Monday Sep 05, 2022
Monday Sep 05, 2022
This series of podcast episodes will focus on Decolonising Research, and feature talks from the Decolonising Research Festival held at the University of Exeter in June and July 2022.
The third epsiode of the series will feature Dr. Foluke Adebisi from the University of Bristol and her talk 'Decolonisation and Research: Finding and unsettling your ‘why'.'
Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Hello, and welcome to rd in the in betweens. I'm your host Kelly Preece. And every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development, and everything in between.
Hello, and welcome to the third in our series on decolonizing research. For this episode, we hear from Dr. Fluka Adebisi from the University of Bristol in her keynote, decolonization and research finding and unsettling your why.
So I've been asked to give this keynote which I have titled very, very roughly, decolonization and research finding an unsettling your why. So the my aim here is to talk about the try and give a rough definition of decolonization, what decolonization is what the colonization is not what does that word than mean for research as a sort of broader concept? And sort of reflect on the ways in which the relationship between sort of decolonization colonization, colonialism coloniality, how that relationship or what it has resulted, to or in in terms of research? And how can we think beyond those sort of that relationship or that that nexus, I'm going to attempt to speak for about 30 to 35 minutes never entirely, works well to maybe 14 at a push, and then leave room for questions. Since I'm completely in charge, you can put questions in the chat. So I'll come back to them. Once I finish, I am going to be talking, you know, my area of expertise is mostly low. So I'm going to be talking to a certain extent at a particular level of abstraction. So I would really be I really look forward to the types of questions you will have pertaining to your own sort of areas of expertise research that you are doing. So before I go into this, I just want to thank Kelly Louise Preece for inviting me and for sort of supporting my ability to come here and speak on decolonization and research. I also want to recognize and acknowledge that the very Nexus that we're talking about the relationship between pooling reality, colonialism, colonial logics, and research has produced certain harmful practices, the certain people who have been the object of unethical research across time and space, and I hope that our conversations today will maybe begin to allow us to do justice to their lives. So I'm, yeah, so I'm going to start by thinking through all sort of talking through this focus here with an anti colonial frame. I do struggle a bit even though I write a lot on decolonization, I do struggle a bit with what exactly we're trying to say. So really thinking through an anti colonial frame, and suggesting that the unfolded logics and practices the ways in which colonization and racialized enslavement have operated, the these very logics were produced from and have produced and an even an unequal world. And as researchers, we must not only we must ask not only that, we researched the truth of that production. So what exactly did
racialized enslavement and what exactly does continuing or ongoing colonialism entail? But also question how our own logics, our own theories and practices, the things we do as researchers, what part do they continue to play in the production, maintenance and reproduction of this unequal world? And why exactly do we research it's definitely not for the money, considering how much researchers are not paid. So why exactly do we do research? What world do we want to research the knowledge that we produce? What world do we want? It's to produce the world we have or a new, different world. I often describe the world we have a world of scars, smudged fingerprints and broken bones. So is it possible considering the standards of our disciplines the structures in which They exist the world in which it is embedded, is it possible for our research to what we research and how we research to change the world? So when I say thinking through the break, I mean, how do we think through this reproduction? How do we break this and disrupt this cycle. So very briefly want to start with, you know, what is not decolonization. So very often, and I'll come back to this in a few slides, the phrase decolonizing, our research is used, and I tend not to want to use it. And a lot of times when people use these sorts of phrases, phrases, they're talking about sort of making research more inclusive, ensuring that we've got the right citations. So there's a conflation between our use of decolonization as a word, and things like equality, diversity, inclusion representation. And that's not to say that equality, Edi and representation are bad things, but just that they're different things, there's certain registers that decolonization should call to mind, and sometimes they're not the same registers. But having said that, there is an overlap, obviously, between the organization and EDI in the sense that sometimes EDI can be used as a means to achieve decolonization or a measure of success of what we're doing. But essentially, when we're thinking about decolonization, we're thinking about other ways of thinking, being and living in the world. So we should be careful not to conflate one with the other. So having said what decolonization is not I, then I'm sort of forced or have put myself in a sort of tight spot of having to define decolonization. And I find it difficult to define decolonization. But one way to think about it is sort of lots of writers for example, Sylvia winter, and the bulky handle, Nelson Maldonado Torres. And so many of us, they put the inception of colonialism slash coloniality, around the 15th century, so 1492 1444 and what they, you know, that sort of date is the suppose that discovery of the Americas, you know, these voyages of discovery, not just the Americas, but also the voyages to southern cape of Africa, the western coast of Africa. So, it at that particular time, you have this almost meeting this confrontation of two different ways of living. The, this confrontation, therefore, it has been suggested, leads immediately to a repudiation of the world in the world, which which introduces, and that is what we define as decolonization. Or that's what can be defined as decolonization. So to put it differently, we can sort of define decolonization as an immediate continuing and stubborn refusal of the colonial conditions of domination, dispossession, and dehumanization that were introduced in the 14th century. But it's also important to note that these sort of encounters these colonial encounters occurred in different contexts, and were deployed using different means and tact tactics, all of them, you know, political and epistemic, and social and legal, and so many things. Therefore, decolonization or the refusal of these ways of thinking being and doing in the world
