Session 2

A3 & E2 Decolonizing Social Science Methodology and the Global South – Methods from, by, and/or for the Global South


Global knowledge production privileges the West as the sole producers of universal knowledge and excludes other knowledge systems. In this vein, social science methodology has been rooted in euro-centric epistemology, ontology and axiology. However, scholars have come to the realization that there are various ways of knowing and western science is just one of such ways. This realization has propelled the calls for the decolonization of global knowledge both from the Global South and North. Scholars argue that the Global South needs epistemologies and pedagogies that are relevant to solving their practical local problems, which western epistemologies have not sufficiently addressed. The calls for decolonization however, seems to echo loudest and is driven by scholars in the global North. This poses a problem, as the majority of these scholars do not have the ‘lived’ experience of colonization and indigenous knowledge practice. Decolonizing social science methodology should be driven by scholars from the Global South whose ‘lived’ experience in post-colonial states and indigenous knowledge systems equip them to better contextualize the issues involved in knowledge decolonization. This session welcomes papers that interrogate some of the issues involved in the decolonization of social science methodology. Why is the Global South lagging behind in the drive for decolonization of knowledge? How can indigenous knowledge systems form the bedrock of developing epistemologies that can address specific developmental challenges of the Global South, such as poor governance, corruption, lack of citizens’ engagement, high fertility, gender inequality, etc. What are the challenges of developing social science methodology from indigenous knowledge systems? How does the asymmetry power relations between the Global South and North in a globalized world affect the development of new methods for the Global South? These and other issues involved in decolonizing social science methodology in the Global South form the focus of this session.

Scholars in Europe mostly understand the so-called “Interpretive Paradigm” as a transatlantic project, in its very beginning geographically associated with the Chicago School, highly influenced by European thinking either took back to the US after absolving the regular year abroad in Europe (e.g. Mead) or brought in by migrants themselves (e.g. Znaniecki, Schutz). The movement spread out over various disciplines (sociology, social and cultural anthropology, political science, communication studies, education) as well as to interdisciplinary oriented gender studies, queer studies, science and technology studies, visual studies … From this narrow perspective the contributions towards the interpretive project from many regions in the world are inappropriate underestimated. Due to the venue of the conference, the session aims to shed light on the richness and vibrancy of interpretive methods in the social sciences (not only) in Asia. Additionally, papers are highly appreciated which try to give an overview of the global legacy of interpretive social research within qualitative methods. We expect this session to contribute to our overarching goal to demonstrate the diversity of what counts as “interpretive” methods and approaches today. By that we do not have a canonical list of concepts or ideas in mind. However, from our point of view interpretive research methods go beyond working with qualitative data in that they are clearly linked to epistemologies and theories of interpretation (which may, or may not, be embedded within social constructionism or symbolic interactionism).