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 eighth epsiode of the series will feature Dr. Marq Smith from University College London and his talk 'Whiteness, positionality, allyship and doing the work.'

 

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/

 

Transcription

 

00:09

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.

 

00:32

So, hi, everyone. I'm Amy Shakespeare, and this is my colleague, Deborah Ashfield. And we're going to be presenting together today, we're both first year PhD students at the University of Exeter's Penryn campus. And we wanted to do something for the decolonizing Research Festival. And we're originally kind of thinking of doing separate presentations or workshops. But then we realized sort of how much overlap there actually is between our seemingly different research interests. So I'm based in the history department, and Deborah is based in the English department. So I just kind of wanted to caveat today's presentation by saying that it's very much a work in progress. It's very kind of experimental and drawing the two things together and seeing how they sort of work in dialogue with each other. And so we're just trialing some ideas here today. And we're really grateful that you're kind of here to join us for that. And we'd very much welcome any feedback that you have, or any sort of thoughts that it sparks for yourselves. And we're hoping to leave some time to open up the discussion at the end of the session for us all to think about extraction, and last and absence within our own work. And they'll also be time for questions, but do feel free as we're going through to pop questions in the chat. And then maybe we can kind of have more of a unmute and, and free for all at the end. So

 

02:16

yeah, so we're going to be talking a little bit over kind of force of the next half an hour, 45 minutes, between jumping between ourselves and then opening out to everyone else to join in, we're going to start off talking about kind of some of the differences between terms like decolonizing, and decolonial. What kind of nuances and politics and differences kind of in between, between those two terms are. Then I'm going to move into talking a little bit about extraction and the refusal extraction. So I'm going to be talking a bit about extractive research practices and how these relate to extractive colonialism, colonialism. And then we're going to be thinking a bit about connections between anti extractivism and anti colonialism and research. Then Amy's gonna be chatting a bit about the role of loss in relation to her research, which looks at repatriation, from UK museums to indigenous communities, and so called Canada. And then she's going to be thing, she's going to be talking a bit about the kind of the potential absence and what the absence is left by spaces might mean and what kind of possibilities that might lie there. Particularly in terms of anticolonial practice and spaces.

 

03:51

Yeah, so that's kind of, as Deb said, an overview. We wanted to start by just asking whether you sort of can use a reaction or the hands up function. Do you consider your work to be decolonial or decolonizing? So yeah, just do either a thumbs up reaction if you do or the hands up. Okay, so got a couple. Great, so a few people do. Brilliant. And now we wanted to ask, do you consider your work to be anti colonial? And the same thing again? One, two, okay. So fairly even split between decolonial anti colonial, which is really interesting. So, you may be familiar with this article from Turkey. And young decolonization is not a metaphor. But we really wanted to sort of introduce a few key quotes from the article to start today's session off. Both Deborah and I use the term anticolonial, rather than decolonial. And tackling Yanga and a few others have been key to us both separately, I should say, but both coming to that conclusion. And it might seem like semantics, but actually, there's really kind of powerful meaning behind the term decolonization and so as this quote says, decolonization brings about the repatriation of indigenous land and life, it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools. So we can see here that that message is very much about land back and life back. And so thinking about how does can research be decolonial? Or is there another word like anticolonial, that might fill that space better?

 

06:12

And so yeah, talk to me and go on to talk about this trend noticed, which we'll kind of all be familiar with. And they say when one trend that we've noticed with growing apprehension is the ease with which the language of decolonization has been superficially adopted into education and other social sciences, supplanting prior ways of talking about social justice, critical methodologies, or approaches, which approaches which dissenter, dissenter settler perspectives. And this is, it's like a really kind of key message that runs through their their art article is that decolonization isn't a synonym for diversification or for inclusion, or for kind of the many, like, really, like really important kind of like social justice oriented, anti racist, kind of work, and critical methods. And pedagogies that happened in university spaces. And so they kind of, yeah, they just are, they push on this this term, decolonial and decolonizing, and the ways that it's been adopted into the university, and it's used in university spaces, in kind of really interesting ways that yeah, kind of unsettle some of the ways that kind of, we're trained to think about what decolonize what decolonization is, and means.

