Tuesday Sep 06, 2022
Decolonising Research Series: Decolonising the Work of Research
Tuesday Sep 06, 2022
Tuesday Sep 06, 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 fourth epsiode of the series will feature Professor Raewyn Connell from the University of Syndey and her talk 'Decolonising the work of research'.
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 fourth in our series on decolonizing research. In this episode we hear from Professor Raewyn Connell from the University of Sydney on decolonizing, the work of research
greetings from Sydney in Australia, I'm Raven, Carnell, and I'm speaking to you on the subject of decolonizing, the work of research, and the significance of the word work will come through. I'm pleased to send you best wishes for this very interesting and imaginative idea of a festival of decolonization in, in, in relation to research. Which event of a kind, I haven't come across the form. I'm interested, of course, because I am a researcher, I've been working for going on around 50 years, as a researcher still trying to learn about it. And there is always much to learn. But I do have some experience then. And that tells me that research is above all else, as a practical matter, matter of things you actually do forms of labor, and, and communication. And that's basically the approach that I want to take in in discussing decolonization. And I wanted to start with a couple of images of the country that I'm speaking from, which illustrates something about knowledge and coloniality. So at this point, I will attempt the great technological feat of sharing my screen choosing my PowerPoint presentation, go you share. And then attempting even to go full screen. So is that successful? Is that come through? Yes, yeah. Excellent. Excellent. Okay, we're underway then. Let me show you a couple of pictures of Australia, not the tourist version. But one from Australian history Australia is a settler colonial country. Its modern society has taken a form shaped by that 230 years of colonization, emigration, and forcible occupation of the land that had previously been occupied by indigenous people who have been here for according to the archaeologists, something like 70,000 years, this is one of the oldest, continuously existing cultures in the world, if not the oldest. But what I'm showing you here is a picture from the late 19th century. A picture drawn by one of the colonizers and published in a local magazine in Melbourne, showing the kind of settlement that moved British occupation out across the land. This is what we in Australia have, for a long time called a station. Perhaps what the Americans understand is backed by a wrench that's in the Western District of Victoria place called Hopkins Hill. And it shows the house that was built by the family to whom this land was granted under colonial rule by the colonial government. And I like this picture because not only does it show how basically European style of art architecture was brought here with perhaps a touch of Indian experience, Imperial experience in it in the wide veranda. But also something about the people who did it because if you look closely
at the picture, you'll see four people in the middle of the picture standing in front of the house. They are white, they are men, and they're all carrying guns. And somehow that encapsulates a certain relationship to the land. And this has been processed, of taking land that has been characteristic of the whole Imperial story. The second image I want to show you is a modern one, it's contemporary. It's now can I cause? No, why? There we are, that's what I do. This is a painting by a woman of an Aboriginal community indigenous community from the central desert of the continent. In a style, which some of you will recognize, because this is now the most famous art style in Australia known as Dark painting, central desert painting. It's a woman's image, painted by a woman and embodying knowledge, embedding knowledge, which belongs to the women of that particular community. It's called Honey and dreaming. And it's not only an image of the land, the circular parts of the drawing represent water holes and sources of water in order is a very dry landscape. And places where groups of women may gather at a particular time of year. And the U shaped. Symbols in a painting represent people sitting in a sandy place. There's also a representation of water, the lines connecting the water holes show flows of water across the land. And also embedded in the pictures knowledge of when a particular food source. The honey ants, which are the species of ant that gather honey from flowers, and from the plants of the area, are available to be to be harvested by the community. So what you've got here is not just an image, but also a body of knowledge, what we might think of as multidisciplinary knowledge, about geography, about hydrography, about social relations as to who's entitled to have this knowledge and also about biology. And that is something I'd like you to bear in mind. When I talk about the different patterns of knowledge that we come across in thinking about coloniality and decolonization. I want to move from that immediately to territory that's more familiar to most of us here, and that is the disciplinary knowledge system, more knowledge formation, that is characteristic of universities in all parts of the world that produces the mainstream curriculum that I have taught and some of you have taught and all of you have studied. That's a pattern of knowledge, which has been analyzed in this topologies, sociology, knowledge and so on and so forth. Great deal. It's something that I've written about, in if you'll excuse the advertisement in my most recent book, known as the good university, the first chapter of that book, discusses the research what I call the research based knowledge formation and discusses the nature of the labor that goes into research and the different kinds of labor actually that combine to produce
