Transparenting Workshop: a summary of some key ideas, #ILGA2016BKK


A post from last November,  which I wrote while in Bangkok for the ILGA World Conference. Time for recapitulation and continuing work re. TransParenting. Our reproductive rights, access to services and right to have a family with manifold and multiple configurations, are all non-negotiable.

***

This afternoon, I had my workshop on transparenting at the ILGA world conference. The workshop did not go according to plan due to a number of practical and logistical reasons, and in all honesty, my take is that it was challenging to communicate some of the key concepts that inspire me and guide me in my work not only on transparenting, but also on trans and queer activism as a whole.

The workshop took place in the middle of several other parallel sessions, which meant that the presence was low, and it was a small group. The positive side of that was that every participant was extremely interested in the topic. Some logistical difficulties prevented me from using the projector, and ‘displaying’ the key concepts and ideas that are crucial to my book project.

In the following, I will be engaging in an effort to rectify these flaws, by discussing, albeit briefly, some of the key elements and concepts that guide me in my day-to-day life as a transparent, and also in writing my book.

Absence/obliteration

A basic google search would suffice to note that work on trans identities and parenting does exist. In many cases, these narratives come from the global North, and are often written by middle and upper-middle class white people. In comparison, there is very little emphasis on trans and queer people of colour and parenting. In the case of Turtle Island, for instance, the same applies to indigenous Trans, queer and gender-plural people.  Most often, the approach is what I call an ‘oh my god’ approach – one in which people present transparents as a specific group that is ‘different’ if not the ‘not so normal’ case in family life, moving on to elucidate the challenges they face. I seek to challenge, if not distance myself from this type of narrative. My approach is based on a logic of self-affirmation and normalising.

Trans people, just like cis people, exist.

Trans people, just like cis people, can choose to be parents.

Trans people can be good, if not excellent parents.

Trans/queer identities are in no way an impediment to good parenting.

It is normal to be trans and a parent.

The world does not need to lose it and get heart attacks seeing a trans/queer person who is also a parent.

If anybody disagrees, they better check their privileges, prejudices and perceptions of gender and family life. Check your narrow cisheteronormative understanding of gender roles. UNLEARN.

TWoC perspective  

My book, developed from the perspective of a trans woman of colour living in Western Europe, and grappling with multiple forms of marginalisation, is intended at developing an inherently non-cis-heteronormative and transfeminist perspective on being a trans person (and very especially a trans woman) and a parent. This non-cis-het and transfeminist perspective cannot be consistently built if it is not grounded in an appraisal of (and a discourse of) decolonizing.

Challenging Cis-heteronormativities

Being a trans parent, and having the strength and courage to navigate through structures that are cis-normative, heteronormative, and in many cases racially discriminatory and abjectly misogynist, is all about creating understandings, meanings, and support networks that challenge cis-heteronormativities, socio-cultural and racial hierarchies, and indeed parenting and family life-related cis-centric perceptions.

Transparenting as a core component of Reproductive Justice

When discussing transparenting, it is crucial to focus on – as a workshop participant rightly affirmed earlier today – the concept of ‘choice’. As a trans woman and transfeminist activist living in the island of Ireland, the term ‘choice’ carries multiple connotations to me. To begin with, trans people should have the fundamental and inalienable right to choose whether they wish to become parents. It is a life choice that should not be governed by cis-heteronormative discriminatory practices and prejudices.

The term ‘choice’ also connects to reproductive justice. Trans women’s reproductive rights have been subjected to severe curtailment in many Western countries. It was only in the last two to three years that some of the Nordic countries abrogated their laws on compulsory sterilisation for trans people, especially for trans women. In some Nordic and Western European states, compulsory sterilisation continues to be standard practice. This is a case in point in which the state and legislators interfere in trans women’s bodily autonomy, and seek to violently control our bodies. This connects to existing restrictions in some jurisdictions on a birth giver’s right to access a termination when they so require. Campaigns for the right for a safe and legal termination (one of securing bodily autonomy) can and need to be intertwined and interconnected with trans women’s struggles for reproductive justice (also an issue of bodily autonomy).

