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On the responsibility of crafting a syllabus

The choices we make on whom to include and whom to exclude as we choose the readings for a syllabus are important and can be a political act as well. One of empowerment or one of exclusion. I strongly believe that we have a responsibility when designing syllabi.

Dr. Elinor Ostrom was the global authority on commons governance and institutional theory. Eliminating Dr. Ostrom from a syllabus on institutional analysis, on commons theories, on governance theories, etc., is purposefully denying her place in the global landscape of scholarship.

This IS an omission.

(I have seen it done, and seeing it has made my blood boil, BTW).

As scholarship evolves, who is the canonical citation/authority does as well. And you can purposefully choose to highlight scholars who have not had as much “action” in the literature, or choose to obscure them. I also feel like crafting a syllabus is a responsibility. I have the duty to my students to provide them with the best available knowledge (to my understanding, and within my own limits, of course). And I have a duty to scholars to make their work shine, particularly those who haven’t had as much “play” in the global citation game.

Citation has its own politics, and as a result you get to decide who you highlight in syllabi and citations. I very strongly believe we have a responsibility to have diverse citation lists and syllabi.

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