University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Fieldwork Seminar: Methodologies in the 'field' > Researching otherwise: some reflections on the decolonisation of research practice (and production of knowledge), beyond extractivism and epistemicide

Researching otherwise: some reflections on the decolonisation of research practice (and production of knowledge), beyond extractivism and epistemicide

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Over four years of academic research in the field of urbanism in Bogotá, I have been facing very different reactions to my presence in Colombia, let alone to my more recent engagement with my doctoral research topic: racial segregation and spatial injustice — astonishingly still a public taboo, in a country which hosts the third greatest Afro-descendant population of the Americas. The spectrum of reactions received has encompassed almost anything in-between disbelief vis-á-vis my ten-year interest in the country (“but you are Italian, why would you come to study Colombia?!”), and epistemic revulsion vis-á-vis the embodied practice of my research (“how can a white and European researcher understand anything about the condition of Afro-Colombians in Bogotá!”). On the one hand, this informal talk aims to be nothing more than a self-reflected and hopefully critical personal account on some years of research practice in Bogotá and the risks (when not the actual performances) of perpetuating unequal power relations from the European academia, along a “global North” – “global South” axis, through academic extractivism in local communities and neo-colonialist epistemicide of “knowledges otherwise” (Escobar, 2007); especially in a country like Colombia, still widely devoted to intellectual eurocentrism and racial hierarchies. On the other hand, it wishes to interrogate those “knowledges otherwise” emerged from the field: how can we theorise over and from them in the academia? What shall we give back to them, through our academic work? And, finally, which axiological evaluation can we derive from a non-ethnocidal approach to the empirical knowledges emerged from the field? 

This talk is part of the Fieldwork Seminar: Methodologies in the 'field' series.

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