 

07:41

Yeah, and then this final quote, that we've picked out, kind of alludes to what Debs was just talking about, in terms of, even if the work that we're doing is out, you know, outrightly clearly anti racist, even if it's for social justice, or critical of what's gone before, this harm that the term can do in terms of, you know, killing the possibility of decolonization, really centering whiteness, thinking about that sort of white guilt, and that sort of idea of, of the Savior as well. I think that, that adoption of the term decolonization plays into all of those things, and can be quite problematic. So we just really wanted to start with that, as I say, to kind of outline why we'll be talking in terms of anti colonial you know, it's not without its own critiques, which I think Deborah's gonna go on to talk about, but just really outlining that difference, and, and why we're making it. So yeah, I'm gonna hand it over to Deborah now to talk about extraction and extractivism.

 

08:57

Hi, yeah, so um, I just kind of as a kind of as a little bit of preamble pre blurb, I work kind of between contemporary poetry studies, soundscape studies, critical technology studies bioacoustics, kind of broadly under the Environmental Humanities, umbrella. And I, but today, I'm going to be talking mainly about reading and reading methods more generally. And the place of practicing refusal and retooling in relation to extractive research logics and extractive reading practices. I yeah, I work on poetry mainly. So reading and close reading in particular is fairly central in terms of methods that I use. So what I'm going to be talking about in the next kind of 15 minutes or so it's kind of an experimental live bibliography, or sort of process of walking back through and with some of the texts, thinkers, tools, complications and tensions that are continually structuring and dissolving the structure of my practice. Yeah, so I work on extractivism. And particularly in my research, I think a lot about the ways in which looking out for and paying attention to the tendencies towards extractivism. And extractive logics in research methods and practices can give us information about where the worn habits of colonialism, conquest etcetera, reside and take root in our disciplinary and interdisciplinary methods and practices. So, what do we mean when we talk about extractivism? In these terms? Is it different from extraction? How does it manifest in the modern university in teaching and research? What does it mean to be anti extractive and how does all of this relate to colonialism, colonialism and the practice of carrying out anti colonial research or using anti colonial methodologies and you can get to the next slide. Thank you. So, let's begin with some definitions. Etymologically the verb to extract comes from the Latin extra hearing to draw out the term moved into popular circulation in the late 16th, early 17th centuries, and kind of quickly came to signify the often violent process of getting out the contents of anything by force, taking out anything embedded or firmly fixed, also refers to the process of taking from something of which the thing taken was a part. In early you said and still now it revert it refers to various processes of kind of obtaining constituent elements, juicers, etc, from a thing or substance by suction pressure, distillation, or any chemical or mechanical operation, both personal and material agents. So the employment of these various forms of force as a means for assuming access to so called resources, is an ongoing Pologne act, enactment of colonial and capitalist logics that rely upon self maximization and profit as justification for harm. However, I argue, in my work alongside many others, that the problem of extraction and extractivism doesn't necessarily begin and end with whether or not harm and damage are immediately visible, or perceptible as a result of the process of extraction. My project begins when the position and ethic of obligation and reciprocity must replace an extractive model an extractive knowledge economy, in order for, in order to produce knowledge in ways that stand up outside the logics that govern the colonial academic industrial complex. So I'm, I'm entangled with, obviously, we all are, and working within the parameters of this well established, dominant Western New colonial system of knowledge production. And it's therefore inevitable in my project that I'm inadvertently reproducing some of the assumptions and violence is that it's awesome. But I'm also hoping to kind of diagnose and interrupt and in a third University as possible, which is an amazing text, by the way, thoroughly recommend it. The person puts this split obligation really well in his discussions of the ways in which the first, second and third universities, of which the dynamic between the three he explains really well, and I recommend going and reading it.

 

