On September 1st, 2022, the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut will co-host its first global and annual Power of Knowledge event with KIT Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam and EthiXPERT in South Africa.
This event addresses the endemic inequalities of power in knowledge production. As intersectional feminists, we understand the political importance of knowledge: Who has the resources to produce it? Who studies whom? Whose knowledge matters? Who is considered and acknowledged as the knower? We are also mindful of the extractive nature of research and knowledge production and the ways in which it reproduces the unequal North-South relations and interprets the findings according to the mindset of the “knower”.
With this in mind, we have embarked on this collective process that seeks to challenge and redefine inequitable relations of power through the lens of what we are referring to as knowledge production partnerships.
Our first convening on September 1st, 2022 will unpack the meaning and practice of “decolonizing knowledge”, “inclusive and feminist knowledge production spaces”, “democratizing knowledge and knowledge sources”, and “defining knowledge areas from the perspective of the Global South”.
We will do this simultaneously in three cities: Beirut, Amsterdam, and Johannesburg as we seek to explore and experiment with what equitable knowledge partnership might look like and how they might function in real-time.
This first event will be both exploratory and experiential and will rely on participatory methods which will be used both offline and online. We expect to have 40 participants from the MENA region who will be accompanied into a process of reflection and analysis of their lived experiences of knowledge partnerships.
This event will happen in a space that we are co-creating to ensure that it is safe and inclusive particularly vis-à-vis vulnerable groups, non-binary folks, non-citizens, and groups who face various kinds of vulnerability and challenges in access.
We are encouraging folks who are involved in knowledge production in various capacities and in diverse positionalities to join us. This space will bring together activists, scholars, and young folks in their diversity, as well as curious minds to exchange ideas, challenge the status quo and imagine how we could work together towards building equitable knowledge partnerships.
Unequal power relations are a constant feature of our history, past and contemporary. The conversation around knowledge and power is fairly recent in the MENA region and may have been brought to the forefront as there has been gradually a more articulate critique of the intimate link between our colonial past and its ramification in the formation of a hierarchy of knowledge. Over the past decades, intersectional feminist activists and groups have engaged massively in indigenous knowledge production as partly a way to challenge a history of being “under the Western gaze”.
The Asfari Institute is rooted in the emerging ecosystem of progressive and critical civil society formations, notably intersectional feminist groups, in the MENA region and hence our interest and commitment to the process of co-creating equitable knowledge partnerships. Being located within a major academic institution in the region, the American University of Beirut, we will seek to create a ripple effect in the MENA region, one which we hope will influence thinking on North-South relations through the entry point of knowledge partnerships.
About the author
Lina Abou-Habib is the Director of the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship.