Science and Knowledge Production – Which Way? EADI Panel at World Social Science Forum
Inequality is the overriding theme of our time. The World Social Science Report 2016 has vividly demonstrated the many intersecting dimensions and dynamics – economic, social, cultural, political, spatial, environmental, knowledge – of inequality. Knowledge has a far-reaching impact on all other dimensions. As the report suggests, there are wide gaps in terms of which kinds of knowledge are produced, by whom and where, and especially regarding the question of whose knowledge counts. EADI has made issues of knowledge a priority of activities in 2018. Part of these activities were the initiation of a series of panel and roundtable sessions at major conferences and discussion forums around Europe and beyond. [insert youtube link]
The World Social Science Forum brought together approximately 1000 participants from over 60 countries debating various dimensions of security, equality and possible pathways toward sustainable transformation. EADI, conscious of the fact that being an “European” association cannot mean to be an “Eurocentric” association, contributed to initiating and furthering debates with the organisation of a panel session on “Development Studies and Knowledge Production”.
The aim of the EADI panel session was to explore critically: How can we build structures for co-creation and co-production of knowledges that involve all stakeholders - in North and South, research, practice, civil society? How can foundations be laid to ensure collaborative knowledge building?
The session started with an input by Oluwole Coker (Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria), who talked about the importance and agency of translations in relation to indigenous knowledge systems. He especially stressed that for global solutions to global problems “everyone needs to bring something to the table” and called for a global episteme. Sonja Ganseforth (German Institute for Japanese Studies, Japan) in her talk shed light on structures of power and knowledge production in international donor policies and controversially posed the question: Whose truths are valid?
Gilles Dubochet (Ideas Belong, Belgium) and Francesco Obino (Global Development Network, India) in an engaging dialogue brought in perspectives from a practitioners perspective and presented Research Practice Networks as a format for a more inclusive approach to knowledge (co-)production and North-South/South-South knowledge co-creation. Dubochet made clear: “Collaboration does not happen by accident. Facilitation is key.”
Ritu Priya (Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal-Nehru-University, India) approached knowledge production and development from a health system lens and explored ways to shift the research agenda from developmentalism to a politics of knowledge framework. She underlined Coker’s call for a global episteme in stressing the importance of an epistemological pluralism in which different voices are equally heard. Following Priya’s input, Irene Blackberry (John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research, La Trobe University, Australia) shared insights from a research partnership model between health services and universities with the aim of facilitating knowledge exchange and research translation. Her approach seemed to fill the oftentimes vast gap between theory and practice.
The diversity of the presentations highlighted the many good and important initiatives that are already existent and that are involving stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds and geographic and social origins and left room for careful optimism. However, as one participant pinpointed: “We need to revisit established knowledge frames, and for that we need trust, inclusion and commitment.” There is much work still to be done.