Decolonial Subversions
Main Issue 2021

Editorial – A Time for Change

The Real Places are not on the Map


Seventeen years after I left my hometown, I return to the house where I grew up, in a small neighbourhood on the riverside region of the Parnaíba River, in Piauí, northeast Brazil. The home of my grandmother, Luísa, whose care, whose care filled my childhood. Black woman, of Afro-indigenous roots, matriarch of our family.
The only photo she keeps of herself is that on her identity card. Throughout her life, like many women and men of her generation and origin, my grandmother never had access to the possibility of representing her memories and affections through images and sounds. A gap reproduced through the historical process of racism, exclusion and erasure of our identities and collectivities, which affects habits, relationships, moral codes, aesthetics, ways of living.
Seventeen years to summarize in seven minutes as a representation of a cycle that spans three generations. The Real Places are not on the Map is about how to rescue these ancestral affections and memories buried under the lack of self-representation and narratives about us and by us.
The film is the result of an endless search to assemble this puzzle of absences so as to reach a presence that inhabits her daily space. That lives in the ancestry that her body now carries. And in her effort to maintain her identity at a time when our memories and experiences are plundered and adulterated by the colonizing gaze.
It is the attempt to traverse, through a cartography of affections, the backyards of memory that still persist in her. An attempt to recompose this photo album forgotten in the dust of her antique chest. And, in this portrait, I see her renewed, rejuvenated. An image in which she recognizes herself, and I also see myself, in a present that has reached here.

To watch the video click here.

The Prospect of Decent Work in the Informal Economy: A Case Study of Bulawayo Metropolitan Province (Central Business District) Zimbabwe


‘Decent work’ is a concept, which seeks to promote opportunities where all workers are entitled to employment security, freedom, equality, recognition and dignity. This paper presents an attempt to understand decent work deficit conditions amongst urban informal workers who occupy two different economic sectors in the Bulawayo central business district. The study applies the Edward Webster Decent Work Deficit Index as its theoretical framework to understand the differences between the two groups of informal workers. The findings indicate that, for the sampled informal workers, decent work meant work related improvements, insurances and risk management, right of expression and business advancement skills, all of which closely resembles the International Labour Organisation’s conceptualisation of decent work. The findings also highlighted that childcare assistance and disability insurance are concepts, which remain excluded from the current conceptualisation of decent work in the Zimbabwean context. The survey findings revealed that food vendors scored poorly on the decent work deficit index compared to the clothing traders. The paper offers a new policy angle, which shows that, to advance decent work, the concept of heterogeneity must be incorporated into informal economy analysis. The paper also advances the postulation that the Edward Webster Decent Work Deficit Index can be used as an appropriate methodology for monitoring progress towards achieving decent work standards at the micro level.

Keywords: Informal employment, decent work, decent work deficit index, heterogeneity, segmentation

Y tir wedi’i dad-dewi / The Land Unmuted: Field Notes


This visual and aural presentation resulted from an exploration into the struggles of reclaiming and holding onto endangered languages. It visually represents the language in the land and connects it to the land. By mediating languages through land, a space infused with history, identity and connection, this installation explores how the revival of languages resurrects the knowledge held in land. The installation uses a minority language to displace the dominant language with which both languages interact. The endangered language, Gunnai/Kŭrnai, (an Indigenous Australian language) is in the process of being awoken and the minority language, Cymraeg (Welsh, a European Celtic language), is still under threat. The dominant language of both languages is English, which although it cannot be fully removed has been displaced from its usual central positioning in a decolonial strategy.
These field notes provide a brief overview of the creation of Y tir wedi’i dad-dewi, an installation of over 900 baskets with sound. This work provides a space for the voices of the land to retell the story in an unfamiliar style, permitting the previously silenced to have a voice. Australian Aboriginal artists such as Julie Gough and Steaphan Paton believe that narratives can be retold through recreation and reclaiming, even when disrupted by colonialism. With this work, I aimed to not recite the colonial story again but to create a new narrative allowing endangered and minority languages to speak again. Although the two languages are globally and culturally far removed from each other, they were selected because they are part of my lived experience.

