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Reparative Universities

Why Diversity Alone Won't Solve Racism in Higher Ed

A timely investigation of why diversity alone is insufficient in higher education and how universities can use reparative actions to become anti-racist institutions.

As institutions increasingly reckon with histories entangled with slavery and Indigenous dispossession, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts occupy a central role in the strategy and resources of higher education. Yet reparation is rarely offered as a viable strategy for institutional transformation. In Reparative Universities, Ariana González Stokas undertakes a critical and decolonial analysis of DEI work, linking contemporary practices of diversity to longer colonial histories. González Stokas argues that diversity is an insufficient concept for efforts concerned with anti-oppression, anti-racism, equity, and decolonization. Given its historical ties to colonialism, can higher education foster reconciliation and healing?

Reparation is offered as a pathway toward untangling higher education from its colonial roots. González Stokas develops the term "epistemic reparation" to describe a mode of social-historical accountability that can already be seen at work in historical examples, as well as current events in the United States, South Africa, and Canada. Recent legal decisions by Georgetown University and the Princeton Theological seminary to enact economic recompense for buying and selling human beings are evidence of attempts to redress higher education's violent histories and the colonial structures they reproduce every day on college campuses.

Engaging with a broad range of theorists from decolonial philosophy to organizational psychology, González Stokas offers a pathway—guided by reparative activities—for institutional workers frustrated by what often feels, as Sara Ahmed describes, "banging one's head against a brick wall." Reparative Universities offers insight into why DEI efforts have been disconnected from past injustices and why unsettling diversity and engaging meaningful repair are critical for the future of higher education.

About the Author

Ariana González Stokas (TORONTO, ON) has spent the last two decades working in institutions as a faculty member and senior-level DEI administrator committed to co-inventing what is possible in learning environments.

Endorsements

"In clear, accessible, and often poetic language, González Stokas makes a significant contribution to discussions about decolonization and abolition in higher education and outlines a proposal for reparation as a path toward redressing the colonial violence of the university. Reparative Universities offers a critique of what many of us working in higher education sense: that often institutional actions made under the banner of diversity operate to reproduce the status quo, rather than to interrupt or transform it."

- Sharon Stein, University of British Columbia, author of Unsettling the University: Confronting the Colonial Foundations of US Higher Education

"An epistemic guide, an invitation to think with and think again, Reparative Universities argues, beautifully, for a 'movement into the unknown as the first undoing' of the university as a space of inequity—despite and sometimes because of 'diversity work.' This book exemplifies the 'reparative knowing' that it explores, ultimately arguing not for specific policies and procedures, but rather a radically different, imaginatively alive approach to thinking about antiracism and decoloniality in higher education."

- Monica L. Miller, Professor of English and Africana Studies, formerly Dean for Faculty Diversity and Development, Barnard College, Columbia University
Johns Hopkins University Press
Critical University Studies
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