research based knowledge. As I say in in that book, there are multiple forms of labor in research, five principal ones that I identify. One is consultation with the archive. That is the body of knowledge already existing in interdisciplinary field. When graduate students write their review of the literature in chapter one of the PhD thesis, that's basically what they're doing. Then there's the labor of encounter, which may be data gathering in the field, it may be experimentation, maybe the study of literary texts in the humanities, or artistic images, all of that, but the encounter of the researcher or researchers with their materials is interesting form of labor. And what they've encountered or as they're encountering, they're also concerned with what it means. And this involves a kind of labor that I call patenting, which involves theorization, it involves data analysis, a statistical data analysis, involves interpretation of texts, and the like. And that also is required in the overall movement of disciplinary knowledge. And then this one I call labor of critique, when you got your materials when you've done your patenting, or you want to know what you've got, it's different from what was there before. So you have to relate it back to the archive, that you knew at the beginning of the process, and revise the archive in the light of the new knowledge that you've generated. That's the labor that I call Critique. And in that sense, critique is the growth point of disciplinary knowledge. And then finally, and important is this all the rest is the broadcasting of the results of the labor. Because what we're talking about is a collective form of knowledge produced by a workforce. And the circulation of the results of research labor, is absolutely essential to the to the process as a whole. Hence, the whole apparatus of journals, online communication conferences, and of course teach to as well as part of the broadcasting. Okay, so you can see that there's a very active labor process got a complex labor process that's involved in the production, if we think of knowledge as as produced, there is a production process and that's it. And this is very much collective labor and collective labor requires a workforce, you know, knowledge doesn't drop from the sky, people have to work and there has to be a group working and organization of that group. And this is quite different knowledge formations differ. So indigenous knowledge of the kind that you saw in Narnia and dreaming painting. The knowledge bears the workforce are traditionally known in Aboriginal communities as the eldest. In Islamic base knowledge such as Islamic jurisprudence and as Islamic theology. The workforce is known as the llama. The Islamic scholars, who are not a priesthood are respected as scholars is knowledge parents. In the knowledge in the cert in the research base knowledge formation, it is researchers, popularly known as scientists, of course, we know to include humanist researchers, social scientists, as well as natural scientists. Now, this workforce has existed for considerable time. And the research base knowledge formation has a history of about 500 years. This is also the lifespan of imperialism of overseas imperialism from Europe. And that is not a coincidence because the two are, in fact very closely related.
So closely related that I don't think we can think of disciplinary knowledge really, outside On a global economy of knowledge, which it has its roots in the story of imperial expansion, colonial encounters, and what we might call the knowledge dividend of empire. Because it wasn't just the gold or the slaves that float back under the control of the colonizers. There's also knowledge and knowledge in many forms. You know, social scientific knowledge about the societies that are encountered natural science, knowledge, and so on. Here is an example of the knowledge that was brought back from the colonized world. This is an important document in the history of biological science, specifically by geography. It's the practice of oppression, aristocratic, called Alexander fondly. It may be known as name may be known to you, who went as a young man to the colonial areas of North Northern and West Coast, South America, then under Spanish control, and studied the plants, animals, geography, atmosphere, he was one of the pioneers of atmospheric science, as well as biogeography. And this is a kind of map that he had drawn on his return to Europe, which synthesized a huge amount of data about the distribution of particular species of plants. According to height, from sea level up to the Andes Mountains, and across the continent from east to west. And that is a typical kind of process of going to the colonies and bringing back data which is in process to metropole. Actually, Humboldt is not the most famous person who did that. The most famous person, undoubtedly, is Charles Darwin. It's been three years sailing around the colonial and postcolonial world, in the famous royal navy ships, the eagle, and brought back that geological and biological data that was so important in the creation of the theory of evolution, and modern biology. And the data that came back in all these different fields of knowledge, were then accumulated in the institutions of the global north, the Botanic Gardens, the universities, the scientific societies, the journals, what we now think of data bases, data archives, and so on, and theorized and turned into organized knowledge in those kinds of institutions. That's applied to so for those of you who are social scientists, this applies in the social sciences to and here's a fascinating example. So book by some Australian colleagues, about if about a famous 19th century book of anthropology called Camilo, Roy and Kurenai, about kinship systems, which was the big concern of anthropology throughout its history. Now, what our colleagues uncovered when they went back into the archives of this book and the 19th century authors of this work on on Aboriginal kinship is the discovery that they, they if this wasn't, if you like the experimental research or just observation, one, like by going and looking at a tree, you can't do that with a kinship system, you have to ask about it. So in effect, the colonizers, in this case, the authors of the anthropological
