Skip to main content

Teaching Difficult Topics

20 October 2023
10.00am – 6.00pm AEDT
Online & Level 2, Room 209, Morven Brown Building
This event has ended

In the field of Humanities and Social Sciences, there are a multitude of ‘difficult topics,’ such as those related to colonialism, violence, genocide, disaster, systematic racism, queerphobia and misogyny, for example, which provide both learning challenges and opportunities in the university classroom.

These topics may be heavily debated in the academic literature but are also increasingly the subject of inaccurate or problematic social media representations, as well as historical revisionism, ethno-nationalism and conspiracy theories. With students and teachers progressively coming from diverse backgrounds, the tertiary classroom therefore has become a complex and dynamic one, demanding specific pedagogical skills from educators in the 21st century.

This seminar aims to share experiences, identify common issues and discuss appropriate pedagogical solutions to pertinent and enduring topics that can cause disruption, tension or discomfort in the classroom.

The focus is on Asian Studies, in its broadest sense and in relation to the non-Western ‘other.’ In addition, one of the workshop outcomes is the establishment of a network of concerned educators who can work together and provide mutual support. 


Seminar Programme


Morning tea (seminar room)

10.30 - 10.45


Timothy O'Leary (HAL Head of School), Ayshe Eli & Sally McLaren

10.45 - 11.45

Session 1

Ayshe Eli (UNSW):Privilege, ‘Heritage’, and Intersectionality in the Classroom

Jane Park (University of Sydney):Addressing Asianness in the (Post)Covid Classroom

James Paull (UNSW):Thickening the line: Teaching and Thinking Asia in the 21st century

Sohoon Yi (Korea University):Praxis Education Despite Conservatism and Backlash: Living Lab Project against Islamophobia in South Korea

11.45 - 12.15 Discussion

12.15 - 1.30 Lunch (seminar room)

1.30 - 2.30

Session 2

Sally McLaren (UNSW):Dealing with dis/comfort: Teaching about gendered and racialised violence in modern Japanese history

Gregory Evon (UNSW):Trends of Anxiety

Vanessa Hearman (Curtin University):Working with diverse student cohorts in conflict and violence studies

2.30 - 3.00 Discussion

3.00 - 3.30 Afternoon Tea (seminar room)

3.30 - 4.30

Session 3

Shawna Tang (University of Sydney):Liberal instincts and injury: teaching sexuality and gender studies in the classroom

Joyce Wu (UNSW):Human Rights or Cultural Rights? And what about Gender? Navigating through uncomfortable conversations from a cultural and societal studies lens

Lana Tatour (UNSW):Unlearning

Estella Carpi (University College London):Teaching humanitarianism in the Middle East: Self-Reflection as a Road to Radical Pedagogy

4.30 - 5.00 Discussion

5.00 - 5.15 Close

Sally McLaren & Ayshe Eli

6.00 Dinner at The Lounge, UNSW Kensington