URACCAN’s decolonial geographies

I’m heading to the National University of Singapore next week to participate in a symposium on postcolonial geography. I’m giving a paper about URACCAN, a grassroots, intercultural, community university in Bilwi on Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast and how its achievements, experiences and its intellectual production provide a substantial challenge to the mainstream Enlightenment universities in which many of us academic geographers work. I spent ten years at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand where stated aims to indigenize and decolonize the university were constantly thwarted by neoliberal restructuring, downsizing, attrition and the privileging of western science and engineering over social sciences and humanities. URACCAN provides an example of how things can be done differently, when you allow indigenous worldviews to disrupt Eurocentric ways of knowing and when you refuse to separate the cultural, the scientific, the technological and the supernatural. In January 2009, Kevin Glynn and I shared some of our research findings on the region’s community media operations with a large group of first year students, most of whom identified as indigenous, who were enrolled in the degree in Intercultural Communication at URACCAN. We found a vibrant, articulate and engaged group of students willing to share their views with us. We wonder what the mainstream Enlightenment university might look like if governance and the organization of knowledge were based on horizontal and reciprocal solidarities, on collective decision making and on relational understandings of the connections between humans and nonhumans.

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