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HomeHierarchies of knowledge production and power relations in academic postcolonial settings

Hierarchies of knowledge production and power relations in academic postcolonial settings

Hiérarchies des savoirs et rapports de pouvoir dans l’académie en contextes postcoloniaux

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Published on Wednesday, October 27, 2021 by Lucie Choupaut

Summary

The controversial concept of decolonization gives rise to various mobilizations in sometimes very different contexts. In the form of militant claims or scientific projects, this concept has both a transformative potential and a political and normative content. In light of the debates in intellectual and activist circles, “decolonizing” is not unanimously accepted. The concept creates polarizing debates, marked by multiple forms of violence, and questioning privilege and discrimination. This special issue intends to explore empirically the expressions, experiences and reshuffling of asymmetrical relations in the production and dissemination of knowledge within academia, in light of post- and decolonial debates. 

Announcement

Introduction

The controversial concept of decolonization gives rise to various mobilizations in sometimes very different contexts. In the form of militant claims or scientific projects, this concept has both a transformative potential and a political and normative content. In light of the debates in intellectual and activist circles, "decolonizing" is not unanimously accepted. The concept creates polarizing debates, marked by multiple forms of violence, and questioning privilege and discrimination.

This special issue intends to explore empirically the expressions, experiences and reshuffling of asymmetrical relations in the production and dissemination of knowledge within academia, in light of post- and decolonial debates.  We will focus here on empirical case studies situated in colonial histories and differentiated scholarly traditions (anglophone and francophone), anchored in the specific connections between the European and African continents, in order to highlight epistemic inequalities and processes of marginalization within the field of social sciences.

Argument

Postcolonial studies and subaltern studies: multiple intellectual currents

Postcolonial and subaltern studies result from a long tradition of research, whose precursors inscribe their trajectories on several continents, from Europe and the United States (Asad 1973; Said 1978) as well as India (Bhabha 1994; Spivak 1988). Postcolonial thought is born of a reflection on the impact of the British colonial legacy on the production of knowledge. On the African continent, the development of postcolonial theories is grounded in a rich philosophical tradition. The post-independence period then opened up a reflection on the constitution of a theory of knowledge that would be specifically African and that would detach itself from the dominant European epistemology. The reflection on the hierarchization of knowledge developed in both the francophone and anglophone worlds, notably through works in history, literature and philosophy (Appiah 1993; Mudimbe 1988).

Postcolonial studies have highlighted the imprint of the colonial encounter and its past and present consequences on both colonized and colonizing societies. They quickly transcended disciplinary boundaries to spread throughout the social sciences concerned with relations of domination and cultural diversity. In its wake, the decolonial movement that emerged in the 1990s offered a sharp critique of global power relations. The concept of coloniality of power, introduced by Quijano (2000), qualified a neoliberal system of production based on racial logics, the hierarchization of knowledge systems, and the imposition of a deeply Eurocentric cultural system (Escobar & Restrepo 2009; Grosfoguel 2003, 2007; Mignolo 2000).

Research and higher education institutions, in this context, constitute a site in which power relations are (re)produced. They are part of the growing neoliberal context that exacerbates academic precariousness. Many academic institutions have adopted a managerial approach derived from the private sector, which results in growing competition between researchers and institutions, to an inflation of publications and to the rise of ‘predatory journals.’ The academic market, as well as research funding, is becoming more and more competitive and internationalized. As mitigating measure, funding bodies and institutions of the Global North have encouraged collaborative research projects involving partners from the Global South, as well as innovative knowledge (co)production strategies. However, those endeavours are also based on power asymmetries and do not necessarily result in a more equitable way of producing knowledge. In this regard, critical development studies have shown that ‘partnership’ has become a neoliberal buzzword (Cornwall & Eade 2010) that obscures the asymmetrical relations between ‘partners’ in the North and South. Decolonial claims do not escape academic marketing and participate in the reproduction of intellectual elites.

