Critical intimacy and an ethics of relationality in writing
Kershan Pancham (University of Cape Town)
Paper short abstract:
A thesis and a stageplay, and some comics, and many folk tales: Epistemologies and methodologies of decolonial knowledge-making and sharing processes, involving oral histories in the South African university
Paper long abstract:
This paper is based on two texts I wrote, and the research processes that generated them. First, is my Masters thesis text which passed at the University of Cape Town with distinction and was nominated for the Leiden African Studies Thesis Award 2017. Second, is the stageplay I included as part of thesis itself, and which I am currently working on staging. The paper is a deep and systematic reflection on the epistemological and methodological decisions and acts, moves and manouvres, and dialogues I made in the construction of these texts as I worked through, and posed, several challenges in the process of earning an education in a post-colony, through English. There were intellectual challenges of genre conventions in producing decolonial and indigenous scholarship; and also, challenges of institutional racism, heterosexism, and neoliberal academic exploitation which re-renders Africa, African lives and African peoples as data plantations. With a close reading and exhibition of sections of both texts, I explicate and extrapolate on the decolonial characteristics of certain intellectual moves (and incredible battles), scholars must make when decolonizing structures of knowledge, power, being, and institutions (Maldonado Torres 2007). I make the argument that considerations to broaden access 'to' research must precede the dissemination and 'output-based' thinking of academic conventions. Critical intimacy (Spivak 2016) must be woven into the entire research process from conceptualisation to field and data-work to analysis to the sharing of findings. Participatory research involves a sustained an ethics of relationality, to research with - not about - others.
"Who do we write our research for?" Sharing reflections on decolonising engagement and access to research outputs in the field of African studies