13:34

Yeah, he explains this split obligation between the three universities which are all coexisting in a kind of constantly malfunctioning machine or assemblage of knowledge and practices. So he says, regardless of its kind of colonial structure, because school or the university is an assemblage of machines, and not a monolithic institution, its machinery is always being subverted towards decolonizing purposes. The bits of machinery that make up the decolonizing University are driven by decolonial desires with decolonizing dreamers who are subversively part of the machinery and part machine themselves. So I'm talking about in terms of the split obligations. These subversive beings wreak scavenge, retool and reassemble the colonizing university into decolonizing contractions. They're cyborgs with a decolonizing desire, you might choose to be one of them. In the third University, which is also inside of the first and second universities. The tools and methods owned by the first university are susceptible to being co opted to anti colonial abolitionist post disciplinary, creative and laboratory and due to my projects focus on taking and interrogating the extractive and colonial origins, uses and entanglements of various tools. methods between the sciences and the humanities. I work kind of in soundscape study. So I think a lot about hydrophones underwater microphones in relation to kind of close reading methods in the humanities. Le pathosans text here provides powerfully grounding ways in which to envisage how this kind of CO option of tools might be enacted as participation in an ongoing collaborative interdisciplinary transnational and trans historical practice of refusing the extractive logics of the first and second universities. Often though, these logics of extractivism and automatic access might not be immediately or obviously identifiable as such. Often they're veiled by suggestions of environmental goods, benevolence, in essence, care. But care in itself can be violent care can be a violation. Our work as Catherine McKittrick puts it so brilliantly can you go to the next sliding? Thank you. Work as Catherine McKenna, McKittrick puts it so brilliantly in data science and other stories to another key kind of methodological texts for my project is to notice this logic, your recursive logic that depicts our presently Ecocide or in genocide or wild as normal and unalterable and breach it. dislodging by biocentric system of knowledge and showing that the natural sciences the humanities and the social sciences are when thought together generative sites of inquiry. One way in which McKittrick suggests doing this noticings breaching of colonial logics is through attention to the politics of citation are our bibliographies extractive did they reproduce the same colonial logics that structure so much of our learning and teaching in the modern Western University. McKittrick calls out how sometimes citation practices do not take the time to feel and recognize liberation. Sometimes referencing signals illusion rather than study. This image of a work cited page containing references to books chapters, articles have been skim read. For neat confirming quotations. Best was kind of all too familiar when I first came across it. Reading McKittrick, I was reminded of and convicted by the ways in which the academy continues to teach and reward deeply colonial acts of extractivism and reading and the ways in which these practices of extractive reading have real material effects.

 

18:00

are in the waiting room and I've been steadily picked?

 

18:03

Go back to the one before. Yeah, perfect. So McKittrick offers an alternative, then a sort of next one. Sorry. McKittrick offers an alternative. She says What if the practice of referencing sourcing and crediting is always bursting with intellectual life and takes us outside ourselves? What if we read outside ourselves not for ourselves but to actively or know ourselves? to unhinge enough to come to know each other intellectually, inside and outside the academy Academy, as collaborators have generous and of collective and generous and capacious stories. So I hope that by refusing the logics of unit directionality in reading, automatic access, consumption, possession, and self maximization that characterize these colonial macho modes of knowledge production, but we're also well acquainted with, we remain accountable to and engage in other kinds of readerly possibilities and intertextual relationships. These relationships Well, I hope, expand already do extend beyond the confines of extractive so called objective academic reading and research economies and towards practices of accountability, specificity, reciprocity, caution and exchange. These four melodics of extractivism and objectivity are characteristic of what Max libera on in their book pollution is colonialism and other texts which has been foundational to establishing my methodological and theoretical frameworks as well as my citation on politics has called Resource relations. We can move on to the next one. That's okay. Thank you. Part of how LeBron theorizes really resource relations doesn't necessarily travel Allow from the island of Newfoundland on the ancestral traditional homelands of the Baytech unseeded ancestral traditional lands of the Baytech in so called Canada, to the UK, where I am liberal unexplained resource relations, as referring to the morality of maximum use of resources, dispossession and property as a way to control both time and space to secure settler and colonial futures. Because the province of Newfoundland and Labrador exists in the broader context of a settler state and Canada, its relationship to colonialism is different to here in the UK at the former heart of empire, though the two places are closely entangled with each other. The ways in which colonialism functions and persist in these spaces is different and bears different consequences. However, the concept of resource relations itself is still extremely useful and instructive here. And particularly for talking about how to read in a different kind of relation that isn't consumptive, violent or extractive. This is especially important when engaging with the work of those whose ideas and knowledge have historically been othered left out CO opted, stolen, or overwritten in time in favor of maintaining the colonial Imperial, gendered and racialized status quo in the academy. Elsewhere Libran discusses continues discussions of resource relations and extractive knowledge economies in specific terms relating to reading practices in academic work and writing. The social into an intellectual stakes surrounding these kinds of obligations they explain are high, they particularly talk about me guess next slide, okay. They particularly talk about the ways in which the norms of value and valuation that underlie how we are taught to read and write are also the ones that force us out of academic pipeline pipelines and into trauma. In addition to the social stakes, there are intellectual stakes. The problem with one way extractive transmission of knowledge is that the way knowledge is transmitted, acutely affects the type of knowledge transmitted, extractive reading can only result in one kind of knowledge transmission acquisition, working simultaneously inside of and and against a system that profits from extractive reading and citation of economies the academy and alternative reading and citation practice that notices and offers clues. On potential methods for working towards an economy of reciprocity is vital. These practices include proper relational debt, generous, citation, annotation, deep engagement, time span, and more.