treatise, were engaging with in a sense, employing the elders of a local Aboriginal communities as the knowledge sources, and that's extended the knowledge workforce of the empire of the Imperial knowledge system, to the colonized people, intellectual workers of the colonized people, as well as the colonizers. And in that sense, I would never say that the research based knowledge formation is Western knowledge or Western science? I don't think that's right. It is, if anything, you've got to use a phrase like that it's Imperial science because it embeds an enormous amount of knowledge and know how from the colonized and colonized regions, as well as the knowledge of the colonizers. So the as the the economy of knowledge on the Empire evolved, it developed a very significant division of labor. And this is something I learned, particularly from the work of West African philosopher Pauline tungee. Who's writing if you want to follow these issues up, I very strongly recommend his work to most of them is available in English, also available in French. And he pointed out that fields, the familiar fields of knowledge that we we teach in universities in those fields, the colonized and post colonial world so contemporary Africa, mainly functions as a data mine, which produces raw materials that have been organized some process by theoretical labor, in the global metropole, in the Imperial center. So there's kind of division of labor, built into the structure of the global economy of knowledge, where there's mainly a flow of data from the colonized and post colonial world to the Imperial center, and a flow of theory and methodology the other way, which frame the collection of data. And that is the principal role in the whole global economy of knowledge of academics, searches, knowledge workers in the colonized and postcolonial world. And there's one more thing that has to be said about this economy of knowledge, but it was also based on certain exclusions, it excluded the kind of knowledge that we saw in the honey and creaming painting, that is indigenous knowledge formations of the colonized. The the interdisciplinary, multi, non disciplinary knowledge that you saw in that case, also excluded was alternative universalism, like Chinese organization of men's medical knowledge, like Islamic jurisprudence, and those forms of knowledge that were not so place based this indigenous knowledge usually is also competed, if you like for the interest of the world as a whole, but had roots in a different cultural formation. And then there's the knowledge that I call southern theory, which is basically knowledge produced in the colonial encounter itself, by the colonized, and sometimes by colonizers in Lockhart, in the colonial context. These two have mostly been, if not dramatically, excluded, then strongly marginalized. As you see, when you look at the statistics on the leading journals, in almost every university discipline, the leading journals, the ones that are most heavily cited, the most respected, almost all come from the club or north.
Okay, that's, that's what we're up against. That's why the decolonization project is truly important. For university teaching, university based research, all university disciplines are affected by this. Which then leads me to the question, how do we do it? How do we contest the inequality inequalities, the geographical exclusions and so forth that has shaped the knowledge that is taught and circulated in in the universe, a global university system? Well, there are many if you like democratic knowledge projects in the world. Let me show you a few. Here's one from Sweden. It's I'm sorry, this book has never been translated into English, which I think is a great pity because it's a lovely book. Its title means dig where you stand. And it's about a workers education self education project, of researching their own jobs researching the history of their own jobs. It was taken up by the unions in Sweden, it became a popular knowledge movement like you know, popular on a photography, bird watching popular astronomy, this became popular social science. Who better to understand the history of their job than the person who has the job now, but that led outwards to the industry and industry, the industry history in the community? It led outwards to the economy as a whole and ultimately it goes to questions about globalization. So fascinating stuff. Let me show you another. This is from Central America. The work of Nassim Martin Barro, a Jesuit psychologist, no longer with us as a result of of repressive violence in in that region, but who tried to create a new pattern new kinds of psychology that was his teaching discipline in this university teacher which would be produced knowledge that was actually useful to the oppressed, indigenous and working classes of the Central America region where he worked. He developed the it came to be called liberation psychology on the model of liberation theology. It never became popular in mainstream academic psychology. But if any of you are psychologists, I can recommend Martine borrow as a fascinating, interesting example of other ways to think about your discipline. Let me show you another. This is another university. This is a picture taken almost exactly 100 years ago, when the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, many of you will know who had been working to create a relevant form of schools in Bengal decided that a good school system needed a college top, if you like a tertiary education top, he looked at the Colonial universities that have been set up by the colonizers in India, quite relatively large university system was created in colonial India. But he wasn't satisfied with it, because it was controlled by the colonial colonial power. So he created his own This is it. This is the launch ceremony of the college that he called this variety, which he understood as which he intended to be what he called a meeting place of civilization.
