News from the Convivial Thinking Writing Collective: Engagements with the (de)coloniality of development research and teaching

The latest issue of Acta Academica contains the Special Focus: How do we know the world? Collective engagements with the (de)coloniality of development research and teaching.

The Special Focus was guest edited by the Convivial Thinking Writing Collective. Our collaborative engagements with the topic have evolved from a workshop in early 2019 and a consecutive blog series. Convivial Thinking is a collective platform seeking to surpass boundaries of origin, ethnicity, professional affiliation and academic disciplines in order to give space to inclusive, interdisciplinary and alternative approaches to mainstream methods of knowledge production, especially in the context of “development”. The articles in the Special Focus reflect these concerns.

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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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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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Being a ‘hypocritic’ commonwealth scholar: On moments of colonial backlog and postcolonial fractures

by Vijitha Rajan

This short note is a reflection on how I felt fractured being a Commonwealth Scholar, between my colonial past and post-colonial present. In the discourse of international development, a Commonwealth scholarship is symbolised as a gesture of the lasting commitment of the United Kingdom towards Commonwealth citizens. Yet its lesser projected colonial and post-colonial undertones made my engagement with the ‘prestigious’ Commonwealth Scholarship more complex than a straightforward experience of meritocratic achievement.

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[How Do We “know” the World Series] Reciprocity as Research Ethics

by Christopher Millora

As a novice researcher, I once found solace in Robert Stake’s simple framing of qualitative researchers as “guests in the private spaces in the world”[i]. Back when I was an aspiring ethnographer, my quest to ‘knowing the world’ depended, quite significantly, on my participants having allowed me to enter their lifeworlds where they hold context-specific expertise. Thinking of my fieldwork this way fuelled my curiosity in capturing these understandings which, I found, could be facilitated by a collaborative research relationship.

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[How Do We “Know” the World Series] Shifting from Research-led Teaching to Liberal Arts Education – Some Critical Reflections from a Non-white Academic Scholar

by Sam Wong

I divide my reflections into two parts: the first part focuses on my changing teaching styles from research-led teaching in the UK to liberal arts teaching in the Netherlands. The second part touches on the post-colonial dilemmas of my identities and research profiles.

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[How Do We “Know” the World Series] Looking Back to Walk Forward: Decolonisation as Self-Determination

by Vanessa Bradbury

Aotearoa, the long white cloud. A vast country secluded by ocean; a depth of ecological beauty with rolling hills of green, empowering mountains that cut through soft white clouds; rivers, lakes and oceans that flow with the crisp, clean air; sunsets that radiate the surroundings with a peachy gentleness; long roads and vast land; a silence that fills the void with reflection.

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