 

23:01

Work working within this concept of reading within an ethic of reciprocity, rather than in an economy of extractivism. The reader is required to acknowledge that being in relation with and to a text and its authors, crucially outside of kind of one's own head. These practices of embracing the the refusal of extractive research methods and specifically extractive reading relations have slowed me down considerably in the best ways, and forced me to reckon with the usual pushes towards long, tight, comprehensive bibliographies. Illuminating the colonial capitalist and self maximizing performativity, they'll enter these urges when these bibliographies are constructed on the basis of kind of skim reading, and extractive reading. Embracing this refusal has caused me to pause and refrain when the instinct cuts in to add a reference for a text that I'm not yet well enough acquainted with. This is a practice of refusal in progress in process and constantly under review.

 

24:16

isn't me? Yes. Yeah. So kind of going on. From Deborah, my work, as I said, at the beginning might seem quite different. But hopefully, as we go through, it'll become clearer why we've linked them. So what happens when we do refuse extraction led me to thinking about what happens when we can't preserve everything in museums, the tendency is, you know, extract, collect, preserve, and even today with kind of contemporary collecting that museums are pushed to do, that is what they will do. You know, for example, in the Black Lives Matters, protests happen And they went out, they took the placards, put them in their collection, what is the next move. So we might not be able to extract because we're using anti colonial methodologies or for sustainability reasons or accepting that consent has not been given or maybe taken away. And this is kind of where our research starts to overlap. So I look at the anti colonial spaces left by the return of cultural items, from youth head museums to indigenous communities a couple of decades ago, and even up until relatively recently, one of the repeated arguments against repatriation was that it might lead it would lead to a so called slippery slope, and UK museums would empty. Now that might tell you how much isn't UK museums that shouldn't be. But it's also plainly not true, both because not everything in museums as stolen. And because communities often don't want or can't accommodate having everything back that has been stolen. And I'm still grappling with the word loss as it has such negative connotations. In most instances, museum teams today are pleased when a repatriation occurs, meaning that an item can be back with its rightful community. But I'm finding that there's still this element of saying goodbye of curators letting go of something that they believe it's their duty to care for, of a loss. And so I'm looking at different ways museums prepare for this loss and how some choose to embrace it. So I'm focusing on these spaces both metaphorical and physical, that would be left by items that had been returned, and what the potential for those spaces are. Some curators are keen on ethically purchasing contemporary art from the community that they have returned items to, however, you can then end up with more extraction, or with contemporary pieces from communities still being poorly interpreted, or like the vast majority of items being hidden inside storage facilities in perpetuity. And museums have continually collected objects to tell more stories about people and events and can now be described as agencies for managing profusion. However, there are often gaps in collections that being museums supposedly do not have the objects to tell the stories that they want to, or that they can avoid telling truthful stories of colonialism. And this can mean that themes or issues are missed out of exhibitions. So essentially, by putting artifacts at the center of exhibition, it limits the issues available for discussion. Equally, objects that the museums know little about tend to remain neglected. And many museums try to rearrange objects around absence or collect or create new objects to fill gaps. So to Sylvie talks about how there is this persistent museological assumption that the meaning if a sense of an artifact can best be sustained by securing its physical permanence, and this idea of conservation and securing permanence, as I've said, is extraction in and of itself, is a colonial idea that harks back to the formation of many museums in the Victorian era, the false idea and justification that indigenous people were dying out, and therefore their items needed to be preserved for future generations. Coupled with this, continuing to collect fuels a fundamental problem with museum practice and conservation, which is the fact that museums have become completely unsustainable, due to their storage facilities bursting full of collections that never see the light of day. But as the Silvie writes, on the flip side of this, museums often feel that loss equals erasure, to syllabi concludes that the act of saving something means we become implicated in its biography, once you have this intrinsic link to lose that item would be to lose our identities to. So I believe that the fear around repatriation is the idea of losing our colonial identities, losing that Imperial nostalgia, and there's anxiety associated with that surrender.

 

29:18

Many museums like universities are seeking to decolonize but as Deborah has just talked about, what about when this permanence comes at a cost of extraction, when this item was never meant to be permanent, never meant to be preserved? Or when our preservation of something suffocates or kills a living being? What does this mean for anticolonial practice? And Harrison someone's drilling? Harrison wrote that there is an acceptance that new ways of carrying collecting, curating and communicating the values of heritage must be conceived to accept the inevitability of change, that everything cannot be extracted, saved and preserved and to move away From traditional conservation, I'm just going to close my window to see if that helps.