have always, you know, been context dependent. So the concept of decolonization responds directly to the sort of the ways in which colonial logics were introduced in that particular context. And that's why I would define or describe decolonization as a set of strategies to refuse the part from, among other things, political and epistemic strategies of ongoing colonial conditions. The other thing to point out is that, because it's a political project of racialized peoples, indigenous peoples and colonized peoples, it's very difficult to suggest that in the Global North that we can take any control of the logics and practices of decolonization so it runs from the Global South, northwards it has existed. It's an immediate and continuing refusal from the 15th century of the ways of being and thinking doing of colonialism, which means that it's important to understand what These sets of strategies are what this set of such strategies is responding to. So if we're saying decolonization is a set of strategies responding to the introduction or the integration of colonial conditions of life, what exactly are these colonial conditions of life and how are they integrated? So, I use the words colonialism and coloniality interchangeably to distinguish it from colonization. So colonization would be the administrative control of territory, so the actual spatial temporal administration of territory but colonialism or colony ality. According to Annabelle Kihara who uses the word collegiality remains the most general form of domination in the world today. So he talks about the colonial matrix of power, which sort of at its base, the social category of races introduced as a key mode of classification or a technology of power to create a hierarchy of humanity. That hierarchy, therefore, also relates to epistemologies to normativity is to ontologies. And I'll come back to this in in a moment. So you have on the slide there, a panel so this is taken from South America, where the hierarchy that was created was sort of a range of 16 different races and hierarchies of humanity. Nelson Maldonado, Torres talks about you know, this ongoing colonization sort of colonialism coloniality and distinguish it distinguishes it from colonialism, from colonization, sorry. So he says that colonialism refers to the long standing patterns of power that emerge, and they sort of they are produced by or maintain the live in books criteria for academic performance. And essentially, this concept of coloniality is constitutive of what we understand as modernity. So, Maldonado Torres argues that as modern subjects as subjects of modernity, we breathe coloniality all the time, and every day. So work, when we talk about decolonization, we have to understand that the relationship between coloniality and modernity is integral to the work that we produce the world we research the language in which we use the methods, they're all produced by colonially coded logics that can be in certain cases made invisible, because, you know, that's just the world we live in, right. So the problem therefore, with this, you know, breathe in coloniality, every day, and all the time, it's more than subjects is that because of the hierarchy created the epistemic hierarchy of humanity that has been created, that particular bodies, racialized bodies, gendered bodies, sexualized bodies, bodies, that sort of non heteronormative
sort of economically disadvantaged bodies, all these sorts of groups of bodies are not structured within our knowledge system have not been structured within these knowledge systems, as Knowers. So one could ask them, whether or not the vocabularies these sort of markers of modality, as Nelson Maldonado Torres is, you know, talking about things been maintained alive the vocabularies, categories of thought, concepts that are employed by our normative social science that, you know, in my own case, are they an effective means for making sense of or understanding research in these non Western worlds? As Ronco, you mean, suggests, we've got Western theories and African subjects and these things do not always sort of resonate or CO locate. So we then are attempting within most of our research to explain the ways of being and thinking that don't arrive or not predicated on concepts such as gender, the colonized notions of nations or categories as developed, developing traditional or modern, so we are trying to understand something or we're trying to understand things through lenses that are sort of structured not to see the things that they are trying, or they're claiming to see, we have these ideas of rights and obligations in which do not sort of, again, map on to the way in which are the ways in which indigenous colonized racialized peoples have sort of Article ated, the interrelationships. And this has led to, among other things, the breakdown of human interaction, as well as the breakdown of the sort of environment and the climate. And we've got sort of climate change, rising waters. So essentially what we're doing in many cases is we're taking people's experiences and trying to transpose them through preconceived categories, assimilating them into terms that are then put into work, but they're not seeing the things that we are trying to make them see. And this leads me back to my initial sort of framing question, what is our why? Why are we doing this research, if we're not actually seeing as well as we could be the experiences we are trying to research the world that we are trying to research. So, the coloniality, colonialism, sort of modernity relationship is almost reliant, then one could sort of present on the commodification of knowledge. So rather than actually producing knowledge for the making the world better, we are actually producing knowledge that is more or less commodified, or common and modifiable, that you have what I call the research industrial complex. This produce production of publications that relies very much on free labor on equal international research, partnerships and a long history of harmful research. As Linda two way Smith argues, she says research is one of the it's probably one of the dirtiest slang words in the indigenous world's vocabulary. In one of her lectures, Eve tuck tells a story of how white Canadian researchers would regularly visit indigenous communities to collect vials of blood from indigenous peoples without their consent, and without care, and they would pay them $1 Each time a particular child called that $1 That blood money Sibella and love that shiny, describes research and ask the activity of undressing other people so as to see them naked. Emanuela gray asked us to always understand that research, knowledge production cannot be neutral. And often by trying by claiming objectivity and neutrality, we obscure the political and ethical dimensions of research. So I suggest that to think about research, we need to sort of unpack so if we're thinking about research and decolonization, we need to unpack the what the how the WHO for what we value, and what exactly it is it for. So the ontology, epistemology, normativity, axiology. And teleology. And I'll come back to those know how those map onto other bits of our research in a few sort of seconds.
