The economics of Black bodies has remained one of the saddest stories of humanity. Throughout space and time, Black bodies have been questioned if they are human enough and capable of thinking. These racist engagements have been practiced and preserved even in spaces that claim to embody high human values such as the church and scientific communities. Western science continues to enslave Black minds to propagate the dismemberment of the Black people (Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2018; Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2018). Black bodies continue to be weighed in the economics of bodies and they rank at the bottom of human hierarchy (Nyamnjoh, 2012). No matter how well educated an African Black person is, even if they were schooled at ‘white’ universities and taught by white teachers, they are simply not human enough to harbor scientific thoughts. This paper explains how Western science preserves and practices racism as far as knowledge creation is concerned.
Recently I read about the “Anthropocene”, which describes a new stage in human history where the driving force for environmental changes is understood to be human activity. Climate change is explained in human and social interference with nature – more specifically in the human and social appropriation of, and intervention in, nature and natural reproduction cycles.
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.
Any traditional wisdom, be it Vedic, Aztec, Buddhist, Sufi, etc., while withstanding their key differences, seem to converge in a message, i.e., all of us are different from each other and from mother nature; yet one with each other and with her in the same instance. By definition, a paradox is a a statement or proposition which, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems logically unacceptable or self-contradictory. The paradox is at full play around us. In our own little worlds, we want to support climate change while enjoying the “luxuries” of a comfortable life that comes at the expense of injustice done to the environment. We detest war but trade with those waging them even when we know that territorial claims of the past century produced nothing but unprecedented scale of violence, and we witness yet another unfolding of war on the horizons. Though the current injustice received justified media coverage, we see many such wars happening in many parts of the world that go unnoticed as they don’t produce the click bits of a scale of the current crisis happening in Ukraine.
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).
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”.
Social organisations tend to be based on asymmetric power relations – almost always, almost everywhere. Inequality characterises interaction both inside and in between societies. Class-based hierarchies, peppered by gender imbalances, sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and many other forms of discrimination are the order of the day, both nationally as well as internationally. Colonial power structures and mindsets – understood as a hierarchical system imposing normative values which exclude and discriminate – remain almost always an integral part of any form of social reproduction, even when we believe that colonialism as a system in which foreign powers occupy and execute rule over other territories and people, is a matter of the past. Following such broad understanding, social reproduction tends to inherently maintain colonial structures, and individuals remain colonised subjects.
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.