 

30:11

So I'm really interested in this provocation made last month that a brilliant event, which I believe was recorded and is or will be available online. This was from zooming qu who asked, what is the non colonial word for conservation. And I've changed that as to what is the anti colonial word for conservation. Seeming was talking about scientific and ecological conservation being a means to continue Imperial resource extraction. But I think that you can make an argument that heritage conservation, and indeed resource rate sorry, and indeed, research is also a means to continue Imperial resource extraction. And this idea of ethically conducting contemporary art to fill the space of repatriated items feeds into that. So rather than looking at ways to fill these spaces with more items, I follow the absence, I look at the spaces left by or awaiting the return of cultural items. And I argue that within this absence, anti colonial practice can be found. The problematic nature of the display of objects is becoming clearer as museums seek to decolonize. But absence has usually been viewed as negative and museums faces. The idea that and rightly so if an if a community were absent from an archive they weren't represented. For instance, Tally talks about the act of absence thing, where museums choose not to display or not to act session objects into their collection, showing how the museum instead of documenting heritage actually produces its own heritage. And this has linked to the idea of Imperial nostalgia, where museums are places where colonialism is historicized, and glorified. On top of this, you often find that in the interpretation of indigenous items, still today, those communities are talked about in the past tense. So where there is a presence of objects, there is still an absent thing of the communities and absence that historicize is them, and makes them seem like they did die out. The Silvia however, argues that absence can facilitate the Persistence of Memory and significance. spaces created by communities getting their items back can provide such an absence. And I argue that museums should embrace these new absences created by repatriation so that anti colonial stories can be told, without the need to retain or display cultural items that perpetuate colonial violence and are often poorly interpreted. So this quote from Neil Curtis is about a temporary exhibition he curated in 2003, called going home museums and repatriation. And this was off the back of the Moorish shell museum where he was the curator, returning a sacred headdress to the horned society of the guy nation. The exhibition featured various sections that showed the story of the head dress, handover ceremony, repatriation debates elsewhere in the UK, and a discussion board that invited visitors to have their say, and Curtis reflected how comments by visitors were almost entirely favorable, such as all of humanity is connected to each other. And so glad to see this as a discussion, I knew very little about procedures and cases of repatriation. A more recent example of exhibiting absence is at the Pitt rivers Museum. They decided to move remove all human remains from display, including the sensor from South America, which the museum was famous for. Now, as you can see, in this image, they have purposely kept the case empty, which stands out amongst the profusion of material in the museum, and have used space to add the word racism into their interpretation, talk about how the previous curation was problematic. The decision to remove human remains from view and the repatriation processes that will now take place. So these examples indicate the anti colonial power of absence. And further evidence of this potential can be seen in a slightly different way, and the aftermath of the removal of colonial statues throughout the UK in the US in 2020, and 2021. Following the Black Lives Matter protests. These removals was different to repatriation and led by the public have already shown how the removal of objects that perpetuate for violence create opportunities for more powerful messaging. For example, this image shows a group of artists who have created the people's platform, which uses augmented reality to show alternative suggestions created by the public for what could take the place of Colston statue in Bristol. They've also generated a lot of public attention and debate on the difficult side objects that their removal highlighted. This shows what opportunity for growth change and something new the return of cultural items might have and what the future of museums could look like.

 

35:13

So embracing loss and exhibiting absence could dismantle and transform museum practice decentering the object would enable and move beyond the colonial gaze, and center the anti racist anti colonial stance in the post Museum. These spaces may be filled by interpretation written by the indigenous community themselves, becoming a space for truth telling and healing. These spaces will be people centered rather than object centered. And this embracing of loss would enable museums to start to move away from their colonial roots and disrupt Imperial nostalgia. So although I've been talking about museums and repatriation, I think that the theories and ideas behind my work are applicable to research in general, particularly within settings such as UK universities. If we cannot gain consent to extract then we cannot analyze, interpret or preserve this knowledge. And perhaps that is one of the most anti colonial approaches we can take as researchers, where we cannot extract and we embrace loss. That's where really exciting new work can happen. Innovation, should we create something new? Should we try to describe loss? Should we change topic or approach? And how can communities themselves utilize and tell their own truths in these spaces?

 

36:32

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 between

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