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Knowing to Resist/ Resisting Knowledge (I): Epistemologies of Political Struggles and the Assembling of the Social

@ Goethe University of Frankfurt/Main, Germany - May 16, 2013 –

General Goals of the Workshop:

This workshop will explore how modes of political resistance enhance alternative knowledge production and epistemologies and how these forms of knowledges can be brought together with critical and decolonial academic knowledge without protecting consumerists and instrumentalising perspectives and practices within academia.

The workshop will bring together voices and viewpoints on the process of assembling the social inside of various political struggles, knowledges and agendas and questions how the former can be brought into dialogue with critical academic research. The question at hand is the formative dimension of different forms of resistance including forms of resisting dominant academic knowldege production. By focussing on the ways of translations and expressions of various experiences of struggles, contestations and community formations, this workshop aims at the articulation of languages and perceptions of struggles and their given meaning in a collective process.

The workshop will encourage us to consider how the lived experiences of popular struggles opens up a way of becoming a(n) (collective) actor inside epistemic configurations which challenge dominant epistemologies and enable a collective thought/action process of linking forms of epistemic resistance.


The Epistemology and Ethics of Resistance:

To use concepts within the body of work of decolonial studies: we want to reconsider methods and analytical instruments of the social and historical sciences in the light of knowledge production from the underside of modernity and the zone of non-being. For this critical understanding the widely debated concept of resistance plays a crucial role. It is on the one hand the basic experience of and practice to deal with institutionalised structures of domination and oppression, on the other hand it provides a creative dimension, creating spaces for new/alternative forms of sociality.

The basic analytical and methodological concern of the workshop is therefore to grasp, on the basis of historical and sociological case studies, the ways in which new forms of socialities have emerged through creative practices and knowledges of resistance and how they themselves have built up institutions and concepts of reality as basis of their self-preservation.

The second issue which the workshop wants to explore is the precarious relation of an established and self-sufficient academic framework and new epistemic regimes which emerge through various kinds of struggles. As obvious in the struggles for the rights of women and the self-determination of sexuality, these contesting epistemologies of the self are not per se resisting, but are likewise apt to lent arguments for the construction and domination of minoritised groups and their oppression.

An obvious example for this kind of rebound and reintegration of epistemic resistances into the dominant episteme of liberalism is obvious in the discussion on the Hijab and the state dictated interdiction to wear the Burka in France, where legitimate contestations for the rights of women are colonially recycled inside the liberal orientalism and islamophobia.

This complementary focus of the workshop is concerned with the different roles that research can play as a critical practice of reason. How can on the one hand the process of assembling knowledge inside the scientific community be made transparent and the strict dividing line between academia and other realms of knowlegde production be blurred and decolonised? And how can on the other hand and conditioned by the analysis of the academic production system be thought of the special role of the researcher and a special epistemic and critical stance that is represented by research and the possibility to dedicate oneself to the work of critical historic social science? In short, how can the privilege of being paid to produce texts transcend the horizon of tragedy and individual career and become a resisiting scientific position?

The crucial questions at hand are in which ways the connection to the popular experience of resistance with its inherent creative dimension of struggles can be maintained and brought to the fore, even inside the regulated arena of the academia? Which role does academic knowledge production plays in the re-production of the colonial power matrix? Can academia itself be a space not of the dispossession, consumption and  instrumentalisation of social experience and alternative knowledges, but its amplifier? How can critical research not only be close to emancipative popular struggles but comitted to these struggles instead of perpetuating the academic privilege? How can the horizon of pluriversalism and the struggle to create a proper critical position be the foundation on which new forms of epistemic solidarity become possible, and how is this solidarity negotiated? How can the quest for epistemic solidarity link the realm of political struggle and the effort to produce critical work in academia? How can the productive tension between actvism and academic research can anew be transformed from the cycle of disposession into a critical and decolonial inter-epistemic dialogue without perpetuating the dominant academic privilege?



The workshop will be organised around three presentations which offer different perspectives on the question of epistemic resistance, the formations of socialities and the assemblation of the social.

Abed Kanaaneh will present his PhD research on the geneaology of the arabic concept al muqawama (resistance). His presentation Al-Muqawama: Metamorphosis of a Term -

The Development of an Idea into a Culture will develop the role this term and its transformations through the processes of political struggle played in the formation of the Hezbollah in Lebanon. In this sense al muquawama has become a Weltanschauung (worldview), a culture and a political tool which most effectively serves the organisation’s interests and the Lebanese interests, as perceived by the former.

Julia Suárez-Krabbe will present on central aspects in the processes of decolonizing methodologies: By looking at the relationship between the categories we use in academia and by taking into account the ‘abyssal line’ and the zone of nonbeing she will demonstrate how the white political field of knowledge construction is re-centered. Furthermore she will discuss the tools we use to study reality and their connections to white identity by focussing on the anthropological practice. Finally she will introduce some of the fundamental principles for decolonial research.

Aminata Mbaye is going to introduce us in her research on the question of same sex sexuality in Senegal. The title of her presentation will be Homosexuality in Senegal: a dynamic confrontation. In her presentation she will discuss the discourse of same-sex sexuality as a place and instrument of confrontation between different actors within society. The health discourse as well as the religious discourse are redefining and re-negotiating the sexual identities which shape the practices and claims of the MSM (Men who have sex with other Men). The presentation will therefore analyse the possibilities and difficulties for these actors to resist, express their voice and act as a collective within this social-scientific context as well as examine the paradoxical position of the researcher concerned.


The workshop consists of three presentation blocks and a final discussion.

Each presentation block includes a 30-minute presentation and a 1-hour discussion at the end of each block, where we will engage into a collective discussion.

In a final session (2hours) the participants are encouraged to reflect together on the basic conundrums they are dealing with in their proper research and how these are linked to the general questions of the workshop. To facilitate this process of discussion we propose the collective reading of three key texts.