My research lies at the intersection of global politics, feminisms and decoloniality. The field of global politics analyzes interactions between power and knowledge under conditions of globalization.
The field of feminisms investigates the gendered inequalities in such interactions. Feminisms in plural indicates my long-term interest in the plurality of approaches reflecting and acting upon gendered inequalities across the Global North/South divide.
The field of decoloniality is concerned with modern and colonial structures of power, knowledge, gender, and subject formation and proposes a turn to an epistemic or cognitive South in the reconstitution of a global political society.
Global Politics and Epistemic Justice in Development Studies
Interconnecting these strands, my academic work has generated rigorous societally engaged analyses of global politics and epistemic justice in development studies. Thematically, it reflects my long-term fascination for understanding the productive learning tensions that emerge when communities organize across borders to resist multiple intermeshed oppressions along lines of gender, race/ethnicity, class, age/generation, sexualities, and body capacities. I have conceptualized such responses as ‘social struggles as epistemic struggles’ (Icaza and Vazquez 2013).
In advancing this intellectual interest, I have contributed to feminist decolonial perspectives by accounting for an epistemic dimension of collective action across borders (Icaza 2010; Icaza and Vazquez 2013; Icaza 2013; Icaza 2015; Icaza 2017; Icaza 2018). Such a perspective was previously only marginally recognized in the fields of international relations (IR) and international development studies.
My research on the epistemologies of affect and the corporeal in social struggles (Icaza 2017, Icaza 2018) has brought it to the forefront. I have identified how modes of knowing and being are produced through experiences of epistemic vulnerability and fragility when encountering and hosting radical difference.
Collaborative Research Methodologies
In advancing a conceptualization of social struggles as epistemic struggles, I developed a collaborative research methodology characterized by its engaged and rigorous non-extractive approach to knowledge cultivation through mutual learning across differences (Icaza 2018; Icaza and Leyva 2019; Icaza, Jong and Rutazibwa 2018).
At ISS, I have contributed to develop a new area of research-led-teaching on epistemic justice, decoloniality and the politics of knowledge. During the period 2021-2024, I will be course leader of the following MA level courses:
1114 Politics of Modern Development - Decolonising Power
3211 Decolonial Research in the Development Context
4354 Transitions to Social Justice LAB - Decolonial Reconstitutions
Societally Embeded and Accountable Research
As well as being deeply engaged in teaching, my research emphasizes strong societal orientation and impact. In 2016, I served on the University of Amsterdam Diversity Commission, set up to investigate the meanings associated with diversity in the existing governance frameworks at UvA. Under the Chairship of Emerita Professor Gloria Wekker my contribution revealed how UvA tended to limit diversity to gender and internationalization. I also pointed out a prevailing demographic understanding of diversity (who is at the university) to the neglect of an epistemic understanding of diversity (what knowledge is produced and taught).
In the collaborative project “We won’t think what we don’t do: Learning from Stories of Solidarity in times of Covid in the City of the Hague” (LEF-SOS; 2020-21) co-lead with Dr Aminata Cairo, I investigate the meanings of solidarity that circulate among marginalized communities in The Hague during and after the COVID-19 “intelligent” lockdown in the Netherlands and the global Black Lives Matter mobilizations. As the research foregrounds active engagement with and accessibility to what has been collectively learnt, the outputs are directed to different audiences, including academia, teachers and students, the Den Haag Municipality, local policy makers as well as community and religious centers.
Collaborations, Coalitions, Relationships
As someone that constantly seeks long-lasting collaborations in the Netherlands and abroad with academic, policy and activist networks concerned with global justice, equity, and sustainable development, I value the practice of critical self-reflexivity as a basis to respond to and be with others effectively but caringly.
Teacher, Mentor, Woman of Color
As teacher, and mentor in both undergraduate and post graduate education in seven different countries I have learned the importance of deep listening, connection, and relation for sustaining long lasting collaborative work. As a women of color, I understand my role in academia as an opportunity for honoring those who precede me and for mentoring those who come after me.
Interconnected areas of research:
**I Decolonial thinking and 'the international'**
How can one revisit the modern/colonial character of notions such as region, regionalism, social resistance and global justice?
My way of working this question has been through the identification of decolonial trajectories in knowledges and cosmovisions that have been actively produced as backward or ‘sub-altern’ by hegemonic forms of understanding on 'the international' (including liberalism, Marxism, some feminisms, post-structuralism and the current IR hype on “new materialism”). Post-development, critical pedagogists, feminists and decolonial thinkers Arturo Escobar, Walter Mignolo, Catherine Walsh and Maria Lugones have been crucial for my understanding of the epistemic violence of eurocentrism.
