Selim Nadi: Why do we need an Indigenous Party in France?

Selim Nadi from the Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR) explains why the building of an autonomous political force for people of color in France is needed. In January 2005, several anti-racist activists and organizations sent out a call – l’appel des Indigènes de la République. This call was sent out in a context of very strong racial tensions in the French Hexagon : girls wearing hijabs were thrown out of school (2004 – but this issue goes back to the 1990s), the French banlieues were rising up (2005), etc. … The aim of this call was to mobilize activists around the balance of forces deriving from the colonization. Thus, the call was saying that “France was a colonial state, France remains a colonial state”. This call received around 3000 signatures in a few weeks. After this call the Movement of the Indigenous of the Republic (M.I.R) was created, an organization that intended to be a political one. Nadi tracks the history of the PIR in the context of the theoretical and practical question: how to build an autonomous political force.

Read the article here.

Freedom of speech under attack at the University Of California Berkeley – again

On 17 April, Bazian facilitated an event at UC Berkeley with Haneen Zoabi, a member of Israel’s Knesset. Zionist students are calling for the university to take disciplinary action against Bazian for hosting Zoabi and defending the content of her speech. This latest attack is part of an ongoing series of targeting BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions movement) activists and individuals who continue to do work on Palestine in the US. The group behind the smear campaign at UC Berkeley is Tikvah, a Zionist campus group that has a long history of smearing Bazian and Students for Justice in Palestine. Students for Justice in Palestine launched their own petition to defend Bazian against the mischaracterization, bullying and blatant racism of Tikvah and off-campus Zionist groups in their continued attempts to suppress open discussion and honest academic analysis of Israel’s occupation.

Read more.

A campaign against the exploitation of African children to raise money for white saviours

Why was I not immediately outraged when I saw the 12-year-old black African, heavily pregnant girl-child, Fridah, posing in pastel-coloured maternity clothes, in quite a sensual manner, in the Plan International Finland campaign advertisements meant to raise awareness about child pregnancies, placed on billboards, streets and public transport spaces all over Finland?”, asked Dr. Faith Mkwesha, Executive Director of the non-profit organization SahWira Africa International and researcher in gender studies at Åbo Akademi University. The advertisement campaign was awarded prizes for best advertisement.

SahWira Africa took a bold step to challenge the negative representation of Africans that perpetuates stereotypes and prejudices in the West, and demanded that Plan International Finland withdraws the campaign, and offers apologies to the African and PoC community, and return the prizes awarded to them. Plan has refused to apologise, and to return the prizes.

They started a campaign with discussion on social media, a demonstration at the office of Plan International where a petition was sent with the demands.

More information is to be found on: https://www.ruskeattytot.fi/rakenteet/protectblackgirlstoo.

See more information on:  www.sahwira-africa.org

Twitter: @sahwiraAfrica

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sahwiraafrica/

Other links:

DIN wholeheartedly supports this campaign and will help mobilize against the dehumanization of African people in Western media.

We call upon other organization to join the campaign of SahWira and offer their support for their campaign. More information: Faith Mkwesha, faithmk20@gmail.com, whatsapp: 00 35 45 66 888 75.

A decolonial critique of a colonial project

This is the text of a lecture by Sandew Hira on April 22, 2018 at the University of Amsterdam for Indonesian students on decolonizing history.

You can download the powerpoint here.

Slide 1: A decolonial critique of a colonial project

I would like to thank PPI Belanda, PPI Leiden and PPI Amsterdam for inviting me to present my views on the colonial research project of white Dutch academics on the liberation struggle of the Indonesian people. I will explain why this project does not meet basic standards of scientific research, why nonsense is presented as scientific knowledge and what the alternative can be for this colonial project. I will present my critique from a decolonial theoretical framework. I will briefly touch on some theoretical aspects of a decolonial critique of Western knowledge production before going into the aforementioned questions.

Slide 2: If you are a professor, that does not mean that you are a scientist, you can be an ideologue of colonialism

Let me start with a basic critique of the authority of knowledge production. What is the authority of knowledge production? The authority of knowledge production is the collection of institutes that assures society of what is valid knowledge and what not. In Western science professors are the authority of knowledge production. If you are a professor, you are supposed to be knowledgeable and searching for the truth. In decolonial critique we argue that if you are a professor, that does not mean that you are a scientist. You can be an ideologue of colonialism presenting nonsense as science. It is not the position at a university that determines whether you are a scientist, but the content of your argument. Ideologues are not searching for the truth, but are producing lies to cover the truth. This is a theoretic proposition of decolonial theory and does not only bear specifically on this colonial research project but on Western knowledge production in general.

Slide 3: Western epistemology

Another theoretical note I want to touch on is the difference between Western epistemology and decolonial epistemology. Epistemology deals with what is knowledge en more specifically what constitutes valid knowledge. Western science has developed in opposition to Christian theology since the second half of the seventeenth century and evolved from David Hume’s view of knowledge based on experience thought Immanuel Kant’s concept of the need to understand experience with theoretical analysis to George Hegel notion of testing theories by prediction. Karl Popper later developed this notion into the concept of falsification. And August Comte conceptualized it in the idea of positivism that holds that knowledge is solely derived from observation and reasoning and detached from ethics. The idea that ethics is not part of knowledge has now become entrenched in the canon of Western epistemology. Knowledge is about true or false and not about right or wrong.

British philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) says: “Our knowledge of truths … has an opposite, namely error.”[1] Not quite. In decolonial theory the opposite of truths are lies. The difference between a lie and an error is that an error should be corrected, while a lie should be opposed. An error is a false statement in an effort to find the truth. A lie is a false statement in an effort to block the truth. Once you realise that there is an error, you will try to correct it. A lie is produced with the intent to manipulate the mind.

Slide 4: DTM epistemology

In the theory of Decolonizing The Mind knowledge is not only about true or false but also about right and wrong.  In DTM the basic unit of knowledge is a concept. A concept is an idea that describes and explains certain aspects of the social and natural world. Knowledge is contained in concepts.

A concept has five dimensions.

The five elements of a concept are treated differently in an error, a lie and a truth. They have to be understood in relation to each other.