Indeed, reproductive justice is an issue around which – as opposed to what many people blindly assume – strong cooperative solidarities can and should be built between cis and trans women.

Day-to-day challenges

A key element of my book is an effort to document and discuss the day-to-day experiences, challenges and inspiring moments that involve being a trans woman of colour and a parent in a Western European context. In discussing these issues and very specially strategies of dealing with them, it is very important to focus on the limits inherent to such a discussion. The tremendous diversity of trans and queer communities is such that I can share my experience and explain the strategies I deploy, but cannot provide a template. The lived experiences, personal circumstances and challenges people face can vary to tremendous levels.

In my case, my primary focus as a transparent is on taking an incremental approach, and managing the pace of my interactions with a cis-heteronormative world. Parenting involves constant dialogues and interactions with cis-heteronormative spheres, from antenatal care to primary school and beyond. This, in turn, involves having to deal with people who do not (and in some cases are unwilling to) sufficiently understand trans and queer issues, lifestyles, and queer liberation discourses.

What this implies is

  1. Taking a stand – I am a trans woman, and a parent, and as opposed to what cis-het society likes to assume, my gender identity is in no way an impediment to parenting (It is, on the contrary) an asset to good, if not excellent parenting.
  1. Engaging in conversations: given the above-mentioned problem of visibility, it is very important that I engage in conversations, within my personal spaces, in trans/queer activist lobbies and indeed with cis-het people and establishments I deal with on a daily basis, on the fact that transparents do exist, and that trans parents are as good as, and if not better than, cis parents. Such conversations can take multiple forms, and can take varying levels of intensity. They can be friendly chats that explain day-to-day realities or more intense discussions/debates. Experience has taught me that having confrontational conversations with cis-het people is unadvisable. This is because
    1. My confrontational attitude implies that I take cis-het perspectives on parenting seriously
    2. It can be harder to make a point and explain its validity and worth when articulated in confrontational undertones
    3. It strains my own emotional, and indeed physical well-being. The last thing one needs as a parent is added and avoidable stress.
  1. A refusal, of a categorical nature, to not to play by the cisheteronormative book. Transparenting, if it is to be grounded on queer liberation, needs to challenge and unsettle cis-heteropatriarcal perspectives on parenting.

Transparenting should therefore not focus on a trans woman being a good mother or a trans man being a good father (if a trans woman or a man wants to be so, that is indeed their choice). Instead, transparenting is best conceived as a healing, dynamic and unique approach to parenting, which fundamentally challenges cis-heteronormativities associated with parenting and family life. This is where the concept of a #chosenfamily becomes relevant and crucial. It is a concept that is close to the hearts of many trans people, especially trans women of colour across the world. In the First Nations communities of Turtle Island, chosen family is a concept that has enabled many people who have faced major challenges in their lives (due to genocidal government policies) to find love and affection, create safe spaces, develop strategies for self-care and healing, and to create safe and affection-filled intimate-family spaces for their children to grow up in. When #chosenfamily is applied to transparenting, we are left with a few key ideas:

Transparenting does not need to be about ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ tags (this does not, let’s be clear, imply that children cannot call their parents mum or dad (or mum and mum, dad and dad, mum,or dad). What this means is that in transparenting (and once again, irrespective of how your children address you) does not need to be limited to, defined or constrained by cisnormative perspectives of parenting. To follow this logic, whether a child calls their trans woman parent ‘dad’ or ‘mum’ is trivial. What matters is that the transparent approaches parenting and childcare in a transfeminist perspective (focused on creating a loving, affectionate and safe space for child to thrive in, a space that strongly recognises gender as a spectrum and that all points of that spectrum are equally valid), and engages in childcare with a strong emphasis on anti-bullying, consent and self-care. >>> This is an aspect I develop extensively in my book, based on my conversations with my five-year-old daughter. I have made it a point to encourage her, using age-appropriate language, that more than ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ she is a child, (as in,>>

My daughter: ‘I’m not sure if I can have this toy, because it is for boys’ and,

Me: No love, that’s not true. All toys are for all children. You’re a child, and you can definitely have it’).