Keywords: endangered languages, minority languages, land, language revival, Gunnai/Kŭrnai, Cymraeg

To watch the video click here.

Decolonising Academic Debate and Space: An Analysis of Djamila Ribeiro’s Works


The aim of the present article is to introduce and discuss the decolonial vision of the Brazilian philosopher, Djamila Ribeiro, through an analysis of her books, O que é lugar de fala? (2017) and Pequeno manual antirracista (2019). In particular, I want to stress the importance of academic debate where everyone takes part equally in order to decolonise knowledge, inside and outside the academic domain. Since academia is still consolidating the hierarchical distinctions among races and genders in terms of knowledge production and fruition that reverberate outside the university environment, I use Ribeiro’s works as a starting point to develop a wider debate. This relates to the processes of suppression by silencing all those who are situated outside the hegemonic white, male, and heterosexual discourses and to the subversive power of acknowledging one’s own social positioning, lugar de fala.
Ribeiro is widely inspired by a long list of writers and thinkers from different parts of the globe who deconstruct and criticise long-established mainstream “western” thought, hence allowing a shift in perspective from the standpoint of the dominant to that of culturally and physically dominated figures, through the act of speaking. Despite their immateriality, words are a strong weapon of subjugation and domination, having been used for centuries to establish and exert power. Finally, this article stresses the importance of ‘listening’ as a fundamental and complementary act to that of ‘speaking’ in order to decolonise physical as well as intellectual spaces of knowledge production and fruition.

Keywords: Djamila Ribeiro, racism, intersectional studies, black feminism

Questioning Language Policies and Ideologies to Decolonise the School Curriculum


In apartheid South Africa, the Afrikaner government imposed Afrikaans throughout the country (Roberge, 2002) and used indigenous languages to divide the population. In 1953, the Bantu Education Act created a parallel school system for Black people (Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2016; Msila, 2007; Nkondo, 1979) and in Bantu schools mother tongue instruction functioned as a barrier to higher education. Regarding this, Tollefson (2015) argues that language policies are key to reproducing or resolving inequalities.
Once apartheid ended, nine indigenous languages became official; the School Act of 1996 unified the school system, and the Language Policy in Education of 1997 established the use of three official languages in schools. However, as this paper demonstrates, English (introduced in colonial times) and Afrikaans are still dominant, thus showing the colonial legacy.
In this opinion paper, the language policy of a traditional, prestigious school in Cape Town is investigated to show the relevance of language policies and ideologies (Woolard, 2016) to decolonising the curriculum and to highlight how the roles assigned to each language cast light on the school’s commitment to decolonisation and multilingualism. This investigation supports Cooper’s (1989) assertion that the language of instruction tends to be used as a competition ground for the elites. The analysis was based on a qualitative approach (Vasilachis, 2016) using a virtual ethnographic study (Hine, 2004).

Keywords: South Africa, language ideologies, school curriculum, decolonisation, language policies

Be Brave but Be Smart – Can PhD Researchers be Epistemically Disobedient?


The Academy is a hybrid between a creative platform and a corporate industry. On the one hand, we are given the liberty to explore, dare and critique. On the other, we must constantly negotiate this liberty with loyalty and commitment to the hierarchical structure we belong to. “Be brave but be smart” summarises the contradictions that, at present, I endorse as a PhD researcher. It is provocative in reflecting on the experience of a young aspirant scholar and on the internal dilemma of choosing between fitting in or looking beyond the boundaries that the Academy imposes. In turn, the paper reflects on the frustration that comes with being exposed to epistemic freedom but conscious of the danger that this freedom comes with. This reflection unfolds into a dialogue between two journeys. The first one considers the evolution of epistemically disobedient ways of knowing and writing. The second is my own intimate and intellectual journey as a writer in social science. By entangling these two journeys, the paper draws attention to the tensions that exist between the intellectual stimuli we receive as researchers, the emotional drivers influencing our writing, and the institutional machine we are part of.

Keywords: Academy, Decoloniality, Vulnerable Writing, Resistance, PhD

Decolonial Subversions Reading Group