  1. In search of the truth you develop a terminology that is an adequate representation of the object of knowledge. If you make an error and you use a term that does not adequately represent the concept, you correct that and use another term once you realise the error. If you produce a lie, you intentionally come up with a term that is not an adequate representation, yet you use an inadequate term because you want to paint a different picture of the object that does not correspond with reality. Take the story of Columbus. The colonial scientist use the term “discovery of the Americas”, while the indigenous people use the term “the illegal occupation of their lands”. The Dutch would never use the term “the discovery of Holland by the Nazi’s in 1940” to describe the German invasion of their country. And they are right.
  2. Observations (facts). In search of the truth you take all relevant facts into account that relate to the concept. If you make an error, you might mistakenly leave out facts, but once you realise that, you make a correction and include these facts in making your argument. If you produce a lie, you select facts that fit into your concept and intentionally leave out or twist the facts that contradict your concept. In the case of Columbus his first crime – the fact of the kidnapping of seven Taino’s – is left out of the narrative of the colonizer but is very much present in the stories of the Taino’s.
  3. The analysis offers a framing and a storyline that makes us understand the concept. In search of the truth you develop a framing and a storyline that matches the facts and provides a logical explanation of the concept. If you make an error in the storyline, you correct it by adapting the storyline so it matches the facts and logic. If you produce a lie, you intentionally develop a storyline that matches your concept and manipulates the facts and logic so as to suit the concept. If you need to fantasise, then you put the fantasies into the storyline. The analysis use a logical framework. The logical framework of Western science is the two-value logic that goes back to Aristotle and use two values: true and false. It does not help us to understand problems of uncertainty and change. Non-Western logical systems like the Indian philosophy of Jainism use a seven value-logic that enables use to understand reality in its uncertainty and process of change. The colonial analysis of Columbus is the legitimization of colonialism in the story of discovery. The decolonial analysis of Columbus is the legitimization of the struggle to colonialism in the story of resistance.
  4. A theory is a collection of interrelated concepts that provides a bigger picture of the natural and social reality. In search for the truth you put your concept in the context of a theory that provides a factual and logical extension of the storyline of the concept. If you make an error, you correct it by looking for a theory that better matches the facts and logics of the bigger narrative. If you produce a lie, you select a theory that extends the storyline of your concept despite the facts and the logic that go against the theory. The colonial theory behind Columbus is the rise of modernity and human civilization. The decolonial theory behind Columbus is the demise of human civilization through the horrors of colonialism.
  5. A concept often contains ethics, a value judgment about what is right or wrong, good or bad. In searching the truth you acknowledge the ethics, make it explicit and defend your position. If you make an error, you correct it by acknowledging the ethics, make it explicit and move on. If you produce a lie, you hide or disguise the ethics by presenting your concept as objective and devoid from ethics. Western epistemology has hidden their ethics from science and cloaked it in notions of objectivity.

Slide 5: What happens when you hide your ethics in knowledge production?

When you hide your ethics in knowledge production, you are then able to present lies as scientific knowledge. How?

First, you present pose knowledge only in two terms: true or false and neglect the dimension of right and wrong.

Second, you claim objectivity on the basis of the authority of knowledge production, not on the basis of arguments. You present yourself as a scientist who is objective.

Third, you claim universality of your knowledge. Not only are you objective, your objectivity has a universal claim: your truth is the absolute truth.

And thus you are able to present blatant lies as scientific knowledge.

A decolonial theoretical framework enables us to lay bare the ethics behind Westernized knowledge and the fallacies it contains from  scientific point of view.

Slide 6: Critique #1: extreme and normal violence is not about facts, but about morality

Let us take a look at the colonial project of these white Dutch historians. The aims and content of the research program is defined on the website of het Koloniaal Instituut voor Taal, Land en Volkenkunde: “The program, which consist of nine parts, should answer questions about the nature, extent and causes of structural extreme (they use the Dutch term ‘grensoverschrijdend’) violence in Indonesia, seen from a broader political, social and international context. In this regard extensive attention will be paid to the chaotic period of August 1945 till the beginning of 1946 – often termed as the Bersiap – and the political and social legacy in the Netherlands, Indonesia and other places.”[2]

The first decolonial critique of the project is that is not a scientific project, but an ideological one. Why? Because it does not use a scientific concept to define the content of the program but an ideological one. In the ideological concept extreme violence is wrong and normal violence is OK. In the decolonial concept the judgment of violence depends on many factors: strategy, tactics, the nature of violence as one of oppression or one of liberation etc.

Slide 7: Critique #2: the concept of extreme violence is an insult to the victim of oppression

The second critique is that this concept of normal and extreme violence is an insult to the victims in a war of liberation. There is no extreme violence without normal violence.  How would any Dutch person feel when German historian would set up a project to assess whether the bombing of Rotterdam was normal or extreme violence? On May 14, 1940 the German bombed the Dutch city of Rotterdam which killed 650-900 victims. On February 13-14 1945 the allied forces carried out a massive bombardment of the city of Dresden which killed 25.000 German, 25 times more than in Rotterdam. How would the Dutch feel when German historians would then claim that the bombing of Rotterdam was not extreme violence but normal violence compared to Dresden? They would feel extremely insulted, and rightly so. The whole notion of normal violence which is inherent to the concept of extreme violence is an insult to the victims of this violence. What are the criteria of these white Dutch historians applied to Indonesia. Is cutting off the balls of a freedom fighter normal violence but beheading is extreme? You get into these ridiculous discussions if you use the concept of normal and extreme violence.

Slide 8: Critique #3: the concept of extreme violence is a direct legitimization of the crime of colonialism

The concept of normal violence means that Dutch racist colonizers who introduced apartheid in Indonesia are perfectly in their right to use normal violence to maintain their colonial rule. Normal violence means the acceptance of the relationship of power. Colonial power is legitimate as long as they use normal violence. This is nonsense presented as science.

Slide 9: Critique #4: the moral judgment of violence should be related to its purpose and cannot be judged in absolute terms

There are two moral categories of violence: the category of the injustice of oppressors violence and the category of the justice of the violence for freedom and liberation. The violence of a woman who is raped by a man cannot be placed in the same moral category of the violence of the rapist. The violence of Dutch freedom fighters against Nazism could not be placed in the same moral category as the violence of the Nazi’s. The violence of the freedom fighters of the people of Indonesia cannot be placed in the moral category as the violence of the Dutch racist colonizers to maintain their apartheid state in Indonesia.

Slide 10: Critique #5: the most obvious comparison is not made: extreme and normal violence of Nazism and colonialism

Scientific research often has a comparative dimension. You compare the phenomenon you want to study in different situations in order to get a better understanding of the phenomenon. In 1945 the Dutch just came out of a struggle for freedom in which they also used violence. The Dutch resistance organized violent resistance in coordination with the allied forces. Shortly after their fight for freedom from Nazism they used violence against the freedom fighters of Indonesia. If you are an objective researcher into violence, why don’t you take this obvious comparison into account?

Slide 11: Critique #6: this colonial research project is a racist project

The leader of this colonial research project, Gert Oostindie, wrote a book on this topic as a prelude to this investigation titled Soldaat in Indonesie, soldier in Indonesia. He claims to be objective and open-minded, as many racists do and contrasts his attitude to the historians in Indonesia who are not objective and open minded. He writes about the way he conducted his research on documents of Dutch soldiers who were fighting their colonial war: “Each of the ego-documents is just an individual account, but an open-minded, systematic analysis of the whole body can produce a more balanced picture and thus also more insight into the war.”[3]

So he is the white objective and open-minded researcher. This is what he says about the historians  in Indonesia: “Until now no Indonesian government has ever showed any interest in serious historical research into the war of decolonization, whether it is carried out in cooperation with the Netherlands or not. That is not strange. Open-minded research would undermine the image of a united heroic people that expelled the colonizer under the leadership of the army.”

The racism of Oostindie lies in his contradiction which he does not even notice. How can you know the result of a research that was never started according to your own account? Why is the conclusion of the white Dutch historian Oostindie open-minded and the conclusion of the historian in Indonesia narrow-minded without judging the facts of a research that was never conducted? Objectivity and open-mind means that you have to subscribe to the conclusion of the white Dutch colonial historians without discussing the fact of the research.

Oostindie is the leader of the colonial research project so he will carry his racist arguments into this project.

