Session 6

A6 Decolonising the Canon for Methods Training

The decolonisation movement has created an opportunity for academics, researchers and practitioners to reflect on the colonial underpinnings of Western disciplines, epistemologies and methods, how to challenge coloniality and to set itself on a path to produce and apply decolonised knowledge that addresses the contextual needs of different societies. Much has been reflected on the Western epistemological bias within the academy and related disciplines. It is important, however, that this critical consideration be accompanied by a concrete, practical application to achieve change. The application and implementation of disciplinary change is not a simple proposition. There are various points of implementation and different challenges that accompany decolonial efforts. They include, but are not limited to, the rediscovery of pre-colonial epistemologies, cross-disciplinary collaboration, creating space for voices outside disciplinary and academic spaces and visual and participative methods. Firstly, the focus on the rediscovery and remembering of indigenous and pre-colonial epistemologies and methods creates space for critical reflection on these epistemologies and how these epistemologies can be applied to contemporary challenges, more specifically, how these methods and epistemologies can help to gain a different and possibly deeper understanding of contemporary society. Furthermore, the critical appraisal of the epistemologies allows us to reflect on the extent to which these epistemologies can help address current societal challenges. Therefore, engaging in this exercise is not just an academic exercise; it should seek ways to contribute to creating solutions to relevant and contemporary issues that face our respective disciplines. The question is, then, how these epistemologies and methods can be discovered and critically appraised and applied in the contemporary multi-disciplinary context. Secondly, decolonisation also focuses on creating space for cross-disciplinary approaches to understand society and address complex challenges such as sustainable development where there is a need for research to face social vulnerabilities and marginalities with adapted methodology. Western knowledge is fragmented, and the disciplines are largely insular whereas societies and the lived realities of the people in those societies are holistic and their challenges are complex and span across disciplines. Western knowledge and the associated disciplines individually cannot account for the complexities of social and individual life and therefore, cross-disciplinary collaboration is an essential step towards radical change. This raises the question of how disciplines can collaborate to move the decolonial conversation from the conceptual and theoretical to the practical and ethical implementation of decolonial epistemologies and methods and ways of knowing to achieve radical social change? How can these indigenous epistemologies and methods be applied to fundamental disciplinary questions? The discovery and implementation of decolonial change within the academy and professional disciplines means close collaboration with the keepers of indigenous epistemologies and methods. The implication is that space needs to be created for the holders of these epistemologies and methods to collaborate with organised academics and disciplines. Therefore, a question can be asked about the extent to which the academy and associated disciplines create space for marginalised knowledge keepers in discipline-related research and practice processes. Does the insular nature of academia and associated disciplines perpetuate coloniality within knowledge production and disciplinary practice? Thirdly, discovering and pioneering new approaches that appear outside the mainstream traditional academia can face various barriers, some of them institutional. Therefore, there is a need to engage in a reflection on the barriers that decolonial scholars and practitioners face across different disciplines, how to circumvent these challenges and advance the cause of decolonisation. Fourth, in the practice of research within a decolonial framework, there are various questions to reflect on as decolonial scholars. Research can be an expensive proposition and require significant support. There is a current trend of decolonial projects being financed through Western funding institutions and funding bodies. Therefore, there have been questions about the possible co-optation of the decolonial project. For instance, how do we collaborate with scholars in the West in developing decolonial epistemologies, research approaches, and methods across disciplines without being co-opted by the resource-rich West? Furthermore, how do we circumvent the threat of complex indigenous concepts and ideas being commercialised and gutted of their true essence for the benefit of Western sensibilities? How do we reimagine the practice of research within a decolonial context? How do we conceive of the relationship between researchers and communities, and what does ethics look within that decolonial disciplinary research context? Fifth, the decolonial turn offers new tools to consider the human condition critically, to consider the causes and consequences of challenges that face the academy and related disciplines and facilitate alternative methods to understand and solve social issues. One such example is the use of technology to achieve decolonial objectives across disciplines within the challenge of how to ensure that integrating technology in the advancement of the decolonial process improves access to academia and creates space for communities to contribute to the decolonial movement. Based on these guiding thoughts, interested scholars are requested to submit abstracts for the decolonization of the methodology in the different disciplines focusing on the practical application of decolonial approaches, ways of knowing and methodologies. This may include reflecting on their experiences of implementing these approaches in their respective disciplines, the challenges faced, the institutional reactions and lessons that they learnt throughout the process.