Dialogical Spaces

"Dialogical spaces for a diverse university" is one of the 2020 UT’s Incentive Fund supported Initiatives on diversity & inclusion. Its aim is to create a space for the UT community to reflect critically on our research and education systems and practices under the social justice lenses.

A brief intro on what we will do

As part of the "Dialogical Spaces" project, we will have eight monthly online sessions with you and invited guests (brief intro+"round table/open floor discussions") on topics such as inclusive learning, decolonizing the curriculum, shaping gender inclusive universities, and racially-biased technologies in research, and marginalized bodies in research. Cross-cutting these themes, we will continuously ask: What are we doing in our day-to-day academic practices which is reproducing patterns of systemic social injustice? How are these also related to topics on diversity & inclusion? and, what can we do, at both individual and institutional levels, to address this?

After, we will have follow-up recorded interviews with the invited for each of the sessions and with UT representatives working on the discussed topics. The recording will be available as a podcast series in this website.

Our first event is initially planned for January 21 2021, to start the year with interesting reflections and new discussion spaces at the UT. You will find more information on it in due time on the news as well as on the events section. If you want to take part of it please send us an e-mail to dialogicalspaces-itc@utwente.nl. Also, If you want to read more on the context of this initiative and a bit more on the way it will be implemented you can find it below.

  • Context

    Over the past months, worldwide manifestations have, once again, laid bare harsh systemic injustices within societies and opened-up a global discussion on diversity and inclusion. All over the world, we see universities grappling with their position within these movements. On the one hand, universities house the vanguard of critical thinking and cultivate socio-technical innovation while reflecting on challenges concerning progress towards social justice and inclusion. On the other hand, science within universities has been built on a legacy of exclusion based on gender, race, disabilities, and religion.

    In response to being confronted with this paradox, research institutes and universities worldwide are formulating strategies for deep institutional reform: a meaningful transformation that dismantles the various and continuous elements of systemic discrimination embedded in our communities and academic practices. Over the past years, various universities, including ours, have implemented policies to increase the hiring or recruitment of diverse academic staff and students, to ease and support their participation in spaces of institutional decision-making, and, in some cases, to guarantee fair treatment, pay, and access to benefits for all staff members independently of their gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, disability or any other individual characteristic. Amongst these initiatives are the “Dismantling Systemic Racism at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII)” promoted by staff and students (OII, 2020) and the efforts for equality, diversity, and inclusion, which started prior to these events, from institutions such as the University of Sheffield (University of Sheffield, 2020), Harvard University (IARA, 2020) and the University of Amsterdam (UvA, 2019).

    Within this context, also the UT has strongly encouraged programs and policies to increase diversity and inclusion. Efforts are being put in programs to promote broader representation of diverse backgrounds in terms of gender identity/expression, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientations, and places of origin, in both academic staff as well as students. Some current actions include the creation of support networks for female researchers (FFNT) and young staff through mentoring programs, as well as the implementation of scholarship programs specifically encouraging diverse candidates to apply. Additionally, the CTD (Centre for Training and Development) offers training for staff related to culturally appropriate teaching and the provision of feedback when addressing a diverse group of learners. Finally, we applaud the current call for the recruitment of a diversity and inclusion officer as part of the Shaping 2030 plan.

    Nonetheless, within Dutch academia, institutional action and diversity policies are often limited to focusing on the representational dimension of inclusion, and diversity is regularly only measured based on visible distinctions such as binary gender and nationality markers (van Middelkoop, Ballafkih, & Meerman, 2017). This categorical approach overlooks underrepresentation in non-observable characteristics such as gender queerness, socioeconomic background, religion, and neurodiversity. Additionally, by focusing only on diversity concerning visible, and bodily characteristics, we do not leave space to discuss epistemological and ontological diversity in academia emerging from predominantly non-western cultures, to engage with the challenges of meaningful knowledge sharing experiences (teaching) in international and diverse classrooms, or to promote strategies to decolonize research practices and educational curriculums. 

