Decolonial Knowledge #1 – The importance of ethics of care when doing a decolonial work

This blog is a provocation written by Riadh Ghemmour on what ethics of care mean to me [us] in the current Incubator project, ‘Decolonial Knowledge Production and Anti-Racist Pedagogy.’ The project seeks to discuss and introduce the idea of ‘pluriversality,’ while also contributing to the wider emancipatory movement fighting against racism and oppression through a consideration of the ethics of care.

I am currently a doctoral researcher at the Graduate School of Education and a student fellow within the Education Incubator. In this role, I work alongside other cross-disciplinary students and staff to advance progressive knowledge and effective ways to decolonise knowledge production and research and/or teaching praxis.

While decolonial projects are gaining slowly traction within UK universities for the realisation and achievement of social justice, equality, and equity in HE, my experience in pursing decolonial work has highlighted the complexity of achieving change, either individually or collectively.

This complexity comes from the fact that decolonial projects tend to unpack sensitive and bitter ‘truths’ about colonialism and imperialism. These can lead to sentiments of anger, frustration, and pain from those who carry the trauma and accounts of racial violence and discrimination with them.

However, despite this complexity, these topics need to be addressed to move forward for a better understanding of our history, humanity, and education. This is achieved through engaging in non-coercive dialogues that are grounded in ethics of care between whomever embraces decoloniality and seeks to challenge how Western hegemony shapes today’s world through suppressing other ways of knowing and being.

Furthermore, when doing a decolonial work, it is easy to lose interest at times if someone does not see immediate results. It is important to acknowledge that this endeavour is a [very] long and complicated process that requires imagination, collective commitment, and hard work to drive the change that we – as students and staff – want to aim at within our respective spaces. This is why I believe that ethics of care are of paramount importance. They exist just under the surface of our decolonial project and ensure that we all are able to carry on the mission without feeling alienated, isolated, alone, and exhausted within the University ecosystem. This blog is an attempt to provide a reflective account of how I catalyse this idea of ‘ethics of care’ through the many dialogues I had with the group and what it may mean in our space and project.

The ethics of care has been the point of departure for our collective project, which seeks to tackle issues that may be sensitive to marginalised groups (e.g., institutional racism, discrimination, and islamophobia). Reflecting upon this idea of ‘care’, it is necessary to be respectful and empathetic when different groups enter the space of our project; indeed, different people bring their lived experiences, trauma, and intersectionality (e.g. race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, religion, culture, or gender) within the decolonial complexity. Therefore, it is important to utilise ethics of care and strategically turn them into a paradigm of co-existence, which allows us to do justice to decoloniality and our collective and individual agendas. In this context, the collective of student fellows and staff are still holding such thought-provoking conversations around ‘ethics of care’ and learning how to catalyse the idea to reflect it in our work, events, and manifesto.

Also, we attempt to hold a collective attitude of active listening, dialogue and empathy grounded in an understanding of where each individual within the group is located in the historical and colonial canon. We are also alert to the cautiousness many have when challenging power dynamics, as well as the discourse of domination vs. marginalisation for the reconceptualisation of social relationships. This type of praxis provides an opportunity to celebrate ‘pluriversality’ in its diverse manifestations, allowing different ‘truths’ and ‘meanings’ to come together to foster individual and collective agency and decolonial solidarity within the project and beyond.  

The long history of struggles to combat institutional racism, colonialism and coloniality as well as the decolonial movement shows that ethics of care are needed more than ever to avoid dehumanisation once again, as the previous European conquests did. Through decolonisation, we are trying to recover and heal together; students and staff are moving this conversation forward to sustain the work of decolonial complexity grounded in an ethical vision towards diversely situated worldviews.

Nonetheless, the discussions remain unfinished.

Decolonising Education Hidden Curriculum Higher Education Incubator Online Learning Project Success for All

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The University of Exeter’s Education Incubator scheme. Promoting pedagogic innovation and collaboration with an aim to enhance learning across the University and beyond.

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