Slide 12: Critique #7: the legitimization of the racist colonial rule deligitimizes the fight for freedom – 1

In a debate in Amsterdam Jeffry Pondaag from Indonesia asked his panel members the basic question regarding Dutch colonialism: who gave you white people the moral right to occupy my country that is 11.000 km away from your country and oppress, exploit and humiliate coloured people? This is the crucial question that anyone should pose at the start of any discussion on colonial history. If you evade this question, you evade the crucial context that determines your position in the discussion.

Slide 13: Critique #7: the legitimization of the racist colonial rule delegitimizes the fight for freedom – 2

Colonialism was a system of oppression that used any means necessary to establish and maintain its rule: rape, theft, violence, yrs extreme violence, humiliation, occupation. They colonize by any means necessary. And when colonized people fight for their freedom by any means necessary the colonizers start to scream: you use extreme violence. That is not fair! Oostindie claims that the violence of the freedom fighter was worse than the violence of the occupier and there illegitimate. He writes: “It is clear without any doubt the Indonesian side have committed cruel crimes – probably on a much larger scale and directly mostly against other Indonesians.” Oostindie argues that without Dutch rule the Indonesians would kill each other. He writes: “An important part of violence in the Archipel can be explained by the absence of an effective (colonial) power, but reflected further local contradictions of which the Netherland was partly party to, other than in the function of the keeper of public order.” The Dutch as the neutral ruler that keeps the Indonesians from killing each other. This is belanda racism of the worst kind.

In any freedom struggle the strategy and tactics is related to the means of oppression of the colonizer. Why is the colonizer allowed to establish their rule by any means necessary and the colonized is limited in their struggle of freedom to the means that the colonizer finds acceptable? What kind of logic is this?

Oostindie explicity legitimize colonial oppress in the following statement: “The Dutch military actions should be understood in the context that was given then by the Dutch: protection of the population en restoring law and order.” This is how the so-called scientist conceptualized a system of oppression: colonialism as the protection of the colonized and law and order as the natural way of governing the colonized. The most outrageous comment from Oostindie is to deny the role of violence in maintaining colonial rule. He writes that the Netherlands never had a strong military culture. It was always about protecting the Dutch border. If that is the case, why did you go 11.000 km from you country to occupy and exploit other men’s and women’s country? How was colonization achieved? By saying to the colonized: we come here in peace to rape your women, steal your resources, enslave your people and impose a racist aartheid system. Was this all done with peacefull means? In what kind of world does Oostindie live? What kind of colonial fantasies does he produce. Rember: if you are a professor that does not mean that you are a scientist. You can be an ideologue of colonialism and that is what this project is about: producing the lies of the legitimacy of Dutch fascist rule of Indonesia.

Slide 14: Critique #8: the colonial project turns the victim into the criminal and the criminal into the victim

A common technique in colonial the production of lies is the technique of turning the victim into the criminal and vice versa. Oostindie draws the following conclusion from his research on the liberation struggle of the Indonesian people: “Veterans reject Dutch apologies with reference to war crimes of the opponents.” Then the socalled objective researcher takes a political position in the debate: “It is clear that the other party was guilty of war crimes on a large scale.”

Oostindie turns the victim of oppression into a criminal of war crimes because of the war of liberation. While the oppressor is granted the method “by any means necessary” to impose oppression the oppressed cannot use the same method “by any means necessary” to liberate him or herself from oppression. The colonizer will put limits to the forms of resistance.

Oostindie leaves all claims of objectivity aside when he openly honor the soldiers who weer sent to put down the liberation struggle of an oppressed people. According to him his book should be seen as “a testimony of honor to these men.” What happened to the objective researcher that does not give moral judgments?

Slide 15: What is Decolonizing The Mind (DTM)?

Let me go back to the theoretical framework of Decolonizing The Mind. In this framework decolonizing the mind means three things:

  1. The articulation of a scientific critique of Western knowledge production on different levels: conceptualization, methodology of research etc. This critique exposes the lies of Western knowledge production, in this case the lies of normal and extreme violence and the lies about the legitimacy of colonialism crimes.
  2. The production of alternative decolonial concepts. If we study the period of 1945-1950 we use the concept of the legitimate fight for freedom and not the concept of normal and extreme violence to understand what has happened.
  3. The translation of the alternative knowledge in activism.

I will deal with the third point in the form of the question: what is a decolonial alternative for this colonial research project?

Slide 16: Understanding the nature of Westernized academia and the colonization of the mind

In order to develop an alternative you must understand the nature of westernized universities. You must understand the difference between education and training. Education is the liberation of the mind through free discussion and open debate, critical research and the search for the truth. Training is the imposition of limitations on the mind, disciplining the mind to think in one particular way, acquiring the skills to produce lies and developing the attitude to criminalize people who disagree with you and criticize you.

Education is related to power because education is an attack on the authority of power. We don’t accept propositions that are based on positions of power. We accept proposition on the basis of arguments.

If I talk about Westernized universities I mean not only universities in the West, but also universities in the former colonies of Suriname and Indonesia where we have Surinamese and Indonesians who are eager to defend their former masters against decolonial critique. Jeffry Pondaag can pose the crucial and basic question in every discussion on the history of colonialism because he was not trained in the Westernized university. He is a cement worker in an factory who has not lost his common sense and dares to ask: who gave you white people the moral right to occupy my country that is 11.000 km away from your country and oppress, exploit and humiliate coloured people? That is the question is ask to any Surinamese of Indonesian historians who stand up to defend his or her colonial master. What gave them the right to colonize our land, institute apartheid, enslave, exploit, oppress and humiliate our people? That is the basis of my conversation of coloured people who are trained to defend their white masters.

In 1940 the Kingdom of the Netherlands was a Muslim country; 90% of the kingdom were Muslims, yet there was a minority racist dictatorship in the Kingdom that prevented the coloured people to vote. In Indonesia racism and apartheid was instituted in public places under the banner of “No dogs and Indonesians allowed”. In Nazi-Germany Hitler instituted racism and apartheid with the banner “No Jews allowed”. At least the dogs were better off under Nazism compared to Dutch colonialism.

Slide 17: An alternative decolonial research project

My suggestion for the alternative is to organize a network of activists and academics to set up and carry out a decolonial research project into the colonial history of Indonesia. This project should systematically document the crimes of Dutch colonialism, calculate the amount of reparations that the Dutch should pay as compensation for colonialism and documents the resistance struggle against the racist colonizer. That is the most appropriate answer to this colonial project. The Decolonial International Network would be happy to support any initiative in this direction.

Thank you for your attention.

[1] Russell, B. (1912), p. 186.

[2] http://www.kitlv.nl/vierjarig-onderzoeksprogramma-dekolonisatie-geweld-en-oorlog-indonesie-1945-1950/.

[3] All references are from my review of his book in: https://www.iisr.nl/koloniale-geschiedschrijving-van-indonesie/.

Bandung of the North in Paris May 4-6, 2018

From May 4-6th activists in France with the support of the Decolonial International Network (DIN) are organizing an international conference with the title Bandung of the North in Paris in the spirit of the 1955 Bandung conference.

The English version of the program can be downloaded here.

Below is the manifesto of the conference.

