Transcript: Breading Bread and Drinking Tea with Researchers of the Global Majority

Breaking Bread and Drinking Tea with Researchers of the Global Majority.

Siara Illing-Ahmed



[This transcript features multiple unnamed and unidentified voices, all with different accents from around the world.]



Do you want a brew?


I do like to break bread with people.


 Will you get on to what you mean by mixed race?


Yeah, my maternal family are from the north of Ireland and my paternal family from South Asia. My maternal family used to use food as a way to brandish their status and they would feed everyone on weekly gatherings they hosted at the height of Northern Ireland’s civil war, and my Asian family as similar, food is always the answer. Did you get the package I sent you?


[Sound of tea being poured]


Yeah, I’m Lebanese. My grandparents are Assyrians.


I am a British Asian woman. I’m Sikh. But I have Indian ancestry.


[Sound of tea being drunk.]




So interesting to be asked that question, because it’s been a while since somebody has asked me that.


I am geographically Caribbean, ethnically Indian, politically black and culturally British.


There’s just never a box. And actually, I’m totally over explaining it.


I don’t know of a BAME woman in a more senior position or of a BAME woman in York St John in a similar like area of research.


I do want recognition for my work. But it’s the same people that are acknowledged. People who attach links to their publications at the end of an email. Where I come from, that’s considered boasting and bad manners. I just can’t bring myself to do it. My mom and me would be embarrassed. So I miss out.


I had an opportunity to facilitate a seminar. And it was it was funny to see how the students reacted to my accent at the beginning. And then I told them my, you know, of course, when I introduced myself, I had to say a bit of my background, and I can see mouth, you know, people, the students, like, fascinated with what they’re hearing. And they just accepted the fact that I have a funny accent.


And yeah, your accent is not funny. Your accent is just not a Yorkshire accent.


[Sound of beeping of oven timer.]


Usually, I would have cooked for you, so I baked the cake, and I need to get to the oven. Sorry, I’m just worried about it burning.


I don’t like people making mistakes. Because again, I’m conscious of this sort of cancel culture.


People are really frightened of offending.


Yeah, I do see the effort. But it just feels tokenistic.


From my days. in Netherlands. What is common is the university support a sort of cultural day, where there are stalls where people from different cultures, religions, think of any background you can think of, people bring things to represent their culture, and it’s funded and supported by the university. So you have these stalls in the summer, and people test eating different foods from different cultures. And that’s an opportunity to promote that sort of diversity. So maybe a day like that. And you see people from Nigeria and Ghana and Africa and Latin America background, you see Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jewish bringing things of identity onto that campus ground and you have different students and outsiders from within the city, coming around to learn about all those cultures. I think that if that’s led by the university, I think that those are the sorts of things I think if it becomes annual, and the university is known as the pacesetter that leads that type of a thing could then give opportunity to bring together those communities within the City of York.

I absolutely love that idea… because of my Northern Irish roots and my Pakistani roots I am by nature a feeder  (Laughter) Its what I do, It’s what I do, its how I make people comfortable, its how I make people happy, I just give them food and so the idea of that, even an international food festival with student holding their own culture. And not just that, it would be a really good opportunity to phone home and say ’Mum, how do I cook this?’ (laughter) lessons for everyone that’s such a good idea.


Food. It brings people together.


But unless you make an effort and do it, there’s natural sort of, it will go away, doesn’t exist.


It’s not about top down. It’s got to be a bridge. It’s got to be a conversation between students and colleagues because you know decolonial is all about getting away from that colonists thinking of, I’m telling you what to do and you’re going to do it my way. It’s about bringing that student voice up and talking on a bridge. And we’re trying to do that with our students. We’re trying to hear their voices more.

[Sound of kettle boiling.]

Now we can do better. Cuppa, anyone?