Dr Romina Istratii is a critical researcher and practitioner from eastern Europe specialising in epistemological issues in development, gender and religious studies. Informed by her decade-long experience in international development research, practice and consulting, Dr Istratii has been motivated by the aim of attuning development theory and practice to local knowledge systems and community priorities.
Dr Istratii started her international career in 2009 while pursuing undergraduate studies in the United States with a scholarship. She first worked as a market analyst for Navigator Ltd, a consultancy supporting business in emerging economies, including those in the eastern European bloc. She then conducted agricultural economics research at Bates College (Maine, US) and partners at the University of Tennessee. Between 2012 and 2013 she explored the gender dimensions of agricultural development and food security in sub-Saharan Africa under a Watson Fellowship that she was awarded by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation while still in college (New York, US). Her encounters with hundreds of female and male farmers, NGO staff members, government officials and other stakeholders involved in African agricultural development in four different countries, revealed that realities on the ground were considerably more nuanced, complex and non-uniform than they were portrayed in the mainstream development literature on Africa. Dr Istratii has dedicated her research career to exploring methodological approaches that better account for the conceptual repertoires and embodied experiences of local people and communities, towards identifying alleviation strategies of local issues that better accord with local priorities and sensibilities.
In 2018, Dr Istratii completed a three-year PhD study at SOAS, University of London, which applied a critical lens to mainstream gender and development theories and approaches and proposed a decolonial engagement with contexts and societies that fall outside of western epistemology and historical experience, but especially in indigenous religious societies. The study set to demonstrate the urgency and appropriateness for such an approach through a historiographical, theological, ethnographic and participatory study of conjugal abuse realities and attitudes in the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwahәdo community of Aksum city and the surrounding countryside.
Since engaging with the editorial work of the SOAS Journal of Postgraduate Research in 2016 and as an active member of the Decolonising SOAS Working Group, Dr Istratii has been actively pursuing efforts to contribute to the decolonisation of higher education and to decentre western dominance in knowledge production. More recently, Dr Istratii established the Decolonising Research Initiative with the support of the SOAS Research and Enterprise Directorate in an effort to bridge epistemological decolonisation with the more structural and material factors of research development (https://www.soas.ac.uk/decolonising-research/). As the child of a low-income family that had to migrate to southern Europe in search of a better life, Dr Istratii is acutely aware of material impediments to quality education and information and she is especially keen to subvert barriers to higher education and profit-oriented publication practices that exclude certain economic and social classes from knowledge production.
Dr Istratii sees this initiative as the first step to subverting the current system in a more systematic manner and to putting in motion a new type of knowledge production that is not centralised or monetised, but is free, decentralised and genuinely collaborative. She acknowledges the limitations of all human-led initiatives, including this one, but she is also convinced that business-as-usual will only maintain the currently polarised and hierarchical world.
Monika Hirmer is currently completing her PhD in Religions and Philosophies at SOAS, University of London (UK). Her project, funded by the V. P. Kanitkar Memorial Scholarship, focuses on a contemporary South Indian Śrīvidyā tradition, revolving around the goddess Tripurasundarī. Through a year of intensive participation-oriented fieldwork, during which she was initiated into the tradition, Monika gained first-hand experience of the local cosmological framework and explored concepts of personhood such as gender, body, motherhood and the very ontology of being as advocated by Śrīvidyā practitioners. Monika’s research creates a powerful decolonial counter-narrative to domineering and erroneously universalised western notions of being that primarily embrace a sanitised biological-scientific outlook.
Alongside her research, Monika has been graduate teaching assistant for the course ‘The Margins of Philosophy: Postcolonial, Gender, and Queer Epistemologies’ for the academic years 2018/19 and 2019/20, and co-editor in chief of the SOAS Journal of Postgraduate Research during 2016-2018.
Prior to moving to London for her current project, Monika lived in Hyderabad, South India. She was cultural coordinator for the Goethe Institut between 2008 and 2013, programme officer for the German Research Foundation (DFG) from 2008 to 2011, and cultural consultant for the ‘Year of Germany in India’ during 2011-2013. From 2013 to 2015 Monika pursued an MPhil in Anthropology with a focus on religions from the University of Hyderabad.