Manifesto of the Bandung of the North

“This is the first intercontinental conference of coloured people… in the history of mankind… It is a new departure in the history of the world that leaders of Asian and African people can meet together … to discuss and deliberate upon matters of common concern. In spite of diversity that exists among its participants, let this conference be a great success. Yes, there is diversity among us. Who denies it? … What harm is there in diversity? .. This conference is not to oppose each other.” With these words Indonesian president Sukarno opened an international conference entitled “Let a New Africa and Asia be Born” in the Indonesian city of Bandung in 1955. It was the first international meeting of head of states of countries in the Global South.

From May 5-6 2018 the Committee of the Bandung of the North will organize an international conference in Paris in the spirit of the 1955 Bandung conference. It will be the first international conference of coloured people that takes up the issues of people of colour who are living in the Global North to discuss matters of common concern.

The “Global North” refers to countries of Western Europe, North America and Oceania that colonized Africa, Asia and the Americas among themselves. Nowadays, large communities from the Global South live in their metropolis. Out of 800 millions living in these countries, an estimated 160 million are people of colour.

They confront racism in every sphere of life as a daily reminder of the continuation of the legacy of colonialism. Racism not only manifests itself in discriminations on the basis of skin colour but also on the basis of religion, origin and culture. Racism is rooted in economic, social, political and cultural institutions. Racism can also be found in health, housing and at work where people of colour systematically lagged behind white people. Racism is translated into social segregation. It is manifest in a political system that deprives people of colour of speaking their mind and impose a dominant narrative about terrorism that facilitates the rise of a police state and targets people of color. It is manifest in a culture that promotes the concept of the superiority of the West and the inferiority of the rest, enforces assimilation, and instrumentalizes diversity.

The communities of colour in the Global North present a diversity of historical experiences: indigenous genocide and land theft, trans-Atlantic enslavement and other forms of forced migration, current migration due to colonial wars and increased poverty and inequalities. In return, they have diversified social movements and offered their own narratives about their oppression and exploitation.

The 2018 conference Bandung of the North wants to create a space in which activists of these movements can meet, get acquainted, learn from each other and develop common projects and campaigns. The conference is about sharing of experiences and analysis in the plural societies of the North. It aims to facilitate common projects and campaigns.

The conference will have plenary session with four keynote speakers: Angela Davis, Fred Hampton JR, Ramon Grosfoguel and Eli Domota. Different workshops will explore different themes from the rise of the police state to the relationship between social movement from black, indigenous, Roma, Asian and Islamic communities.

The organizing committee of the conference is a joint venture of the Decolonial International Network and activists in France.

Information about the conference ca be found here: http://bandungdunord.webflow.io/.

The program of the conference is here: programmebandungENG

Watch part of the 1955 Bandung conference.

Weekend courses Decolonizing The Mind (DTM)

DIN coordinator Sandew Hira has started a series of weekend courses on Decolonizing The Mind. The first series was held in London in the weekend of 24-25th of February and was organized by the Islamic Human Rights Commission.

The second one is in Amsterdam in the weekend of 28-29th of April and is organised by Studio-K.

The third one is in Finland in the weekend of 19-20th of May and is organized by SahWira Africa International.

Background

The weekend course Decolonizing The Mind (DTM) explores the concepts and tools from the theoretical framework Decolonizing The Mind. Two narratives of liberation had dominated knowledge, culture and activism the past 150 years: Liberalism and Marxism. They are rooted in the European Enlightenment. Decolonial thinking is a collection of contributions to a third narrative of liberation with different labels (postcolonialism, orientalism, subaltern studies, Islamic liberation theology). DTM aims to develop a coherent theoretical framework as an alternative to Liberalism and Marxism.

This course is aimed at activists and academics who want to know about and make a contribution to the development of this coherent framework.

Topics

The course deals wit the following questions:

  1. What are the differences in theoretical framework between Liberalism, Marxism and DTM?
  2. What are the differences in producing knowledge from the three frameworks: theories of knowledge including logic, methods of research and analysis for academics and activists?
  3. What is the DTM framework: concepts, methods of arguments, attitudes of a (de)colonized mind, skills of a (de)colonized mind.
  4. How do we apply the DTM framework in different areas of knowledge production and activism? We will deal with the following examples:
    1. Decolonizing social theories: three views on race, class, gender, intersectionality en sexuality.
    2. Decolonizing cultural theory: three theories about authority of knowledge production, identity formation, religion and ethics.
    3. Decolonizing world history: three views on world history
    4. Decolonizing economic theory: Islamic economic theory, liberal and Marxist economic theory.
    5. Decolonizing political theory: three political theories on democracy, political systems and activism
    6. Decolonizing mathematics (you don’t need expert knowledge on mathematics).
  5. How do we apply DTM theory in everyday life?
    1. What kind of attitudes and skills have colonialism installed in white people and people of color?
    2. How do you recognize and analyze these attitudes, skills and colonial knowledge in everyday life: workplace, school, daily interaction, friends an family encounters?
    3. How do we develop a decolonial attitude and acquire decolonial skills in fighting racism?

Course material and preparations

The course is an intensive interactive engagement that starts with a preparation, the course itself and engagement after the course.

Before the course the participants will receive access to an E-Learning application (Moodle) with PowerPoint presentations on the different topics of the course. Participants are supposed to go through these presentations before attending the course.

Teaching methods

Each session starts with a summary of a PowerPoint presentation. Then we spent the course with debates, presentations by participants and analysis of arguments in propositions that develops the topics in the Powerpoint. Special attention is given to possible critiques of the DTM theoretical framework, apart from the critique on Liberalism and Marxism. Participants are asked to prepare a presentation of maximum 5 minutes on a topic by using or criticizing the DTM framework as explained in the PowerPoints. This is optional. If you don’t want to make a presentation, you don’t have to.

After the course

An important aim of the course is to enable participants to use the DTM framework to intervene in political discussions from a decolonial perspective. Participants are invited to use the course to prepare such intervention (writing an article, making a review, submitting discussion pieces, organizing a debate etc). After the course Moodle will be kept open for further communication after the course.

 

Germany March 15: Day of Action against the Normalization of Racist Police Violence

On March 15th, the International Day against Police Brutality, various actions were organized in Frankfurt am Main. This international day of remembrance had not been organized before in a German city except for Berlin, but it is now thought to be established on a long-term basis.

Creative Day of Action in Frankfurt am Main

Random police controls, stop and search controls, sending off, public humilliation and brutal treatment by police and security services shape the everyday reality of Black people, People of Color, migrants, roma, poor and homeless people, sex workers and transgender persons. Making visible this normalization of structural and state violence was the aim of the action day #15MRZ. It was about mourning the various victims, making visible the dimension of racist police violence, engaging in the various forms of resistance and empowering the persons affected through a creative engagement in urban space.

An alliance of local initiatives and transregional campaigns had called for organizing the International Day against Police Brutality in the city of Frankfurt am Main. At Hauptwache, a hotspot of everyday police controls, and at Willy-Brandt-Platz speeches were held and a creative performance as well as a memorial event took place. An information desk gave passerby the opportunity to inform themselves and to get into conversation with the activists about police violence. A place of encounter was created for some hours at the crossroads of Niddastreet and Ottostreet in the district of the central station. Video installations, speeches held by persons affected and local initiatives created an atmosphere of solidarity that was accompanied by music and food for everybody, and that made space for imagining the social without daily policing. The “activist excursion” found its ending with a panel discussion at Café KoZ in the district of Bockenheim. The discussion was about the different possibilities of collective action and interventions as well as radical alternatives to police and policing.

