Decolonising the WSF : A critical discussion of the production of knowledges within and about the social forum process. Workshop at the World Social Forum at Tunis on March 28 2013, second slot, organised by Ciranda, CACIM, University of Hildesheim, and NIGD

Who produces knowledge about the WSF ? And for whom ? This workshop seeks to intervene in current debates about the future of the WSF by putting decolonisation on the agenda, and coming up with proposals – and perhaps actions – for shifting the balance of power. While the WSF has enabled an unprecedented diversity of movements to come together and learn from one another, and to a significant extent succeeded in giving voice to marginalised groups, it also suffers from its own hierarchies and exclusions which reflect the colonial, capitalist and patriarchal power relations that structure the world as a whole. The aim of this workshop is to bring together participants who in various ways are involved in producing and/or disseminating knowledge about the WSF and the world of movement – including researchers, organisers, educators, communicators, publishers, ordinary movement members, and members of official WSF bodies – for a critical discussion of knowledge and power, and to consider how we can construct more sustainable, inclusive, and reflexive processes of knowledge production that can contribute to decolonising the WSF.

The workshop will be participatory and organised in two parts :

The first session will critically interrogate the formations of power that currently structure the production of knowledges within and about the WSF, asking whose knowledges ‘count’ and whose knowledges are marginalised. Participants will critically and self-reflexively discuss how different knowledge producers are positioned – in relation to popular movements and within geopolitical hierarchies –, how they produce knowledge from these positions, and the consequences this has for knowledge production. This will involve, among others, exploring the meaning of categories such as ‘activists’ and the relationship between ‘academic’ and ‘other’ knowledges.

The second session will look more specifically at the production and dissemination of knowledges within and about the WSF, and the value of such knowledges for those about whom or in whose name/s such knowledges are often produced, considering the possibilities for as well as obstacles to co-production and sharing of knowledges. Participants will examine the political economy of knowledge production and -publication, including the role of academia and the knowledge industry, and discuss possibilities for inclusive and collaborative forms of knowledge production – of which communities and movements can become the primary beneficiaries – offered by practices of shared communication, popular education and open publishing.

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