Decolonisation 101

RDI Network
September 2021
10 min read

Decolonising development, research, and research methodology has become a debated term within international development, with a range of theoretical approaches and literature providing an assortment of perspectives. The emphasises on the importance of being able to, not only conceptualise the topic, but to also question the hegemonic themes in the current development paradigm.  
Decolonisation is a journey that will require inclusion, reflection and a continuous questioning of systems, structures, and way of being. There is also a lot of literature out there on the topic, so here is a collection of our key takeaways.   
If you are interested in reading further, the links to full articles are at the bottom of the page.  

  • Inclusion of marginalised voices is just the beginning 

Marginalised voices need to be incorporated into development teachings and research. The  inclusion of these voices provides an environment to promote non-hegemonic perspectives and  knowledge. This is a crucial aspect to move the core voice and production of research away from  the Global North. Without genuine diversity of paradigms, academia and research is limited to  our Global North understanding, and reinforces the hegemonic structures that currently exist. 

  • We need to not only question, but also challenge and reflect 

To invoke the process of decolonising development, the current structures of power and  teaching of Western-centric ideas and practices need to be questioned. We are required to  challenge ourselves and others to reflect upon these structures. Ask yourself, your colleagues,  peers, and the leadership to reflect on privilege. Constructively question and identify current  assumptions, and re-define the role of the Global North. 

  • Redefine methodology 

Historically, the European man conducted research through a patriarchal lens. Ideas, paradigms,  and culture that did not fit into the ‘template’ was classified as ‘the other’. Redefining and  decolonising the role and purpose of methodology requires a shifting of identities; a process  that requires an updated perspective, and a perspective that removes the Global North lens. In  this realignment, researchers must recognise research’s colonial roots, and rebel for new  knowledge to be discovered and generated. 

  • Build equitable partnerships 

Partnerships are beckoning for a level of equity. Participatory research methods provide  opportunities to build skills and gain knowledge for all involved. Such approaches allow the  Indigenous folks, the Global South, and/or marginalised people to ‘take a seat at the table’, to  become empowered and gain confidence, and to ‘build their own table (or chair, or footstool)’.  

  • Don’t slip back to your Global North ways 

Once practitioners have taken the extra steps to decolonise their work, using alternative  r esearch methods or giving up power and control to local researchers and participants,  then we  need to make sure we don’t slip back into the standard ways of work! Ensure that you remain  aware of your own actions, ego, assumptions, and standard operating procedures. 
Read full articles:  

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