Is 'decolonisation' anything more than a buzzword in science?

In an episode of Nature Africa, Akin Jimoh spoke to Paballo Chauke and Shannon Morreira about the 2015 toppling of the Cecil Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and how subsequent actions were mixed:

So it was like, it was a cathartic moment. I mean, I personally cry, and I don’t cry a lot. I mean, I get cut by knives, and I don’t cry. But that day it was “Oh my god.” It was like a a release, there was like a cascading moment of like a waterfall.

Emotions took over, emotions took over. And that wasn’t just me, men and women were all crying and chanting and singing and celebrating. And I’m sad to know and note that that moment, lasted for like a week.

And after that, things were sort of swept under the carpet. People were being recruited, silenced. And, and it’s sad to watch. But I think that for me shows what’s possible. And it was like a breakthrough.

Paballo Chauke

And their thoughts on what decolonising African science means to them:

I suppose what it would mean to me is that in Africa, we have inherited a particular formal knowledge production system, so which we see in universities, but also in civil society, in business, etc.

But Africa also has very rich informal knowledge making spaces, so things that sometimes get called indigenous knowledge systems, for instance.

And these are still here, still exist very much within contemporary modernity. They’re fluid, they’re iterative, they’re responsive, as any form of knowledge making is and will be.

Shannon Morreira

That means a lot of things. So first, I want to start by saying that I am worried that we throw away, or throw around, the word decolonization. It’s become meaningless in my view. It’s become bastardized.

It’s become a buzzword. It’s become something that people just throw around to get cookie points as being transformed or open minded.

And I think true decolonization, either of African science or of Africa in general, is not going to be the way people have presented it over the past few years, particularly after Rhodes Must Fall. The word and the theory has come back to life. But I’m worried that people think it’s all going to be strawberries and cream, it’s going to be peaceful, it’s going to be nice, and people want to feel good, people want toi feel comfortable.

Paballo Chauke

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