So I want to sort of very quickly think through or think about, or talk about how research has sort of been exceptionally harmful. So there are lots and lots of examples. I'm only going to mention a few. Marion Sims, for example. The it's called the father of gynecology, and he lots of his research was based on experimentation on enslaved women without anesthesia and without their direct consent. Robert Koch, who is called the father of immunology set up concentration camps, essentially, in East Africa, where he tested on the indigenous population, chemical called a toxin which contained arsenic trying to find out how effective it was a secure for sleeping sickness, it was known that this chemical would cause blindness, severe sort of reactions and even death. When he perfected it, he brought it back. So he, he was German brought it back to Germany, and sort of commodified it marketed it the Tuskegee syphilis, experimental study involves the sort of treatments so to speak of, or the injection of black subjects or black men with so they were being studied about 400 black men were being studied, they will deliberately left untreated so that doctors could be could study syphilis. They were told the subjects of the study, all black men were told that the they were being given a cure, most of them died horrifically. Then we've got Henrietta Lacks whose stem cells were taken without her consent, again commodified without her Families consent, the Kamloops residential school in Canada, the indigenous registers dental school were very young children between the ages of four, excuse me, and 15 were taken from their families. In the past year, it was discovered that there were on there were mass graves on that particular property, and several other mass graves and residential schools have been discovered. And this was based also on sort of research around educational research around the best way to provide education for indigenous peoples. In the current day, we have studies on FGM, we have studies on child soldiers we have there was a study in Nairobi paper was released in 2020, where the subjects of the study were left without wastewater and water for about 10 months. We have therefore, excuse me, there's a long history of over research communities in the context in which the presumptions sort of around the time are that the these over research communities or not, so they fall into this hierarchy? So the into the bottom of the hierarchy of humanity? So the underlying questions that I sort of raised earlier, the ontology, the epistemology normativity, teleology, axiology of these studies, affect and continue to affect the design care, research questions that are being put forward, the very asides put it why of the research? So if we, as modern subjects breathe coloniality all the time and every day? How, then is our research, continually being shaped by the breadth of modernity that is constitutive of coloniality? How do these sorts of questions around who we are as human beings, and where we live, as you know, the Earth or the planet upon which we live? How does that affect the very research that we do the very sort of languages, vocabularies, concepts upon which we rely on? How do we try and break out of those.
So there is a paradox here. And this is why I kind of tried to trace the my examples of this sort of harmful research from period of racialized enslavement to 2020, that we think that as you know, time continues to move on, there is progress being made, we are becoming more aware of the ways in which race permeates the structures of our research projects, and there is increased urgency to addressing that. So you know, you've been saying when we have to do better, we need to decolonize this and recognize that or we need to be aware of, you know, questions of diversity or inclusivity. But what is actually happening, on the other hand, so on the one hand, we are being sort of becoming more aware, trying to be more inclusive, on the other hand, there is an increased pressure to deliver and lots of people in higher education will sort of relate to or will be able to sort of testify to the fact that the publish or perish, is increasingly becoming publish and perish. And therefore, this pressure to deliver indirectly relies on racial inequalities, it relies on all sorts of inequalities. And you see this paradox apparent in things like budget spreadsheets, where addressing salary inequalities of partners in the Global South, for example, means shrinking the number of outputs that can be achieved within a fixed project budget. So metrics and commodification essentially will continue to produce bad ethics and these bad ethics rely on these sort of vocabularies, these concepts of humanity that have always been harmful, and continue to to be harmful. So how do we move beyond research ethics as a form of litigation protection? And think through this, you know, paradox, this research paradox, we are more aware of this racial inequality, but we are still more we continue to be reliant on these sorts of inequalities to produce outputs. That brings us back you know, brings me back to the question that I started with when we use the word decolonization if we're thinking of decolonization Is this the sets the set of strategies that seeks to repudiate the introductions of these colonial conditions of life? There's colonial ways of sort of ways of dehumanization, dispossession, these ways of thinking, being and living in the world. How exactly do we then talk about decolonizing? Our research? And I suggest that maybe we cannot do that. But I'll sort of give a few sort of suggestions in the next few slides and then Close. And one of the reasons why I suggest that we cannot think that far at the moment is because we are often bound by the standards of the discipline, we are bound by the structures of the university and the world in which we live, work, study, the world in which we breathe. But how then. So, you know, if my suggestion is that that is all to think about decolonizing our research means we need to think beyond the very sort of form of the research itself. What can we do? In the meantime, what do we do? And this is why I always suggest, let's start with the why, why are we doing this, if we're researching, as I said, if we're researching because of the amount of money we think we're going to make from research, then that's probably we've probably chosen the wrong profession. But lots of times, we do want to make the world better. And that if we, if we then see that it is difficult to do so from within the way in which