I also strongly encourage my daughter to not to let anyone touch her without asking first (this was, primarily, based on an experience we lived through when my daughter and I travelled abroad for a short trip in Easter 2016. Seeing a child of colour, a lot of people would, with no qualms whatsoever, seek to touch her, and caress her, leading to me telling people off in no uncertain terms.

My objective is to ensure that the child is given the understanding that her body is hers, and hers alone, and that others can only get close if she agrees. As time flies through, this perspective can be developed into a strong discourse on consent. All our children, whether they grow up in cisparent or transparent households, need to be taught consent as of the nursery (if not earlier).

In a world in which black and brown bodies are prone to face hatred and violence (and indeed high levels of sexism), I strongly prioritise consent and the emphasis on gender as a spectrum in my day-to-day conversations with my child, and in my overall approach to parenting. #ThisiswhatTransfeministTransparentingLooksLike).

  1. To expand a bit further, subscribing to cisheteronorms is something I discourage. Take, for instance, a trans woman upholding the view that she intends to be a great mum, with all the ‘qualities’ and ‘traits’ that [cis-het-patriarchal society ascribe to] a cis woman who is a mother. Take the case of a trans man who seeks to be a ‘good father’ in the way a cis-het-patriarchal society expects a cis father to be. Such an approach only results in transparents serving the patriarchy and consciously or unconsciously, sustaining patriarchal imperatives.

This, simply, is not necessary and is futile. The term your child uses to call you is not so important. What matters is your approach to parenting, how you give and nurture love and care, and encourage your child to become a human being who sees gender as a spectrum (thereby standing against any bullies against other cis-or trans children in their circles, and also feeling free to live their own [cis, trans, non-binary or any other] gender identities), who has a strong understanding of consent and respect, and in sum, creating a constructive, safe and loving space for your child to develop and thrive, and face life’s challenges with strength.

The relevance of transfeminist theory

One of the elements I tried to include in my workshop presentation was the importance and relevance of transfeminist thought to transparenting. I see transfeminism as a current of feminist thought strongly inspired by Afrofeminism/s, global south feminism/s, and indigenous feminist perspectives. When discussing the idea of taking parenting beyond cis-heteronormativity’ transfeminist perspectives are extremely useful. A transfeminist perspective is one of solidarity, especially when it comes to transnational and collective engagement. It is perfectly in line with transfeminist thought for cis and trans women, for instance, to work together to consolidate their reproductive rights.

Transfeminism’s emphasis on bodily autonomy, and drawing inspiration from non-western epistemologies provides concepts that are extremely useful for transparenting. This is especially the case when one discusses parenting by trans people of colour, especially trans women of colour. The transfeminist critique of equal marriage and hierarchies within the LGBTQI communities (as well as of neo-colonial cycles of oppression in many sectors, including some aspects of global LGBTQI activism) provides inspiration to take a critical perspective on ‘appropriating’ (inherently oppressive) cis-het elements into trans lives (e.g. the inclination among some trans people to model their family lives and affections along cis-het demarcators, perceptions, cis-norms and symbols).

Once again, this is only an überblick, and I discuss the relevance of transfeminist thought to transparenting extensively in the second chapter of my book.

***

These were some of the key ideas that I intended to share in the transparenting workshop. In the cis-heteronormative world we live in, and given the tremendous diversity in trans circles, it is considerably challenging to find spaces, words and strategies to effectively communicate these concepts and thoughts. Indeed, this was one of the core challenges I faced in my very first workshop on transparenting. My book will by no means be an end in itself, but only the beginning of a long conversation.

