Knowledge by Whom?
Knowledge for Whom?
In our first episode, we speak with Leslie Chan from the Knowledge Equity Lab, Nick Shockey from SPARC, as well as 3 younger generation members of the Lab: Kanishka Sikri, Blessing Timidi Digha, and Denisse Albornoz.
They reflect on what knowledge equity means to them, how and why they are committed to working on realizing it through systems change, what that might look like, knowledge translation for social justice, and much more.
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SECTION 1: OPENING
You are listening to the Unsettling Knowledge INEQUITIES podcast, presented by the Knowledge Equity Lab (housed at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Critical Development Studies) and SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition).
SECTION 2: INTRO
HI! Welcome to our first episode! My name is Safa and I’m your host. Thanks for joining us as we seek to unsettle knowledge inequity in academia and beyond.
Today, you’ll hear from 5 multigenerational co creators – Leslie from the Knowledge Equity Lab and Nick from SPARC as well as 3 younger generation members of the Lab .
They reflect on what knowledge equity means to them, how and why they are committed to working on realizing it through systems change, what that might look like, knowledge translation for social justice, and much more.
In our future episodes, we will continue to be in conversation with diverse knowledge holders who will help us interrogate the politics of knowledge production, exchange and circulation – and the global power dynamics that shape it – as well as highlight alternative models and collaborations between distinct knowledge traditions.
Please subscribe to us on your preferred podcast player, rate and review our episodes and share with your friends!
SECTION 3: MAIN CONTENT
Hi! My name is Leslie Chan, I teach international development studies at the University of Toronto, at the Scarborough campus. I’ve been teaching there for over three decades. Over this period, I’ve become increasingly interested in an issue we would call knowledge equity. When the internet came about, I was very interested in seeing how the internet could become a mechanism that kind of equalizes the distribution of knowledge between the global north and south. So I was very focused, at the time, on what I would now say is knowledge equality – in terms of the quantity and directions of output. But I wasn’t paying enough attention to the issue of equity – that is, who has the power to legitimize knowledge and who has the power to dictate what is considered to be academically acceptable knowledge. And so in the last decade or so, I’ve been more focusing on this issue of power and whose voices are counted and whose voices are excluded and focusing increasingly on that structural dimension.
So my name is Nick Shockey. I’m the Director of Programs and Engagement at SPARC. I’m also one of the organizers of the OpenCon community and work to make research and education more fundamentally equitable by focusing on openness as a powerful enabling strategy to make the research process – to make things like education more accessible, include better representation of voices from different communities around the world, and sort of utilize the opportunity that shifting to open systems for research and education present to rebuild the foundations of those systems to be more fundamentally equitable from their base.
My name is Kanishka Sikri. So I always have a hard time defining myself, but I guess I’d call myself a student. Right now I’m training in critical development studies or international development studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough. So here, most of my kind of academic training has been focused on violence and domination, and what this kind of looks like historically, what it looks like now, and what it means to really imagine worlds in which violence is not an everyday, everywhere felt type of thing. And so for me, knowledge equity has been central to understanding what violence is and what it looks like in a sort of mundane and banal fashion. So much of my research, much of my writing beyond academia has been focused on kind of moving away from fast articulations of violence, like rape or genocide or war, to the slow processes and practices that enable these fast acts to kind of birth into existence. And so for me, knowledge and who we’re getting knowledge from, how we’re creating knowledge is indeed a slow violence – particularly the way that academia uses knowledge, because it inherently kind of prioritizes certain knowledges, it disengages certain knowledges, gatekeeps certain people. And so for me, knowledge equity or knowledge inequity rather, is about understanding how the pursuit of knowledge and the creation of knowledge is bound up in multiple intersectional logics of power, that are built and kind of use violence almost like a currency and language of their exercise. And so I think that the field of knowledge equity or inequity, for me has really been the pursuit of kind of, you know, aiming to understand or grasping the messiness and the contradictions that are inherent to the fight for equity and who and what is keeping this existence from taking place.
