Decolonial Subversions is an open access and multilingual platform committed to decentring western epistemology in the humanities and social sciences. It is the organic development of the Editors’ previous editorial work at the SOAS Journal of Postgraduate Research (ISSN
2517-6226) promoting rigorous and open access academic publication for a wider reach. The platform is envisioned as a radically subversive initiative, which seeks to minimise the reproduction of publishing practices that perpetuate inequalities in the global production and distribution of knowledge. It eschews all article processing fees in order to enable everyone to submit their research and share their ideas and to receive constructive and informed feedback, provided that their work falls within the remit of the platform and achieves its criteria of research integrity and rigour. The motivation is not merely to facilitate publication for lower-income contributors located in either industrialised or lower-income countries, but also to stress that knowledge should be free and freely shared for wider use and critique.
Decolonial Subversions is conceived as a platform for the expression of historically silenced knowledge systems at the margins—whether in western, eastern, northern or southern geographies—where research can be disseminated without the constraints set by publication criteria typical of western industrialised societies. Furthermore, individuals from within and outside academia can share their research and thinking without the necessity of mastering English or of complying with rigid styles and formats. Such criteria have historically made it difficult for researchers who, operating beyond western European and North American systems of thinking, produce and publish research which employs non-mainstream conceptual repertoires and brings to the fore issues of local priority that are not necessarily understood or espoused in the mainstream.
In order to break the current cycle of self-affirming western epistemic hegemony, the platform favours analyses from scholars who have bridges to the cultural and cosmological contexts they speak from and actively reference non-western, female and other marginalised sources in lieu of antiquated Anglo-American (predominantly male) voices. However, the platform acknowledges that even historically marginalised voices do not eschew power hierarchies and do not necessarily represent the full gamut of diverse (and often contradictory) perspectives. The platform does not consider anyone to be representative of a particular group or culture, but, rather, wishes to promote knowledge-making that is centred on lived experiences and that is transparent about the positionality from which the researcher or author researches, speaks and writes. Authors are thus encouraged to consider and discuss how their own identities, worldviews and roles in the research process influence or inform their methodological and theoretical choices.
Towards achieving this, in addition to the traditional peer review process, the platform has pioneered a new open review process that encourages transparency and a higher degree of dialogue between reviewer and author. While this is not ideal, it allows authors to be transparent about the ‘I’ in the research presentation, under the understanding that anonymity can mask and contribute to the continuation of discriminatory power dynamics. It can also foster an exchange of ideas and understandings informed by different positionalities between reviewers and authors, as a prelude to wider exchange with the platform’s international readership. Where the authors opt for anonymity, reviewers too remain anonymous; however, we carefully select reviewers with diverse characteristics and backgrounds to counteract mono-directional bias.
As another way of decentring western epistemology and diversifying knowledge-making, authors are encouraged to submit their contributions in local languages, where an English version can also be provided, or to translate contributions in English into local languages as pertinent to the communities of research. More specifically, the platform encourages contributions:
- in a local language, accompanied by an English translation
- in English, accompanied by a translation in a local language pertinent to the research
- in English, provided that they incorporate substantial content (up to 50%) in a local language (such as songs, linguistic analyses, etc.).
Authors are encouraged to work with indigenous research partners who are acquainted with the cosmological and linguistic frameworks they work in. Established authors are, in turn, encouraged to collaborate with early-career researchers or students who can serve as translators, thus facilitating their training and providing them with opportunities for publication. The aim is to subvert current hierarchies, firstly between established academics and emerging researchers and, secondly, between researchers from industrialised societies and local researchers, research assistants, translators or other research personnel. The platform is adamant that translators be fully acknowledged for their work and duly identified. Where authors are proficient in both languages, they are invited to provide their own translations with the proper contextualisation.
By encouraging submission both in languages relevant to research communities and in English, the platform aims to facilitate a substantive cross-cultural dialogue between researchers and to expand the boundaries of academia. By using the existing lingua franca it is hoped that knowledge from the margins can influence the Anglophone centre. Conversely, the prominence conferred on local languages, it is anticipated, will call into question and subvert the default centrality of English. Local systems of knowledge are expressed through unique concepts, which only the respective local languages can convey with the proper connotations. Juxtaposing these local conceptual repertories with what could be their English rendering evidences the inherent limitations of any linguistic translation.