Session 1

SMUSI_01- Co-Production (of Knowledge) as Pathway to Decolonization of Knowledge in the Global South

In the last few decades, development challenges in the Global South have generated a wide-ranging re-examination and reassessment of knowledge systems and approaches. These efforts have largely coalesced into the clamour for the ‘decolonization’ of knowledge in the South. This desire is driven largely by the development doldrums faced in the South and the obvious disconnect between knowledge production and the existential or lived realities in this part of the globe. Decolonization has largely meant both a rigid criticism and lampooning of the Western approaches to knowledge production, which are seen in these situations as largely sterile and unresponsive to the problems of the South as it were. Also, gaining grounds with the quest for decolonization has been the constructivist approach to knowledge production. A critical element of the above is imbued in the notion of co-production of knowledge as an approach which empowers and legitimates the claims of research participants to knowledge production and even dissemination. Undoubtedly, knowledge co-production has gained currency in recent decades, especially as the world grapples with challenges of climate change, poverty, ecological disasters, food security, social conflict etc. However, the above has not in any significant measure offered clarity regarding its precise conceptualization, processes, methodological and ethical guideposts. Co-production in a very simple but lucid sense tends to demystify the researcher as an all-knowing person and elevates the subjects beyond passive or mere cooperative elements of social research. While co-production promises quite a lot, it raises issues of validity and legitimacy, especially from the esoteric lenses of disciplines and theoretical orientations. In addition, knowledge co-production may raise methodological challenges of valid representation (even as it aspires to take the subjects on-board), degree of rigour and interpretation among others. In view of the above, there is a need for re-examination of the promises of co-production against the desire for the decolonization of knowledge and the questioning of the intellectual imagination it sponsors as well as the methodological challenges and encumbrances (perhaps) it embodies. In effect, given the hopes and optimism expressed in the drive for knowledge decolonization, is co-production a valid, legitimate, representative, and development-oriented pathway to decolonization? Therefore, the proposed session would focus on such questions as: (a) What exactly is meant by the co-production of knowledge? (b) What are the theoretical and methodological challenges to the co-production of knowledge in the Global South? (c) To what extent does co-production of knowledge respond to the clamour for decolonization of knowledge in the global South? (d) What confers validity and legitimacy to co-production as a social science approach to knowledge generation? (e) What case studies portray the utility of co-production and what lessons can be learnt from these case studies? From the foregoing, we are generally interested in papers that engage with theoretical concerns, ethical, methodological and evaluation issues surrounding co-production especially in relation to the quest for knowledge decolonization or making knowledge very pertinent to development aspirations and realities of the society. As a result, we welcome papers that address these and other related issues.