My name is Denisse Albornoz. I am Ecuadorian, but was raised in Peru and have lived in the Dominican Republic, India and Canada. And I think this has been key in framing my social position as an immigrant, but also as a cis,fair skinned woman who speaks two hegomonic languages, Spanish and English. So in that sense, my upbringing has really shaped how I share and exchange knowledge in different spaces. I have also been formally or academically trained as an international development specialist or as a sociologist at the University of Toronto. So I care about questions of power and social inequality and knowledge production.
And I also have a personal interest in the arts and community-based forms of knowledge exchange. Today, I work as the research director for the NGO Hiperderecho. We are a small digital rights organization based in Peru and a lot of our work involves conducting local research on questions of social justice and technology. But we also do a lot of work side-by-side with different communities, like women who are facing violence, journalists, activists – and we do a ton of knowledge translation work in which we collaboratively define what knowledge needs to be produced in our context, in regards to what these communities need and also to address some of the most pressing human rights security needs that may exist right now in Peru.
My name is Blessings Digha . I am a community based researcher and I work with girls and women. I also conduct research in communities. I got interested in knowledge equity after doing my placement at the University of Toronto, combining it with the work I do in communities. I realized that there’s a disconnect between the community and academia. The community feels like academia doesn’t listen. And sometimes academia feels there’s really not much they can learn from the community. So it really got me interested in knowledge equity – to show that there are different ways of learning, there are different ways of knowing, and we all have different ways of expressing the knowledge we have – and all these ways are valid.
You know, for me, a formative aspect of my journey to becoming a knowledge equity advocate has been my sort of engagement with just incredible people from around the world that comprise the OpenCon community, that we seek to support and help to organize. Knowing and talking with folks from a variety of different contexts and sort of learning more about them, what they hope to accomplish, you know, what their own sort of personal views for systems for research and education are that reflect their own communities – their values, their aspirations, and them saying in so many cases how far removed our current system is from that vision that’s more closely tied to their local communities or their particular needs. It has really emphasized focusing on not just whether something is open or not, but whether it’s equitable, and focusing on knowledge equity rather than just simply open.
I think for me, really getting into knowledge equity, and trying to understand what it means and what it would look like really stems from almost my entire childhood till now, trying to figure out the world we live in and, again, kind of the multiple bounds of domination that are entwined in our everyday movements. And so I think this was about two years ago now, I watched a movie actually and I think it was called Anesthesia – and in that movie, there was a monologue, it was a huge monologue- and at the end of it, there was a line that said: I am not for this world. And just that line, hearing somebody say that and make so clear that the world that we live in is so, so embedded in inequality and embedded in domination. And how I live my life and how we live our lives is inextricably bound to how others live their lives – in conditions of subjugation, of intense violence. And so for me, just that journey throughout my life, trying to make sense of my position in the world, and how I come to the study of violence – that is what really led me to knowledge equity. And about a year and a half ago, I had dedicated myself to the study of literature on violence and domination. And my challenge was to find literature that had not been kind of legitimate in academia. And so a lot of this was like community researchers or intellectuals or theorists, or black and brown, indigenous, women of color, third world women, who had been seldom given kind of academic legitimacy and you know, the academic speak of how to write and what to write for. And so I kind of made this whole list and went on this journey to find all these books and these literatures – often not archivable by academia, as well. And so that kind of transformed into a community online. And I shared those readings and open access PDFs or PDFs that had been archived in different platforms online. And now it’s a list of like over 100 PDFs, that are trying to think about the world in different ways and imagine new worlds and new just futures. And just kind of thinking about knowledge in different ways, I think is the one thing that really kind of politicized me in this regard. Knowledge equity is heavily bound up in kind of whose knowledge we gatekeep. And so just having the ability to find these books – of course, this is not the same as disrupting academia as a whole – but just finding the space for myself and for a few others to really learn from those who had not been given access to kind of this dominant knowledge of institutions was really I think the first step in my politicization.
