Living decoloniality, practical examples of decolonial

re-existence through the aid sector, a podcast by Carla Vitantonio

with the support of the Center for Humanitarian Leadership.

Coloniality stays in the way will look at the world and we categorize it.

Coloniality sits in the legitimacy that we give to certain knowledge preferring it to others.

It is in the way we choose to listen to certain voices over others.

What does it mean to decolonize our knowledge?

I am Carla Vitantonio.

This is a new episode of Living the Coloniality and the sounds, noises and dogs barking you hear in the background

are from the city where I live and work.

Havana, Cuba.

Today we will talk exactly about this topic.

Together with someone I met through my snow bowling, Mara Tissera Luna

Hello, Mara and welcome.

Would you like to introduce yourself and your work to our listeners?

Hello, Carla and hello, Living decoloniality audience.

I am very happy to be here. My name is Mara Tissera Luna

I am an independent consultant focusing on forced displacement within

and from Latin America.

I see forced displacement from two different viewpoints or two different areas.

The first one is critically analyzing the root causes of forced displacement

and trying to find solutions to them from the viewpoint of social justice and intersectionality.

So helping find solutions to the fundamental or structural social, economic and political issues that drive forced displacement.

So that is one of the areas that I work on.

The second one is analyzing and helping organizations improve protection services, policies and programs for displaced populations

that are at a heightened exposure to human rights violations.

This can be children, LGBTQ+ individuals, survivors of gender-based violence and other social groups

that are in circumstances that expose them disproportionately to violence and other human rights violations.

As an independent consultant, I do apply research, evaluations, needs assessments,

I produce handbooks, advocacy reports and other materials that are then used by international cooperation organizations

and United Nations agencies to advocate for systemic change.

So usually to advocate for policy change.

Mara, one of the elements that all the people I interviewed so far and myself have in common

is the personal experience of coloniality, or as Annibal Quijano would put it, of the colonial matrix of power.

Can you share with me part of your experience?

I have a very long-term interest in decoloniality, decolonization, feminism and social justice

and I try to make this interest inform all of the work that I do.

I have mainly personal, personal reasons why I am interested in decoloniality.

I am Argentinian, which means that I come from a country that is greatly shaped by very strong, very powerful

and extremely proactive human rights movements and people’s movements.

Some of these movements which are the ones that influenced me while I was a child and a teenager are connected to advocacy, human rights advocacy

connected to our last dictatorship.

Some of them, like, “Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, Madres de Plaza de Mayo”

so many human rights organizations and intellectuals that have contributed to achieving justice in our country

for crime jagainst humanity during the dictatorship were the ones that shaped me the most.

But there are thousands of anonymous grassroots and people’s movements working every day, being on the streets,

every day, literally every day to make my country a more fair and more just society where everyone can access their human rights.

These are my main influences, of course, in my country we have a colonial history, not only because of the Latin American colonization

but also because we have a colonial dispute with the UK which occupied the Malvinas Islands and other islands in the Southern Atlantic in 1833.

Since then, and especially since 1960, that was when Argentina started advocating for sovereignty and for full independence before the United Nations

have greatly shaped the way I think out colonialization and the rights of people to sovereignty and to full independence,

so not only political independence but also cultural and economic independence and sovereignty.

So it would be something like the right of the peoples of Latin America to define ourselves, to define the problems that we are trying to address and to find our own solutions.

This is why I have an interest and I push for solutions and responses in international cooperation sector that are more rooted in decolonization, decoloniality and intersectionality.

I would like for international cooperation agencies, organizations and for the United Nations to try to increasingly find solutions based on empowering and giving protagonism to grassroots to peoples organizations, national human rights, movements and feminists movements and so on.

And to give more protagonism also to the peoples that they intend to benefit with their programs and their solutions and their services.

Thank you for this, Mara.

I think it is the first time we spell out so clearly the right of people to self determination and to speak with their own voice.

How did you translate this need for change into your work?

I would say that the previous experts invited to the podcast have done a great job in describing many of the issues that I have found through my work and research in Latin America.

But the one that I care the most about and that I have written and spoken the most about is that of decolonizing and democratizing knowledge creation processes.