Of much importance were the numerous encounters with people who shared their experiences with policing, informed themselves about the difficult legal situation or expressed their solidarity. At the same time, the comments of outraged passerby showed to what extent a discussion and actions against state violence are urgent and necessary.

Racist Police Controls constitute an Everyday State of Emergency

Sissy Rothe of the Initiative of Black People in Germany (ISD) explains in a moving memorial speech at Willy-Brandt-Platz that „Racial Profiling is often dismissed as ‚just‘ a control and routine, and we see how we – Black People and the People of Color – are being criminalized promptly and with pleasure. The mere color of skin is enough for the police to stop us, asking for papers, documents, the right of residence, the right of existence. No suspicion of a specific crime, our appearance alone is the sufficient trigger for suspicion. Even court jurisdictions, as most recently by the Higher Administrative Court in Baden-Baden in February 2018, are not able to provoke any reaction of the police apparatus. The necessity of measures in order to recognize own prejudices and to examine and reduce them, is denied. Instead they use statistics as an argument. Statistics that they themselves created on the basis of (biased) controls.“

Why Frankfurt needs the International Day against Police Violence

Throughout the day a horrifying picture of the routine violence of policing against marginalized groups was revealed. It became obvious that policing escalates on a routine basis, or better, is itself an escalation, and that controls result in slurs and physical violations. A member of the collective Doña Carmen described how the new “prostitute protection act” enhances the humiliation and continuous criminalization of sex workers. Apartments of sex workers can be raded without judicial search warrants.

„Especially refugees experience systemic violence on an everyday basis, in form of controls, searchings or during the traumatizing enforcement of deportations“, explained a member of the Hessen Refugee Council.

Greetings and words of support from the alliance “Unraveling the NSU Complex“ emphasized the systemic racism within the police apparatus, which contributed to the decade long continuation of the murders by the rightwing terrorist group NSU. Relatives of the NSU victims have been surveilled, lied to and criminalized by law enforcement. „The bomb after the bomb” is how a survivor of the NSU murder series has called the treatment by law enforcement as victims have been treated as perpetrators based on racist bias.

The victims of racist police violence are also dehumanized from state authorities. The case of Oury Jalloh, who was murdered in a police holding cell in Dessau on January 7th 2005, demonstrates how important evidences are concealed, bringing the case to justice is systematically sabotaged and deferred by the justice system. “Until now the murderers have not been found and the circumstances of Oury Jalloh’s death have not been cleared up” scandalizes a representative of the Initiative in Remembrance of Oury Jalloh. That is why an independent international commission has now been constituted to investigate the case as well as the circumstances that make possible the systematic concealing in the investigation of the murder.

Structural Dimension of Racist Policing and Police Violence

Racial profiling is not just the outcome of a racist attitude of single police officers. It is a form of institutional racism that is also reproduced by the legal apparatus as racial profiling is fostered and legitimized by stop and search controls. „These are structural violations of basic human rights and they include severe physical and psychological consequences“ says June Jordanus from the documentation and support collective copwatch-ffm. The recent report of the UN-investigation group of the decade for people of African descent also highlights this.

Manuel from the red aid legal support group explains the obstacles when it comes to legal struggles against police violations. “It does not really matter what applies or does not apply to the law, what the police is allowed to do or not to do. The police does what it can when it can and with what it gets away with”.

Remember, make visible and practice alternatives!

„Laye Condé, Oury Jalloh, Dominique Koumadio, N’deye Mariame Sarr and Christy Schwundeck are only a few of the people who have lost their lives based on racist policing practices. Christy Schwundeck was shot in a Jobcenter in Frankfurt Gallus on May 19th 2011,” says June Jordanus from copwatch-ffm. During the day of action victims of police killings were remembered and a commemoration took place at Willy-Brandt-Platz where the names of victims of police killings in Germany, France, the US and Brazil where remembered during a say their names performance.

„As long as the lives of some are more worth than those of others, as long as some are more free than others, our societies are unfree“, explains Sissy Rothe from the Initiative of Black People in Germany.

„Just yesterday the Black queer socialist city councilor Mareille Franco, who was very active against police brutality in racialized communities, was brutally murdered. This painfully shows the international importance of the struggle against policing and police violence“, says a representative of the Initiative Bahnhofsviertel Solidarisch.

Societal problems such as poverty, gentrification and migration are only regulated and criminalized by police instead of providing solutions. What alternative forms of social and political living without policing and punishment could look like was discussed at the final plenary discussion. The necessity of lived practices of abolition and solitary forms of living together were also emphasized by the Kafä–Kollektiv, that organized the awareness team for the entire action day: „There’s no justice –  there’s just us.”

The following groups were involved in organizing the 15MRZ:

Copwatch Frankfurt,
Rote Hilfe Frankfurt,
Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland (ISD),
Bahnhofsviertel Solidarisch,
LOS! – Offenbach Solidarisch,
KNAS [] Initiative für den Rückbau von Gefängnissen,
Kollektiv Kafä

 

C.K. Raju: Stephen Hawking: Genius or crook?

Faustian pact?

Millions of people across the world have heard of Stephen Hawking, whose recent death hence made headlines.   Everyone speaks of his ALS. But is it proof of his indomitable will? Or did he hence make a Faustian pact with the devil incarnate: the church? Daring to raise this question will doubtless arouse the rage of his admirers. But if we weigh it against the possibility that millions have been deluded using their trust in science, it is our public and ethical duty to raise the question. To answer the question Hawking’s disease is irrelevant, and we need to examine the merits of Hawking’s scientific work dispassionately.

Widespread ignorance

But it is near impossible to do so. While millions revere him, very few understand the mathematical intricacies about calculus related to his work, especially on Penrose-Hawking singularity theory. That theory was the basis of his best-selling book A Brief History of Time. The widespread ignorance about it became starkly obvious during my debate with Roger Penrose, in Delhi, in 1997, attended by various professors of physics from Delhi University and JNU whose blank faces told the story.

What the vast majority believe is a story about science, a story they blindly trust. So deep is their trust that, from a position of ignorance, they are quite certain a contrary opinion is not to be trusted! “Millions of people believe this, they can’t all be wrong can they?”.  Such a “proof by numbers” is convincing because it has survival value, as explained in my book The Eleven Pictures of Time:  there is often safety in being part of the herd. But this psychology also provides an easy route to propaganda to fool a mass of people.  For centuries, millions of Westerners fervently believed in the idea of a powerful God who appointed the church as his broker. The belief persisted just  because the church reviled any dissenters as heretics and atheists, and, for centuries, killed them most brutally.

The Christian theology in Hawking’s work

Therefore, common sense may be a better guide to the truth than guesswork based on trust. What even the most gullible person cannot fail to notice is the way singularity theory connects to the notions of a Judeo-Christian God and a specifically Judeo-Christian notion of creation.