We might call a genuinely multicultural curriculum on a global scale. So in their knowledge from indigenous traditions in India was taught knowledge from Europe, Western academics, unquote from Europe to knowledge from China was taught monitoring Tibet. It was intended to be a meeting place for different knowledge formations, to create a unique curriculum, hopefully not unique. Now, it was a struggle. It ran into financial trouble. But it's hard it's still a day in a somewhat different forms now public university in the Indian university system. But they are very proud of this history and it is a fascinating personal story. So we have from below projects, knowledge projects, we have new workforces and institutions as part of the contestation. And we also have contestation that takes the form of shifting the logic of a given methodology a given set of research methods. Those of you who are interested in decolonizing knowledge very possibly I come across this book and I can strongly recommend it indeed to everyone. Linda to you, I Smith is a teacher in Maori communities in our own New Zealand where who that is those communities in the last generation who have developed a number of higher educational institutions based on Maori cultural principles of teaching and learning, and research. And this book is gives a whole stack of examples of forms of research that treat the indigenous people in New Zealand not as the objects of research but as subjects as participants and designers in the research process, where the intention is to study Maori situations, Maori experience Maori contemporary life. Okay, now, those of you who've read this book will know that it's some of its procedures, relatively familiar in qualitative methods in the social sciences, and some people have drawn the, I think, mistaken conclusion that indigenous knowledge is necessarily qualitative. In contrast to quantitative that is. And this, in fact, is not the case. And his the demonstration, a book called indigenous statistics by Maggie Walter, the Australian Indigenous colleague of mine, sociology, Chris Anderson, from North America from from Canada, indigenous scholar there who've taken up the techniques of quantitative research, as for instance, in censuses and surveys, that have historically been used by the colonial power by the colonial state to study and manage indigenous communities indigenous lives. The book mounts an argument for what the author's called data sovereignty, for changing the power relations that are involved in the collection of data and control over the process of crunching the numbers and turning them to the purposes of the indigenous communities rather than the purposes of colonial government. So there's a range of ways in which logics can be shifted in decolonisation connections can be made. Which brings me back to the question of the workforce, how if we want a workforce in the future, in universities that have capacities for this kind of decolonial work? How do we teach? How do we, for instance, teach them new rules for disciplines?
Well, I would argue that indigenous knowledge in fact, all forms of decolonize knowledge tend to move across genres and across disciplines. So the simple disciplinary agenda is not adequate. Let me illustrate this from one of my great books list in sociology. A book published a bit over 100 years ago, called native life in South Africa. It sounds like the name of so many anthropological monograph, but it's not. It's a highly politicized book, contesting the seizure of indigenous land in South Africa by the new color independent. Color in colonial state that had been set up following what in Britain is known as the Boer War. That is quite controlled state which was the ancestor then of the apartheid regime. The author of this book, this you see in this picture, Solomon Platt chip was the secretary of the organizations later became the African National Congress. And he determined that a knowledge project was needed to gather the information about how this horrendous legislation which was expropriating indigenous land on a huge scale, how that had come about and what its effects were. Well, black people in South Africa at that time couldn't afford a horse. So he went around the country on a bike interview, the displaced families have been moved off as a result of the seizure of land, in this phase of the colonizing project in South Africa and wrote it up in this book, it's an amazing book, it's not only sort of engaged survey research, and interview based social science, it's also historical analysis of the legislation, cultural critique of the political agenda involved. And so it's amazing book. Multidisciplinary, absolutely, you could not confine it within a single discipline. Okay, do we teach our workforce by teaching them new canons, you know, new famous men's mod, I think, as a systematic business, I don't think we need you know, to displace our Darwin's or Max Weber's or Karl Marx is with with alternative, Darwin's Marxism favors. What we need is a much richer archive for that first stage in the research based knowledge process of consulting the archive. Well, I'm a feminist and feminist researcher, I've been also researching the history of feminism to some extent. And, in the course of that, trying to apply a decolonizing agenda, I've been coming across kind of histories that I didn't know the word in the familiar histories that I have read. And here's a couple of people who might figure well, at least one of them Sorry, I thought I had another before that. In if that history, were told, from a decolonizing perspective, we might see this woman being an OG of idol, development economist, environmental thinker, socialist feminist from India, as perhaps the most significant feminist theorist in our generation, done amazing work. And much of what I've been saying raises issues about land. She wrote the book on gender and land, it's called a field of one's own, it should be in your library, if it's not going by the librarians here until they get it an amazing, truly amazing book and an example of the power of the social knowledge that come out of the post colonial context. Okay, and then we come to the question of how we think all things.
