Unsettling information literacy: Exploring critical approaches with academic researchers for decolonising the university

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Frances Marsh


In the past seven years, student-led decolonisation movements have taken root in UK universities. Decolonising the university is an intellectual project, asking critical questions about the content of curricula, disciplinary canons and pedagogical approaches. It is simultaneously a material one, challenging the colonial legacies that manifest in institutional spaces, cultures and financial decisions, students’ experience and staff labour conditions (Cotton, 2018, p. 24). Academic libraries have recognised their role in addressing how ‘coloniality survives colonialism’ (Maldonado-Torres, 2007, p. 243), in particular through the diversification of collections and resources. However, libraries have neglected to interrogate their educational potential for decolonisation, specifically in exercising information literacy (IL) teaching and approaches.

This qualitative research examines IL through a decolonial lens with an eye to both its colonial attributes and its potential for decolonising the curriculum. Interviews with five academic researchers are used to explore the potential for critical information literacy (CIL) in decolonial work and ask what IL might look like from a decolonial perspective. The findings of the interviews are structured according to Icaza and Vázquez’s framework of three core processes for decolonising the university; they reveal that CIL might usefully facilitate positionality, practice relationality and consider transitionality. In turn, these findings lead to a set of recommendations for unsettling IL and generating the potential for decolonisation. The relationship between CIL and decolonising the curriculum is as yet unexplored and academics’ engagement with and opinions on CIL have rarely been examined. This research therefore offers some novel contributions for IL practitioners and researchers in relation to both teaching/ learning and research. It also contributes some points of departure for a more a powerful and holistic decolonial pedagogy in the university. A more fitting approach than traditional IL, critical information literacy can become a key part of scaffolding a decolonising approach to learners’ navigation of information and processes of knowing.

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MARSH, Frances. Unsettling information literacy: Exploring critical approaches with academic researchers for decolonising the university. Journal of Information Literacy, [S.l.], v. 16, n. 1, p. 4-29, june 2022. ISSN 1750-5968. Available at: <https://ojs.lboro.ac.uk/JIL/article/view/PRA-V16-I1-1>. Date accessed: 27 sep. 2022. doi: https://doi.org/10.11645/16.1.3136.
Research articles (peer-reviewed articles)