Yes, my story is actually very similar to Kanishka. I think that for me, knowledge equity has been an important issue for pretty much my whole life. As I mentioned in the introduction, I moved out of Ecuador when I was young, when I was three years old. And since then I have had the experience of being a foreigner or an immigrant in all of the countries I have been in from Peru to Canada, to India. And even though I did carry a great deal of privilege in all of these spaces, I think that just by being a foreigner or an outsider, I also got the opportunity to learn about how notions of difference and otherness were constructed in different contexts. And I think this has also given me the unique opportunity to be much more cognizant of my own biases, and identify some of the power dynamics that I am Participating in or that are at play when people from different cultures interact. And the more I grew up, the more I realized that these ideas of otherness were very much ingrained in our institutions and in our ways of learning as well. For example, when I arrived in Canada to study international development, I soon realized that in our classes about Latin American politics, we were reading a lot of North American authors or European authors who had maybe conducted their research in Latin America, but the point is that we were not reading enough Latin American scholars. And the more time I spent in university, the more I realized that this was not a fluke or something random or an arbitrary decision, but it was rather a reflection of how expertise is constructed in higher education and in most academic systems. And I ended up learning that there was more legitimacy afforded to knowledge that was produced and constructed in the global North versus knowledge that it was constructed in the global South. And this led me to also self-reflect even about the fact that I had moved to Canada to study at a Canadian university instead of studying back home about Latin American politics. And now I realize that this was probably a decision that comes from legacies of colonialism and the global capitalist system that I am a part of, and that it was built on a desire to gain a sense of legitimacy or gain a sense of expertise in North America instead of gaining that sense of expertise in my own country or in my own region. And once I realized this, I opened my eyes to all the other markers within academia that were determining what’s considered legitimate knowledge – from how we write an academic paper to the language and jargon we are asked to use, to the format that we have to present our papers in, and as someone who really appreciates the arts and community-based work, I felt that following this mold and following these markers of expertise and of legitimacy – it also implies discarding the more emotional and subjective and artistic and community-based aspects of knowledge exchange and knowledge making, just so we could make it fit into an academic mold. So I think that by the end of my university years, I realized that I really wanted to challenge this dynamic and my work since then, especially my work in research, has been about working with several communities and exploring the many other avenues that we could use to share knowledge – but in ways that are meaningful and in ways that can also be accessible and that can be used to solve the most urgent, local problems that we may have.
Yes, so as someone who’s basically spent much of my life in academia – I was trained, I was very much socialized into the western knowledge paradigm that I really haven’t reflected on much until as I said the last 15 years or so. So much of my training was really training to be part of the system. You know, what constitutes success in the system? To really follow the norms and practices, institutional practices that date back to the colonial period, defined in terms of Western views of knowledge and hierarchies of knowledge, and to then replicate these kind of hierarchies and power. And university is very much one of these sites of power that allow the elites to preserve the status quo – and particularly through the knowledge production system. And so it is kind of ironic, I realized over the recent years that while as researchers and instructors we like to critique the neoliberal system governing much of our society, but we rarely turn the lense on ourselves in terms of our own practices, the roles that we play in perpetuating this system of knowledge inequities and larger social inequity. And so I would say, I’m thankful to all the students that have been reminding us that there are many different ways of knowing and cultures where students come from to the university, and our university ought to reflect this kind of knowledge diversity from which our students come from. Whereas in our current system, we only try to socialize all those students into one world system, rather than enabling the university to be a place where different knowledges could coexist and thrive and enrich each other. And so to me, this is where knowledge equity becomes a very, very important issue, particularly in today’s world where we face a very serious existential crisis like climate change, and of course, the current pandemic, which to a large extent are really products have the kind of runaway economic growth system that is based on a very much singular worldview of what constitutes excellence and growth. There are different ways of living and learning from different communities, so this is to me what knowledge equity has to focus on.