PS: There was an emphasis, from a lovely sister, on reproductive and sexual health issues that specifically concern trans women. This is an issue that does receive attention in my book, but (as it stands now, at least…) I do not believe that the space I provide to discuss trans women’s reproductive health-related issues in this project is adequate. To sum up a few key points, the key challenge is that of fighting stigma associated with trans womanhood and parenting. Secondly, it is important to encourage medical practitioners and all professionals associated with reproductive health, childbirth and childcare of a trans woman’s inalienable right to become a parent. More research and attention is required to reproductive health issues of trans women from pre-op issues to vaginal health – going beyond cis-het stigma. It is also crucial to discourage making cis-hetero-norms the key benchmark when discussing trans women’s health issues, and their right to choose to become parents. It is a multi-faceted and multi-stake-holder dialogue, involving medical practitioners, trans people and indeed, trans rights and justice activists who do not approach trans issues through cis prisms. Encouraging trans people to enter the medical professions is also a key long-term element in this process. [and that’s only a very few thoughts on an extremely complex issue, which is also marked by quite a few ‘unchartered territories’ that need more work.

***

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No, Jeremy, don’t do it


This is a hugely important message to the British Labour Party and to HM Leader of the Opposition and Prime-Minister-in-Waiting the well and truly Rt. Hon. Jeremy Corbyn MP. These people did everything possible to undermine Jeremy, and Jeremy fought under very challenging circumstances and achieved what he achieved last week. Taking them in would be the first step in ruining everything Jeremy and genuine Labour supporters and wellwishers have done so far. So the right-wing, neoliberal ideological streak in the Labour Party – which is a spent force – should no longer be allowed to serve on the front bench. Full-stop.

This is not about politics. This is about human dignity. This is about standing for the most vulnerable in our society. This is about ensuring that Britain gets a true negotiator like Corbyn and an excellent manager like John McDonnell and a presentable internationalist like Keir Starmer to negotiate a win-win Brexit deal. This is about protecting and reinforcing LGBTQI Rights, and reinforcing the rights of non-cisgender and non-cis-heteronormative people. This is about ensuring that Labour remains, true to the Corbyn ethos, non-ablist, and respectful. This is about Labour having a sensible foreign policy approach – the one Jeremy pioneered during the election campaign – which the British public – in the face of terror attacks – accepted as the most advisable way forward. In sum, this is about our shared future, and the right-wing in the Labour Party should have no place at the Corbyn-McDonnell front bench or in the Shadow Cabinet. Corbyn should, deserves to, needs to and MUST surround himself with pro-Corbyn politicians, pro-McDonnell politicians and that is the one and only promising path forward.

Road To Somewhere Else

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of yvette cooper attacking corbyn

Those who were paying attention during Yvette Cooper’s challenge for the Labour leadership last year would have been aware of the undisclosed £75,000 businessman Dan Jarvis contributed to the New Labour enthusiasts campaign.

The mainstream media didn’t pay much attention to the scandal at the time. On September 22 of that year, columnist Fraser Nelson wrote tellingly of “the terrifying victory of Jeremy Corbyn’s mass movement” at staving off the coup attempt against him. Two days later, New Labour Corbyn critic and MP for Normanton, Ponefract, Castleford and Nottingley tweeted the following:

Congratulations re-elected today. Now the work starts to hold everyone together, build support across country & take Tories on

Less than 48 hours after her insincere message on Twitter, the Blairite MP engaged in a media publicity stunt intended to draw a wedge between the PLP…

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We need to talk about Diane Abbott. Now. (EXPLICIT CONTENT)


Diane Abbott is a star. An exemplary women. A brilliant politician. A non-nonsense politician, and a true leader.

COOKING ON A BOOTSTRAP

This is not a recipe. I wrote this as a series of tweets today and readers asked for it as a blog post, so here it is. Our politics may differ, so feel free to skip straight back to the recipes if that’s what you’re here for.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT DIANE ABBOTT.

