Decolonising Social Research Series

This page will holds legacy materials for our Decolonising Social Research Series.

The Decolonising Social Research seminar series is for doctoral researchers (and their supervisors) at any and every stage of the doctoral journey, who aspire for their research to contribute towards decolonisation in any space or form. Through the short series of events, we aim to stimulate debate around the tough questions that decolonisation poses for social research, to forge supportive networks across universities of the South West and to signpost readings and resources. Across the series, we will engage with the work of established scholars who have published on different aspects of decolonising research, the ideas and experiences of early career researchers, as well as representatives of marginalised groups, whose knowledge has historically been excluded from the academy.

For each seminar, we will provide recommended reading for those wishing to explore the issues raised further. The seminars will take place as a webinar via Zoom. On registration, participants will receive an email with the Zoom link and recommended reading for the seminar.

Past Seminars & Resources

Decolonising Theory, 19th November 2020, 14:00-16:00

Speakers: Foluke Adebisi, Mark Jackson and Arathi Sriprakash (all University of Bristol)

When it comes to conceptualising a research problem, we often turn to literature and pre-existing theoretical frameworks. The social sciences grew up alongside the European project of world domination and competition through colonisation. Hence, much of the established canon of disciplinary knowledge has contributed to the imperial project of colonisation and contemporary relations of oppression. On the other hand, scholarship resisting and opposing colonisation also has a long and deep history including scholars identifying with marginalised and oppressed racial groups in the Global North and scholars form the global South.

This session will examine what it could mean when we talk about decolonising theory. Does it mean different things in different disciplines? How do we reconcile the co-optation of decolonising within the agenda of HE with our various understandings of decolonial thought? What questions of praxis arise when we apply decolonial thought to theorising?

Decolonising Epistemology, 26th November 2020, 14:00-16:00

Speakers: Samson O. Opondo – Vassar College, Gajendran Ayyathurai – Göttingen University, Sabiha Allouche – University of Exeter, Esmeralda Mariel Martínez Gutiérrez – Autonomous University of Mexico City.

This roundtable will engage with the active process of decolonising knowledges, by presenting alternative epistemologies and praxis emanating from the global South. We will commence by offering a critique of established Western epistemologies, showing how they contribute to forms of colonisation, past and present, and limit possibilities for research. The discussion will then look at examples of non-dominant and non-dominating ways of knowing which are slowly gaining presence in contemporary research. We will engage with the pluriverse, forging links between theorising and activism, and acknowledging the possibilities for knowledge production and solidarity which emerge from building decolonial epistemology. Focussing on the categories of race, gender, caste, and sexuality, this conversation will offer alternative visions/futures not just of relations between people but of people within the beyond-human world.

Decolonising Research Ethics, 17th December 2020, 14:00-16:00

Speakers: Jassi Sandhar, Betzabe Torres Olave, Carolina Valladares Celis, Professor Leon Tikly, Professor Madhu Krishnan

Institutionalised epistemic injustices conflict with the aspiration of decolonising research. Institutional ethical guidance and procedures are frequently inattentive to these injustices and the experiences of communities marginalised, violated or exploited by colonialism and its legacy. Such communities have their own ethical codes, which may be explicit or tacit, formally agreed or contested, communicated in writing, verbally or non-verbally. Social research therefore involves navigating between these contradictory domains. The ethical dilemmas that arise relate directly to the substantive concerns of the research and identities of researchers.

The third seminar in the SWDTP’s Decolonising Research series will focus on the ethical dilemmas and framing of ethics within two forms of research. The first is doctoral research, where a sole researcher moves between the university and research ‘field’. The second is collaborative research conducted, where knowledge is co-produced by teams of researchers based in the Global North and Global South.

Decolonising Methodology, 14th January 2021, 14:00-16:00

Speakers: Alejandra Vasquez, Nrithya Pillai, Kerri Cleaver, Nancy Carvajal.

This seminar will feature examples of methodologies that are participative and privilege the voices (authority and authorship) of those identifying with groups that have historically been objectified by research. Our presenters come from a wide range of disciplines and places around the world (India, Aotearoa New Zealand, Chile, and Colombia). What these presentations have in common is that they do not only encompass an intellectual exercise, but they seek to integrate practice and theory through a wide range of situated and embodied initiatives that are participative, co-produced, arts-based, and integrative. We hope these presentations help expand and challenge traditional understandings of how we come to know our world.

Decolonising Writing and Representation, 21st January 2020, 14:00-16:00 

Convenors: Deborah Brewis, Zibah Nwako and Suzanne van Even 

Speakers: Dr Sadhvi Dar, Dr Gemma Sou, Lakshmi Bose, Dr Hadiza Kere Abdulrahman

Decolonising research is concerned with centring the stories of those who were marginalised by colonialism and charting the lasting effects of coloniality in the contemporary world. The stories of marginalised peoples are not easily told within the confines of established forms of academic writing that were built from, and for, elites of the Global North/West. Questions about how we approach the representation of people, their histories and identities are therefore central as part of how we conduct and convey our research. Participative methodologies and research linked to activism can also call for collaborative writing, creative writing, or forms of representation other than writing, which may sit uneasily alongside the traditional model of a PhD dissertation and its supervision. This session will be an opportunity to explore questions of representation, authority and authorship, and to explore forms of writing and communicating research that seek to disrupt traditional hierarchies of knowledge. 

Further Information

For extra resources including reading lists for each seminar and longer speaker biographies, click here.