For me, knowledge equity presents itself in the different intersections that I bring to the table. First as an African, and then as a woman, as a feminist, as a community based researcher. All these intersections make me realize that knowledge equity is important, especially with the use of language and how we present ourselves to other people. So there’s a disconnection in the world when it comes to knowledge – building on what Leslie said earlier, there is an acceptable form of knowledge that people tend to hold on to, that maybe academia tend to hold on to it. We need to realize that different people have different ways of learning, of knowing, and of telling. Knowledge is diverse. Knowledge is also very vast. And we need to get comfortable with the fact that knowledge might not look like what we want it to look like. It might not sound like what we want it to sound like, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is knowledge all the same. Knowledge equity ensures that we as a people recognize that we are humans, capable of learning, capable of relearning, capable of unlearning. And we must come to settings very open to learn from people who do not show knowledge, who do not teach knowledge, in the way we already know how to. In communities where I work in, the community already feel they have knowledge on their own experience, on their lives. Everyone is an expert of their own lives, of their own lived experience. And the communities hold this dear to them. They want to be listened to – even if what they have to tell us does not confirm our personal stance or the bias with which we’re approaching the setting. But it’s also the disconnect from people coming from the outside world – like academia, the researchers, we come in with our own mindset, we come in with our own agenda, we come in with our own language or terminology. And there’s usually a clash. And so academia, researchers, and people who approach communities come mostly with a mindset that we possess knowledge. Meanwhile, the community also relates with us with the fact that they have knowledge of their experience, they have knowledge of their day to day lives. And at some point, there’s a disconnect. Most times, the community tends to tell us what we want to hear, because they feel we’re not listening to them. And most times, when we approach communities, we approach them with our biases with our agendas already formed. And so we’re not mostly hearing what they are saying, we’re hearing what we feel we want them to say. They feel they have the knowledge, we feel we have the knowledge. The truth is everybody has knowledge. Academia has knowledge, maybe in theory, and the community has knowledge in practical, in lived experiences. What is important is at some point, both knowledge have to merge. Both knowledge has to work together to capture everything that we want to see. We must come to settings realizing that knowledge is different, and is the same at the same time. We say the same things, but mostly in different ways. And nobody has the autonomy of knowledge. So I personally believe and I have learned over time that everybody has knowledge – it might not look the way we want it to look like. But we do have knowledge and we can work together with the knowledge that everyone possesses.
Yeah, the academic institution has been very much a conservative one, in replicating past practices and preserving the status quo – to situate the academics as the expert, they go into community, as Blessing says, dictating what research should be done and telling people the kind of things that they should be doing. And this is pretty common in the field of development, particularly, ideas and policies are imposed onto the community, ignoring the community’s very, very rich understanding of their own lives. We should be able to work together for the benefit of everybody, to co create and disseminate knowledge in ways that are possible through technologies that could be made more equitable. Going forward, one of the areas we want to focus more on is how can we design a system of research and communications that allow different actors, communities and researchers to work together in systems that are designed with the people and for the people, and not simply systems or technology that are again, imposed from the outside. Because ultimately, in order for knowledge equity to be realized, I think we have to have the kind of infrastructures that allow people to participate in a more democratized way and in a way that they can actually take charge of their own interest and the directions of research and benefits that they would like to see flow back to the community. So we need to rethink how we design these institutions such as journals and publishing systems – and that would be the starting point to what I mean by infrastructure. We don’t tend to think about journals as infrastructure, but they are the very infrastructure of how research is communicated. At the moment, most of the journal systems are dominated by a handful of multinational publishers that are doing it under a for profit model. And so the way they guide the design and structure is really to maximize their own gain rather than allowing communities to really communicate their research and findings in a more equitable way.
I completely agree with Blessing and I think that we could even take a step back and challenge the notion of knowledge translation in and of itself. Before we even create a process to translate a piece of knowledge we need to start by asking what or whose knowledge are we translating? Who are we translating it for? Who are we translating it with? Is it even safe to do this? Or do we have the consent of the communities we’re working with to translate this knowledge in this particular way? And to answer these questions, and as Blessing already said, you really need to understand the communities that you’re working with. You need to understand their concerns, their needs, their interests, the risks they’re facing. In other words, this also means that knowledge translation needs to be collaborative. You need to constantly collaborate with communities and develop trust to do this in a safe way – to express your biases, to request consent, to break conditions in which both researchers and communities have a meaningful say, not only over the end product, but also about how the process will take place in the first place. So to give you an example in the organization I work for, we do a lot of knowledge translation work to address cases of gender-based online violence, because the communities I am currently working with need a lot of legal information and digital security information. And in essence, law and technology are two disciplines that are known for being very cryptic and for using very obscure jargon. So as an organization, it is even part of our mission to translate legal terms or technology related terms and make sure that they are accessible for the communities who need it the most. And also more importantly, how do we make sure that this information reaches the people who need it the most at the time that they need it the most? And it has taken us years to figure this out. And I think that we have only been able to come closer to figuring it out because we have developed strong relationships with women, with the LGBTQ community, with activists who are constantly supporting us and even tell us when we’re doing something wrong, that they feel safe and comfortable enough to give us new ideas to improve our work and to make sure that knowledge translation is really effective – and for this reason, and because there’s so much interaction and it involves a lot of relationship building, you need to consider also the ethics of the process. If you are making sure that the space is safe, that researchers, for example, have a way to unwind and to process all the information that they’re collecting about violence or that even the people who are sharing those stories, that they have a way to heal or to process all the information that they have just shared with you. And in order to do this, you need to have time and you need to have resources. So I think that one of the reasons why knowledge translation is so challenging is because it’s not linear and it takes a lot more time than you think it will take. And in our case, it has also involved negotiating with funders to make sure that we can devote our timelines and devote our resources to do this work – to build relationships, to build trust, to protect the mental health of the team and of the communities, to create also useful and accessible community knowledge. And for us, I think that one of our missions this year has been to make sure that all of our work, including our knowledge translation work is always guided by the values of feminism and the values promoted by an ethics of care first. That is what determines how we do our knowledge translation work – and not so much our research agenda or the requirements of our funders.
