British Council commendation for Lancaster University Master’s student

Amanda Hawthorne with her certificate

A Lancaster University Master’s student has received a British Council commendation for her dissertation analysing the visual representation of black people in teaching materials.

Amanda Hawthorne has been awarded a Master's Dissertation Award which promotes achievements of students on UK Master's programmes for work with the best potential for impact on English Language Teaching.

Her dissertation ‘Black in the British: Analysing the visual representation of Black people in British Council teaching materials’ focuses on how stereotypes are inadvertently reproduced in textbooks.

Combining visual Critical Discourse Analysis and Critical Race Theory, her work found that when Black people were included in photographs with White people, they were more often portrayed as passive or subservient, lacking in power in relation to their White counterparts.

Amanda works as an English teacher and diversity and inclusion coordinator in Spain. She is passionate about anti-racism and LGBTI+ rights but growing up in the 80s and 90s in Kent, that was not always the case.

Amanda says of her education: “As a child I was very conscious of being the only black person in school and I just wanted to fit in. But fitting in really meant ignoring parts of my identity.”

Developing the language to understand and explain this has been part of Amanda’s aim in her research work.

Her first degree in History at the University of Reading was at a time when the term institutional racism still had not been reported on widely and, she says, there was a dearth of dialogue on the topic.

“That’s why this time around I decided to study Social Justice at Lancaster University because of the electives they offered on race,” she explains. 

In her research Amanda writes of how academia has long been another stage where being White is a privilege, so through receiving this commendation for her research she is overwhelmed at the thought of her dissertation positively impacting the experiences of Black and minority ethnic students.

Commenting on Lancaster University Amanda says: “The department staff have been very supportive and the advice of my tutor Dr Richard Budd has been invaluable.”

Amanda has recently contributed to a book called How to Write Inclusive Materials, published by ELT Teacher 2 Writer and is currently reviewing other research proposals and employment opportunities in the area of diversity.

Dr Richard Budd, from the Department of Educational Research, who supervised this project, says: “Amanda’s research is particularly timely given the wider and overdue recognition that cultural and institutional racism has received of late.

“It provides not only a powerful critical indictment of how and why images matter, and offers some clear and actionable lessons for the visual representation of different groups in educational and other resources.”

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