Academic journal article Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science

Postcolonial Research as Relevant Practice

Academic journal article Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science

Postcolonial Research as Relevant Practice

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Located within movements for social justice and ecological restoration, this paper assesses public forest lands reform initiatives in Orissa, a state in eastern India. It addresses the use of research as liberatory practice within postcolonial contexts. Referring to advocacy research processes within public lands reform in Orissa, this paper questions whether such reforms destabilize the inequities that shape gender, class and caste relations in Indian society. Elaborating a critique of participatory research efforts within Orissa, this paper assesses the contexts and inherent inequities that make such efforts precarious, yet necessary.

RELEVANT PRACTICES

Emancipatory research is generated through political action that interrogates the unpredictable sites of its efficacy. Such research seeks to create knowledge relevant to the communities it purports to serve. Relevant knowledge is necessarily partial, producing multiple and contradictory effects. Yet the legitimacy of such research precisely hinges on the consequences that result. Emancipatory research as advocacy addresses problematics and enters into contested representations. It confronts the truths that sanction existing power relations[1]. This paper uses advocacy research within public lands reform processes in Orissa, a state in eastern India inhabited by over 50 million people. It questions whether such reforms destabilize the inequities that shape gender, class and caste relations in Indian society, to produce contexts where the subaltern might be heard.

A CRISIS OF COMMITMENT

In India, development remains unattainable for 350 million of its poorest citizens. Gandhi's vision of development has been undermined through large-scale industrialization, urbanization and modernization (Saxena, 2000a: p. 6). Since 1951, five year economic plans have been adopted to propel India's development in industry and agriculture, and to remedy the political dissension, debt, and infrastructural disarray that plagued the newly independent country (Indian Social Institute, 1988). Development actions have succeeded in exponentially increasing India's industrial, military and agricultural production, its national income and middle class. Yet, in 2001, almost fifty-four years after independence, development has failed to alleviate poverty and related socioeconomic oppressions within the most disenfranchised caste, class and tribal (adivasi) communities. The scale and implications of this poverty and the magnitude of the bondage it reinforces is experienced by most nations of the Global South, forcing its citizens to live within a constant state of war. These conditions are languaged as impoverishment, in circumstances where people's most basic human rights are violated.

International bodies, such as the World Bank, national development ministries and departments in Southern countries, corporations and oligarchies, have institutionalized development ideologies into action plans that promote the globalization of cultural, political and economic systems. Their performance has devastated the Earth's ecology and resources, enhancing social dislocation and alienation, and furthering the dominance of technological rationality. Such rationality involves the quantification of life based predominantly on market productivity rather than social capability. The international community has at best been concerned with adequate representation, not self-determination, of marginalized communities within development. Neither have the European and North American nations taken accountability for the political and economic crimes they have committed through colonization and neocolonization. Such considerations do not factor into organizing reparations to the disenfranchised in the once colonized countries of the Global South. Rather development institutions continue to assert processes that systematically delegitimize traditional livelihoods by impoverishing the natural resource base upon which the lives of subsistence communities depend (Escobar, 1995). …

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