**II Thinking the academia in the promotion of autonomy**
Can the modern/colonial academia contribute to sustain forms of epistemic dissent aiming at promoting global social justice and autonomy? And if so, how?
In exploring these questions I have been involved in different collaborative research initiatives including the Transnational Network Other Knowledges (RETOS) and its autonomous publishing house. I also collaborate with Suumil Mooktaan in Sinanche, Yucatan, Mexico.
**III Learning as liberation/liberation of learning**
I am interested in the application of anti-oppressive and decolonial pedagogies in my teaching articulated as: pedagogies of positionality, pedagogies of relationality and pedagogies of transition (Icaza and Vazquez 2018). In teaching about the politics of decolonial investigations and decolonizing research practises, I seek to encourage relational accountability and mutual (un)learning . My pedagogical practices are inspired by Third-world, Chicana, Black and decolonial feminist theories and epistemologies. I collaborate in the Going Glocal initiative - co-financed by the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs as a pioneering effort in education and research on global citizenship in The Netherlands (www.goingglocal.nl) and teach in the Decolonial Summer School "Maria Lugones" co-organized by the Utrech Univerity College and the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven.
**IV Plural feminisms for plural liberations**:
I am deeply interested in inter-cultural dialogues among different strands of feminisms. I have been exploring the ideas of coalitional politics as developed by Maria Lugones and the points of convergence and divergence between decolonial and post-colonial feminisms.
I welcome PhD students and post-Doctoral fellows interested in any of these broad areas of research.
PhD Co-supervision (Graduated)
Dr Paulina Trejo Mendez (Mexico) with Cum Laude “Politics of Knowledge: weaving stories of dehumanization, erasure and resistance in the highlands of Chiapas”. Graduated 13 September 2019. Promotor: Professor Wendy Harcourt
Dr Jacqueline Gaybor Tomas (Ecuador) “The Body Politics of Menstruation: technologies, sustainability and destigmatization”. Graduated 21 February 2020. Promotors: Professor Wendy Harcourt and Professor Peter Knorringa
Dr Cynthia Bejeno (Philippines) “On the Frontlines: Peasant Women and their Land Reform Struggles in the Philippines”. Graduated on 29 October 2021. Promotor Professor Irene van Staveren.
Dr Zuleika Sheik (South Africa) with Cum Laude “Liminagraphy: Lessons in life-affirming research practices for collective liberation”. Graduated on 13 December 2021. Promotor Professor Arjun Bedi.
PhD researchers under my co-supervision
Tamara Soukotta (Indonesia) “The Past in the Present: Coloniality, Segregation and Political Economy of Identities in Ambon, Indonesia.” Expected Graduation 2022.
Marina Cadaval Narezo (Mexico) “Graduate education policy, indigenous women and social development”. Promotor Professor Wendy Harcourt. Expected Graduation 2022.
Umbreen Salim (Pakistan) “Kitchens, Politics, Place, Temporalities. Pakistani migrant women negotiating mandatory integration in the cities of The Hague and Amsterdam”. Promotor Professor Wendy Harcourt. Expected Graduation 2022.
Brenda Rodriguez Cortes (Mexico) “Sexual subjectivities of young women in the city of Monterrey: towards other understandings of sexuality(ies).” Promotor Professor Wendy Harcourt. Expected Graduation 2023.
Constance Dupuis (Canada) “Bodies, Technologies and Wellbeing: Towards an Intergenerational Approach to Aging and Environmental Wellbeing”. Promotor Professor Wendy Harcourt. Expected Graduation 2023.
Marta Music (Spain) “The pluriverse as the path towards systemic change? Exploring synergies between systemic alternatives from the ‘Global South’ and the ‘Global North”, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, with Dr Federico de Maria. Expected Graduation 2023.
Chistopher Frattina de la Frattina (United Kingdom) “Liminality and Practice: geographies of knowledge and resistance in Sudan”, University of Oxford, School of Geography and the Environment, St. Antony’s College, with Dr Amber Murrey. Expected Graduation 2024.
Esquisa Omaña (Argentina) “Existencia, resistencia y territorialización campesina en la Venezuela del Siglo XXI: Empresas Campesinas de las Haciendas Cata y Cuyagua, Estado Aragua e Instituto Latinoameticano de Agroecología “Paulo Freire”, Estado Barinas”. Universidad de Córdova, Doctorado en Estudios Sociales Agrarios. Expected Graduation 2025.