Four approaches to shifting mindsets for decolonising knowledge

By Peter Taylor and Crystal Tremblay

1. Peter Taylor (biography)
2. Crystal Tremblay (biography)

In the context of knowledge for development, what does it require to deconstruct the dominant narratives and personal privileges embodied in our race, class, gender, etc.? And, in a knowledge landscape littered with potential minefields, how do we go about shifting the mindsets that shape the ways in which ‘we’ understand the world and our subsequent values, behaviours, and attitudes?

Drawing on our own experiences, and learning that has emerged through many valued interactions with others, we have identified four approaches which we believe may help to make a difference.

1. Identifying what, and whose, knowledge is valued, counted, and integrated into development processes

Researchers often fail to recognise or value the different knowledges needed to address some of the world’s greatest challenges, because of where knowledge resides and who has generated it.

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Decolonising research capacity development

By Maru Mormina and Romina Istratii

1. Maru Mormina (biography)
2. Romina Istratii (biography)

Why do many countries in the Global South remain behind when it comes to knowledge production and use, despite decades-long efforts to strengthen research capacity?

We think this is because the North still looks at the South with a ‘deficit mentality,’ according to which the latter has the problems and the former the solutions. From this standpoint, northern-led capacity development initiatives fail to recognise the South’s rich and diverse knowledge traditions and systems. Instead, they continue to impose monolithic blueprints of knowledge production, therefore re-inscribing colonial patterns of intellectual Western hegemony.

Of course, in many countries, research systems need support but current approaches are at best producing mixed results. A decolonial lens can help us identify alternative models.

Decolonising research capacity development in principle

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Navigating intercultural relations in transdisciplinary practice: The partial overlaps framework

By David Ludwig, Vitor Renck & Charbel N. El-Hani

1. David Ludwig (biography)
2. Vitor Renck (biography)
3. Charbel N. El-Hani (biography)

How can local knowledge be effectively and fairly incorporated in transdisciplinary projects? How can such projects avoid “knowledge mining” and “knowledge appropriation” that recognize marginalized knowledge only where it is convenient for dominant actors and their goals? In addition, how can knowledge integration programs avoid being naive or even harmful by forcing Indigenous people into regimes of knowledge production that continue to be dominated by the perspectives of external researchers?

On the other hand, how can transdisciplinary projects avoid an exclusive focus on difference that risks creating an artificial divide between Indigenous/local and scientific knowledge and that contributes to further marginalization by denying the very possibility of meaningful dialogue?

We have addressed these dilemmas by developing a framework of partial overlaps. This is a model and methodology of relating actors beyond simplistic stories of seamless integration or insurmountable difference (Ludwig 2016, Ludwig and El-Hani 2020).

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Visions of knowledge systems for life on Earth and how to get there

By Niko Schäpke and Ioan Fazey

1. Niko Schäpke (biography)
2. Ioan Fazey (biography)

How should formalized knowledge systems, including universities, research institutes and education, transform to keep pace with wider and inevitable societal transformations associated with accelerating global change? What kinds of changes are needed in these knowledge systems and how can they be encouraged?

These questions were explored by participants of the Transformations 2017 conference and in subsequent research (Fazey et al., 2020). This included highlighting current challenges, envisioning future systems and the policy and actions required for the transition. These are summarized in the figure below.

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The interplay between knowledge and power / La interacción entre el conocimiento y el poder

By Cristina Zurbriggen

Cristina Zurbriggen (biography)

An English version of this post is available

La mayoría de los recientes enfoques para abordar problemas complejos no incluyen la dimensión política. Por otra parte, la ciencia política, así como los estudios de política pública y de gobierno contemporáneo han realizado escasas contribuciones al tratamiento de los procesos de toma de decisiones desde dinámicas complejas.

¿Cómo podemos desarrollar marcos innovadores que incorporen la dimensión política? ¿Cómo podemos articular la producción conocimiento considerando también la forma en que pensamos acerca de la política, la rendición de cuentas y la responsabilidad social? En concreto, ¿cuál es la dimensión política del proceso de co-creación de conocimiento y cuáles son las implicaciones de la participación política, la experimentación y el aprendizaje colectivo?

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