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Fazlin Fransman
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Tackling the murder of knowledge

05 July 2018, 14:04

What inspires a conversation about decolonized research? For some, it is an undertaking of overt engagement on the complexities of "re-imagining" the Global South, the myriad of experiences that shape peoples lives and the task of 're-thinking" our knowledge systems and how we relate to the world. For others, it is the challenge of exploring historically discarded knowledge and theory, and producing new and better ways of knowing.

It is not merely a counter-narrative to western ideas about the pursuit of knowledge. It is looking through the eyes of the colonised, not just to voice the voiceless, but to prevent the dying of a people, their culture and their ecosystems.

Simply put, the hegemonisation of knowledge which has occurred largely in sync with colonialisation, has entrenched notions of the developed Global North and the undeveloped Global South, which is still perpetuated today.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos, a Professor of Sociology, at the University of Coimbra in Portugal, conveys the violence inherent in this as, "epistemicide: the murder of knowledge. Unequal exchanges among cultures have always implied the death of the knowledge of the subordinated culture, hence the death of the social groups that possessed it."

As a research institute, this is our vantage point. We facilitate research and development to boost local solutions and innovations that will spur inclusive and sustainable development across Latin America, Africa and Asia. Development in the Global South depends on the provision of critical insights, innovation and collaborative learning, to ensure investment in innovative sustainable strategies that address developmental challenges currently hampering industrial, technological and human development.

Currently, research and analysis which informs much of Latin America, Africa and Asia's public policy is nestled within the hegemonic knowledge systems of the west. In South Africa, more than two decades after Apartheid, much of our discourse remains rooted in colonial and apartheid thinking.

What, therefore, needs to be understood, highlighted and emphasised is not just the "not yet uhuru" post-colonial experience, but the continuous epistemicide of the Global South, and the consolidation of a unitary knowledge system that Ramon Grosfoguel, an Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, correctly described as a racially hierarchical, imperialistic, colonialist, Euro-American-centric, hetero-normative, patriarchal and violent.

Contrary to what some academics fear, decolonization is not about moving back to "the Stone Age". Nor is it about isolating South Africa, Africa and the Global South from the rest of the world. Building, reviving or re-imagining the Global South does not mean being globally disengaged. It simply asserts that we should not only be consumers of knowledge.

It is within this ethos, that Moja Research Institute (MRI) hosted the BRICS Youth Seminar in Cape Town. The objective was to give young people from all walks of life, an opportunity to participate and engage on the importance of BRICS, make inputs into the upcoming BRICS Youth Summit and create safe-spaces for engagement.

The engagement enabled the expression of ideas, views and inputs by young people who emphasized the empowerment of entrepreneurs through trade, femicide, developing a corrupt-free public and private sector, high data costs and the Fourth Industrial revolution, as key priorities to be discussed in both the BRICS Youth Summit and the BRICS Summit in July.

Crowd-sourcing these inputs was critical to encouraging grassroots participation, enabling new pathways of information and knowledge flow, and placing people at the centre of the discourse.

Chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), Sifiso Mtsweni, formed part of the event, as a member of the panel which facilitated the input from the youth. A commitment was made by MRI to consolidate the inputs from the seminar, and present it to the NYDA, for input into both the BRICS Youth Summit and the BRICS Summit in July.

Download the report here.

With associate researchers based across Africa, Asia and Latin America, Moja Research Institute has embarked on a solitary journey to provide alternative narratives, research and analysis embedded in local and regional knowledge systems, to inform and influence both global leaders, and the people in general. Creating the conditions for the end of the hegemony of western of knowledge systems, and giving rise to the conditions for diversality.

Fazlin Fransman is a Senior Researcher at Moja Research Institute


Moja Research Institute is an independent, not-for-profit think-tank. We serves as a hub for critical thought in media, development, global governance, pan-africanism and tri-continental relations.

As a thought leader, we generate high-quality insights to critically influence the public and private sector and solve complex developmental problems. As a Research hub, we facilitate dialogue, training, mediation and research throughout the Global South to foster greater tri- continental understanding between Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Promoting tri-continental project cooperation, knowledge and information sharing and the creation of alternative trade regimes and institutions are important objectives.

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