I have pointed this out repeatedly over the last twenty years, but the faithful, and our secular liberals, just ignore it. So, it is necessary to point it out yet again. Hawking’s popular book was preceded by an academic book, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, which he co-authored with G. F. R. Ellis who won the Templeton award for connecting science and religion. That book concludes that the cosmos has a singularity. What does that mean? The authors interpret it to mean a moment of creation. The bottom line of the book [p. 364] asserts: “the universe began a finite time ago. However, the actual point of creation, the singularity, is outside the presently known laws of physics.” God created the cosmos and then set the clockwork of eternal laws in motion.

For those who don’t understand this, the meaning is made explicit in a book co-authored by Hawking, “A briefer history of time”. It explained [p. 141] that:  “At the big bang and other singularities, all the laws [of physics] would have broken down, so God would still have had complete freedom to choose what happened and how the universe began.”

An SF writer wanted to explain a singularity to the layperson. So, he asked Hawking, what exactly happens at a singularity. Well, the “laws of physics” fail, so anything at all can happen! So, what is there to do if one comes face to face with a singularity? Obvious: kneel down and pray!

Any doubts anyone may have about the relation of singularity theory to Judeo-Christian theology are entirely removed by F. J. Tipler who has published on singularity theory in the authoritative journal Nature, the publishers of which also published his book Physics of Immortality. The book [p. ix] “purports to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them.” Tipler adds,  “I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable  logic of my own special branch of physics…the area of global general relativity…created…by the great British physicists Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking.”

Note the claim that it is ONLY Judeo-Christian theology which is proved by present-day physics, not Islamic theology for instance. Let me elaborate for those who don’t understand the finer points here. A big bang beginning for the cosmos is not necessarily a beginning of time: it is compatible with an oscillatory cosmos, as in Hinduism, a cosmos which was created trillions of years ago, but goes through a series of big bangs and big crunches (days and nights of Brahma, each of which lasts for billions of years). Singularity theory seeks to exclude this possibility, and identify the current big bang as a true moment of creation. Cosmology, not biology is the natural playground of creationism. The first creationist conflict actually took place between Proclus and John Philoponus in the 6th c. over the issue of one-time creation of the cosmos.

Likewise, as explained in my article on Islam and Science, or in this minuted discussion, or in this recent video, the belief in one-time creation followed by the “laws of physics” is an anti-Islamic aspect of the crusading Christian theology of Aquinas. Islam believes in continuous creation of the world at each instant, a creation conditioned by habit, but not determined by the past on any rigid laws. Since we actually observe changes in the world every instant, Buddhism too has a similar belief in a new world at each instant,  conditioned by the past but not determined by it. (Of course, physics can be remodeled to accommodate this observed mundane spontaneity in the world, and my equations with a tilt in the arrow of time, in my book Time: Towards a Consistent Theory,  provide such a model.)

This fact about singularity theory, that it aligns with church theology, is quite contrary to the other naive belief that many people have, that “all science is opposed to all religion”. The fact is Stephen Hawking’s “science” is anti-Hindu, anti-Islam, anti-Buddhist but supports church dogmas about Christianity (as distinct from original Christianity). It is important to make the last distinction, because the church is about acquiring and maintaining power through lies, and not about real Christianity.

There is no doubt at all that Stephen Hawking himself is responsible for this pro-church bias of singularity theory. Thus, the formal mathematical theorems of singularity theory depend on its postulates. Hawking and Ellis introduce a postulate called the chronology condition which says, roughly speaking, that there is no cyclicity in time. We are supposed to accept this on their authority.

Now, the belief in quasi-cyclic time, and the accompanying belief in reincarnation, is at the core of Hindu, Egyptian, and Sufi beliefs about the soul, and these belief persisted into early Christianity, and are reiterated by Origen, as I have explained in The Eleven Pictures of Time, and in Euclid and Jesus.  After Constantine, the church acquired state power, and found this equitable belief in the soul an impediment to its power. To hold on to power, it sought instead to strike terror in the hearts of people, by changing beliefs about life after death. The church’s new formula was simple: people got only one life, time would end soon, and people would thereafter be resurrected and those who disobeyed the priest would be punished eternally in hell. In support of this formula, the church cursed “cyclic time”, a curse pronounced in Hagia Sofia, Istanbul in 552, by the fifth ecumenical council and (separately) by the king Justinian.

This change of doctrine was championed by Augustine, who argued in favour of resurrection (against reincarnation) by misrepresenting Origen. For that glorious falsehood, which enhanced its power, the church declared Augustine a saint. Further, as I have explained in The Eleven Pictures of Time, there is a very tight similarity between the bad arguments of Augustine, and the bad arguments advanced by Hawking and Ellis in favour of the chronology condition.

In short, the pro-church bias of Hawking’s singularity theory is a consequence of a postulate, the chronology condition, which deliberately casts church dogma in mathematical form, and passes that off as science.

That pro-church bias makes it easy to understand why Hawking’s book sold so many copies—a huge and invisible sales force of committed church believers  was pushing it. So, did Hawking unscrupulously misuse science to support the church? If so, he was surely a crook.

Blind faith in science

The blind belief that people have in Stephen Hawking, namely that everything he did was great science, is just the sort of blind faith which helped sell his popular book: A brief history of time. The people who believe it is science cannot even explain why Hawking never got the Nobel prize though all the political cards were stacked in his favour. Blind faith does not bother to answer questions: it explodes in rage when the object of its reverence is challenged.  But rage is irrelevant to scientific truth.

Blind faith in science is surely not the same as scientific temper. Science is about why one believes something, not what, as I am tired of repeating. Blind faith in science is still an act of blind faith, not superior to blind faith in anything else. The superstitions of the gullible believers can be exploited by unscrupulous elements in exactly the same way.

Real science requires understanding, first of all of what is real science. A rough and ready way to separate science from non–science is to use Popper’s criterion of refutability: a scientific theory must be testable. If the singularity theory Hawking did is science, how exactly does one test the existence of a singularity? Did Hawking suggest any way to do so? No, he did not, for there is no way to test or refute the existence of a singularity. So it is not science in the Popperian sense. (That is why he never got the Nobel prize.) Hawking’s so-called science is not science at all, it is just an articulation of pro-church beliefs in the trappings of science with a view to fool the gullible.

What is a singularity?

So, what exactly is this untestable thing called a singularity? During my debate with Penrose, he avoided giving a physical interpretation of a singularity, rightly so, for it is purely a formal mathematical construct. As Russell explained, formal mathematics has nothing to do with meaning and truth. But those who do interpret the notion of a singularity do so as follows. They regard a singularity as the beginning or end of a time-like geodesic. Since a timelike geodesics is, roughly speaking, the world-line (past and future history) of a hypothetical point-particle of matter, a singularity could be interpreted as the creation or destruction of an unspecified hypothetical test particle.

Note that today’s scientist is no crusader for truth. The test of “good science” today is publication in a journal, and the related amount of money one can raise for research. So, today’s “scientific method” is just about publication through the church process of secretive “peer approval”. Accordingly, today’s scientists are slaves to community opinion, on which their funding and careers depend.

So, we have two types of science today: community science which may be reputable without the slightest experimental consequences, or relation to reality, and real science which has experimental consequences, and is refutable. The above “interpretation” of a singularity is community science, just something “accepted” by the scientific community, there may be no trace of truth in it. Specifically, the term “particle” in the above interpretation ought not to be confounded with more-real particles such as an electron. The hypothetical particles which are supposedly created or destroyed are not even some “idealized” point masses, for any finite point mass will result in a black hole on general relativity.

