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

'Epistemic Coyotismo' and Transnational Collaboration Decolonizing the Danish University

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

'Epistemic Coyotismo' and Transnational Collaboration Decolonizing the Danish University

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

The point of departure in this paper is a project of North-South collaboration whose aim is to work towards the decolonization of knowledge. This includes the decolonization of education in general, and the university specifically. The project was initiated by the collective Andar Descolonizando, a loosely organized group of scholars and activists from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Palestine, Sweden, Uruguay and Chile. (1) Our work aims to consolidate a decolonizing form of cooperation between institutions of higher education in the North as well as in the South. (2) In this paper, I present my own theoretical and practical perspectives concerning the problems that this initiative addresses and the conditions it seeks to change. I do so from my position of being a Colombian-Danish scholar working at a Danish university. More specifically, I present my considerations concerning the ways in which North-South collaboration can contribute to decolonizing universities in the North, such as those of Denmark.

As I see it, the initiative of the Collective Andar Descolonizando is crucial for addressing the problems of intellectual and institutional colonialism (Fals-Borda, 1981) and coloniality (Quijano, 2000) both in the North and in the South. Given the different structural and historical positions of Northern and Southern countries, one could argue that addressing these problems in both geopolitical coordinates at the same time is impossible, and even undesirable. Contrary to these claims, however, mine is that such an approach is indispensable since the historical and structural positions of North and South are mutually constitutive. To substantiate this, I have structured the paper as follows: in the first section I provide a short introduction to the current state of affairs concerning the university in Denmark and examine the debates surrounding the recent Danish university reform, implemented in 2003. In the second section, I situate the Danish university within global articulations of power, which I describe as global apartheid. I criticise the Danish resistance to the new university reforms for being grounded on colonial premises, the same premises that make possible the existence of global apartheid. The third section deals with the relationship between the Danish university and Danish development initiatives that seek to provide 'social capacity building' and 'help for self-help' to developing countries. Opposing the idea that Denmark needs to help the developing countries to become like Denmark, I claim that the Danish universities are in urgent need of decolonization. It is on the basis of this realization that North-South collaboration can attain a vital and transformative dimension. In the fourth section, I argue for the need to consistently practice epistemic coyotismo, that is, to introduce theories and ontologies that are otherwise excluded from academia. In the concluding section I try to delineate some principles for decolonizing action following the analysis of crisis outlined in the paper. I argue that because of this complexity, we must find through practice the way to act to counter global apartheid, hence the name Andar Descolonizando.

II. CONSERVATIVE RESISTANCE IN THE DANISH UNIVERSITY

Within the contemporary Danish university there is a strong discursive resistance (3) to neoliberal university reform measures. These demands concern the application of knowledge to corporate interests, the dissemination of research, increased cooperation with the private sector, and other initiatives aimed at homogenizing research and teaching practices. Critics of the reform rightly claim that its aim is to insert the university in the global market and favors elitist forms of knowledge in conformity with the neoliberal agenda (Sorensen, 2007). The Danish reforms follow the general trend in Europe in the wake of the Bologna Convention by seeking to "renew" the university to face the "challenges" posed by "globalization" and the so-called information society (Lundvall, 2006). …

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