds;
- Introduce less-studied, global, Victorian-era writers, artists, and communities into the classroom;
- Elevate BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), contingent, and other vulnerably-positioned scholars and students, through creating professionalization, mentorship, knowledge transfer, and peer-reviewed publishing opportunities; and
- Build a community based on radical care, one that seeks to remove or otherwise address the structural impediments that such vulnerable scholars and students routinely confront.
Ultimately, the project works to ensure that awareness and informed reflection of race – as a defining facet of the field of Victorian Studies in the present and in the past – stays at the forefront of critical engagement in the classroom. In doing so, the project seeks to inspire new modes of teaching and to model alternative forms of scholarly engagement that disrupt white privilege, Anglocentric ways of knowing, and established lines of academic hierarchy in Victorian Studies.
Our Mission In Practice
Below is an elaboration of how we strive to enact our mission and put it into practice. The values articulated in the statement above undergird all our processes for curating our content, for working together, and for deciding how concepts and information will be presented. Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom is dedicated to researching and implementing practices that will best support our mission and the values of antiracism. We are always open to learning from feedback and bringing the site into better alignment with our values.
Centering Collaboration and Care
In every decision we make, we engage in a process of detailed and reflective conversation and make every effort to reach consensus, building a collaborative model of community based on care. As a form of knowledge building that seeks to destabilize central authority, collaboration has been the best approach for imagining antiracist possibilities for our field, particularly at a time when universities run on the labor of undervalued scholars and contingent faculty who are rendered disposable. By centering dialogue and coalition-building in our process, we are working to establish a broad community that celebrates different forms of interdisciplinary expertise and provides care and support for each person involved in the project.
We also understand that structural vulnerabilities are not distributed equally across all of our collaborators. This project seeks to work against the division of educators by institutions, disciplines, and ranks and to establish a scholarly collective that prioritizes experiential expertise and values the underrepresented perspectives of our field’s most neglected and overworked members: graduate student employees; part-time faculty; full-time, non-tenure-track faculty; and untenured faculty – all of whom can be rendered even more precarious by inequalities around race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, and citizenship status. We recognize that our efforts to live up to these principles will require ongoing work and reflection, as we work to undo long histories of inequality and oppression.
Open Peer Review
The peer review process has long played a pivotal role in scholarly publishing, since it provides mechanisms for verifying academic work, helps to improve the quality of published research, and increases networking possibilities within research communities.
At Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom, we have purposefully chosen a form of peer review that is collaborative and open by design. While we still value and rely on various forms of expertise, our process is expressly designed to break the problematic mold of blind peer review which, despite its seemingly neutral nature, often perpetuates structures of academic elitism, particularly when it gets weaponized via gatekeeping. In our open peer review process, we name everyone involved in order to give them credit for their labor and to offer them appropriate recognition. More importantly, everybody understands that the review process is in place to help collectively engage in the process of improving and strengthening our work, for the good of our entire community.
In this regard, our form of open peer review is part of the critical intervention of the project, and we take it as seriously and see it as legitimate as any other professional aspect of the project.
Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom makes every effort to use terms and typographic practices that align with the principles of antiracism. We also understand that these practices are under active debate and undergo shifts for important reasons. With that in mind, we are committed to following the guidance and expertise of BIPOC scholars and activists, as a form of citational and scholarly solidarity. We also recognize that when talking about nineteenth century contexts, terminologies can be complex and different from the ways that they are used in present discourses. We strive to always be sensitive to those histories, while also simultaneously understanding the urgency of responding to the circumstances of our present moment. As always, we are dedicated to learning, improving, and revising our practices as it becomes necessary.
Tile/Header Image Caption
Owen Jones. “Indian No. 6.” The Grammar of Ornament, Day and Son, Lithographers to the Queen, 1856, Plate LIV. Public domain. The founding developers of Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom have selected this image and the others that illustrate the pages of the About section because the images convey two dynamics. First, the images show the ways that the British in the Victorian period were engaged in the process of collecting and taxonomizing materials from other parts of the world. Second, the images themselves also illustrate how the graphic designs from these non-British and, often, non-Western cultures stand as striking aesthetic achievements in their own right.
Page Citation (MLA)
“Values and Practices.” Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom, 2021, https://undiscipliningvc.org/html/about/values_practices.html.