Situating asymmetry in academic fields

This special issue offers to explore the (re)production and reshuffling of asymmetrical relations that emerge in the process of production and dissemination of knowledge within academic settings. It focuses on empirical experiences that allow to expose and contextualize in a practical way the current debates and their impacts on academic actors and their agency. With a pragmatic approach, we would like to avoid dogmatic and hyper-theoretical articles that distances contributions from empirical investigations (Olivier de Sardan, 2008). The special issue invites authors that discuss the concrete experiences of actors caught up in academic asymmetries in light of postcolonial and decolonial debates. Gender, race and class relations continue to mark the field of contemporary research. The postcolonial feminist critique has highlighted the ‘epistemological violence’ (Spivak 1988) that the subalterns experience. Research itself reflects wider racial and patriarchal inequalities that pit actors of a hegemonic Global North against marginalized actors of the Global South. At the same time, the field of knowledge production and dissemination has become increasingly fragmented, giving rise to new hierarchies of knowledge spaces rooted in processes of globalization and circulation. However, this movement is still imbricated in older and unbalanced power relations.

It seems necessary, thus, to approach asymmetries as historically situated in distinct academic worlds. In their case studies, we invite contributors to focus on contemporary experiences of relations of domination in processes of knowledge production and dissemination, in light of historical connections and circulations between different spaces. Therefore, we encourage contributors to develop a reflexive and critical perspective emphasizing the subjectivation of scientific discourses through concrete cases (Kavwahieri 2006). We welcome contributions from various fields of social sciences, grounded in (or crossing the perspectives of) sociology, anthropology, history, or political science. This issue will favor collective contributions (e.g. multi-voice papers or co-authored papers) crossing French and English literature and taking an intersectional approach. We expect contributions to be rooted in a plurality of historical and social contexts. Contributors should demonstrate empirically how power relations and asymmetries affect academic worlds and how power relations are reconfigured within them. Proposals for papers may focus on the analysis of multifaceted asymmetries, or explain how these are being subverted. They may consider the following lines of questioning.

  1. Structural asymmetries, positionality and presence in scientific spaces

This line of inquiry questions structural asymmetries within academic and scientific spaces, which includes the positionality, legitimacy and subjectivity of researchers. Authors should look at the validity and variability of scientific discourses in different academic and/or activist contexts: Who has the legitimacy to speak? Who can initiate debates and in which academic circles? How do researchers (in the Global South and in the Global North) manage to take part in academic debates and carry their voice in different scientific and epistemic spaces? Or are they excluded from them? To what extent do researchers feel legitimate in relation to other groups of researchers? What does this tell us about the hierarchy of knowledge?

  1. Epistemic asymmetries and research conditions

This line of inquiry focuses on asymmetries in the production of knowledge. Despite the fragmentation of intellectual spaces, asymmetries between researchers and institutions persist and continue to structure the academic landscape. How do intellectual elites in the Global North and in the Global South appropriate and reproduce systems of exploitation and domination? How do intellectual spaces fragment (according to race/ethnicity, gender, class), thereby reproducing or contesting power relations within and between them? Authors should look at inequalities between the Global North and the Global South, but also at inequalities within these spaces (according to contacts, networks...) and at the reproduction of elites in differentiated academic and scientific spaces. Finally, contributors are invited to question inequalities in terms of access to the material conditions of research, its production (e.g. access to specialized journals, open access, curricula, mobility, etc.) and its dissemination.

  1. Relational asymmetries and collaborations

This line of inquiry examines the workings of North/South collaborations, and the conflicts, constraints and challenges that they can generate. It invites potential contributors to reflect on the place of the ‘Other’ (often the researcher from the Global South) – through mechanisms of tokenism and instrumentalization. The ‘Other’ may be used, consciously or unconsciously, as a scientific bargaining chip in a context of inequalities. What can we learn from North/South research collaborations? What are the implications and impacts (social, economic, political or intellectual) of these collaborations, which often attempt to co-produce knowledge? Do these strategies make it possible to overcome implicit and explicit hierarchies between scientific communities and between researchers? How do conflicts arise and dissolve? How are these power relations articulated in/among academic circles with multiple and different anchors?