the ways in which we are researching the requirements that they have given us that we can sort of work with, think about those rules and unpack them a little bit. So going back to, you know, questions of, you know, ontology, the what question, how do we know, question, Who is it for question, what do we value, we need to think about all of those things. And the products of you know, how coloniality slash colonialism has produced this world, at every single bit of our research project. So at the very beginning, how are we forming our questions, questions of knowledge production? Who are we choosing as partners? What's the relationship? What's the power balance between the partners? who's designing the research? Who's delivering the research? Who's doing the analysis? What form of outputs? Are we thinking about? Do they reproduce these inequalities of this colonial world? Or do they unpack that? Do they disrupt that? So essentially, what does disrupt all of this is the question that we should be was one of the questions that we should be asking at every stage, not at the end, or in the middle. Because there's a tendency, I often see where people talk about decolonization once they've set up their research project. They know the question, they know, the partners, and they think, well, around the time and thinking about outputs, I'm going to think about decolonization. What we need to think on a more macro scale, we need to sort of think about all the theories that we are resting on the theoretical frameworks, for example, are they seeing the people the lived experiences that we want to research? How do we then bring in or enable theorizing from the outside? Are we thinking of our research as you know, there's a universal standard I'm going to try and force other lived experiences and knowledge is into this universal standard or subjugate them to the standard. Escobar asked us to think accurate, Escobar says think about or embrace the pure diversity, universality of epistemologies and ontologies. Therefore, we need to rethink who we're relying on on as thinkers, especially when those thinkers are sort of directly involved in creating these hierarchies of humanities. What vocabularies are we using what's key nations? What questions what concepts are we using, essentially, as Delmia suggests, we need to think about theorizing about as a sort of system of fostering caring, caring for each other. So that's humanity and the earth and that to me is what is your why if the why of research, why we're doing this research, why are we doing this question? If it sort of sits outside of caring for each other and the earth, then we are always going to come back to these questions of, you know, decolonization and colonial knowledge is and colonial. logics in this sort of harmful outcomes of research. So we need to think about who sets the research agenda? Who picks the question? What's the framework? What's the methodology? Who are the partners in thinking through these sort of, you know, what is decolonization in relation to all that? So, as I start, you know, as I said, at the start, I'm thinking with an anti colonial frame, rather than sort of one of decolonization. And that's not to say, you know, decriminalization is relevant is just, I think, because the word excuse me, the word has been co opted a lot I then struggle and has been conflated with, you know, an EDI approach. I then struggled to sort of use that word to articulate what exactly it brings to research. But I think, essentially, for me, it's about an anti colonial reflective practice. All the questions that I have outlined is about thinking, how our research what we do in its sort of theoretical framework in its methodology, in the very research questions, who we partner with the outputs we produce, who we fund, who we're funded by, sorry, you know, the conversations that we have, how all of this can produce different visions of being, doing thinking, that do not reproduce the harms of the past. So the way ways in which we can disrupt this world of broken bones, broken bodies and broken souls.
As Deborah Byrd rose tells us, epics of decolonization reverse or sidestep, temporal and spatial forms of punctuation, replacement and exclusion. They embrace the coexistence of the peoples who share this place, and embrace the present moment as the time in which all of us share our lives. These ethics expand the present, enabling it to become a real domain of moral action. And sort of to rephrase her to think about decolonization in our research, is to think about doing research in a way in which we do not undress. People who we are researching, to think about research, so it doesn't, it no longer continues to be the dirtiest word in the indigenous vocabulary. So think about decolonization way that doesn't put to think about research sorry, in a way that doesn't produce broken bones, broken bodies, and broken souls to think about research in ways that those communities that have been misused by research, have the space to become the center of their own lives once more.
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