theory #16: Decolonizing Science

Updated: Jan 11

6/10/2021


What does decolonizing science mean? And, where do we start?

Some ideas shared during our last session are listed here:

  • giving the counterpart(s) a choice, access & support as well as working with each other (instead of writing about or for someone)

  • highlighting the importance of teaching epistemology and ontology (the understanding of truth and of meaning/ world view)

  • introducing and including the concept of sentipensar: redefining what knowledge and knowing is – as a combination of body and mind.

  • objectivity is not the same as neutrality! subjectivity should be part of every scientific process and outcome.

  • decolonial approaches: focusing on the process instead of the outcome, listening and learning as a decolonial practice, and through that, unlearning our own world views and biases.

"We can sense an injustice: if something is taken out of a system because it is not used enough, those who use that something become not enough.” – Sara Ahmed


Open questions that remained from the discussion:

  • The way science is structured is broken. E.g. by feeling pressured to follow the norms and rules of scientific work (journals, career path etc.) you miss out on so many perspectives. So, should we relearn science alltogether?

  • Academia / science / universities/ publishing are rigid systems: do we (have to) abandon them entirely or can we create a different path within them, implement new practices?

  • Can there be an alternative science/ university system (similar to independent media outlets)?

"I have to secure my work, because maybe no one else will." – Bell Hooks


Where to go from here:

  • Looking for inspiration in organizations and people that are already doing it (such as the Zapatista movement and university, indigenous university in Colombia)

  • It is about amplifying these voices and giving them a platform.

  • Taking ownership and securing an alternative archive. Similar project: https://www.theblackarchives.nl/index.html

  • When everything becomes overwhelming – remember to always go back to micro-practices and focusing on the community.




And finally, what if we would focus more on passing on knowledge, sharing and translating knowledge instead of always trying to discover the next big thing?



To put on your decolonial reading list:


Bell Hooks, Teaching to Transgress. Education as the Practice of Freedom, 1994.


Boaventura de Sousa Santos, The End of the Cognitive Empire. The Coming of Age of Epistemologies of the South, 2018.


Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 2005.


Christopher Trisos et al., Decoloniality and Anti-Opressive Practices for a more Ethical Ecology, in: Nature Ecology & Evolution Vol. 5, 2021, p. 1205–1212.


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