Decolonising Research Methodologies

Published by Joel Onyango on

Decolonising Research Methodologies

Originally published at: steps-centre.org/blog/how-do-we-decolonise-research-methodologies/ 

Author: Joel Onyango

Decolonisation is a continuous process of anti-colonial struggle that honors Indigenous approaches to knowing the world, recognizing Indigenous land, Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous sovereignty – including sovereignty over the decolonisation process (Datta, 2017). AfricArXiv is contributing to decolonisation by  promoting an understanding of decolonisation through preprints; accepting preprint submission in both lingua-franca and native languages, and enabling ownership of African research by Africans through establishing a decentralized, Africa-owned digital repository for the African continent.

Over the past year, the pandemic has focused even more attention on the role of research and evidence in decision making, and the spatial dimensions and tensions of where and how research is conducted by and for whom. Covid-19 has accelerated methodological innovations in certain areas, allowing or forcing researchers to conduct various types of research differently: for example, through rapid reviews and synthesis for evidence, remote surveying methodologies, and the use of digital technologies such as online platforms, social media, ‘big data’ and so on. This doesn’t imply that this is the preferred way of engaging with research and these methods are also with their own challenges, but it is a step towards rethinking methods.

The pandemic has also provoked many researchers to experiment with remote methods and to embrace alternative ways of engaging, with the potential of misrepresenting desk research as empirical research. In the Global South, researchers have explored what these (and other) methods mean for their own contexts, while reflecting on the growing agenda for ‘decolonising’ research.

Coloniality has been used to describe the structural effects of political rule over subordinated countries. Struggles for ‘decolonising’ have evolved from the undoing of colonial rule to the even more fundamental challenge of freeing knowledge, practice and culture from deeper worldwide concentrations of incumbent power. In light of the growing global decolonisation movement, which question various aspects of decoloniality, there are calls to decolonise research and research agendas – which are often detached from local contexts and situations.

This implies having research agendas that are owned locally, and employ local knowledge, including discussions on what assumptions are held about knowledge, values and beliefs for research in the global South.

Recommendations from the author

Decoloniality In Our Understanding And In The Global South Context

– Opening up space for free thinking

– Opening up spaces to critique positions of power and dominant culture

– Considering the relationship of the researcher with the ‘researchee’ (the main person the research is targeting)

– Unpacking disciplinary tensions and conflicts

– Decoloniality is multidimensional

How Do We Decolonise Research Methodologies?

– Contribute, facilitate and convene debates on complexities of decoloniality

– (Re) evaluate research funding flows

– Consider the various worldviews imprinting incumbency

– Document cases that challenge the normative

– Articulate/customise systems facilitating research

For the details, please refer to: steps-centre.org/blog/how-do-we-decolonise-research-methodologies/ 

Image credits: The Buba river in Guinea-Bissau, Africa (Flickr / remusshepherd / cc by 2.0)

About STEPS Center 

The ESRC STEPS (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability) Centre carries out interdisciplinary global research that unites development studies with science and technology studies. Our mission is to highlight, reveal and contribute to just and democratic pathways to sustainability that include the needs, knowledge and perspectives of poor and marginalised people.


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