Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Editor's Note: To Be of but Not in the University

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Editor's Note: To Be of but Not in the University

Article excerpt

I know I have reversed for the purpose of formulating the title of this editor's note, the usual expression of the adage "being in but not of the world." But the reverse expression is exactly what I mean to use as a window to what I am about to argue in this editor's note.

Capucine Boidin, James Cohen and Ramon Grosfoguel, as the co-editors of this, Winter 2012 issue of Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self--Knowledge, who also served as co-organizers of the conference of which this is a proceeding--namely, the conference entitled Quelles universites et quels universalismes demain en Europe? un dialogue avec les Ameriques (Which University and Universalism for Europe Tomorrow? A Dialogue with the Americas) organized by the Institute des Hautes d'Etudes de l'Amerique Latine (IHEAL) with the support of the Universite de Cergy-Pontoise and the Maison des Science de l'Homme (MSH) in Paris on June 10-11, 2010--have eloquently summarized the contribution of each article to the volume. So, I will not summarize them here as such again, but only to the extent each contributes in shedding light on one or another aspect of my own reading and appreciation of the authors' works--including the co-editors' own reading of them.

I think that implicit in the central theme shared by all the contributions in the volume is not simply the question of what is wrong with the existing Westernized global university system; nor is it that of imagining what an alternative pluriversity may be like--even though the latter is not a direct focus of the collection in itself. The most significant question and challenge that arises from the pursuit of studies undertaken for the conference and shared in this proceeding is how to arrive at the latter despite the conditions and obstacles posed by the former.

In their introduction, the co-editors express the above in terms of asking what it could mean to "decolonize the university and its Eurocentric knowledge structures" (p. 1). And, therefore, it is important to consider the contribution of each author in terms of this overall purpose for the conference and the collection as a whole, so that the limited focus of one or another author on one or another aspect of the inquiry would not be judged in terms of the author's lack of attention to the complexity of the inquiry as a whole.

Reflecting on the authors' contributions herein, the co-editors argue that the crisis of the Westernized university today is not simply contextual--having to do with "not only class exploitation but also processes of racial, gender, and sexual dehumanization" (p.2) characterizing the world-system of which it is a part. It is also a crisis of its own hitherto dominant "academic model" based on the presumption of a Eurocentric epistemic canon that attributes truth only to the Western way of knowledge production at the expense of disregarding "other" epistemic traditions. So, when the alternative "pluri"-versity is posed as the destination of the process of decolonization of the present "uni"-versity, the latter should be seen not merely in terms of an applicative "pluriversity" of an otherwise "universally" presumed Eurocentric epistemic model (such as, for instance, the functionalist conception of the university in terms of a "plurality" of academic and industrial interests and actors in running the increasingly privatized models of academic capitalism seen in progress today (1)), but in terms of epistemic pluriversity as the guiding and foundational premise of a vision of what an alternative institution of knowledge production especially in the age of globalization may be.

The co-editors acknowledge that criticisms of the dominant Eurocentric academic model have not only been present within the academia itself, but have steadily grown, with some successes in establishing alternative organizational conduits within the academia in order to pursue alternative, critically pluriversal models of knowledge production and practice. …

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