Internet Sites of Interest: Decolonisation

Keith Nockels
Academic Librarian (medicine and allied health), University of Leicester, UK

Before a rather skeletal list of resources, a general introduction in case this is a new area. I convene a University of Leicester Library group looking at how we can support academics who are decolonising their teaching. So, what is decolonisation? Is it the same as “diversification”? After some discussion and listening at conferences, I think they are not identical. Decolonisation is about hearing a plurality of voices (a phrase borrowed from the University of the Arts London’s document Decolonising reading lists.

Here is a longer description borrowed from Keele University’s Decolonising the Curriculum Toolkit:

Decolonisation involves identifying colonial systems, structures and relationships, and working to challenge those systems. It is not ‘integration’ or simply the token inclusion of the intellectual achievements of non-white cultures. Rather, it involves a paradigm shift from a culture of exclusion and denial to the making of space for other political philosophies and knowledge systems. It’s a culture shift to think more widely about why common knowledge is what it is, and in so doing adjusting cultural perceptions and power relations in real and significant ways.

Making space for other philosophies and knowledge systems, and hearing a plurality of voices, means having a diverse library collection, and putting those diverse materials to deliberate use.

I could see how decolonisation applies in subjects like English (are all the prescribed books by dead, white, men?) and history (whose viewpoint are you looking at things from?). But what about the sciences? Well, colonial systems, structures and relationships may have had a hand in the availability of some of the plants in our gardens. And do power relations mean we don’t always know about the women working in that subject area, and only study the work of men? 

In health, there is the question of who writes the books and articles that our students and practitioners read. And the question of whose views those materials portray. Do they help us hear the voices of women, of people from the Global South? And who is illustrated in those materials – are all the patients in the illustrations or cases white? Does the material take into account how diseases present differently in women than in men?

And how well do the “standard” databases index journals published in the Global South? I looked at this for a poster presented at ICLC2019 and was surprised. Medline at that time included 16 journals published in Africa. (Of course, African researchers might publish in European or American journals – a subject for another piece of research). African Journals Online indexes 169 “health” titles and 71 “biology and life sciences” titles, so there are many African published journals that are not going to be found in Medline. The picture presented by CINAHL and MIDIRS is not different. Some databases that help address this are mentioned below. I mention this issue in my teaching now, and name the databases that can help address it.

Then, in teaching, is our language inclusive? Are our examples diverse (I have changed some of mine)? Do the teaching mannequins look like our students, or just look like me? 

Libraries can look at the voices heard in our resources, support teachers who are decolonising their teaching, and support practitioners decolonising their practice.

Of course, we are not the only library doing this. Some are ahead of us. I’d be interested to know of anything you are doing, or of useful resources. I would be very happy to list resources in a future column.


If you are in higher education, your own institution, or one local to you, may have resources. Here is one example local to me:

University of Sheffield’s Toolkit for Decolonising the Curriculum

And one from further away:

Decolonising SOAS
This links to news stories, as well as resources for learning and teaching.

And one from a library local to me:

University of Derby Library’s LibGuide

And one from further away:

Liberate the Library
Goldsmiths, University of London. Part of a wider initiative to liberate the curriculum.


Association of Commonwealth Universities
Discusses the need to engage with historical forces that shape how medicine is practised and taught. By Sarah Wong and Amali Lokugamage of UCL.

Diversifying and decolonising the medical curriculum, BMJ Opinion – Faye Gishen and Amali Lokugamage, from October 2018.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – Decolonising Global Health
Initiatives exploring the colonial history of LSHTM.

Nursology: Decolonising Nursing
Discussion piece, which also links to two blog posts on the Scholarly Kitchen blog about experiences of people of colo(u)r in scholarly publishing.   Nursology is a blog for nurse scholars, concentrating on nursing models and theories.

University College London Medical School: Decolonising the Medical Curriculum
Includes a reading list, produced in 2020.

University of Nottingham – Decolonising and Diversifying the (Medical) Curriculum
Useful looking document with questions to help educators decolonize their teaching of medicine and clinical skills, their teaching and view of medical history, and to help them look at their view of knowledge production.


African Journals Online
African published journals. Indexes 527 titles, 270 of which are open access, so the database is part bibliographic and part full text. 169 of the 527 journals are health, but other subjects covered include African studies, agriculture and information, communication and library sciences.

Global Index Medicus
Five databases produced by regional offices of the World Health Organization, to index journals published in low and middle income countries: African Index Medicus, Scientific and Technical Literature of Latin America and the Caribbean (LILACS), Index Medicus for Eastern Mediterranean Region, Index Medicus for South East Asia Region and Western Pacific Region Index Medicus.

Bibliographic database, with some full text, of journals published in South Africa.  There are over 500 journals, 97 of which are in the Medicine and Health collection.    It is also possible to search just the open access titles.

SciELO (Scientific Electronic Library Online)
Database of articles from journals published in South and Central America, with some from South Africa and some from Spain.  Subjects covered include biological and health sciences, but also some other areas of science and social science. SciELO Citation Index is also part of our institutional access to Web of Science Core Collection.

Clinical signs and dermatology

Ethnic Dermatology
An article on the DermNet site, which is maintained by the DermNet New Zealand Trust. An overview of the idea of “ethnic dermatology” (“dermatology in skin of colour”), with some information on how skin colour influences skin presentations.

Mind the Gap: A Handbook of Clinical Signs in Black and Brown Skin
This was mentioned to me by academic colleagues and has been added to the medical course’s reading lists. It does cover rashes, but also jaundice, swelling, pallor and a range of other signs.

Skin Of Color Society Education Videos
This is an American based organisation. In addition to the videos, there is a list of skin of color dermatology textbooks, patient education resources, and on the resources page there are links to articles published by members in Cutis, which seem to be free to read on registration.

Future columns

Ideas for topics to cover and offers of lists of resources are most welcome. I always say this, but please do help prevent the column being too white, male, English, and biased to higher education!   

Please get in touch if you would be interested in contributing to the column.

View previous Internet Sites of Interest topics.

HLG Newsletter
Winter 2021

Links correct as of 3 December 2021

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