DECOLONIAL KNOWLEDGE

  • CONCEPT
  • ACTIVITIES

Decolonial knowledges emerge as alternatives to the colonial hegemonic knowledge which is endemic to our global socio-political infrastructures. Nation-states are colonial states: they are an extension of colonialism because the people, lands, resources and forms of knowledge of the ex-colonies continue to be expropriated and perceived from a colonial logic.

The production of decolonial knowledges seeks to decentralize dominant colonial knowledge, confronting those paradigms that validate only a certain type of knowledge as valuable or legitimate, whether it be so-called scientific knowledge, knowledge related to political and social relations, knowledge produced and reproduced in educational and industrial settings, knowledge around family relations and care work and so on. Decolonial knowledges create multiple, plural and diverse alternatives to hegemonic forms of thinking, doing, and feeling that are mistakenly considered universal to all cultures in the world, whilst being solely on parameters and values of Western societies, which have affirmed themselves as the only valid place from which to look at the world.

For doing so, decolonial knowledges take into account lived and embodied experience as a site for knowledge production, thus questioning normative paradigms that separate mind and body, reason and emotion, objective and subjective.

This enables the politicization of the decisions regarding where we want to go, what we want to do, with whom we want to be, and to whom we want to listen. Lastly, the production of decolonial knowledges also enables new alliances that can question racism, even our own racism, in order to be able to understand and politicise our differences, taking into account that each one of us comes with a background, knowledge, and experiences that must be respected and valued.

We understand the colonization of knowledge as a set of power mechanisms that position as the only valid knowledge the one produced in institutions of the Global North under the positivist scientific paradigm. These devices articulate different processes of hierarchization of knowledge, territories, and populations following a colonial geopolitical logic.This logic has the following characteristics:

  • It is based on a univocal definition of how to produce knowledge.
  • It generates theories that reproduce different and interconnected systems of oppression.
  • It follows an expansive logic that seeks to apply this knowledge on a global scale.
Decolonial Knowledges are those practices that, in different ways, question both the assumptions and the effects of the coloniality of knowledge (Quijano, 2000). As knowledge emerges under specific conditions of possibility, it always responds to the interests, issues, and questions of those who produce it. Unlike the univocity of hierarchical colonial logic, there is a wide diversity in the ways alternative knowledges can be generated and shared.

Debates concerning Decolonial Knowledges enabled us to highlight several elements that we considered fundamental for the production of knowledge. Experience was claimed as a valuable source of knowledge in accordance with proposals made by feminist authors such as Joan Scott (1991), for whom experience is a site for critical scrutiny of taken for granted explanatory categories.

Experience is also relevant for understanding the construction of identity in an environment of discrimination, as well as for the formation of political opinions.

Consequently, part of our work consists of taking initiatives to “decolonize” ourselves through collective inquiry.

Paying attention to personal trajectories in the production of knowledge also led us to reflect on the role of affectivity in these processes. Affectivity has traditionally been expelled from the world of epistemology. It has been associated with subjectivity and irrationality, with the feminine, with that which cannot be explained according to the white patriarchal paradigms and which does not provide valid knowledge (Alcoff & Potter, 1993). However, we understand that the affectivity elements – trust, laughter, fears – have allowed the very existence of a space for dialogue for our work. In addition, feelings of anger or powerlessness expressed within the group have also been recognized as a motor for understanding of the multiple ways in which oppressive relationships materialize.
Working on the concept of Decolonial Knowledge also allowed us to discuss some of the effects of ethnocentric knowledge. Particularly, how these contribute to sustaining racist, classist, and sexist imaginaries and practices. The “cultural other”, for example, is constructed both in the academy and social work practice as a generator of, and/or affected by social problems (Galaz & Montenegro, 2015). In the case of people with a migration background, this makes invisible the forms of oppression of the societies where we live (Lurbe & SantamarĂ­a, 2007).

A key question remains open, within the framework of the BRIDGES Toolkit: how can universities, which are historically sites of colonial knowledge production, engage with the counter-hegemonic knowledges proposed by decolonial perspectives? If the objective is that university teachers use the different tools to elicit critical approaches on colonial devices within the university, which would be the most suitable forms of communication of these tools?

To this end, several strategies were discussed: some more confrontational, others more linked to imparting information, and others to raising awareness about the dynamics of exclusion and discrimination within universities.

FILE DETAILS

Name

Barcelona - DECOLONIAL KNOWLEDGE
Size
1150 KB
Reading Time
10 min

This tool contains a series of activities for participants to problematize both their academic environment and the content of their studies through a geographical visualization. The objective is to color-code different countries on the world map in order to carry out a critical analysis of the geographical distribution of our learning context and resources.

Accompanying files:

FILE DETAILS

Name

Barcelona - CRITICAL THINKING WORLD MAP
Required materials
World map printout
Activity Times
1H