On Coloniality/Decoloniality in Knowledge Production and Societies

by Henning Melber

Social organisations tend to be based on asymmetric power relations – almost always, almost everywhere. Inequality characterises interaction both inside and in between societies. Class-based hierarchies, peppered by gender imbalances, sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and many other forms of discrimination are the order of the day, both nationally as well as internationally. Colonial power structures and mindsets – understood as a hierarchical system imposing normative values which exclude and discriminate – remain almost always an integral part of any form of social reproduction, even when we believe that colonialism as a system in which foreign powers occupy and execute rule over other territories and people, is a matter of the past. Following such broad understanding, social reproduction tends to inherently maintain colonial structures, and individuals remain colonised subjects.

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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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Cultural management and transition: reflections during the pandemic

by Ana Agostino

On 29 April this year the Faculty of Culture from University CLAEH in Montevideo organised a forum to reflect on the role of cultural managers during the pandemic, where different approaches and visions were shared. I was glad to participate and contribute with some reflections. This text is the continuation and deepening of those first ideas.

The current crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic has transformed daily life in almost all countries of the world. In these four months, countless articles have been written in Uruguay and around the world on the impact of the pandemic, on the possible exit and future scenarios. If we could talk about the density of virtual meetings, we could certainly be facing a historical record, not only of simultaneous activities in the virtual space but also of the number of people on line. Most of them analysing the very meaning of the pandemic itself, a variety of aspects of reality and their relationship to the phenomenon. Perhaps the greatest coincidence in this babel of seminars, articles, videos and other diversity of tools used to try to understand and project, is that reality as we know it, to a greater or lesser extent, will change. It is changing. It changed. And therefore it is possible to say that the future, the sense of the future, is in dispute.

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[COVID-19] Pandemic agnotology and the ‘worlds’ of development

by Su-ming Khoo

The ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic places a magnifying glass on many issues of local and global fairness and justice that have been ignored and under-emphasised. The world-wide outbreak, the public health measures to contain it, and the resulting socioeconomic disruption call for greater attention to be paid to the inequities and injustices that have been hiding in plain sight. The problems of under-emphasis and apparent lack of knowledge about who is really suffering maps directly onto trajectories traced in critical development studies.

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The ‘Naked’ Researcher

by Jeevika Vivekananthan

Vankkam. Wominjeka.

I am a Tamil diaspora woman living on the land of Wurundjeri people. I acknowledge the elders past, present and emerging for their wisdom and the resistance against all forms of oppression. Even though I come from a war-and-conflict-affected Tamil community in the North of Sri Lanka, I acknowledge my positionality as someone exposed to both the Global South and the Global North, using North and South labels in a metaphorical distinction to denote an entire history of colonialism, neo-imperialism and geopolitics. I am not an academic nor an expert. As a toddler researcher, I recently presented a reflection piece at a conference hosted by the Development Studies Association of Australia in Melbourne, reflecting on my journey from a student researcher to a researcher. This is the written script of my presentation, slightly modified for the purpose of publication at Convivial Thinking, encouraging the readers to contest and reflect on the concept/ practice- the ‘naked’ researcher.

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[COVID–19] (Re)configurations of violent knowledge management, epistemic inferiorization and neo-colonial divisions

by Sayan Dey

In the following, I will argue how COVID-19 is re-configuring the already existing neo-colonial patterns of knowledge production and management in India.

As the pandemic of COVID-19 is quarantining and rampaging each and every aspect of habitual existence across the globe, the global education system (especially higher educational institutions like colleges and universities) is experiencing a monumental shift by converting the physically structured classroom system into an online one.

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Why it is time to turn the decolonial lens onto the institutional structures of Higher Education

by Lata Narayanaswamy

Through the ‘colonial encounter’, existing power relations and imbalances have been shaped in ways that are geographically and temporally uneven yet politically enduring. Unsettling these tendencies through a more critical reflection on how the colonial encounter underpins these perceptions is key to the application of the ‘decolonial’ lens. Calls to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum are getting louder, and rightly so. Whilst this is a start, it does not, in my view, go far enough. There is a need, I would argue, for us to turn the decolonial lens onto the institutional structures and processes that shape the function and delivery of research and teaching in Higher Education (HE).

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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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