The Decolonial ‘Wrong Turn’ in Indian Academia

by Sayan Dey

With the arrival of the postcolonial era in India, the nation faced the gargantuan task of wiping out the toxic remnants of colonization that the British dumped on the indigenous natives before leaving India. The colonially structured education system was one of them. In the year 1835, Thomas Babington Macaulay’s ‘sincere’ efforts to revive literature in India and promote the knowledge of sciences among the inhabitants have borne innumerable fruits in the post-independent era through hierarchizing and diminishing several socio-cultural components of indigenous epistemologies – languages, dialects, cosmic beliefs, religious practices, mythologies, education systems, etc.

How has the academic system in postcolonial India made efforts to dismantle the colonial frameworks of knowledge production?  And how have they failed in the process?

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Torpor and Awakening

by Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti

I am from a family with Indigenous Latin American and German ancestry. I have been to many different countries and lived in different places. I believe this is partly because the Indigenous tradition my family comes from is nomadic. They see the earth as a living entity, and if they stay in one place they believe the land gets sick. They travel to where their ancestors send them, and this and other important messages are conveyed through their dreams. I married into a Cree and Blackfoot family where ceremonies are performed with the Blackfoot in Alberta. My son also married into a Maori whanau (family) in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

This inter-weaving of bloodlines gives me a perspective of many different Indigenous communities. I am no expert in any of them, and I do not speak for any of them. I also find it difficult to pinpoint only one place where I “come from.” In part, this is because I believe that the earth is alive and upset about fences and divisions. It is also because the tradition of being always on the road, crossing many different types of borders means one has to feel the pathway itself as a place too: one that enables you to see different patterns, different connections, as well as many similarities, and that offers a different kind of contribution to the whole. From this place, I would like to offer a story that speaks to the crossroads and the in-betweens.

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“Alternatives to development” as a universal project?

Thinking, reading and writing about “development” can be a daunting undertaking – and it gets worse the deeper you dig. Starting off as a student with the naïve desire to learn about development in order to acquire the tools and skills for making the world a better place, my occupation with the topic has turned into an intellectual struggle, disillusionment, much frustration and anger with those who for so long have shaped the concept and practice of “development.” Continue reading ““Alternatives to development” as a universal project?”

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Call for Abstracts: Re-Thinking, Re-defining, Re-positioning: “Development” and the Question of “Alternatives”

Development Days Conference, Helsinki, 27.02.-01.03.2019

Critiques of development of the last three decades have clearly pinpointed the many flaws in the way development is theorised and practiced (Escobar 1985, 1992; Esteva and Prakash 1997, 1998; Ferguson 1990; Kothari 2005; Kiely 1995; Munck 1999; Rahnema and Bawtree 1997; Sachs 1992; Schuurmann, 1993; Ziai 2012, 2016). We are well aware that established and conventional ways are leading to a dead end.

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How to make the “decolonial turn” more than just a fashion

by Paola Minoia

Numerous calls for papers and conferences around Europe and globally give us the impression that we are now going towards a “decolonial turn” in many disciplines: development studies, IR, geography etc. On the other hand, many criticize this pick of initiatives, doubting their effective and truly challenging nature vis-à-vis the current systems of cultural and scientific production. I agree that some calls for papers, especially for large conferences, may sound insincere and produced by academic scholars “surfing” on this new trend, instead of stepping down from their powerful positionalities.

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Why post-/decolonial perspectives matter

by Aftab Nasir

How ought we to live? The question is multi-faceted and janus-faced. The disciplinary boundaries disappear when one wants to address this question. Is it a philosophical debate, a political discussion, a psychological model, or a historical perspective that is under investigation in this question? The answer is all and none. Yes, these disciplines try to grasp the concept of life in their own institutionalized mandates yet they end up dividing the whole in to parts that do not add up once they are combined back. There is something specific to the inner workings of these disciplines that make these parts look alien to each other once they are filtered through the methodological lenses of disciplines.

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Funding Social Change or: How to most successfully derail a social movement?

by Julia Schöneberg

Development has failed. Given the many shortcomings and failures we witness after decades of development intervention and myriads of development projects this claim seems to hold true. Development projects are prone to pitfalls of paternalism and cooptation, perpetuating dependency and are often ill-fitted to local needs and imaginaries. On the other hand, Escobar (1995) argues that social movement actors have the greatest potential to shape development alternatives in response these failings.

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Call for Participation: Critical academic perspectives on scholarship in the social sciences – How do we “know” the world?

In the last few years we have witnessed a ‘postcolonial turn’ in relation to questions about the historical bases for how we approach issues of knowledge (co-)production, expertise and representation and which have gained significant momentum in academic discussions. Whilst debates about ‘whose knowledge counts’ have and continue to rage in areas such as Development or Gender Studies (which in themselves are diverse academic fields rather than homogenous disciplines), questions about prevailing power and knowledge divides, represented by their respective ‘canons’, have only recently come to the fore in the wider social sciences. Disciplines such as International Relations, Cultural and Regional Studies and Politics are being challenged by movements such as ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ to confront rather than overlook colonial genealogies of contemporary politics, society and economy and thus acknowledge the way hegemonic discourses create only particular types of knowledge.

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The “objectivity” of knowledge(s)

by Aftab Nasir

Objective knowledge or objectivity in producing knowledge and the elements of method, both are myths. It is mythological in the literal sense of the word. Before we untangle this concept, let’s revisit what a myth is. Myth is something non-real, imaginary yet authentic or authoritative. Myth has an intrinsic value that makes it appealing and relevant. It contains an aesthetic core, something of a sort that makes it attractive, and an inner logic that is mostly relatable, due to the fixity in its meaning and utility for everyday praxis. Take the myth of Sisyphus as an example. The structure of the tale provides a strong imagery, the aesthetic part, that is combined or embodied beautifully in the figure of Sisyphus, or more abstractly, in the dialectical forces represented by the body of the man, the stone, the uphill and the top. This story has a direct message, regardless of the fact that it is created as a metaphor. The message is clear, that of defiance, and is relatable for two reasons; first it shows the structure and agency in most discernable way, second it has a utilitarian value. As a thinking being, one can relate to it because it offers respite in the conundrum of fixities one encounters at every second of one’s life. In short, myth has both aesthetic and utilitarian value.

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The challenge of epistemic poverty and how to think beyond what we know

by Sruti Bala

Researchers face the challenge of engaging with the topic of epistemic diversity. We know that we should consider diverse knowledges in our research, but how can this be operationalised? This blog post engages with this question and shows us that it first of all means calling into question what we hold dear—the very ground on which we stand as researchers and the means by which we distinguish knowledge from non-knowledge.
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