Decolonising Knowledge and Practice: Our new issue

Anandita Ghosh Blog

The Gender & Development team is happy to share its July-November 2023 issue on Decolonising knowledge and practice

As Gender & Development comes close to completing two years since its transition from its editorial base in Oxfam Great Britain to its new editorial home hosted by a consortium of six southern Oxfam affiliates comprising Oxfams Brasil, Colombia, India, KEDV (Turkey), Mexico, and South Africa, it continues to deepen its decolonial feminist commitments and serve as an accessible and inclusive resource for scholars, artists and practitioners. As part of honouring these commitments, this special issue attempts to centre voices, perspectives, knowledge(s), vulnerabilities, histories and memories that are unheard, neglected, silenced and/or erased through power structures by inviting multi-modal contributions such as experience-based pieces, photo-essays, artistic expressions, and poems.

Guest edited by a group of committed decolonial feminist researchers, thinkers, and practitioners – Julia Schöneberg, Lata Narayanaswamy, Montserrat Algarabel, and Lina Abou-Habib, this special issue reflects collectively and critically on ‘decolonising knowledge and practice’. It takes seriously both the privilege and responsibility afforded to us by having a space such as the journal, to curate in ways that challenge settled academic publishing norms so that we can question what is in fact ‘academic’ and ‘legitimate’ knowledge (Nithila Kanagasabai in this issue) and what are the ways we can ‘destabilise normalised modes of academic writing?’ (Handforth and Taylor 2016, 628).

Contributions in the special issue include pieces from rural and urban Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Oman, Palestine, Senegal, Syria, and Zambia. The contributions of this issue have not only pushed the boundaries of traditional knowledge and editorial processes, but also deployed innovative methodologies that reveal often unseen or neglected sensorial layers of knowledge and experience such as smell, touch, colour, texture, poetry, and song (Advaita Rajendra and Ankur Sarin; Thuleleni Msomi; Binsu Susan John and Sara-Maya). Katie McQuaid and Desy Ayu Pirmasari’s paper aims at provoking researchers, practitioners, and readers alike to think creatively, as they explore the links between gender, age, and climate change in marginalised urban communities in Indonesia using inventive methodologies. The article by Natalia Reinoso-Chávez, Laura Fonseca, Maria Alejandra Fino, Yasleidy Guerrero Tatiana Muñoz, and Carolina Gómez’s presents a choral dialogue between researchers and former guerrilla members in Colombia around Buen Vivir values to co-construct community led knowledge. The use of creative and self-reflexive methodology is present in the article by Andrea Lira, Andrea Barría, and Ana Luisa Muñoz-García, as they question who is a gender expert and reflect on how gender knowledge is rooted in various territories and emerges in unforeseeable, uncertain, and wondrous ways, like grass does. Articles by Anneke Newman, Judi Aubel, and Mamadou Coulibaly; Lindsay Robinson, Brianna Parent-Long and Lilianna Coyes-Loiselle; Clara Desalvo, Shama Dossa, Boikanyo Modungwa and Katia Taela present powerful arguments for community-powered and community-centred development programmes that disrupt top-down unilateral development designs imposed by northern funders and/or former colonial powers and settler nations. These approaches rarely take into consideration the aims and needs of rural, indigenous communities, while depriving communities of leading and owning social change.

The overwhelming dependence on feminist and decolonial work produced in English, particularly ‘academic’ English, was countered by contributors including Hayma Alyousfi and Rand Sabbagh; Reny Iskander; and Lina Abou-Habib, Carla Akil, and Cynthia Chidiac who discuss the rapid growth of local feminist knowledge production in Syria and the overall SWANA region. They shine light on the potential of alternate knowledge platforms like websites, seminar, workshops, publications, and podcasts in producing and disseminating feminist knowledge, and enriching mainstream scholarship and traditional curricula.

