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SP37 - Decolonising global development: What does it mean to work with marginalised communities in neoliberal academia?

Convened by Thomas Muhr, Giulia Daniele and Thais França (ISCTE-University Institute Lisbon, Portugal)

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Decolonising academia has become a global movement that challenges the structural exclusion and Othering of non-Western knowledges, cultures and people, perpetuated through neoliberal higher education governance (rankings, accreditation, standardisation). It addresses multiple hierarchies of social inequalities – classist, gendered, epistemic, linguistic, racial, sexist, spiritual. Thus this discussion is of particular significance to the interdisciplinary field of development studies and its core concerns of equality and inclusion. While university curriculum decolonisation is receiving increased attention, less frequently addressed is the question of what it means to work with marginalised communities in neoliberal academia. By this we mean (a) communities broadly understood at the intersection of the stated forms of inequalities; (b) “academia” as institutionalised teaching/learning and research processes; and (c) “neoliberal” as the pressures resulting from commodification, precarisation, auditing, and competitive individualisation.

This panel invites empirical and theoretical/conceptual papers that are framed by decolonisation debates and seek to elucidate relationships between marginalised communities and neoliberal academia from diverse disciplinary, geographical and methodological perspectives. Our objective is to “centre the margins”, i.e. to centre the needs and voices of marginalised communities to generate innovative decolonising visions in/through encounters between academia and marginalised communities across the global North and South. We particularly welcome reflexive accounts (e.g., auto-ethnography, storytelling) and dialogues between theory/concepts and experience (teaching/research). The panel asks, but is not restricted to, questions such as: How does the neoliberal academic infrastructure shape/influence working with marginalised communities? How can marginalised communities contribute to decentring the neoliberal-colonial university (transforming policies, practices, mindsets, behaviours)? How does the neoliberalisation of academia impact on pedagogies and knowledge production among/with marginalised communities? What are our responsibilities as teachers/researchers when working with marginalised communities? Finally, what does decolonising academia mean to marginalised communities themselves?

This exploratory panel envisions to provide a starting point for future collaborations, including a publishing project.