Encountering (each) Other: One-day workshop
"Why am I here? Why did I travel from the South of Mexico to be here with you today? I am here because we are in the middle of many wars. In academia, we are fighting an epistemic war but contrary to what we are meant to believe, we need each other to survive this war".
These were Xochitl Leyva’s (CIESAS-Mexico) opening words at the workshop 'Undoing Colonial Patriarchy in Academia from the Margins' that took place at ISS on Wednesday 19 June. This one-day workshop was organized in the form of conversations and dialogues - instead of monologues – and was hosted in collaboration with the University of Bonn, Germany, CIESAS-Mexico, the Transnational Network Other Knowledges (RETOS), Color Tierra, Unitierra-Manizales, and Otro Pacifico Posible.
Through dialogues-performances, participants were invited to weave together their reflections and sentipensares (feeling sensing) on the conditions faced while generating knowledge in academia from the margins, but most importantly, they were encouraged to share the alternatives they are creating. Participants included academics, artists and activists working on the decolonization of universities and knowledge in Mexico, Colombia, the US, the Netherlands and Germany.
5 'moments' to generate conversations
The workshop was organized in the form of 5 moments during which moderators not only asked questions that generated conversations, but also helped the group to weave threads across these different moments of the programme.
The first moment was a welcoming intervention by the ISS Dean of Research Professor Arjun Bedi and ISS Diversity and Inclusion Team Chair, Dr Rosalba Icaza. Rosalba posed to participants the following question: Can academia contribute to the possibility of an ethical life in a world that is deeply divided between those who consume and those who are consumed, including the life of others and the life of earth?
During the second moment, PhD researcher Zuleika Sheik facilitated an exercise which consisted of a body-scan meditation and exercise in gratitude inviting each participant to address in silence/conversation with their inner self the following two questions:
- who am I?
- why am here?
The manifestations and gestures through which colonial patriarchy manifests in academia
This exercise set the ground for the third moment that consisted of a series of short interventions by Xochitl Leyva and Rosalba Icaza, facilitated by PhD researcher Tamara Soukotta on the institutional manifestations and gestures through which colonial patriarchy manifests in academia while circulating through the bodies of women of colour and people in the margins of normativity.
Participants were encouraged to share their embodied and enfleshed experiences while confronting those manifestations and gestures. This moment worked as a collective diagnosis and characterization of the epistemic war that is being fought in academia and was closed with interventions by Christiane Stephan (University of Bonn) around the (im)possibility of sustaining life by/within academia.
Thereafter, Karin Siegnmann (ISS) shared her own experiences while working with mix methods to counter colonial patriarchy. The moment was closed with another question posed by Zuleika Sheik: is it enough to focus on different research methodologies in academia when some of these have been complicit in the dehumanization of people of colour around the world?
After an energizing break, PhD researcher Marina Cadaval facilitated a conversation on the alternatives that participants are already organizing and cultivating with their own communities in resistance in Colombia, Mexico, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Germany, etc. Through the technique of whispered translation, Patricia Botero shared with the group how the PCN - Black Communities Process - in the Colombian Pacific is broadening semantic fields through collective processes that qualify ‘terms’ such as that of autonomy as anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal and for the liberation of Mother Earth.
Teresa Diaz Nerio curator and creator of Casa de Barro, and Luigi Morato member of the Barricade in Utrecht, shared their individual and collective experiences around food, cooking and autonomy. ISS MA alumni Itandehui Olivera shared her poem “Soy una Mujer que resiste” (I am a woman who resists).
Thereafter, Patricia Schor (Amsterdam University College) shared how difficult it is to build up communities in the 'Global North'. Patricia also mentioned the power of distrusting ‘consensus’ within our institutions as this reveals hegemony and the inequalities grounding the political economy of knowledge production in academia.
Patricia also stressed the importance of interrupting rigor in academia by not reproducing what is demanded and expected from us, by not presenting a ready-made version of oneself and how this can actually be an empowering movement for others.
Concrete examples and tools of how to nurture inclusive spaces for mutual learning
The moment of closure was facilitated by PhD researcher Brenda Rodriguez Cortes and Visual Artist and Cultural Programmer Jose Hopkins (Utrecht University) who guided participants towards a collaborative visual intervention in the form of participatory drawing. The outcome was a beautiful mural in various languages, which will stand at ISS as a testimony of this encounter.
The overall balance is that the workshop managed to deliver a programme that was interactive, embodied, encarnado via activated conversations and dialogues through different feminist, popular and decolonial conversation techniques. The workshop provided participants with concrete examples and tools of how to nurture inclusive spaces for mutual learning.
This was expressed in the feedback of one of the participants: 'I am used to sitting still, up straight, on a chair. Here we were sitting/laying on the floor, bare feet, making doodles; it was all accepted and respected. And all participants respected the speakers in return. Nobody talked over the other and there was space and time for everyone to contribute. It was striking to me that people shared from the heart, there was safety and calmness. I think this must belong to a more matriarchic way of living; I hope we can include this in future academic environments as well as it creates such a comfortable and safe atmosphere'.
To conclude this short summary, the organizers and participants would like to thank the Civic Innovation Research Group, the Diversity and Inclusion Team and the Development Research Seminars at ISS for their support, which not only made possible this encounter but has allowed participants to start building bridges and identified concrete future collaborations.