So when Denisse was speaking it really kind of provoked a question for me, like what is theory? Especially what Blessing was saying about how different modes of knowledge must be legitimated and brought into conversation with one another. I was really kind of thinking about what theory looks like in academia and why that is a constraint and suffocation almost. I don’t remember exactly which essay, but bell hooks writes that: I came to theory because I was hurting. And for me, as an immigrant, brown woman from a working class family, theory has always been lived, it’s always been embodied. The mundane and everyday sights of the body have been really an arena and a locus for me to understand the structural, to understand how dominance is animated and enacted in a very kind of banal sort of fashion. And so I feel like in academia, as said, there’s this heavy kind of romanticization, almost, of lived experience. And we see that as kind of star polar opposites from theory. Much of my work is focused on bodies actually in the way that bodies are scripted for certain violences. And black and brown bodies, specifically third world bodies, are kind of written as lived experience. And so academia can come in and extract that lived experience through much research that happens, especially in international development, we see lived experience as kind of extras. And so almost there’s research that is done in the academy and lived experience is seen as something that’s kind of added on to, to fill in some of the gaps of, quote unquote theory – and lived experience is kind of very hyper fetishized almost in that instead of lived experience, or embodied knowledge being the organizing principle for knowledge to erupt and be written into existence – we see lived experience very much isolated from the whole process of creating knowledge. And it’s like added almost like sprinkles on top of an already made product. And so I think there’s this hyper disconnect, like, of course, multiple knowledges need to be integrated. And this is another failure of academia, in that it’s very difficult in academic speak, to value and legitimate multiple kind of plural verses of knowledge. And how do we read in tandem, multiple knowledge – its not really able to be done in journal articles or academic books. And if we’re not able to put multiple theories, I like to call them theories, into conversation – because for me theory is really making sense of the messiness of the world, and to make sense of the messiness that really stems from our lived ways of knowing, being, breathing, thinking, working. And so until we’re able to reconcile, I feel like what theory is and where knowledge erupts from, and lived experience as an expression of theory – like academia has very little scope to integrate multiple ecologies of knowledge. And this is the real kind of, you know, state of knowledge inequity, that there is this kind of dominant hegemony of knowledge, and then everything kind of operates – it’s almost like the knowledge hedging money is the center, and then all knowledges kind of operate around side it, and some are integrated, which is great. But we’re never able to actually capture multiple forms of knowledge as the dominant kind of center blurb, through which we can create knowledge and think about the world.
From the standpoint of academic institutions, infrastructures are fundamentally how knowledge are created, circulated, and then legitimized. And as we’ve been saying, there’s just been a homogenization of these infrastructure as well, so that we continue to only value a certain form or certain kind of artifacts, like journals and books that then only continue to legitimize certain forms and expressions and continue to ignore the kind of diversity of expressions that all the others have spoken about. And so again, to me, it is important for us to think about the fundamental design of these infrastructures. And the other thing that Kanishka so rightly pointed out is that instead of just reducing these lived experiences to raw data to be extracted, how can we build infrastructures that actually enable us to amplify these experiences and share and learn from them? Right now, we just don’t have those kinds of systems because the systems are designed by technocrats who are not interested in supporting diversity and equity. And those who are studying technology – I would also hope that they would work with us to think about how we can build equity from the ground up – in order to facilitate the kind of different knowledge systems that we’ve been speaking about. They have to go hand in hand.
