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Decolonising Knowledge By Empowering the Margins

Ahmed Ayed

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Decolonising Knowledge By Empowering the Margins

About Dr. Romina Istratii and this TKS episode:

In this episode of The Know Show Podcast, we meet Dr. Romina Istratii, co-founder of Decolonial Subversions and an academic researcher at SOAS University of London. Dr. Istratii’s academic research and engagement revolves around decentring Anglo-American epistemology from the domain of knowledge production and bridging scientific research with lived experience and societal issues. She talks about decolonisation in Africa, and discusses Noam Chomsky’s view on colonialism. Listen to hear her critique the institutionalisation of knowledge, methods for decolonising knowledge, and her answer to the question – is the curriculum too white?

 

A brief synopsis:

Dr. Romina Istratii talks about the motivation that drives Decolonial Subversions and her dedication to raising awareness on the inequalities within knowledge production that are often hidden. She talks about working to decolonise the epistemological framework within her field and how editing the SOAS journal during her studies helped her explore what colonisation might mean among the student body. She also became active in looking for ways to decolonise the university, pushing for reconsidering how research is conducted, and the way universities teach. Decolonial Subversions is built on this belief, shaped by her experiences at SOAS.

To answer Hussain’s question as to how research colonised at the moment, Dr. Istratii briefly talks about her childhood and how her family migrated from Moldova to Greece. She explains that she felt deprived of the education available in the west, hence why she felt as though she had to study in either the US or UK.

I felt I had to travel and migrate in order to have access to the science that I needed in order to make an impact on the world. I had this service call perhaps because of the inequalities I saw at a young age [when migrating].

Dr. Romina Istratii

 

Inequality within academia:

Romina talks about her intentions to change the world, but the way this was coupled with feeling as though she didn’t have the tools to do so. She expands on the reason she felt the need to migrate, to position herself in the centre of recognised knowledge production, and how wrong this is. She continues to explain how the system is composed of material inequalities such as in funding opportunities. She shows how there is stark inequality in access to funding between the west and east, and how this contributes to the west dominating knowledge production.

Romina and Hussain talk about the way that due to multiple inequalities, in academia there is a noticeable difference in the level of cultural capital people have when starting out in the world of academia, which largely depends on where they are geographically. She critiques the historical context that surrounds knowledge production, in that it has always been western societies that set, control and direct the conversation, which continues today. 

Importantly, Romina also works to expose the colonial mentality that persists in science. Her goal is to find a way to make knowledge production viable for more people on the margins, where they are able to go to university, to conduct research, to produce evidence, to produce brilliance, and share it with the world. This is the only way that the historical dominance the west holds over knowledge and academia can be dismantled. She pushes for the need to create multiple centres of knowledge across the world, to widen the academic playing field.

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TKS take home points:

Hussain and Dr. Romina Istratii discuss how decolonisation is for everyone as they talk through ways to decolonise the epistemological frameworks in various research fields. She offers a critical analysis, informed by her own experience from both within and outside of academia, on inequality in access to funding and the impact this has on sustaining the way knowledge is produced and disseminated. 

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