Monika’s upbringing and earlier education were in Italy, where she studied up to BA level, which she obtained from the faculty of Political Sciences, University of Florence. After working in journalism as a reporter for Business India Magazine in Mumbai (India), Monika decided to deepen her understanding of South Asia with an MA in South Asian Area Studies from SOAS.
Monika’s exposure to, and profound personal, professional and educational involvement with different social, political and cultural backgrounds have shaped her understanding of the world and of what it means to be a being-in-the-world. Her experiences have made her particularly sensitive to the structural injustices furthered by the pervasive imposition of mainstream western epistemic and ontological paradigms, and fuelled her professional and personal commitment to a radically subversive decolonial world-arrangement.
Decolonial Subversions is at the same time an organic outcome of Monika’s exposures and experiences, and a further stepping-stone in her sustained effort to promote more equitable and just relationships in academia and beyond.
The Advisory Board of Decolonial Subversions is comprised of experts from a variety of fields, linguistic backgrounds and geographical locations, who are profoundly committed to and grounded in decolonial knowledge and modes of being.
Advisory Board Members are carefully selected and invited by the Founding Editors, based upon their expertise and their sharing of the exploratory and radically different vision underlying Decolonial Subversions.
Advisory Board Members work closely with the Founding Editors to support and to expand Decolonial Subversions through their specific knowledge, skills and networks. While they can collaborate among themselves, they report to the Founding Editors with whom they are in regular communication. The roles of the Advisory Board Members, like the roles of the Editors, Editorial Board Members, Language Partners and Reviewers, are all voluntary.
The Founding Editors reserve the right to add or remove Advisory Board Members and to expand or decrease the size of the Advisory Board in the best interests of Decolonial Subversions.
The Founding Editors are committed to engagement with a diverse pool of Advisory Board Members with backgrounds in academia, activism, art and craftsmanship, various professional fields and general expertise from all parts of the world. Decolonial Subversions is firmly committed to inclusivity, and seeks to be representative of any gender, faith, age, form of abledness, ethnicity, or other intersectional characteristics. Decolonial Subversions does not tolerate discrimination and encourages respect towards all beings.
Suyash Barve studied film direction and screenwriting in India, after which he worked as an associate producer and media consultant, before switching to academics to concentrate on his long-term interest in working in participatory media for social development.
His cinematic and written work explores the technological mediation of everyday existence in urban spaces, and the cultural politics of resistance in digital leisure activities.
Currently, Suyash is working on an independent research project focused on social media engagement and the political mobilisation of urban youth from low-income communities in Mumbai.
Shubhashree Basnyat is a graduate student at SOAS, pursuing an MA in Postcolonial Studies. She completed her undergraduate studies in the United States, from Williams College, where she majored in English and received the Highest Honours award for her dissertation Living Kathmandu, which celebrates the subversive practices of indigenous communities in disrupting Kathmandu’s colonial cartography.
Born and raised in Nepal, Shubhashree is interested in the interventions South Asian literature, history and politics can make into reshaping mainstream postcolonial, queer and ecocritical studies. Shubhashree aspires to earn a PhD and continue into teaching.
In her free time, she is learning to cook, meditate and be a good friend.
Márton Demeter is an associate professor at the National University of Public Service in Budapest, Hungary. Márton studies global academic inequalities, transnational knowledge production and the uneven accumulation of global symbolic and academic capital.
In his studies he mainly focuses on social sciences in general and on communication and media studies in particular, as the latter is one of the most biased disciplines in terms of both educational networks and international publication patterns. Márton also analyses journalism practices beyond the western world in general, and in the central and eastern European region in particular.
His research has been widely published in leading periodicals of the field such as Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, International Journal of Communication, Journalism, Journalism Practice and Publishing Research Quarterly.