If we recognize the plurality of knowledge formations, do we then wind up with a kind of epistemology, a theory of knowledge, which is like a mosaic a whole lot of different colored tiles, each completing itself, but not speaking to each other? That's queer, some decolonizing arguments head. And I can respect them. Because that involves respect for all the separate all the different knowledge projects and different communities who might be producing knowledge in distinctive ways. But I also think that the decolonization process or the process now of equalizing resources on a global scale, including the results of knowledge, this needs the practices of connection, as well as separateness, connection and mutual learning. And this is an example of an attempt to make that argument for the importance of South South links and South North links as well as the north south flow of theory and methodology that we're so familiar with. Chilean bobek another story? A colleague of mine makes this argument for global feminism's attempting to break the likes of Northern hegemony in global feminist discourse, and develop an understanding of what it would be to give full recognition to the experience and theories and knowledge of feminist communities in the different parts of the post colonial world. It's a fascinating story, fascinating argument. She talks about the processes what she calls braiding at the borders, rather than an imposition of hegemony, which is an image that suggests the kind of respect that might be lead needed for into the community into regional connections in the future. So if I'm right, that we do need a practice of connection, then we can speak of knowledge on a world scale as the future of knowledge without northern hegemony, saying that, as the goal of my argument, doesn't mean that the North doesn't matter. In this process. I think the decolonization concerns the global north, as as intimately an important is concerns urgent in the Global South. And that's the reason I'm very pleased with what you're doing it excellent. There are resistances to decolonization, which I've certainly frequently run into, in the 20 years, or more than I've been making these kinds of arguments around the traps. Some of them are rooted in in racism, some of them are rooted some of the objections that is, and resistances originate in, in class privilege, but somehow more respect worthy. They may reflect, for instance, some of the resistance to decolonization, that I have encountered reflects a fear on the part of academic workers have losing the skills and knowledge they already have, or being unable to pass them on to the next generation in the way that they expect to. And therefore, I think it's important to, to argue for these processes is an expansion of knowledge, not not a contraction. I think we, as a practical matter, we cannot escape, we cannot just jump out of the global economy of knowledge. It's here. It's links the university system around the world now, this is what we've got, where we are confronting every day,
on campuses. Some decolonial arguments say that the correct response to this is to D link from it. It's a term from decolonial. Economics actually, but it works for decolonial epistemology as well. I would rather say we should be trying to transform rather than simply separate from the existing global economy of knowledge, partly because setting. Knowledge already embeds so much knowledge from the global south that we don't want to abandon. We need certainly to link existing disciplinary knowledge with new perspectives and local practices in different ways. But I don't think we need a radical abandonment of forms of knowledge are already able to be used. So I see that the decolonizing projects they're not as radically displacing existing knowledge formation, but basically is the cutting edge of projects for the for the democratization of knowledge. That project which we've seen before in local forms, like the degrees then project in Sweden. or liberation psychology in Central America. We can now imagine on a world scale, and that is what the decolonization of, of research now I think has to be about.
And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe and join me next time where I'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in
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