Friday, July 29, 2022

LIS Research Methodology: Decolonial Perspectives Informing Knowledge of African Communities #WLIC2022

The next talk I will blog from the IFLA SET Training School is LIS Research Methodology: Decolonial Perspectives Informing Knowledge of African Communities, presented by Professor Jaya Raju (University of Cape Town, South Africa). She aligned her perspective on decolonisation with that of Bagele Chilisa, and Raju also mentioned the work of Linda Tuniwai Smith and numerous other authors: this was a rich and scholarly presentation that I'm not able to do justice to. She emphasised that the existing LIS research literature mostly comes from the Global North and reflects Western research methodologies, and so there is a need to engage LIS with research methods informed by decolonial perspectives, so that there can be a more nuanced understanding of communities. Raju gave examples of "Combative decolonial" approaches to research methods e.g. conducting research so that the "worldviews of those who have suffered a long history of oppression and marginalisation are given space to communicate from their frames of reference" - with research data being "engaged with in its own terms". Raju asserted that transformation in research "can only happen when the researched and the researchers are involved from the outset", which means truly participatory research methods. One example Raju gave was that the Lancet rejects articles with data collected in Africa, but with no mention of African collaborators. 

Raju stated that this does not mean discarding Western research methods, but to have the different worldviews, epistemologies etc. coexisting, and privileging the indigenous ways of knowing of the community being researched. Moving specifically to library and information research - there is the starting point that "information" is not neutral. This makes it particularly important for LIS research to be "critically reflexive and decolonial in its approach". Raju presented a diagram that drew on indigenous and western research methodologies, and also a table that compared various Western research paradigams e.g. positivist, constructivist, with a decolonial perspective as regards what ontology, epistemology, axiology, methodology meant in each paradigm.

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