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.
Continue reading “News from the Convivial Thinking Writing Collective: Engagements with the (de)coloniality of development research and teaching”
by Franziska Sopha
Working on questions of violence and violent conflict in International Relations has turned out to be a deeply confusing and sometimes daunting undertaking for me, especially after my last experience as a research assistant in Dakar, Senegal. I was working for International Crisis Group, a self-designated “independent organisation working to prevent wars and shape policies that will build a more peaceful world”. Based on local and international press and reports, interviews with local contact persons and statistics, I wrote reports and commentaries on security related issues in different West African countries. Very often I wondered: who was I to come from France and (re)produce knowledge on violent attacks in Mali, Boko Haram in Nigeria or elections in Sierra Leone and to present this knowledge as a portrayal of the current circumstances in a country that I had never been to, knowing that my work would be used to justify and legitimate political action by certain powerful actors.
Continue reading “[How do we “know” the world Series] Preventing War. Shaping Peace? Epistemic Violence and Conflict Studies”
by Witold Mucha and Christina Pesch
Knowledge (re-)production, especially in the field of the social sciences, is a social process of discourse and debate, of speech and response. However, 500 years of (Western) colonial expansion have made a lasting impact. Today’s debate is both epistemically and ontologically shaped by Anglo-American and European perspectives (Ndlovu-Gatshenis 2018; Spivak 2004; Ziai 2015). Though, concepts of epistemic violence and injustice relate existing (power) asymmetries in knowledge (re-)production not solely to prevailing (Western) perspectives, concepts, and terminologies but to blind spots where existing knowledge is ignored, neglected, or even destroyed (Brunner 2018; Mignolo 2009). This applies not only to what is categorised, constructed, and perceived as knowledge (thinking) but also to the distinct ways how knowledge is disseminated (talking).
Continue reading “[How do we “know” the World Series] Does the Co-Production of Knowledge Work? Experiences from a Cross-Site Teaching Project between the Universities of Pretoria and Düsseldorf”
by Zeynep Gülşah Çapan
The manner in which knowledge systems are organized and disciplinary formations are delimited work to delineate who can ‘speak’, who can ‘think’ and who is worthy of being ‘read’ and ‘listened’. It is not that ‘other ways’ of thinking are not present, there is a wide archive of knowledge available if one sheds the self-imposed limitations of what counts as ‘legitimate’ knowledge. The courses I have been teaching at the University of Erfurt have been an exploration into how to ‘unlearn’ ways of knowing and how to discuss issues (whether it is race, colonialism, notion of history) through other vocabularies that are already present but ignored. Over the last two years I have been trying to write syllabuses and design courses that reflect these concerns. As part of this effort, I have taught various courses such as ‘Race and Racism’, ‘Fantasizing International Relations’ and ‘Anticolonial Connectivities’.
Continue reading “[How do We “Know” the World Series] Encounters with Theory: (Un)Learning Ways of Knowing”
by Nora Schröder und Michaela Zöhrer
We are increasingly confronted with the imperatives of partnership and relationships at eye level. Such normative claims are needed precisely because equality and symmetrical relationships are not a fact but rather a promise. We need them as a moral compass which indicates variations from the norm in order to fight for more equality and justice alike. However, in collective processes of knowledge production like research or teaching differences and asymmetries are key. We state that they are not only constitutive but can also be turned into learning potentials.
Continue reading “[How do we “know” the World Series] Problems of Research Partnerships: Who Learns from Whom in Conflict Transformation Processes?”
by Rachel Huber
In postcolonial historical research conducted from a Eurocentric perspective, a contradiction has prevailed so far: the majority of research projects are conducted in colonial language and follow partial colonial logic.
Continue reading “[How Do We “Know” The World Series] The Problem of Postcolonial Historical Research within Colonial Epistemologies and Methodologies”
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.
Continue reading “[How Do We “know” the World Series] Reciprocity as Research Ethics”
by Su-ming Khoo and Paul Prinsloo
How does the concept and pursuit of ‘quality’ in Higer Education (HE) bind to, or unbind HE from, stubborn inequalities? To what extent does a colonial present pervade HE and serve to reproduce structural hierarchies? We believe that it is essential to examine historical-structural roots of inequities and understand how these bound and bind HE values, identities and approaches to generating ‘expert’ knowledge. This process is crucial if we are to make it possible for HE to become sustainable in the sense of social and ecological survivability and justice, rather than resigning ourselves to a HE that sacrifices both in the name of economic expansion and competitiveness.
Continue reading “[How Do We “Know” The World Series] To what extent does a colonial present pervade Higher Education and serve to reproduce structural hierarchies?”
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.
Continue reading “[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 Janita Bartell
The following are reflections on my 3.5 years of working as a Research and Learning Manager for a local Cambodian NGO. I do not wish to reveal names of people, organizations or sectors in this essay as I believe these details might distract from the underlying pattern across most people, organizations and sectors.
Continue reading “[How Do We “Know” the World Series] About International “Experts” – Critical Thinking and an Inferiority Complex”