Right one of us political writer people needs to do this and it looks like it’s me. Grab a seat. I wanna talk about Diane.
Diane was first elected as an MP in 1987, the year before I was born. She has been dedicated to serving the British public for longer than I have even been alive. Hold that thought. Understand it.
Diane was the first black woman to have a seat in the House of Commons. She MADE HISTORY. Her father was welder, her mother a nurse. How many working class kids do we have…

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Cop on Comrades


Feminist Ire

We are a group of activist women from a wide variety of backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. Last week, a good number of the left-wing men we work and organise with seriously disappointed us. These men – our friends, our fellow trade unionists, activists, writers, organisers, and artists – shared and commented on a reductive and damaging article written by Frankie Gaffney, which was published in the Irish Times.

We live in a world where our advantages are tangled up with the things that disadvantage us – some of us are working class, some queer, some of us are poor, some of us come from minority ethnic groups or have disabilities or don’t enjoy the security of citizenship. As well, some of us have had a multitude of opportunities in our lives while some of us have had to fight our way through. It is an obligation on…

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Decolonising the academy: the only way forward: 1


An eye-opener of a sojourn?

My recent visit to Canada, to attend the two largest academic events in political science in francophone and Anglophone Canada, was an eye opener, and a stark reminder of the ways in which racial, socioeconomic and political hierarchies operate in academia. It was also a fulsome confirmation of the ways in which knowledge production takes place in the field of international politics. The near-totality of research work on peace processes, power-sharing, peacebuilding, conflict management, IR theory is, pace a handful of rare exceptions, all done by cis white people in the global North. After a few months of field work in x and y location in the global South, they structure their arguments, present papers at conferences, publish in scholarly journals and academic publication houses, and the knowledge they produce thus becomes the ‘status quo’ knowledge. It is this body of work that serves as ‘the’ reference to their very powerful and influential Western governments, supra-national bodies and, appallingly, to the large majority of governments in the global South. To the so-called urbane, Westernised ‘civil society lobbies’ in countries in the global South (especially in deeply divided societies), the work produced by cis white academics in the global North is, no kidding, the word of God. This academic lobby also seeks, in its own micro-aggressive ways, to demean, if not undermine and relegate to the margins, the work of academics from the global South, especially those who uphold positions different to their own. This is something I have felt, and have had to put up with, all my PhD work since 2008. At one point, it was so toxic that I seriously considered abandoning the whole thing, and taking a different path. I ultimately resorted to a ‘middle path’, running away from the university where I was doing my PhD to another country, to teach in a different university system for a couple of years.

Eurocentric ways taken for granted?

Many cis-het-white folk in international politics academia who ‘specialise’ on locations in the global South, take their tremendous positions of privilege for granted, take pride in them, and do not see anything questionable in them. This is largely because the heavily unequal world we live in has been kind to them, and placed them in the highest position of privilege. In the large majority of cases, they never take a second to question their positions of enormous privilege. As one international relations academic said to me at the CPSA conference dinner, she did not see ‘anything wrong’ in the fact that knowledge production in IR and world politics is near-exclusively done by the cis-het-white scholar from the global North.

A global South perspective?