We also need to challenge how we think about technocrats and these divides between, for example, data versus lived experiences. Something that also happened with this community that I was mentioning earlier was that when they saw the reports about their own stories being turned into data, a lot of them were excited, a lot of them said: I want to be able to use this data for my own purposes, I want to have my own community based infrastructure in which I have all the knowledge that you collected, in which we can have data that we can use to understand our communities better. There was a lot of interest in also learning about this other way of knowing. And I think that sometimes in a lot of conversations about knowledge equity, we tend to essentialize. When we’re working with communities, we only talk about lived experiences – when we’re working with academia, we’re only talking about theory, but communities in their diversity also hold diversity in how they express their knowledge, in how they consume their knowledge, in how they want to also arrive to other forms of decision making. So that for me was also really interesting, because I think that we tend to associate data – because it’s a standard that has been set by some parts of the world, and by the publishing industry – data is becoming very hegemonic, if you will. But maybe there’s other ways we can think about data as well. We don’t only have to think about it in the terms of how the publishing industry is thinking about it, in terms of how policymakers from like at the higher level of the government are thinking about it, maybe we can think about other ways of building data, of visualizing data, of telling our stories with data. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be abiding to a technocrat standard, but it can be then reappropriating, and reinventing and reclaiming a form of knowledge that makes sense to them in some way, but that needs to be expanded, changed, modified in order for it to really tell the stories that they want to tell. That’s a topic that we can also bring into this conversation – how we can often put some forms of knowledge in some boxes, depending on how we have interacted with certain communities in the past, but we can change that – we can definitely create new ways of interacting and building on on this idea of creating infrastructures that allow different knowledges to speak to each other, we need to be able to create workflows in which different forms of knowledge can co exist and transform each other as well.
Yeah, I do agree that we look at data from a fixed point of view, either from numbers, so statistics to say XYZ number of people did this. We tend to look at physical, quantifiable data. For example, in a research that we conducted, even though we wanted to know the numbers, we also wanted to capture the feelings behind the numbers. And many times we do not see emotions as a form of data. And so for us, it was important to capture the apprehension, the sadness, the excitement, the tears, those are also forms of data that we normally would not put into consideration when we are capturing knowledge. And it’s very important that as much as we want to see the numbers, as much as we want to hear the voices that are behind these numbers, there are also feelings behind the numbers. I also don’t want to use the word lived experience anymore, just like Kanishka said, but there are also different forms of data that we should be looking out for – not just the words we can hear, not just the numbers we can see. But we should also think of the feelings that are being shown, the feelings that are not shown. Because emotions, feelings are also a form of data. And we should really get comfortable with capturing emotions as a valid form of knowledge.
These examples are wonderful reminders about the limitations of our current system, of research and of funding, and of the structuring effects of capitalism whereby we are being measured in terms of the productivities and quantity of research outputs. And those are often also restricted in a timeframe. You have to get this done in a year or two years, or you lose your funding or there’s no more funding – so everything is going to be produced in those time frame rather than the time you need to work with the communities, to build trust and care. And those are very different timeframes. Sometimes it could take decades to build up those kind of relationships. And so we do have a mismatch between how research are funded are governed versus the kind of different dimensions of experience that we want to capture. And this capitalist system of production fundamentally erases the kind of system of care that Blessings referred to and the system or relationship that she referred to. When we look at other ways of knowing, particularly Indigenous ways of knowing, it’s very much about our relationships with each other, with our communities, and more importantly, with the natural world in which we live. Without understanding this relationship, we have no way of really anchoring how we understand the world around us. We have a lot of disconnect in terms of our knowledge system. And so this question about how we think about understanding our relationship to each other, and the centering of care as part of the research process – these are all important messages being brought up.