Pía Rodríguez-Garrido and Juan Andrés Pino-Morán; and Shreeti Shubham share visceral narrations of disability and vulnerability and challenge patriarchal and ableist norms embedded in research, infrastructure, the justice system and medical practice which together decentre and marginalise disabled experiences and perspectives. Ravikant Kisana and Durga Hole reveal the deliberate lack of epistemic engagement with caste within prison studies which results in the further invisibilisation of the voices of caste oppressed women in prisons in India. Yuri Fraccaroli; Efemia Chela; and Nadine Panayot through their powerful articles in this issue, channel attention to the bodies, flesh, labour, care and emotions that go into curatorial efforts, and the deep significance these hold for communities, histories and memories across rural and urban contexts in Sao Paolo, Lusaka, Jakarta and Beirut. Diana Ordóñez Castillo shines light on the role of community museums led by marginalised women in preserving memories of pain, suffering, resistance, collective healing, and peace-building. All these contributions breathe life into these layers of knowledge that often lie hidden, unseen, unheard, and unfelt in ‘legitimate’ knowledge horizons.

There are limits and constraints, however, to the best of our collective, decolonial and feminist intentions. Adherence to strict editorial timelines, continued prioritisation of the use of academic English language and textual modes, the overall reliance on traditional editing and reviewing templates, the lack of enough knowledge about the contributors and the challenges that they navigate with many being precariously employed and occupying various positions of vulnerability – these constantly shaped the making of this special issue. We also need to be mindful about the risk of replicating and collapsing into the very power inequities and hierarchies that we are collectively attempting to dismantle. The powerful contributions by Paulina Ultreras Villagrana, Jennie Gamlin, and María Teresa Fernández Aceves; and Lindsay Robinson, Brianna Parent-Long and Lilianna Coyes-Loiselle remind us of these risks and urge us to practice this awareness continuously.

This special issue is thus a small initiative in a sea of collaborative efforts towards decolonising knowledge and practice and like any knowledge and research output, is limited by time and space constraints. We hope that this issue might pave the way towards sustaining relationships and collaborations of care, trust, and future feminist decolonial works beyond this special issue, and potentially become a collective of like-minded scholars, activists, artists and thinkers guided by decolonial feminist intentions.

As we were finalising our editorial work for this special issue of Gender & Development on decolonising knowledge and practice, the state of Israel escalated violence against  innocent Palestinian civilians living inside the occupied Gaza Strip in response to the tragic kidnapping and murder of both Israeli and foreign citizens by Hamas on 7 October 2023. The obliteration of Palestinian lives and land we are currently witnessing — the delegitimisation of their narratives and experiences, of their historical resistance movements and struggles, the denial of their most basic rights and dignity — constitutes a process of dehumanisation- and is the latest in the long history of violation of marginalised communities and their way of life by institutions upheld by coloniality, capitalism, racism and patriarchy. We stand in solidarity with Oxfam and other organisations and collectives who are demanding an urgent ceasefire, complete cessation of violence, and allowing humanitarian aid to reach people in Gaza. As decolonial feminists holding space in the world of journal publishing, we feel it is important to identify how colonial occupation is a feminist issue, specifically in terms of the differential impacts on gendered bodies. War exacerbates sexual violence borne by all but with a likely disproportionate and violent toll on women’s bodies. And yet amidst this violence it is only when we focus on ‘women and children’ that we are allowed to see and feel the death of innocence. Men, and young men in particular, are instead deemed ‘fair game’, enemy combatants to be taken as prisoners, to be shot at indiscriminately in both Gaza and the West Bank. A feminist decolonial approach to a just peace necessitates an end to occupation, only after which the wounds of gender-based violence might begin to heal.

Our key responsibility as academics and activist holding space in the world of publishing is our decolonial feminist commitment to amplify unheard voices and stories that support efforts towards justice and peace. This special issue thus brings forth the intellectual and human relevance of decolonial and feminist resistances, and the need to nurture collective spaces for the voices, histories and memories that are often systematically peripheralised.


This special double issue guest edited by Julia Schöneberg, Lata Narayanaswamy, Lina Abou-Habib and Montserrat Algarabel and co-edited by Shivani Satija, Anandita Ghosh and Mahima Nayar. In the spirit of decolonial and feminist intentions to make knowledge as accessible as possible, this special issue is currently free to read on Taylor and Francis website.