Why Positionalities Matter and What They Have to do with Knowledge Production

by Julia Schöneberg, Arda Bilgen and Aftab Nasir

Coming from three different educational, geographical, and class backgrounds, the three of us met for the first time in a research institute in Germany. Together with a group of international colleagues, we were eager to be trained in Development Studies and pursue a PhD degree. In reminiscing about this journey many years later, we shared the struggles and challenges we experienced during our so-called ‘fieldwork’ stays in very different geographies and realised that there was a blatant gap not only in the way we approached our research, but also in the way we were trained: a lack of confrontation with the centrality of power and positionality in ‘development’ research (or any kind of research for that matter) – and a disregard of the colonial legacy in the way knowledge is created and considered legitimate.

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How do we learn? Engaging with communities of knowledge and culture beyond academic spaces

As you know we, as Convivial Thinkers, are continously exploring new formats of learning and engagaging with knowledges and especially with communities of knowledge. For that reason, we are extremely happy to host and feature Parinita Shetty and her work by way of text (- this transcript ) and audio (-the podcast conversation between Parinita Shetty, Sayan Dey and Lata Narayanaswamy). When she is not guest podcasting for us, Parinita is exploring how fan podcasts act as sites of public pedagogy by providing a social learning context in informal digital spaces. With her project Marginally Fannish she takes an intersectional lens at online fandom.

In their conversation, Parinita, Sayan and Lata exchange about how collaboratively engaging with knowledge and activism with a wide range of people both within and outside institutionalised academic spaces is crucial. The world we inhabit offers us several different learning opportunities. However, academic structures frequently end up valuing a limited kind of expertise.

Whose cultures, languages, and experiences are considered the default? What kind of knowledge matters? How do you seek alternative communities of knowledge beyond the restrictions of the structure you work in?

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Decoloniality and the Activist Intellectual

by Ompha Tshikhudo Malima

The most important questions in decolonial studies are: “what do we decolonise?” and “how do we decolonise?” Continue reading “Decoloniality and the Activist Intellectual”

The LONG READ on DECOLONISING KNOWLEDGE: How western Euro-centrism is systemically preserved and what we can do to subvert it

by Romina Istratii

Recently, I participated in a panel that was convened at LSE dedicated to the topic of decolonising African knowledge systems. The panel members, who included also Prof Akosua Adomako Ampofo from the University of Ghana and Dr Wangui wa Goro, were invited to trace the progress made to-date in decolonising Africa’s knowledge systems and to explore how these systems may be rethought, re-framed and reconstructed to rid them of the hegemony of western Euro-centrism. I’d like to share some of the key points of my presentation with the network of Convivial Thinking to call for a more organised effort toward decentring the current epistemology.

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Uncomfortable in white Skin: Research, (Self-)Reflexivity and Representation

by Fiona Faye

I felt uncomfortable when writing about other people after my last research stay in Benin. In qualitative research, you have so much material and then you need to decide what to take in, what to leave out. The picture is always incomplete because you only have a certain number of pages. How can you make comprehensible to the readers all you saw and experienced and everything people explained to you so patiently? Even worse, you have the power to choose and thereby to substantially shape what the readers will think about the persons or groups of people you are writing about. It’s this kind of power, which is probably impossible to avoid (is it?) when writing about somebody else, which makes me feel uncomfortable in my skin, especially as a white researcher in Benin.

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The Black Market of Knowledge Production

Researchers David Mwambari and Arthur Owor question the effect of money in producing knowledge in post-conflict contexts and argue that it restricts independent local research. These insights were developed at the ‘Silent Voices’ workshop at Ghent University, which brought together Ghent-based researchers and a group of researchers, commonly called “research assistants”, from post-conflict and developing regions. The aim of the workshop was to have a profound reflection on the challenges and dynamics of doing research together ‘in (and beyond) the field and resulted in a manifesto and series of blogs with reflections of researchers.

By David Mwambari and Arthur Owor

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[How do we “know” the world Series] Preventing War. Shaping Peace? Epistemic Violence and Conflict Studies

by Franziska Sopha

Working on questions of violence and violent conflict in International Relations has turned out to be a deeply confusing and sometimes daunting undertaking for me, especially after my last experience as a research assistant in Dakar, Senegal. I was working for International Crisis Group, a self-designated “independent organisation working to prevent wars and shape policies that will build a more peaceful world”. Based on local and international press and reports, interviews with local contact persons and statistics, I wrote reports and commentaries on security related issues in different West African countries. Very often I wondered: who was I to come from France and (re)produce knowledge on violent attacks in Mali, Boko Haram in Nigeria or elections in Sierra Leone and to present this knowledge as a portrayal of the current circumstances in a country that I had never been to, knowing that my work would be used to justify and legitimate political action by certain powerful actors.

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[How do we “know” the World Series] Does the Co-Production of Knowledge Work? Experiences from a Cross-Site Teaching Project between the Universities of Pretoria and Düsseldorf

by Witold Mucha and Christina Pesch

Knowledge (re-)production, especially in the field of the social sciences, is a social process of discourse and debate, of speech and response. However, 500 years of (Western) colonial expansion have made a lasting impact. Today’s debate is both epistemically and ontologically shaped by Anglo-American and European perspectives (Ndlovu-Gatshenis 2018; Spivak 2004; Ziai 2015). Though, concepts of epistemic violence and injustice relate existing (power) asymmetries in knowledge (re-)production not solely to prevailing (Western) perspectives, concepts, and terminologies but to blind spots where existing knowledge is ignored, neglected, or even destroyed (Brunner 2018; Mignolo 2009). This applies not only to what is categorised, constructed, and perceived as knowledge (thinking) but also to the distinct ways how knowledge is disseminated (talking).

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What is Wrong with the Foundations of Education in a Pluriverse? A Personal Account

by Victor Nweke

The call to decolonize institutions of learning both in terms of the composition of the curricula and the facilitators (teachers) is now an issue even in Europe, the United Kingdom, North-America, and Australia. Prior to the 21st century, the call was predominantly made by intellectuals and students from colonized nations, of which Africa is part. But, what is wrong with the foundations of education? What is sustaining it? Why is it difficult to undo? These questions can be and have been coughed and approached in different ways by different scholars. I choose to address them from my intersubjective experiences as a human being, an interconnected individual member of the Igbo nation, a citizen of a country known as Nigeria.

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