  1. Strategies of subversion

This line of inquiry focuses on the various strategies of subversion that researchers put in place in order to mitigate power relations within academic worlds and networks. This implies cooperation and co-construction approaches, but also (and in a more marked way), strategies of dialogue and reflexivity that result in changing research practices. What processes can be considered subversive and disruptive of broader hierarchies? Can they contribute effectively in decolonizing practices of knowledge production and dissemination, or do they remain constrained, difficult to achieve, and why? Is academic subversion possible and how?

Submission of proposals and calendar

Proposals for papers in English or French, should be submitted by November 20, 2021 to the following address: daniel.rochat@uclouvain.be

These proposals of 600 to 1000 words will present a title, the research question, the theoretical framework, the method, a presentation of the empirical data, a draft argument and/or the main results expected; as well as a short biographical note of the authors, their status and their institutional affiliation, as well as their email address. Bibliographic references are not counted. Authors may also suggest some names of reviewers.

December 20, 2021: Notifications of shortlisted contributions.

February, 2022: Submission of papers to the journal, according to the instructions (https://journals.openedition.org/rsa/139). The articles will be about 55,000 characters (including white spaces, footnotes and bibliography) and will be accompanied by an abstract (10/15 lines).

February 2022-August 2022: Evaluations - Review of the texts - revisions of the V1, V2 versions.

December 2022: Publication of the special issue.

Composition of the Scientific Committee

Comité de sélection des contributions soumises dans le cadre de la préparation du dossier thématique  « Hiérarchies des savoirs et rapports de pouvoir dans l’académie en contextes postcoloniaux », à paraître dans Recherches sociologiques et anthropologiques

Convenors

  • Marie Deridder, Postdoc researcher and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow (MSCA-IF), Uppsala University, Sweden
  • Elieth Eyebiyi, Researcher and lecturer, IHA/CREPOS, université de Parakou, Benin
  • Anaïs Ménard, Postdoc researcher, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany

Reviewing Committee

  • J-M. Chaumont (UCLouvain, Belgique),
  • F. Dassetto (UCLouvain, Belgique),
  • P. Doray (UQAM, Canada),
  • N.Fadil (KUL, Belgique),
  • B. Fusulier (UCLouvain, Belgique),
  • Pierre Lannoy (ULB, Belgique),
  • P.-J. Laurent (UCLouvain, Belgique),
  • Ch.Maroy (UCLouvain, Belgique/UdeM, Canada),
  • J. Marquet (UCLouvain, Belgique),
  • L. Merla (UCLouvain, Belgique),
  • G. Pleyers (UCLouvain, Belgique),
  • D. Rochat (UCLouvain, Belgique),
  • B. Rubbers (ULg, Belgique),
  • O. Schmitz (UCLouvain, Belgique),
  • H.J. Suarez (UNAM, Mexique),
  • M. Zune (UCLouvain, Belgique)

Indicative References

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Appiah, K. A. 1993. In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Asad, T. 1973. Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter. New York: Humanities Press.

Avanza M., Fillieule O., Masclet C., 2015, « Ethnographie du genre. Petit détour par les cuisines et suggestions d’accompagnement », SociologieS, La recherche en actes, Ethnographie du genre, mis en ligne le 26 mai 2015.

Bhabha, H. K. 1994. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge.

Chielozona, E. 2014. “Rethinking African Culture and Identity: The Afropolitan Model.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 26 (2): 234–247.

Connell, R., 1997. “Why is Classical Theory Classical ?” American Journal of Sociology 102(6), pp. 1511-57.

Connell, R., 2007. Southern Theory. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

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Escobar, A. 2004. “Beyond the Third World: imperial globality, global coloniality and anti-globalisation social movements” Third World Quarterly 25(1): 207-230.

