Decolonising Development in Research, Teaching, and Practice

The Chair of Development Policy and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Kassel is co-hosting the COST Action Network “Decolonising Development: Development, Research, and Practice”. Leading a consortium of critically engaged scholars from more than 20 countries, Prof Aram Ziai and Dr Julia Schöneberg have been successful in securing a grant in the highly competitive European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) funding scheme. As of September 2020, the network will take on the challenge of reconstructing development research, teaching, and practice in a non-Eurocentric yet practical manner.

Critique of ‘development’ stands in a long and significant tradition, and along with its reframing during the past three decades it is widely recognised that development as a paradigm and practice is irresolvable interlinked with power, the production of knowledge about and subsequent control of other peoples, places and spaces beyond Europe. While the critique is vocal, steps for moving beyond linear evolutionism and modernization and towards a decolonial option and epistemic pluralism have not been taken.

The COST Action network takes on the challenge to decolonize the theory and practice of ‘development’. In a non-Eurocentric manner, which is aware of epistemically unjust relations of power, it aims for a resetting and diversification of the actors, structures, institutions, and spaces in which knowledge about and for development is produced, shared, contested, and put into practice.

“Decolonising the knowledge about ‘development’ cannot mean to maintain a paternalist binary of those already developed and those less developed”, says Dr Julia Schöneberg, Action Chair candidate. “Through the various activities within the next 4 years, we will collaboratively scrutinize the structures and institutions that maintain power imbalances, and the ideas that support paternalistic relations and assumptions of superiority. We will be exploring and formulating alternatives in three areas: Research, Teaching and Practice.”

The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) provides international research funding for researchers and innovators to set up interdisciplinary research networks in Europe and beyond, and in an open, inclusive, interdisciplinary and bottom-up manner.

“We are delighted that our initiative for a pan-European network on ‘Decolonising Development’ has been selected in such a competitive funding scheme”, says Prof. Aram Ziai, who is also a German representative to the Action’s board. “We have to get rid of colonial patterns of thought and action: not only regarding police conduct towards people of colour or the monuments in our cities, but also in the way we think about and act upon global inequality. We look forward to establishing our network as a space for knowledge sharing, mutual learning and non-hierarchical construction of alternatives.”

For more information on the COST Action “Decolonising Development”:|Name:overview

For questions please contact:

Dr. Julia Schöneberg, julia.schoeneberg[at]uni-kassel[dot]de

Prof. Dr. Aram Ziai, ziai[at]uni-kassel[dot]de