Edinburgh history lecturer apologises after using the n-word in second year lecture

He was citing an example about language in history

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Second year history students witnessed lecturer Dr Tom Webster use the n-word in a postmodernism lecture for the Introduction to Historiography course last Friday 23rd November, resulting in several complaints from students.

Despite the fact he was using it to prove a point against racism, many students took offence at the use of the controversial slur, leading Dr Webster to issue a course-wide apology justifying his actions.

According to sources who attended the lecture, Webster was "talking in general about language in history and how the meaning of language is specific to historical context". He then went onto cite an example from football in the 80s, about how people would refer to people of colour on their team as "their n*****".

The use of the term triggered some students, who suggested that less explicit terms should have been used. Dr Webster consequently issued a statement, apologising to students, saying:

"It has been drawn to my attention that several students objected to my use of an abusive term in Friday’s Introduction to Historiography lecture. This was in the context of talking about the construction of ‘the other’, both as an absent alien but also as a means of patronisingly accepting such people within one’s own community as accepted exceptions, as 'ours'. The intention was the very opposite of legitimising the term; the example was clearly derogatory towards those who used it and my own disagreement with them was made clear.

"Having said that, I understand that such usage can be regarded as offensive regardless of the caveats and the context. Despite the use of the term as part of the discourse to which I was referring, I also understand how any use of the term beyond the BAME communities can be viewed as inappropriate. I wholeheartedly apologize for my employment of that illustration and can reassure them that a large part of my life beyond academia is actually spent actively opposing all forms of racism."

A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh added that the university "fully supports the right of its academic staff to explore difficult and contentious subject matters with students in courses and programmes".

Despite the controversy, many students from the course felt the use of the term wasn't as bad as perceived by some, given that it was used in context.

Second year Ollie Turbitt told The Tab Edinburgh: "He did say the n-word in this context, but as an example of how shocking abuse can be, so there was a certain amount of justification. I don't think he had to explicitly say the word instead of making reference to it though, and I can understand how it offended certain people."