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4.3.1 Decolonizing the academy: lessons from partnerships with indigenous communities
Thursday, 03/June/2021:
2:30pm - 4:00pm

Technical chair: Georgina Alonso
Location: Room 1


4.3.1 Decolonizing the academy: lessons from partnerships with indigenous communities

Chair(s): Yuriko Cowper-Smith (University of Guelph, Canada)

The ostensible goal of academic pursuit is to push and challenge the fundamental boundaries of ‘truth’. Yet, as critical scholars have continuously contested and unravelled (Said, 1979; Tuhiwai-Smith, 1999; Absolon, 2011; de Sousa Santos, 2018; Mignolo and Walsh, 2019) certain regimes of truth have been used to uphold and privilege ‘truths’ that support imperial and colonial hegemonies/empires. Research is “a significant site of struggle between the interests and ways of knowing of the West and the interests and ways of resisting of the Other” (Tuhiwai-Smith, 1999, p.2). Thus, decolonizing research is critical for countering hegemonic knowledge production in academia. Yet, the challenge is to transform decolonial theory into decolonial praxis. Although decolonizing academia is currently picking up momentum, there is still much to be contested, debated, and learned. As such, this panel asks, ‘As individuals implicated in a colonial institution and larger society, how does one go about building a decolonial praxis’? In order to answer this question, the panel engages three scholars who have worked with indigenous communities from/in Palestine, Ecuador and Myanmar. By rejecting “academic elitism”, and instead embracing, “radical, politically engaged scholarship...grounded in the politics, practices and language” of communities (as cited in Sudbury & Okazawa-Rey, 2009, p. 2), these scholars will discuss the research methodologies that they have developed and employed in the context of their Ph.D. research. By focusing on the themes of authentic partnership; decolonial activism as Indigenous methodology; allyship; reciprocity; and decolonial love, we learn about the ways in which academia is challenged and enrichened when embodied knowledge and lived experience are considered on the same plane as conventional (colonial) ‘scholarship’.


Presentations of the Symposium


Papas con cuy: decoloniality through reciprocity

Matt McBurney
University of Guelph

Decolonizing research methods and pedagogy is nothing new (Tuhiwai-Smith, 2012; Walsh, 2017), but it would seem that the practice and implementation of “decolonized” methodologies continue to be relegated to the margins of academia (Samson, 2019). Drawing from over 12 years of work with Kichwa Indigenous communities in Ecuador, this presentation examines the ways in which scholars can engage with and learn from Indigenous communities as equal partners through participation in everyday communal activities, such as mingas (communal work) and the sharing of food. Relationships of reciprocity are at the heart of Indigenous communal experiences and, therefore, it is important that academic researchers understand and participate in these experiences in order to break down the researcher/subject dichotomy that places a barrier between true knowledge exchange, learning, and relationships. Indigenous values, such as randi randi (reciprocity), relationality, complementarity, correspondence, and cyclicity, will be explored, as well as the normative practice of these values that form the base of Kichwa living and being.


Decolonial co-resistance: an Indigenous methodology

Jess Notwell
University of Guelph

This presentation explores Decolonial Co-Resistance as Indigenous research. Decolonial Co-Resistance as a methodology arose through co-resistance (Simpson, 2016) with Palestinian women frontliners (Shalhoub-Kevorkian, 2009) in struggles for the liberation of Palestine. My Ph.D. research documents the decolonial action of thirty Palestinian women as love, hope, connection, and liberation. Decolonial love for family, community and the land is the core of their everyday struggle for decolonization and freedom. Arising through the mentorship of several Palestinian women, who decided that I needed particular competencies in order to effectively conduct this research, Decolonial Co-Resistance is a praxis of those same decolonial actions. Simultaneously, it is an Indigenous way of knowing and being: it is relational, decolonizing, enacts reciprocity (Absolon, 2011), lives miyo-pimatisiwin (Makokis, 2011), and embodies decolonial love as a means and an end (Simpson, 2013; Sandoval, 2000).


Allyship and academia: joining the Rohingya-Canadian social movement

Yuriko Cowper-Smith
University of Guelph

Suet-ling Tang (2008) argues that it is possible for community-engaged (CES) researchers to “support community efforts in self-representation and self-advocacy” (p. 239). However, CES has also been charged with renouncing research goals for the goals of advocacy. By drawing on extensive Ph.D. research from 2017 to 2019 with the Rohingya Canadian social movement, I demonstrate in this presentation that when working within a social movement, a CES-based approach can offer rich and nuanced explanations; ones that do not obfuscate complexity, contingencies and intricacies. Indeed, this presentation unpacks how committing to justice-focused research, involving a long-term, grounded and embedded methodology, in fact, enhances the rigour and relevance of scholarship. By describing my methodological choices over two years of research I posit that this approach helps us 1) grasp a full understanding of the intellectual foundations upon which a diaspora-led movement has built itself 2) develop research models that are responsive to both community and research goals that can be used in the future.