[How Do We “Know” the World Series] Part II: Why does the question matter? – Reflections from the Workshop

by Lata Narayanaswamy and Julia Schöneberg

In our one-day workshop we aimed to overcome academic “silos” and connect scholars from diverse fields in the social and natural sciences. Surprisingly, or probably not so, we quickly realized that struggles, discomforts and contestations were very similar among us regardless of whether our discipline is Peace Studies, Agro-Forestry, History, International Relations, Development or Political Studies or Educational Sciences. The true challenge for our workshop was to reflect not only on how we “know” the world, but also why this question matters and what are the implications for us as teachers, researchers and practitioners, committed to challenging entrenched power imbalances or fighting for social justice.

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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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Multi-layered Selves: Colonialism, Decolonization and Counter-Intuitive Learning Spaces

Republished from artseverywhere | musagetes  by Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti

As I wondered about the best way to write this text, two related events caught my attention. First, I received a call for publications with the title “After De-colonizing…What?” issued after an extremely productive (albeit difficult) 2015 gathering in Portugal on the theme of ‘Eco-versities’. In the same week, in a different context, I was gifted a wooden USB stick with the word ‘decolonized’ hand stamped on it. Both events attest to the fact that the word decolonization is becoming a popular way to describe changes people want to see in society.

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