Being aware that colonization is still ongoing, with my very own presence as a white, privileged settler on the Indigenous lands of the Coast Salish people perpetuating the problem, I have begun to reframe my own teaching and research in literary and cultural studies by decentering discourses of Eurocentric identity and diversity politics. What might be more fruitful instead of taking decolonialization just as a metaphor (Tuck/Yang 2012) within a solely academic social justice approach (Pluckrose/Lindsay 2020), could be an interactive and relational method of knowledge sharing (Baldy 2015; Christensen et al. 2018; Ladner 2018; Smith/Thorson 2019; Watchman et al. 2019) that aims to create an allyship built on reciprocal, responsible, relevant and respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples, their stories and their lands (Kirkness/Barnhardt 1991). Rather than reiterating Eurocentric notions of artwork, authorship, culture, education, text, literature, media, theatre, society and politics, I am looking at Indigenous “Storywork” (Archibald 2008; Archibald et al. 2019) as a collaborative narrative approach to decolonizing knowledge transfer within European Studies.
This is the transcript of Lata’s spoken word contribution. You can listen to it, or read on.
Tackling the question of whose ideas count is central to efforts to decolonise knowledge. Participatory methodologies then are, at least in theory, one way to address concerns that some ideas and the people with whom they are associated, might matter more than others. So widening participation to include more diverse people and views makes intuitive sense. The hope is that this will lead, at least partially, to counting the knowledge and ideas of more people. Surely, this is a good thing. In my short piece here, I’d like to unpack a participatory research process to consider not just which ideas count, but who gets to express them and how they need to express those ideas in order for them to be counted.
This contribution is situated within the beginning of my un-learning the single feminist story and its underlying violence, which constitute whiteness in German universities’ gender studies departments. I argue that the dominant knowledge politics enforces and normalizes white feminists’ epistemic privilege as well as practices that are “considered ‘unmarked’ – yet unmarked only if viewed from the perspective of normative whiteness”. As white feminists, ‘our’ epistemic privilege is reproduced through specific knowledge politics that has as a referent white, middle-class, cis-female herstory and experience. Insisting on ‘gender’ as isolated meta-category, this politics upholds patriarchy as a universal and transhistorical phenomenon, whilst trivializing the enmeshment of power relations resulting from (neo)colonialism and racial capitalism. Disconnected from ‘other’ (her)stories of struggle, ‘our’ story is not only produced as normative; white feminists are also authorized as ‘natural’ inhabitant of gender studies departments, with the prerogative of speaking for, on behalf, and instead of ‘others’. Thereby, knowledge politics re-produces violence against knowledge holders and knowledges beyond white feminisms’ genealogy. As Audre Lorde diagnosed long ago, white feminists’ self-centeredness and ignorance signify that “only the most narrow parameters of change are possible and allowable”.
A question that I have often asked myself as a researcher and theatre maker is: Can social science jump off the page and into reality? Can theatre jump off the stage and become/have impact on reality? In this webinar I will try to argue that this is not a yes/no question but rather we should ask: How can and do we have impact on reality as activist researchers/theatre makers?