To me, a transwoman, Sri Lankan, with a Franco-British education and leading an existence of exile, everything about this structure is most fundamentally wrong. People simply assume that an x number of months’ fieldwork in x or y country, and ‘advocacy’ for the apparent ‘welfare’ of marginalised communities in x or y country in the global South, make them experts and frontline scholars in that x or y country. In the panel in which I presented, not ONCE did any of the cis-white presenters admit their positions of privilege, that their ‘whiteness’ is their biggest passport and asset to engage in research in the global South. That especially in the African continent, a black scholar (irrespective of their nationality or level of access to bits of white privilege) carrying out research into deep-seated socio-political divisions is prone to have a much tougher ride than the white academic. They take their privilege for granted, and expect the world to respect their privileged position, without questioning the inherent inequalities, duplicities, inconsistencies and sheer violence in the system that puts them in their positions of privilege. One IR scholar told me that during her PhD programme, she benefitted from two very prestigious scholarships (high-profile foundations — one named after an infamous former Canadian Prime Minister and another with generous money), and that her PhD programmes was a comfortable, financially secure venture. She even purchased a flat in the city where she completed her PhD, all while being a graduate student. In the other end of Canada, attending another conference, I met a tremendously intelligent, multilingual, and in the truest sense of the term, very smart academic, who happened to be from a country in central America. She is an international student in Canada, and has two young children, and gets only one grant that involves a much lesser sum, despite her family charges, academic credentials and professional experience. She has to fight for every single thing, has no access to healthcare (and hence has to purchase private health coverage), and purchasing her own property is not an option, to quote her own words ‘because we are foreigners [with temporary residence] in this country’. The cis-het-white explanation would be ‘of course that’s very normal. It’s like that everywhere. It is different for foreigners/much harder for foreigners in any country). I beg to differ, and fundamentally disagree.

It is not so hard for the cis-white scholar from North America who pursues a PhD in Western Europe. I have come across so many people in that category, and in comparison with the foreign scholar from the racialized, non-white global South, they have a relatively smooth ride. They are immediately accepted in academic circles, made welcome, and after PhDs, access grants and positions with less red tape. Even the tough immigration bodies treat them in a fairly straightforward way.

The burdens of the Southerner?

All this changes for the scholar from the global South, who studies in universities in the global North — especially in the social sciences. They have to prove themselves harder, justify their existence, and undergo fierce and simply violent regimes of control imposed by colonial structures in place. The International Office in Queen’s University Belfast, for instance, was, I say it out loud, the most unwelcome body I’ve ever come across in my entire academic and professional parcours, which involves three countries other than my own, three different university systems, two ‘international’ languages, and providing undergraduate and postgraduate teaching solutions that were highly appreciated by my students 99% of the time (except in conservative and bigoted student circles in a province with its own trajectory of hatred and occupation). If a white postgraduate student were treated that way, they would have had so many channels to voice their opposition, make their voice heard, build support networks, cry their eyes out, and get added value to their white tears, which have a very high market value and selling price.

Duplicities in research structures?

This is also the case when it comes to publishing and research grants. Sometime back, I had an appointment with the director of a research institute specialised in conflict transformation, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. At the time, I was considering carrying out a research project in Myanmar. The first thing this person said was something along the lines of “when it comes to Sri Lanka, that’s fine because I see that you are Sri Lankan, but the question arises as to your expertise or knowledge about Myanmar. Have you been there?” I bet that the reaction would have been fundamentally different had I been white. If I were cis-white and if I said “oh yea, I spent three months doing some travelling in Myanmar, and then in Laos and did some interning/volunteering with such and such [Western, cis, very largely heteronormative and essentially white supremacist] x or y NGO in Yangoon, I bet that the same person’s reaction would have been very different. The fact that I have developed strong networks among Buddhist networks in Myanmar, have developed links with several academic institutions in the country, were all irrelevant to him. Had I been white, I doubt it if any such question would have been asked in the first place. I have met some senior academics who manage multi-million pound projects focused on countries on which they have no concrete research specialisation whatsoever. They certainly do not speak the local language, and in one such project, the academic demi-god employed ‘research partners’ in local universities in every country, paid them to do the work, and translate the research findings into English, and then the demi-god sits and writes a book based on those findings. If this is the carry on that research funding bodies perceive as laudable and deserving of research grants, this alone is proof of the extent to which such bodies are discriminatory, obsessed with whiteness, seeing the white academic (read cis white male academic) as more capable of ‘managing’ multi-national, multi-million-pound research projects. In another university in mainland Britain, an anthropologist who apparently ‘specialises’ in all things Sri Lankan has developed a long tradition of bringing in Sri Lankan PhD candidates to work under his supervision. There have been next to no cases in which his students have strongly disagreed with or challenged the said academic’s work. Basically, everybody agrees with what this academic demi-god has to say! Western (very especially Western European) academic circles working on locations in the global South provide the most poignant examples of patronage politics and neo-colonial politics of knowledge-controlling.