Singularities and calculus

So, is there an alternative way to understand a singularity? Yes. What supposedly breaks down at a singularity are not the “laws of physics”, but the mathematical understanding of certain differential equations used to model physics such as the equations of general relativity. But even this “breakdown” may be just a case of bad mathematics, due to a bad understanding of calculus.  On the calculus as today taught in schools and undergraduate level, a differentiable function must be continuous; to write down the equations of general relativity, the metric must be twice continuously differentiable, so its derivative must be continuous. Strictly speaking most university students of calculus are only told about continuity; they are actually taught a bit more about it in more advanced courses on mathematical analysis (which I used to teach in Pune University, in the 80’s).

But casting aside this formal mathematical wisdom, physicists have been merrily differentiating discontinuous functions from the time of Oliver Heaviside in the 19th c. Better known today is the Dirac delta function which is the derivative of the discontinuous Heaviside function. Indeed, at a still more advanced level, calculus is taught in the university as advanced functional analysis (another course I used to teach). Here, one teaches the opposite: that discontinuous functions can be differentiated, as often as one wants. This is done on several mathematical theories, the most prominent (socially acceptable) one being the theory of the French mathematician Laurent Schwartz.

Of course, the Schwartz theory has its limitations: as a linear theory it does not readily work for those differential equations of physics which are non-linear. However, four decades ago I suggested a solution to this problem as part of my PhD thesis, using a new development in formal mathematics called non-standard analysis. I also explained in a paper on “Junction conditions in general relativity“,  included in my PhD thesis, how one could make sense of the equations of general relativity in the presence of discontinuities. Several years later, in 1988, in a paper presented at the fifth Marcel Grossman meeting on general relativity at Perth, I explained how to handle higher order discontinuities. Such discontinuities arise most commonly in shock waves, generated for example by an exploding star, but include singularities. I didn’t pursue this since I left formal mathematics shortly after that.

About a decade later I began researching on the Indian origin of calculus and its transmission to Europe via Jesuits based in Kochi. In my book Cultural Foundations of Mathematics, As one of the proofs of transmission I proposed my epistemic test: that Europeans copied Indian calculus without understanding how Indians summed infinite series. Europeans later proposed a metaphysical doctrine of limits to understand infinite sums. As usual, Europeans pretended that anyone who did not imitate them was inferior. Actually it is the European method of limits which is inferior to the method used by Indians to sum infinite series. The Indian way, using what is today called non-Archimedean arithmetic, was the only aspect of non-standard analysis required for my earlier solution to the problems with the Schwartz theory. So, it gives a better calculus.

On recognising the inferiority of the European doctrine of limits, in calculus, I devised a new course on Calculus without Limits, and started its experimental teaching at the Universiti Sains Malaysia. Later, calculus without limits became the core of my program of decolonising mathematics, and teaching an alternative mathematics.

South Africa and decolonisation of math

As is well-known, students in South African universities have been agitating for the last few years for decolonisation. It was in this context that I repeatedly visited South Africa. On my last visit, the University of Cape Town organised a panel discussion, the several related videos are in the following hyperlinks: video 1, video 2, video 3, video 4. For this panel discussion, I submitted a summary in advance, which can be found here. Now, the co-author of Stephen Hawking’s academic book, Ellis, is from the same university. Therefore, I offered to speak and debate at length the mathematical technicalities involved. This is clear from the advance summary.

A key aspect of the agenda of decolonising science was to eliminate the church dogmas in science which are present in various ways such as claims about “laws of nature”, but mainly creep in through formal mathematics. This is also explained in a keynote address at the 11th Higher Education Conference, Durban, and a related TV discussion on decolonisation. The upshot? Singularity theory is not a work of genius but a perfect example of such trash, dogmatically-loaded science which needs to be junked in the process of decolonisation.

Naturally, those who have spent their entire lives smuggling in politically-loaded church dogmas into science were alarmed that Hawking’s “science” would be exposed as mere church propaganda. Those who have  repeatedly claimed that science cannot be decolonised were alarmed that Western superstitions in mathematics and science would tumble out of the closet putting a complete end to false claims of the universality of science. My decolonisation thesis asserts that such religious biases creep into science through formal math, which involves church superstitions,  which we should reject in favour of normal math. (In the present instance, we should reject both, the postulated chronology condition, and the way of doing calculus with limits.) This exposure of Hawking would have exposed the false claims of superiority of his racist supporters in the University of Cape Town.

Specifically, my offer to debate in the math department seems to have frightened Hawking’s co-author Ellis out of his wits. He naturally guessed that this debate, unlike my earlier debate with Penrose, would be video recorded, if in no other way than with a mobile device. But Ellis also knows he is ignorant, and such a recording would expose his ignorance and inability to respond. He has never done non-standard analysis or applied it to advanced functional analysis. He was aware that such exposure of ignorance would have made a strong case for decolonisation of math. Blacks would understand that his and Hawking’s attempts to inject the worst kinds of creationist church superstitions into science, and would forever make fun of it.

Indeed, though I did not visit it, the whole math department in the UCT seems very weak. The person who debated with me, Henri Laurie, tried to later engage with me over email, but was unable to prove 1+1=2 in formal real numbers. He complained that I had suddenly switched from natural numbers to real numbers :).  Obviously, they were in no position to face my critique of formal math except by the usual false claims of superiority common to church, racists and Westerners.

So, Ellis ran away from the debate. He along with his student Jeff Murugan put the usual “we are superior you are inferior” claims, in their most abusive form, through the press which would not allow me to respond appropriately. This is the classic way in which the church has defended its superstitions by running down critics as heretics. Like the church, Ellis and his student Murugan just poured on the falsehoods but did not provide any evidence.  If they had any evidence, there would have been no need to run away: they could have paraded the evidence and celebrated a victory. The use of this strategy make is very clear that Ellis is an intellectual charlatan of the worst sort who has tried to pass off Western superstitions as science for decades, getting pots of money for it, and thinks that such charlatanry can be defended by abuses.

But what of Stephen Hawking who wrote his academic book with such a co-author?  Wasn’t he aware of his co-author’s character? Wasn’t he aware that the man came from a starkly racist land? Didn’t the great genius realize, that to cooperate with white South Africans then was an unethical and unnatural act? I am sure his supporters will find lots of excuses for this vilest of ways in which science has been defiled. But it seems that Western society is so rotten that it is the scum which very often rises to the top.

Hawking may have  made his Faustian pact with the devil, but we need to rise above the evils of Western society and decolonise math and science to save our children. A simple formula for decolonisation is this: whenever you hear a dialogue from a Westerner which sounds like “we are superior x is inferior” distrust it. Demand evidence. If no evidence is forthcoming, as there is none for the centuries old Western belief in Euclid as the father of math, throw that belief in the trash can where it belongs.

Alice Feldman: “A pretty comprehensive program!” First master in decolonial studies in Ireland

Interview with Alice Feldman, School of Sociology at University College Dublin on the first Masters program in Race, Migration and Decolonial Studies in Ireland.

DIN: “What does the program consist of?”

Alice: “Given the dynamism of decolonial scholarship that has evolved in Europe these past years, I was surprised not to find other masters in decolonial  studies when I was searching around while developing this one.

