After discussing the contents of this post, we agreed with the author that they would remain anonymous. Whilst we feel the issues being raised are of importance to elucidating the nature of the challenges with ‘decolonisation’ agendas, well-meaning as they may be, there is a danger that airing views so frankly puts the author in conflict with their colleagues and employers. We agreed that it was important to share these concerns, but that it was also in the interests of the author to remain anonymous.
Higher Education the world over runs on fumes and the goodwill of people committed to expanding horizons, whether their own or those of their students and contemporaries. The number of superstar academics who are cherry-picked by the Harvards or the Oxfords on salaries to match are vanishingly small. Instead we get too-high percentages of precariously employed colleagues working across teaching, research and professional services, many of whom work to prop up a customer-oriented, neoliberal higher education system that may not offer security, but still feels like the best chance to do work that may, in one way or another, be part of helping the world to save it from itself. Continue reading “Unpaid labour in the academy: the limits of neoliberal inclusion”
In “On Being Truly Educated” (2015) Noam Chomsky argues that “it is not important what we cover in the class, but what we discover in the class to be truly educated”. Etymologically, the word ‘education’ has originated from the Latin word ‘educare’, which can be interpreted as ‘to bring up’, ‘to rear’, and ‘to lead’. In other words, one of the major purposes of education is to nurture and create able leaders in a society, who would be able to contribute holistically, de-hierarchically, and diversely towards sustainability of life. But, as we look into the general scenario of education systems across the globe we see a highly contradictory and disappointing picture.
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.
Before I share some observations on how I feel ‘decolonising’ is coopted in academia, I want to start by situating the position from which I am arguing. I am a white, well-educated, middle-class, able-bodied woman living in Germany and working in a Western university. Inevitably, my approach to decolonisation is shaped by this positionality. Also, when I talk of ‘we’, I think of people holding similar privileges like myself, living and working in similar spaces, especially in institutions of Higher Education (HE) in the global North.
Background: Since the global outbreak of COVID-19 on December 2019, there have been 271.963.258 confirmed cases, including 5.331.019 deaths, reported to World Health Organisation (WHO, 2021). To address the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic, various governments and non-governmental organisations agreed to continue and strengthen cooperation to address the devastating ripple effects of the COVID-19 (Amaya, 2021). Despite these efforts, the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic have posed unprecedented challenges, especially to the poorest, most vulnerable, and marginalized groups. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected racial, ethnic minority, and marginalized groups (Tai et. Al, 2020). According to recent studies, the poorest, most vulnerable, and marginalized groups are left far behind (IFRC, 2021; Economic Policy Institute, 2020).
The contemporary neoliberal university in the UK is necessarily unable to enact decolonisation. What the university may do, however, is cultivate an intellectual environment ripe to discuss the ongoing pervasiveness of colonialism. In other words, instead of ten point plans or toolkits to award ‘decoloniality’ scores to be highlighted in ‘inclusive’ marketing campaigns to attract historically underrepresented groups, staff and students ought to undertake a relentless critique of the contemporary university apparatus. Such a critique of existing social issues must be immanent, as opposed to transcendent. I argue that an immanent critique can be helpfully guided by the negative dialectics of the late Critical Theorist, Theodor W. Adorno.
It took me a while to pen down these thoughts. Thoughts that otherwise would have just found some space in the corners of my journal. It took me great courage to write these thoughts out openly and and place them in front of my readers. I feel the need to do this because most often we are invisible minds behind the academic work that we produce. Our lived realities greatly influence our work but very rarely do we put out our reflections to the world. There are myriad reasons for this.
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.
Returning to this blog post 10 days after it was initially and hurriedly penned as the layers of exhaustion and necessity of not returning to, or acting, normal becomes increasingly urgent and palpably felt-sensed.
Writing from solo isolation with my two youngest and third arriving next week, in my bed, recovering from a virus and sore lungs (not ‘the’ virus, I think), in my PJs and unwashed hair. Youngest watching Netflix (sorry doesn’t work to give him a task he can get on with at 7am until lunch time as suggested in a RMIT article with steps on to how to manage time during a pandemic!- I might just get 20 minutes at a stretch).