Decolonising: the top-most priority?

There’s no denying that ‘whiteness’ is a reassuring force in academia in the social sciences — very specially in international politics and IR. Whiteness reassures hiring committees, reassures publishers, and committees making decisions on research grants. In focusing on white-privilege-related duplicities in the academy, the point I am trying to make is that it is absolutely crucial to ‘decolonize’ academia. As Professor Achille Mbembe recently noted, the Eurocentric canon is one that attributes truth only to the Western way of knowledge production. The central importance attached to the Eurocentric academy has resulted in creating structures of hierarchical domination and control. It is generally taken for granted, for example, that it is a privilege for someone from a country in the global South to carry out their higher education in a ‘good university’ in the global North. In the New Commonwealth, for instance, being educated in the UK, especially in Oxbridge and other prestigious universities, is strongly associated with upward social mobility and social status. From day one, people are trained to look up to the West, Western universities, Western ways of life etc. and consequently hold every other form of non-Western knowledge production, way of life, academic structure and languages as of a lesser value than everything Western. Some white academics in Western universities take pride in this structure, and thrive on it. For many British universities, this structure of hierarchical domination forms a tremendous source of income, charging very high tuition fees from students from outside the European Union. At yet another level, in many countries in South Asia, for instance, an education in what is termed as ‘international schools’ (where the primary medium of instruction is English) is systematically considered as more prestigious and ‘useful’ and ‘valuable’ than being educated in a national language.

If one is to take a more equitable and decolonizing approach, it is very important to question and challenge these colonially established structures of education. As opposed to some superficial observers, this by no means implies a total rejection of existing university and knowledge production mechanisms. The priority lies in engaging in a sincere and collective interaction on challenging these dominant currents in knowledge production and education. How can more equitable structures be put in place, and white supremacy in academia be addressed? How can increased value and equality be accorded to non-western modes of knowledge production? What about making scholarship accessible to people across continents, languages and economic circumstances? Most importantly, how to accord non-Western modes of knowledge production their pleine place in secondary and tertiary teaching? How best can the dominant positions of Western languages in knowledge production be challenged? What can be said about changes already taking place, such as what some scholars describe as the rise of ‘Eastphalia’?

These are all challenging questions, and it takes a great deal of forthrightness, sincerity, and a strong willingness to critically question one’s positions of privilege if any constructive answers are to be found at all. This is where a transfeminist approach to decolonising can be extremely relevant, and provide a useful analytical tool in critiquing the ways in which things are done, and highlighting the importance of change. A transfeminist perspective is marked by a strong emphasis on equality, inclusivity and critical engagement, and the advocacy of social justice (which, despite the apparent commitment of some academic bodies, cannot be realised in the absence of a strong emphasis on non-western modes of knowledge production, and critically questioning the privilege of the white western academy, and creating spaces in western academic institutions where critical voices from the global South are given spaces for academic reflection. Apart from initiatives such as the University of Colour, based at the University of Amsterdam and perhaps the global South chair at the Centre d’études mondiales of the Fondation maison des sciences de l’homme in Paris, there is very little emphasis in the European academy to seriously engage with non-Western approaches to knowledge production, and delve into perspectives from the global South. Yet another research body that engages in useful work is the Alice project at the University of Coimbra. Very often what one comes across are structures in which the scholar from the global South is compelled to comply by dominant practices, processes of whitening intersectionalities, gets talked over, or forced into intellectual, methodological and professional ‘compliance’. There’s work to be done in further conceptualising ideas such as that of a ‘pluriversity’ — process of knowledge production that is open to epistemic diversity, that Achille Mbembe has developed. Indeed, there’s a lot more to write on this issue, and to quote Robert Frost, ‘miles to go before I sleep’.

To be continued.

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