Queering the Bartlett curriculum

Additional Team Members - Renee Etokakpan, Ram Shergill, Celine Lessard, Corin Menuge and Jordan Rowe

LGBTQ+ staff and students have come a long way towards equality, diversity, and inclusion in UK higher education. In particular, the queerness of staff and students is increasingly acknowledged and celebrated as a badge of diversity/progressiveness. But, institutional language surrounding it sometimes veiled in terms of inclusion and equality to existing norms, and often silences the voices expressing non-normative queer experiences in pedagogic approaches.This is particularly relevant in the built environment fields. These practices have the unintended consequence of diminishing queer voices in pedagogic approaches to teaching and learning in the exploration of our built environment subjects. But spatial processes can construct and impact gender and sexual identities. Involving and understanding diverse voices more meaningfully is crucial to improve human spaces for all.

The project Queering the Curriculum – a student-staff partnership undertaken by an interdisciplinary group of queer students and staff with diverse roles at The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment (and funded through UCL’s ChangeMakers fund) – aims to contribute to this imperative agenda by interrogating built environment education regarding how the field obscures and upholds hegemonic norms that shape marginalisations, and develop ways in which built environment curricula (at the Bartlett) can be reframed through a queer lens for the benefit of students and staff.

Queering has a focus on concerns of gender and sexuality, which also relate to the body, and self-expression but are distinctive and deserve particular attention. A ‘queer’ approach has been described as one that questions normativities, orthodoxies and the assumed stability of categories (Browne, 2006), and which examines how overlapping systems of dominance based on concepts like ‘heterosexuality’ or ‘race’ are co-constructed (Oswin, 2008). A queer curriculum, therefore, can further the agenda of developing built environment academics’, students’, and practitioners’ capacity to recognise and challenge the operations of normative structures – and ultimately address the socio-spatial inequalities that result. Drawing from a comprehensive literature review, this chapter proposes three themes for reframing pedagogical practices for queering built environment education: awareness, representation, and action.