So building off of Leslie’s point, it reminded me of one of the most exciting things, you know, sort of for me, in the launch of the Knowledge Equity Lab that aligns with a lot of our thinking around OpenCon project is this idea of cultivating a knowledge ecosystem, and the Knowledge Equity Lab has thought about its work in building new sort of root systems, sort of germinating these projects that are helpful in cultivating a healthier knowledge ecosystem. And that strikes me as a really helpful way to think about what’s what’s happening here. You know, that there’s no sort of one solution to the problem. But it’s more about fostering and supporting a variety of different projects that are responding to various different aspects of inequity – this metaphor works on that level as well, you sort of imagining the various knowledge inequities that we face as these corrosive forces that these projects, you know, sort of lay down roots to protect the community from and, you know, sort of rebuild an ecosystem that’s fundamentally healthy in the way that the current one is not. I think we need to refocus what our knowledge infrastructures are built to do, and to really reimagine them – rather than as something that’s often, you know, sort of performative, it’s part of PR marketing. You know when so many of the infrastructures that research and education rely on are profit driven to a point of being corrosive to the goal of knowledge equity, we need to ask really difficult questions and hold the folks that have power in the current system accountable to the values that they often claim to have. When you look at what they’re actually doing, what the infrastructure actually looks like, the business models, you know, or sustainability models that they use – the equity is just absent from those. We all have to take on the responsibility of developing a critical lens through which to view the world and then to sort of take action and create accountability when the folks that we entrust with these infrastructures aren’t living up to the values that we claim to have.
If we intend to translate the knowledge we have gathered into any form of social justice, we have to do away with our biases, we have to do with our agendas, and put the people, the lives that are at the base of that knowledge first.
For me, the most radical sites, especially of knowledge translation have been that of creation. How are our creations shaped by what we’re resisting, and inherently shaped by our own embodied ways of moving through the world? There are, of course, these contradictions, because what you resist ultimately kind of constraints how you resist and so how you come and who you come as to resistance and to knowledge translation, which I see as a form of resistance, that is, unfortunately heavily suffocated by the very dominator structures that we’re trying to resist. So Denisse was giving examples of kind of the different ways in which knowledge translation can happen and which it would be equitable. And so for me as an individual, that knowledge translation process has been very mundane sort of things – like consciousness building, or poetry or radical pedagogy. And so how do we kind of create the spaces for ourselves and our collectives that are rooted and give us the space, time and resources to be in spaces of creation? And how does that creation kind of tell knowledge and create knowledge and form new ways of thinking that are not bound up in dominant hegemony? And of course, that’s terribly impossible to do. But how can creation be almost a site in which knowledge translation can take place? It’s kind of the main concern for me.
I’m really pleased to continually learn from young scholars like Kanishka and Denisse and Blessing – because they keep reminding us that there are really talented young individuals who could do really creative work with the community within which they work with and understand well. My job I see, as someone who has some privilege within the institution, is to help them create this kind of space. So the Knowledge Equity Lab is really a space where these individuals can share their experience, coalesce, share resources, bring in new ideas, other communities to co create knowledge and tools and ways of telling stories and translating their ideas for different audiences.As Kanishak also said: imagining possibilities. So if this Lab becomes a space where individuals come in with their wishes, and try to make it happen, and to experiment, that would be really, really one of the fundamental goals. I can already see this happening so I cannot be more pleased seeing this forward.
I’d like to echo everything Leslie just said about the centrality of the next generation in leading this work forward. And really, I am so excited to see all the outcomes that will occur because of the different projects affiliated with the Knowledge Equity Lab. And I think for this podcast, you know, our interest really is in creating sort of a new space to ask questions about the various types of inequity that currently exist in research and scholarship and education. And the different strategies that we might use to address those inequities, and really explore the extent to which, you know, as we’re navigating this time of tremendous change, and sort of the shift to systems that are open to default, the extent to which that shift is actually making systems that are more equitable or not. And, you know, it’s entirely possible to think about a world that is open, but still fundamentally inequitable, right? You could have platforms where the access to articles or information is open, but it’s chock full of spyware that sort of spies on users and monetizes the connections between articles, you know, that locks it down so people can’t get access to it, that doesn’t reflect any kind of global diversity in what’s available – where the structure is, you know, sort of based in and controlled by individuals, institutions, you know, in a handful of countries that could be open, but every bit as inequitable, if not more so, than the current system. And I hope that this space can help raise those essential questions as this transition is happening, so that we actually get to a system that is fundamentally equitable, as well.
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