    We argue current efforts of universities in the field of diversity and inclusion are focused on the university as an employer and as a trainer. However, a university is so much more. Aside from educating people and fostering talent, the university creates new knowledge (through research, education, and capacity development), develops technologies, amplifies their use, and, thereby, actively participates in shaping society. This is a position that comes with incredible responsibility. More work could be done at the UT to improve not only institutional inclusion strategies, but also those actions that appeal to promote the inclusion of alternative epistemologies and theories in our academic environment and ways of working and which include principles of social justice in an integral and transversal way that go beyond representation and “do no harm” approaches. For this, we need to aim for more than diverse representational policies and point towards epistemological and systemic actions and strategies, as highlighted by the OII’s initiative. It will take time and effort to achieve deep institutional change, but we can start with a sequence of small steps. Therefore, we propose a series of dialogical spaces to facilitate a conversation on diversity and inclusion in research and education practices. We are led by the question: “how can we promote diversity and inclusion in all aspects of academic practices as part of a strategy to overcome systemic discrimination?”. Our objective is to share knowledge and experiences and support the university (and by this, we mean the institution as well as the UT community at large) in identifying, formulating, and implementing actions progress towards diversity and inclusion. Thus, building a more just community, inside and outside of the UT campus.

    Due to the current safety restriction related to the Corona crisis, these dialogues will take place virtually. The (virtual) dialogical spaces aim to  reflect as well on aspects such as who can conduct science? (diversity of researchers and their agency), how do we build and share knowledge with ? (critical pedagogies), what is scientific theory (epistemological and ontological diversity)?, and who’s problems are we addressing? under whose perspective?, and how ? (critical -decolonial and feminist- approaches). Consequently, it is essential to understand all the ways systemic discrimination pervades our practices as colleagues, researchers, educators, and managers, and help to identify ways to address it. Drawing on these aspects, we have defined three main themes that we will be addressing in the dialogical spaces, and these are: (i) education, (ii) research, and (iii) practice.


    Broadhurst, C., Martin, G., Hoffshire, M., & Takewell, W. (2018). “Bumpin’’ up against people and their beliefs": Narratives of student affairs administrators creating change for LGBTQ students in the South.” Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 11(4), 385–401. https://doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000036 

    IARA. (2020). Institutional Anti-Racism and Accountability Project. Retrieved July 16, 2020, from https://shorensteincenter.org/programs/anti-racism-accountability/ 

    Mohamed, S., Png, M.-T., & Isaac, W. (2020). Decolonial AI: Decolonial Theory as Sociotechnical. Philosophy & Technology. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1007/s13347-020-00405-8 

    OII. (2020). Dismantling Systemic Racism at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII): An Open Letter. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScm8uANLU82FnRacOOoHf5NfsWMqdiN1ARk-OHjWjpyw5R7Xw/viewform 

    University of Gothenburg. (n.d.). Widening access and participation. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.gu.se/english/about_the_university/vision/widening-participation#Our_work_with_widening_access_and_participation 

    University of Sheffield. (2020). Working for equality, diversity and inclusion. Retrieved July 16, 2020, from https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/geography/equality-diversity-and-inclusion 

    UvA. (2019). UvA Diversity Document. Amsterdam. Retrieved from https://www.uva.nl/en/about-the-uva/about-the-university/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-and-inclusion.html 

    van Middelkoop, D., Ballafkih, H., & Meerman, M. (2017). Understanding diversity: a Dutch case study on teachers’ attitudes towards their diverse student population. Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training, 9(1), 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40461-016-0045-9 

  • Overview of virtual session's topics

    Dialogical spaces topics 

    Dates and hour



    Searching for an Inclusive and Learning Environment

    January 21, 2021 16-18h

    Dr. Aminata Cairo (Independent Consultant)


    Towards a non-binary and trans policy in the university

    February 4, 2021 16-18h

    Prof.dr. Joz Motmans (Universiteit Gent)


    Making Norms Exceptional — Non-normative Interaction Design for and with Marginalised Bodies

    February 18, 2021 16-18h

    Dr. Katta Spiel (TU Wien)


    Reflections on, and experiences of, data decolonization  

    March 18, 2021           16-18h

    Dr. Paola Ricaurte Quijano (Technológico de Monterrey)     (Berkam Klein Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University)


    Tokens of Diversity: Why walk the walk, when you can talk the talk?

    April 15, 2021        16-18h

    Dr. Maren Behrensen


    Decolonizing the curriculum 

    May  13, 2021            16-18h

    Dr. Rosalba Icaza (ISS, Erasmus University Rotterdam)


    Tech and ethics

    May/June 2021



    From uncomfortable conversations to practice  

    June 2021