[How Do We Know The World Series] To Reform or not to – The crescendo of decoloniality within Higher Learning Institutions in Africa

by Gift Mwonzora

There has emerged a growing chorus for a need to decolonize the African higher education system. This chorus for reform has been widely pronounced within the Global South, especially in African countries. Countries that have witnessed the crescendo of such demands include South Africa, but others are also beginning to reconsider such within this growing wave of decoloniality. Notwithstanding the fact that there have been many strides in the higher education literature and in African studies scholarship to tackle issues of decoloniality, through calls for reforms for the curricula and syllabus, it remains poorly understood why academe should be decolonized. Hence, intense debates and polarity on the discourse of decoloniality have emerged, revealing silences that underpin how we ‘know’ the world.
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[How Do We Know the World Series] What are the limits of identity and positionality in the decolonisation debate?

by Grace Ese-osa Idahosa

This short piece addresses the issue of the limiting role of identity and positionality on the extent of individuals’ contribution to the decolonisation process in institutions. Focusing on universities in South Africa (SA), it interrogates the role of identity and social positions in the decolonisation and knowledge production process. It asks to what extent factors like race, class, gender and sexuality affect an individual’s commitment and contributions to the decolonisation process?

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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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[How Do We “Know” the World Series] 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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[How Do We “Know” the World Series] Part I: How can we “know” the world – and reflect on it academically?

by Lata Narayanaswamy

This post is the start of a series of reflections on critical scholarship contributed by participants of the workshop “How do we know the world” . The workshop is co-organised by Lata Narayanaswamy and Julia Schöneberg.

How do we ‘know’ the world? It is so vast a question that it feels, perhaps ironically, almost unknowable. Yet this question is not a call to take an inventory of specific facts or perspectives, but is asked in order to help frame a more critical and reflexive approach to the assumptions that underpin academic perceptions of WHAT counts as knowledge, HOW we capture and communicate that knowledge and WHO gets to both shape and present ideas as academic (read: expert) knowledge. Taken together, these reflections can, we believe, be very revealing. Whilst this should be a question we ask ourselves across all disciplines, our focus here is specifically on how this set of questions has begun to creep into the mainstream of the broader social sciences.

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Invitation for Virtual Participation: “How do we know the world?”

Our call for contributions on the workshop on “Critical academic perspectives on scholarship in the social sciences – How do we “know” the world?” has reveived such big number of response. It is great to see that these questions seem to be of concern to so many.

However, we are well aware that attendence (or non-attendence) at academic events and workshops is a highly exclusionary process (funds, visa, caring responsibilities, etc.) and we have thought hard how to counter that.

The workshop on 17 January 2019 consists of several elements. A series of written blog style reflections, working group sessions and plenary discussions. For those wanting to attend from afar we have thought of three ways of engagement:

1) Blog style reflections (800-1000 words) on one or more questions raised in the call can be submitted to us until 3 January. These are subject to a peer review and we will share selected ones in a secure virtual space that is only accessible to registered particpants. These pieces will feed into the discussions during the day. Selected pieces will also be posted in the rai section of this page (not compulsory).

2) Live stream of the plenary discussions We will live stream the plenary discussion (17 January 2019, 2-4pm tbc).

3) Join the discussions in the online forum In the lead up, we will start the debate in the Convivial Thinking forum.

If you would like to attend virtually please register here.

For any questions please get in touch with Julia (julia@convivialthinking.org) or Lata (l.narayanaswamy@leeds.ac.uk)

The Decolonial ‘Wrong Turn’ in Indian Academia

by Sayan Dey

With the arrival of the postcolonial era in India, the nation faced the gargantuan task of wiping out the toxic remnants of colonization that the British dumped on the indigenous natives before leaving India. The colonially structured education system was one of them. In the year 1835, Thomas Babington Macaulay’s ‘sincere’ efforts to revive literature in India and promote the knowledge of sciences among the inhabitants have borne innumerable fruits in the post-independent era through hierarchizing and diminishing several socio-cultural components of indigenous epistemologies – languages, dialects, cosmic beliefs, religious practices, mythologies, education systems, etc.

How has the academic system in postcolonial India made efforts to dismantle the colonial frameworks of knowledge production?  And how have they failed in the process?

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Torpor and Awakening

by Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti

I am from a family with Indigenous Latin American and German ancestry. I have been to many different countries and lived in different places. I believe this is partly because the Indigenous tradition my family comes from is nomadic. They see the earth as a living entity, and if they stay in one place they believe the land gets sick. They travel to where their ancestors send them, and this and other important messages are conveyed through their dreams. I married into a Cree and Blackfoot family where ceremonies are performed with the Blackfoot in Alberta. My son also married into a Maori whanau (family) in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

This inter-weaving of bloodlines gives me a perspective of many different Indigenous communities. I am no expert in any of them, and I do not speak for any of them. I also find it difficult to pinpoint only one place where I “come from.” In part, this is because I believe that the earth is alive and upset about fences and divisions. It is also because the tradition of being always on the road, crossing many different types of borders means one has to feel the pathway itself as a place too: one that enables you to see different patterns, different connections, as well as many similarities, and that offers a different kind of contribution to the whole. From this place, I would like to offer a story that speaks to the crossroads and the in-betweens.

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“Alternatives to development” as a universal project?

by Julia Schöneberg

Thinking, reading and writing about “development” can be a daunting undertaking – and it gets worse the deeper you dig. Starting off as a student with the naïve desire to learn about development in order to acquire the tools and skills for making the world a better place, my occupation with the topic has turned into an intellectual struggle, disillusionment, much frustration and anger with those who for so long have shaped the concept and practice of “development.” Continue reading ““Alternatives to development” as a universal project?”