Radical Readers Group

From February 2020 ongoing

A safe space for young people, particularly South Asian diaspora young people and their peers, to explore key issues that matter to them

It helped me engage as I met people with different struggles and the event taking place in a digital environment exposed me to them.

OSCH Young Person
The Radical Readers Group is promoted to the OSCH young people involved in the Collective and beyond as well as students and staff from the University of Manchester, through Decolonise University of Manchester and OSCH social media. Most sessions are open to the public.  

The Group's aims

To create a safe space for young people, particularly South Asian diaspora young people and their peers, to explore key issues that matter to them.  

Provide opportunities for young people to reflect on and share their own lived experiences and understand those of other participants.  

To learn and understand how belonging and identity is described, understood, theorised and applied through literature and how this compares to individual lived experiences. 

To explore the intersectionality of colonialism, gender, sexuality, disability, race, and justice in order to foster a shared sense of solidarity within and beyond the group.

Members of the OSCH Collective in Manchester had raised their interest in having a space to explore key texts that would help them better understand the issues that impact people of colour. The Radical Readers Group grew out of a collaboration between OSCH and Decolonise UoM.  

Initially the group was led by Sara Khan as part of Decolonise UoM with OSCH taking a supportive role. Over time, OSCH Collective have become increasingly involved in leading this activity with support from colleagues at the Manchester University Library, School of Arts and Languages and Culture and Manchester University Press.  

The Radical Readers Group was set up to provide an open, safe and reflective space to explore identity and belonging through critical discussion about selected books. The reading material is selected using a Twitter poll that is publicly open but also specifically aimed at OSCH young people and Decolonise UoM members.

The original plan was to create a physical space to meet, but due to COVID the activity moved online. The online format has been welcomed by participants and it is likely that future events will continue to be delivered this way.

I think being online is really useful because I can have all of the resources I need open at once, like the essay itself, my notes, the questions and any further reading. I also feel more comfortable talking when people can't see me or I don't have to make eye contact. 

Radical Reader participant

The success of the Radical Readers Group is partly down to the use of a simple book group format – shared reading followed by open discussion. However, what makes this group stand out is that the reading material is selected by the participants to explore important and often challenging issues that impact on their lives and those attending. As a mixed group that brings together OSCH young people with UoM students and staff, this group offers a space for young people to reflect on the topics, but also to listen and understand how others respond too.  

The reading material is broad and, to date, has included: Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis (28/2/20), Black Skin White Masks by Franz Fanon (27/3/20), Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde (29/5/20), Beloved by Toni Morrison (26/6/20), Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala (28/10/20), Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson (24/2/21), a collection of articles about Black Trans Feminism by Cameron Awkward-Rich, Kai M. Green & Marquis Bey, and George Yancy (26/3/21), Postcolonial Banter by Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan (19/7/21) and I Refuse to Condemn, edited by Asim Qureshi (25/11/21).  

Further reading

You can find out more about Radical Readers on the OSCH Blog page, and from this short film. One of Manchester Museum’s Cultural Learning and Participation Officer Apprentices, Hawwa, has also written a blog, reflecting on the discussions about ‘Postcolonial Banter’.

Illustrations by Shafia Fiaz