As someone studying the political economy of education reform in the Global South, I began by bringing a critical perspective to the work of international organizations such as the World Bank and USAID. This has led, more recently, to engaging more directly with the nature of global capitalism and its intertwinement with the nature of the State and (post)colonialism. While the need—often unacknowledged in education—to engage with the State, global capitalism, and colonialism is important, these levels of analysis have themselves felt inadequate. The question I can’t escape presently goes beyond trying to understand the current and historical legacies of these issues to consider, as well, the onto-epistemic foundations upon which the paradigm of (Christian-positivist-liberal-racist-capitalist) Western development has been constructed, all in an attempt to understand more deeply, and to move beyond, the nature and limitations of the (too frequently invisible) worldviews that inform conversations about “development” and education policy. Increasingly, the issue of onto-epistemic justice is raised. A point made by decolonial scholar Boa de Sousa Santos is that there cannot be social justice without cognitive (i.e., onto-epistemic) justice. This is a stance that resonates with me, and which also implicates me as a scholar and an individual in the sense that it challenges me to reflect on how my ways of being and knowing—both personally and in my scholarship—may help to reproduce exclusionary, predatory, and discriminatory worldviews.
While there are no easy answers here, I often think about how to broach conversations with students about these issues. With this question in mind, I share the below set of episodes from FreshEd with Will Brehm.
The episode by Daniel Friedrich reveals how elite education at the doctoral level (in this case at Teachers College, Columbia University) is imbricated not only in reproducing and extending social networks internationally but is also crucial for the global reproduction and extension of certain approaches to seeing and researching the world, approaches that, due to the context of their origins, are racist and eugenicist—and which privilege Western onto-epistemologies. Similarly important points are made by Arathi Sriprakash, who extends the argument to the field of Comparative and International Education more broadly. These episodes imply that doctoral training and knowledge production in CIE themselves are implicated in advancing epistemicide globally.
In her two episodes, Elizabeth Sumida Huaman (FreshEd 179 and 221), along with colleagues Tessie Naranjo and Nathan Martin, highlights Indigenous knowledge systems—both generally and concerning the methodologies used to produce knowledge in universities. Together, these four episodes depict the scale of the challenge before us when it comes to cognitive justice. They also point to ways forward for lifting up and learning from other ways of knowing and being that have for centuries been silenced and ignored as inferior to the Western paradigm of “development.” The challenge remaining for listeners such as myself is to continue to wrestle with the insights and implications of these episodes for my own personal and professional praxis.
October 1, 2021