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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A Zine on ‘Situated Knowledges’

In ‘Situated Knowledges’, Donna Haraway is revolting with many other feminist scholars against the objectivity claim of Scientific knowledge; that is, the researchers’ detachment from their objects of study. Instead, she offers an alternative approach to practicing Science which relies on the concept of vision: What we see is consistent of what we know; what we know is what we perceive as our own reality, which is dependable on what we have learned, our situated contexts, and non/privilege. All our knowledges can only be situated; all conceptualizations of our world can thus only be partial, never complete. Situated Knowledges offers a perspective in which we can discuss how we, as researchers, can and should become more responsible and accountable for “what we learn how to see.” (Haraway 1988, p. 583).

(Johanna Tunn)

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Why a firm postcolonial stance is fundamental for the future of ‘development’ NGO work

by Julia Schöneberg

Recently, I participated in a NGO workshop, where a large group of German NGO project officers and representatives met to discuss trends and challenges of the sector. One of these was ‘Postcolonialism’ (as a noun). The ‘new trend’ was assigned the guiding question of ‘How the ideal Postcolonialism-sensitive development cooperation would look like?’.

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Feminist Letters Crossing Borders – Cartas feministas atravessando fronteiras

by Gabriela Monteiro and Ruth Steuerwald

Brasília, February 9th, 2020

Hi, my dearest German girl!

How I miss you. Here in Brazil, carnival is approaching and people are getting more agitated every day. Last week, I was in Salvador and the Blackest city outside Africa is still pulsating. The Iemanjá celebration[1] was happening on 02/02, a celebration that always touches me a lot. It’s also a festival which is full of problems and contradictions, with the presence of white tourists and photographers consuming what is sacred for Black people. Everything is very difficult, but as capoeira teaches us, we need to gingar[2] – and we can’t forget who is the real owner of the party. Never forget who we are.

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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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As scholars from the Global South, we must resist being complicit

by Laura Loyola-Hernández

This intervention is written from someone who is from the Global South and working in a Global North institution, often encountering racism, xenophobia and “white fragility;” someone in between borders, juggling dos lenguas, two epistemologies and cultures.

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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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