Sub-theme 6. The drama of the grabbed commons
What about revitalising African knowledge commons for/through education?
In this panel, we suggest to discuss knowledge commons beyond the 2030 agenda and beyond theories of development, within the framework of Open Science (UNESCO, 2021).
Leveraging epistemologies from the South, we explore how to move away from post-positivist approaches created by the Global North, first by recognising absences, and next by encouraging emergences of different knowledge systems (Santos, 2016).
How can overall life philosophies such as Maat or Ubu-ntu contribute to create alternative ways to education? How can educating in community languages empower learners towards a holistic cultural identity? How can leadership be developed to train individuals to become bridges, proficient of one local culture / language of the Global South and one of the North?
Taking advantage of the momentum and current awareness with regards to knowledge commons in Africa, i.e. topics that concern the Global South and are discussed in and for the Global South in journals hosted for instance on African Journals Online (AJOL), education is discussed in a much deeper sense than schooling, in temporalities that far exceed international agendas.
Finally, rather than addressing knowledge and natural commons as two different entities in the modern perspective (Latour, 2006), we consider them one and the same commons, in interaction, and nurturing one another. This with respect also to traditional ways of educating through initiation which take place in forests.
1. In education, to what extent can knowledge be considered a commons?
University of Dakar, Senegal
Epistemology is the theory of knowledge. When we depart from Western-centred epistemologies and use epistemologies of the South (Santos, 2016) as a lever to look at the world with different glasses, it offers the possibility for new knowledge to emerge.
In Africa, authority has established how knowledge should unfold, the steps to follow and the type of knowledge to discover, when (age wise) and by whom (gender and social organisation wise). In addition, far from modern nature-culture dichotomy, humans are considered part of the Organic Whole. Furthermore, nit ay garab u nit in Wolof, with garab meaning remedy but also originally tree, synthesises the knowledge approach for education: humans are remedies/trees for humans. Knowledge is power accessed through initiation and pertains to a specific group. In a commons’ perspective, this knowledge is organised in such a way to give back to the entire community. The common good is thus situated at the level of empowerment of the community through a diversity of specific knowledges and through collective ownership of this diversity.
Rinaudo is re-greening lands from tree stumps still alive in degraded soils, with a helping hand approach, and without adding any intrusive external element: this is part of a deep engagement to knowledge and education far beyond environment issues perceived from Western-centred glasses.
What can the Global North learn, in a mirroring experience, to revitalise knowledge and education which are in deep crisis? Epistemology can certainly help. Imagination, intuition and other gifts as Einstein suggests also (Hayes, 2007).
2. Rethinking and producing knowledge in commons
University of Geneva, Switzerland
Opening a discussion on knowledge commons beyond theories of development is a subject that also invites to position oneself in relation to the mediation process between constructed knowledge and the realities of the concerned communities. If we refer to the writing of Jean Price Mars (1876-1969), a Haitian physician, pedagogue, authors and philosopher of the last century, the concept of knowledge refers to culture, language, belief, folklore , the sum of observances, customs and traditions constructed in and by the experiences as well as the representations of the real world of any individual (Price-Mars, 1928). It is to say that every human, as soon as they are attached to a society, hold a history, inherit a memory and a cultural baggage that they should be able to maintain in order to fulfill themselves and build their future.
With regard to this specificity, we invite in this contribution, to think about the question of knowledge production around the commons from an eco-systemic approach. This consists in having a holistic and not fragmentary vision of the various cultural realities of thoughts and knowledge construction. As a researcher, this means engaging oneself in a dual approach that not only analyzes the systems of action, social practices, and values that structure the lives of the individuals in question, but also “restitutes them in an ecological perspective that takes into account the historicity of the societies [with which] we wish to act” (Bertin, 2011).
3. Commoning is about listening, here and now.
Concordia University, Canada
Most academic conferences foster epistemic injustice (Fricker 2007): few ‘experts’ are selected in advance to speak about topics defined months in advance… leaving to participants the freedom to sit in rows, shut up… and maybe have the chance to be selected to ask one question to value the experts (what may be called instrumental passivity, Faulkner 2002).
What if instead, we fostered collective intelligence: listening to each and every participant, agreeing on shared priorities, putting in commons our (field and academic) knowledge to move forward as a collective?
My proposal is to invite participants to discuss in small group *their* perspectives*, and reach with their peers a consensus on what *they* deem appropriate regarding the topic presented. My proposal is about recognising that a group of peers has a unique collective capacity to build knowledge commons. But we need to move away from the fear of now knowing, from the myth of scarcity and competition, to reconnect to the wisdom we hold as a group.
4. In my silence
Zürich school of Arts (ZHDK), Switzerland
I propose the following presentation which will be informed by afro-diasporic, disabled and trans cultures. I want to discuss how my selective “mutism” (which is a manifestation of autism) informs my arts practice; and how the audience can learn about their own relationship to silence by engaging with my art. My presentation will therefore show how my selective ”mutism” manifests and unfolds; as the chore process of my artistic work. Additionally, I want to explore how silence allows me to acknowledge the multiplicities in myself and in the other; as a learning and teaching tool. Ultimately, silence can create community.