The pedagogy of the programme is itself shaped by the ever-expanding landscapes of decolonial projects, complemented by advanced training in critical sociology.  Talking with some students the other day, and thinking about how to distil a description of it, we came up with three key elements or anchors: materiality, methodology and re-invention, or even re-in(ter)vention. So the programme is centred, first, on the exploration of trans-disciplinary and pluri-versal knowledges that are grounded in the histories and circumstances of lived experience —  particularly in relation to the materialities of survival and resistance to the subjugating legacies of colonialism, imperialism and modernity. Second is experimentation with and cultivation of creative, embodied practices of engagement and critique through which such knowledges evolve. And third, is the element of praxis – the critically reflexive mobilisation of knowledges towards ‘re-existence’ as Achinte has called it, or ‘worlds otherwise’ as Escobar has articulated.

So, it’s inspired by efforts to reach beyond some of the legacies or limitations that have come to undermine knowledge politics as shaped by identity politics, and the disciplinary and paradigmatic divisions that they can generate. For example, unlike programmes which begin their epistemic journeys from a Western perspective to reach intersectionality, this course proceeds from a normative base of intersectionality and sort of explodes it – in a constructive way – through the lenses of knowledges that have always existed on the ‘Other-side’ to begin with. Perhaps it’s a matter of where you begin the conversations and how you get there —  so it’s about more than including scholars of colour on reading lists or replacing readings by White, western, colonialist writers, or trying to avoid what a student in a recent discussion on identity and the curriculum referred to as ‘Week 11’ syndrome (which is the situation whereby this is the only session out of 12 in the semester that addresses feminist/postcolonialist/decolonial scholarship or writers — all the ‘Others’ — and sometimes all in the same lecture! So not only is it ‘lip service’ but it comes too late for students to even really engage or develop such work for assignments and so on their own).

But this isn’t an idea that can be achieved in one course alone, so we’ve tried to thread a decolonial or decolonising pedagogy throughout the delivery of the programme as a whole, from course content and assignments, to dissertation projects and supervision.

Students take courses in Critical Race and Decolonial Theories; Global Migration; Art, Knowledge and the Politics of Social Change; and research methods, and these are complemented by electives available in other disciplines and schools at UCD. There is a lot of space to support students according to their own interests and senses of inquiry, where they’re coming from and where they want to go after the programme, whether they’ve got specific plans about what they want to study or just want to try things out and experiment.

The programme is also very practice-focused, encouraging critical explorations of innovations in creative, activist methods of social/political engagement in art and research practices. Central to this is embodied, or, to use the term, ‘aesthesic’, which  is about centring multi-sensory, sensual engagement and expression, as well as collaborative approaches to teaching, learning and knowledge creation. These, too, are also fundamental anchors of race critical and decolonial practice. And I’m referring here to the distinctions made, for example, in critical race theory between simply critiquing and the work of ‘reconstructing’, and the use of the term, ‘re-existence’ as ‘more-than’ ‘resistance’ in  the contexts of decolonial scholarship. And this dimension of the programme comes from my own experience of using arts-based research methods and moving those practices into the classroom, along with my collaborations with artists associated with Parity Art Studios at UCD and the Artist in Residency programme they run. We’ve been doing a lot of interesting projects around the confluences of art and research practices, particularly in relation to the politics of reflexivity, representation and appropriation, exploring alternative sites of learning and so on, that cross-cut the different sectors and contexts of mobilisation/change work.”

DIN:  “How’s the first year going?”

Alice: “Really well! The courses and activities have attracted an extremely enthusiastic and engaged group of students – both within the programme itself and across other related programmes and disciplines.

The pedagogy of the programme — ultimately it doesn’t constitute a huge leap for critically oriented students, but it is very demanding. The nature of decolonial work, and the vast intellectual and activist genealogies that underpin it – and the fact that so much of this work has been excluded from conventional university curricula – requires students traverse vast landscapes of ideas, histories, materialities and practices. While there’s lots of support for these journeys, students must ultimately give up a lot of the ‘certainties’ or senses of ‘security’ that they have come to construct or rely on in conventional curricula or teaching practices – false though they may be! –  or that they’ve been taught to seek, like in terms of the western paradigms of research – things around ‘validity’, ‘evidence’, ‘knowing’ and so  on.

And as I was saying earlier, the embodied, expressive, reflexive nature of this work turns on the cultivation of skills and perspectives that, for many, can be well out of their comfort zones or even familiarity. They not only have to try out new ways of doing things, but often literally have to ‘feel’ their ways through projects so as to develop (or further develop) their own styles or practices of critique and methodologies, by sifting through exposure to a multitude of different ways of working. But the students have totally stepped up to this and immersed themselves in these challenges — It’s not like I’m surprised by this, but I’m just so impressed and edified by what they’re accomplishing!

They might not have been exposed to the specific ideas and methods of these paradigms, but I think students, now more than in the recent past – at least in my experience in Ireland, or at UCD – they intuitively know that they need new skills– beyond those that constitute many of the ‘staples’ of the Western university or curriculum. They know that skills that more effectively rise to the complex and multiplicitous challenges they face and the social conditions they are contending with or seek to transform – the ways of thinking, doing, mobilising ‘otherwise’ which are at the heart of race critical and decolonial paradigms – are crucial, regardless of where they’re headed after the programme.

All of this seems to have come together to create a ‘vibe’ or a sense of a learning environment, where the big ‘knowledge/power’ issues like ‘unknowability’, ‘incommensurability’,  ‘positionality’ arise in ways that are natural and inspiring – ‘aha moments’ that ‘make sense’. And students’ own journeys through all this become part of the process as well as the outcomes. These sorts of dynamics have generated a real sense of a collective, a collective experience or ‘project’ that all of us have become part of – including guest speakers, other staff and students – any event or happening can become an opportunity for a decolonial moment of learning, questioning or intervention!

And there’s a lot that is really catching on – we’ve started a Decolonising the Curriculum Platform that is attracting academic and administrative staff as well as students. The lexicons of decoloniality and decolonising the curriculum are starting to enter conversations in relation to equality/diversity initiatives in the institution, so hopefully all of these different dynamics, their synergies with other similar groups and efforts will continue to grow and evolve. So even though it’s taken a while to get things rolling, we’re really excited about linking in to such a vibrant network of scholars, activists and artists – in Europe and internationally. We’re very keen to build alliances with other programmes, groups and people, so anyone who’s interested in collaborations – even simple things like shared talks through skype or such, anything that can be mutually reinforcing across our different projects, please contact us!”

NOTE

For further information see: alice.feldman@ucd.ie, www.racemigrationdecolonialstudies.com; and for the Decolonising the Curriculum Platform UCD see: www.facebook.com/DecolonisingUCDjimmy.billings@ucdconnect.ie,  dyuti.chakravarty@ucdconnect.ie

Alice Feldman (School  of  Sociology, University College Dublin) uses arts, collaborative and decolonial methods to intervene in the intersecting global colonial legacies and amnesias underpinning the current necropolitical moment. This research has, in turn, informed her techniques of ‘pedagogical bricolage’ for methodology training around creative research practices, the reflexive imagination and research justice. Over the past fifteen years, she has worked in research, advisory and volunteer capacities with many civic, community and other organisations in Ireland involved in anti-racism, migration and interculturalism work.