Escobar A. et E. Restrepo. 2009. « Anthropologies hégémoniques et colonialité », Cahiers des Amériques latines 62 : 83-95.

Go, J., 2017. “Decolonizing Sociology: Epistemic Inequality and Sociological Thought”, Social Problems 64, pp. 194-199.

Grosfoguel, R. 2003. Colonial Subjects. Puerto Ricans in a Global Perspective. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Grosfoguel, R. 2007. “The Epistemic Decolonial Turn”, Cultural Studies 21(2-3): 211-223.

Jansen, J. (ed.) 2019. Decolonisation in Universities: the Politics of Knowledge. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.

Kavwahirehi, K. 2006. VY Mudimbe et la ré-invention de l'Afrique: poétique et politique de la décolonisation des sciences humaines. Brill Rodopi.

Kessi S., Marks Z. & E. Ramugondo. 2020. “Decolonizing African Studies”, Critical African Studies 12(3): 271-282.

Mama A. 2007. “Is It Ethical to Study Africa? Preliminary Thoughts on Scholarship and Freedom”, African Studies Review 50(1): 1-26.

Mamdani, M. 1998. “Teaching Africa at the post‐apartheid university of cape town: A critical view of the introduction to Africa’ core course in the social science and humanities faculty's foundation semester” 24(2): 1-32.

Mamdani, M. 2016. “Between the public intellectual and the scholar: decolonization and some post-independence initiatives in African higher education”, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 17(1): 68-83.

Mbembe A. 2006. “Afropolitanisme”, Africultures 66(1): 9-15.

Mbembe A. 2010. Sortir de la grande nuit. Essai sur l'Afrique décolonisée. Paris: La Découverte.

Mbembe A. 2015. “Decolonizing knowledge and the Question of the Archive.” En ligne: https://wiser.wits.ac.za/sites/default/files/private/Achille%20Mbembe%20-%20Decolonizing%20Knowledge%20and%20the%20Question%20of%20the%20Archive.pdf

Mbembe A., Vergès F., Bernault F., Boubeker A., Bancel N. & Blanchard P., 2010. Ruptures postcoloniales: Les nouveaux visages de la société française. Paris, La Découverte.

Mudimbe, V.Y. 1988. The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indianapolis University Press.

Mignolo, W. 2000. Local Histories/Global Designs. Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Mignolo, W. 2002. “The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference”, South Atlantic Quarterly 101(1): 58-96.

Ndlovu-Gatscheni, S. J. 2018. Epistemic Freedom in Africa: Deprovincialization and Decolonization. London: Routledge.

Ndlovu-Gatsheni, S. J. 2020. “The cognitive empire, politics of knowledge and African intellectual productions: reflections on struggles for epistemic freedom and resurgence of decolonisation in the twenty-first century.” Third World Quarterly (ahead of print) DOI:

10.1080/01436597.2020.1775487

Quijano, A. 2000. “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America”, Neplanta: Views from the South 1(3): 533-580.

Saïd, E. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books.

Smouts, M., 2010, « Les études postcoloniales en France : émergence et résistances » in Mbembe A. & al. (éd.), 2010, Ruptures postcoloniales: Les nouveaux visages de la société française, Paris, La Découverte, pp. 309-316.

Spivak, G. C. 1988. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In C. Nelson and L. Grossberg (eds.), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, London: Macmillan.

Zeleza, T. P. and G. Weare. 2003. Rethinking Africa's Globalization. Volume 1: The Intellectual Challenges. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press.


Date(s)

  • Saturday, November 20, 2021

Keywords

  • décolonisation, postcolonial studies, savoir, pouvoir, académie, recherche

Contact(s)

  • Daniel Rochat
    courriel : daniel [dot] rochat [at] uclouvain [dot] be

Information source

  • Daniel Rochat
    courriel : daniel [dot] rochat [at] uclouvain [dot] be

To cite this announcement

« Hierarchies of knowledge production and power relations in academic postcolonial settings », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, https://calenda.org/927455

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