Unspoken rules of engagement: navigating racial microaggressions in the academic terrain

Rollock, Nicola. 2011. Unspoken rules of engagement: navigating racial microaggressions in the academic terrain. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 25(5), pp. 517-532. ISSN 0951-8398 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Racial microaggressions are brief, everyday interactions that send denigrating messages to people of color because they belong to a racially minoritised group. Compared to more overt forms of racism, racial microaggressions are subtle and insidious, often leaving the victim confused, distressed and frustrated and the perpetrator oblivious of the offense they have caused. Drawing on the counter‐narrative aspect of critical race theory that stresses the importance of understanding the role of race in the world through the experiences of people of color, I demonstrate the subtle but powerful ways in which racial microaggressions can manifest within a fictional academic setting and the consequences for those involved. It is argued that while engagement with overt forms of racism, notably through the recording of racist incidents, remains crucial towards the fight for race equality, this has tended within both education and wider British society to obfuscate understanding of these more nuanced, everyday forms of racism with which those of color must contend.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):



racial microaggressions, critical race theory, denial, Whiteness, counter‐narrative

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


24 November 2010Accepted
25 February 2011Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

13 Jul 2018 15:46

Last Modified:

13 Jul 2018 15:46

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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