Michael W. Thomas
Michael Thomas is a postdoctoral research fellow in Ethiopian Screen Worlds at SOAS, University of London on the ERC funded project ‘African Screen Worlds: Decolonising Film Studies’ and is the co-editor of the first volume on Ethiopian screen worlds called Cine-Ethiopia: The History and Politics of Film in the Horn of Africa (2018).
He works alongside colleagues across the world in efforts to open up film curricula to African, and specifically Ethiopian, experiences of cinema and television. His scholarship on Amharic cinema has been published as articles in academic journals and as chapters in various collected volumes. Michael also works on video-essays, documentaries and fiction films.
Decolonial Subversions is the product of the collaborative work and shared vision of partners from various parts of the world.
While Decolonial Subversions is the outcome of the Founding Editors’ passion and commitment to decolonisation, it is also the product of the generosity and voluntary work of like-minded professionals and specialists, friends and well-wishers from around the world.
It has been a true privilege to work with a team of dedicated partners of the highest level of commitment and integrity. Their help has been absolutely fundamental to the creation of this platform, as they have developed the webpage and the design of Decolonial Subversions with only minimal input from our side. Their unrelenting readiness to join and their committed efforts to create a truly decolonial platform have been a refreshing departure from the scepticism we have encountered among some academics.
While we are proud that all our Technical Partners display the highest rigour in their respective fields, we are thrilled that they share our vision and commitment to the praxis of decolonisation.
We thank our Technical Partners for helping us to bring Decolonial Subversions to fruition, and we hope that we can strengthen these partnerships and foster true and long-lasting friendships.
Rachel Duncan - Proofreader
Rachel grew up in the UK where she attained a BA Hons (First Class) in Interdisciplinary Human Studies from the University of Bradford. A visit to India in 1989 sparked a life-long interest in the sub-continent and she has combined a wealth of reading around the region’s history, current affairs, religion and culture with the experience of travel and of living in India.
Following a long period engaged in home-educating her son, Rachel trained as a teacher of English as a second language and then spent four years based in India with her son, where they both trained in permaculture design.
Now back in the UK, she is currently pursuing a freelance career as a proofreader, having completed training with both the Publishing Training Centre and the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading; she is a member of the latter organisation.
Rachel is a self-taught (and still-learning) Hindi speaker.
Rachel’s webpage is: https://www.duncanproofreading.com/ and she can be reached at: email@example.com
Mukesh Manda - Web Development
After graduating from IIT Kharagpur, and a stint in Amazon where he worked as a software developer, Mukesh started his first venture QuickBasket—an on-demand hyperlocal grocery delivery service.
In mid-2015, Mukesh founded his second startup Tinmen—an app that helped office goers order home-made meals from home-cooks around them. Over four years, Tinmen grew into a platform of 100 home-cooks in Hyderabad, who together served over 60,000 meals every month.
Mukesh’s Linkedin profile is: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mukesh-manda-28441977
Gauri Nori - Photography
Gauri Nori is a PhD scholar at the Department of Film Studies, EFLU, Hyderabad, where she is researching the nature of experimental films from India post-1990. She has a Master’s in Film and Literature from The University of York, UK, and a BA in English Literature from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.
She has taught various undergraduate and postgraduate courses related to film and media studies for almost a decade.
Her research interests include adaptation studies, aesthetics of film and experimental art.
Nirbhay Sen - Web design and contributions layout design
Nirbhay did his Masters in Environment Science from the Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute of Environment Education and Research, Pune.
In 2007 he joined GMIS Consultants, Hyderabad—a cartography focused, data analytics, semiotics, and management information systems consultancy. He became a director in the firm in 2009. During this time he oversaw the energy forecasting for the railway network of a major western European country. He was also involved in creating a water atlas for, the then united, Andhra Pradesh (in India) and has been involved in a commodity supply chain management system for an administrative subunit of the world's largest programme for early childhood care and development monitoring.
GMIS Consultants’ website can be found at: http://gmisconsultants.com/
This is his second collaboration with Monika and Romina, and their working relationship dates back to 2017.