What I mean with this are all of those research processes and evaluation processes that we conduct and that then go on to inform policy advocacy programs, services and the reason why I think it is so important to decolonize these processes is that the way in which we describe problems, the contextual knowledge that we use

The perspectives that we use have a huge influence on the solutions that we are able to craft. As you know in the history of international cooperation many times,

The solutions provided by international large organizations haven’t been fully aligned with the needs of the peoples they are trying to benefit.

And that’s what I’m concerned about and that I am more interested in helping large organizations device solutions that respond to people’s needs.

This from my viewpoint can be achieved through listening to the civil society organizations, the grassroots, the people’s movements, the local organizations that represent those populations that we are trying to benefit.

This would be the part of democratizing knowledge, knowledge creation processes, and decolonizing knowledge creation processes would involve giving the same status, the same importance to knowledge created by grassroots by people’s movements, by indigenous populations, etc.

As the importance that is given to knowledge created in the global north by global north based institutions so that would be the part of decolonization, decolonizing our cultures inside of our organizations and the way we view knowledge.

And finally fully legitimizing the knowledge created by the peoples we are trying to benefit and that we are cooperating with.

I think a lot of progress has been made since I started writing about this and thinking about this 10 years ago, a little bit more than 10 years ago.

But we still need to continue pushing for change and this is what I have been trying to do with my work and what many other professionals from the both the global south and the global north have been pushing for.

Democratization and decolonization of knowledge creation processes in my own words giving space to the complexity of stakeholders destroying the fictitious hierarchy that is traditionally created by researchers and institutions of the global north.

And listening to those stakeholders that are or will be affected by policies and action.

I know that in this logic you continuously produce resources and make them available on the web. But there is one very interesting tool that I think could be really useful to others interested in these same topics.

I’m talking about your newly issued guide. I let you describe it.

My humble contribution to these changes that we need to make is the guide that I would like to present now that I have created thinking of international cooperation professionals that are interested in decolonial perspectives, decolonization, localization, intersectionality.

But there are not experts in this or that are not fully involved in the conversations or that have never studied anything connected to these approaches and who would like to learn more and to have a short format source of information to learn more.

The name of the guide is “research for advocacy and systemic change. A ridiculous simplified guide to intersectional and decolonial research with examples” as the title suggests this is an extremely summarized account of these steps and lessons learned that I have had in conducting qualitative policy and advocacy research.

From a participatory intersectional and decolonization approach, this is not an encyclopedia. This doesn’t include anything and everything connected to intersectionality or decoloniality.

But only the aspects that I have found the most helpful when conducting research for advocacy and systemic change.

It is divided into five sections that I think are the five key elements to understand intersectional decolonial research for systemic change.

And these are: what is research for advocacy and systemic change where I describe the steps of policy and advocacy research so applied research that will be used for systemic change.

Then I go on to speak about the importance of participatory methods and collaborations with national organizations, grassroots, with the populations that we intend to benefit and the organizations that represent them.

Then I go on to very briefly describe what is intersectional feminist analysis and why we need it. So this is why every and each one of us, even if we don’t work in gender equality or gender based violence, we need to know about intersectional feminism and mainly the approach of intersectionality.

The next short chapter is about decolonial theories and how we can implement the decolonial approach or the decolonial theoretical frameworks of these theories.

To the analysis and to provide responses to those social issues, social justice issues, human rights issues, we work with in international cooperation.

Because of my background, because of my studies, I only focus and I only use Latin American decolonial theories and the intersectional feminism that was developed by black women, scholars and activists in several Latin American countries like Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Colombia.

And I don’t use theories that I don’t know well or that are from other regions. I know there are different schools of thoughts and different theoretical frameworks that are connected to the colonial thought and the colonial theory.

But I only included those that I know that are the Latin Americans ones in particular those authors and activists and writers that applied Latin American critical theory and Latin American geopolitical theory to several policy issues that are connected to international cooperation.

So the authors that I’ve chosen are very specific and I provided links to everything all over the guy so that if any reader wants to know more about them and they can look for the information on those links.

Thank you, Mara. If I stop and think about what you said and I put it in relation with other interviews of this podcast,

I feel that one important common trait as the fact that the colonial process of knowledge creation should involve and engage all stakeholders.

I know that in our sector participatory methodologies are already becoming popular. But I feel we should go beyond this and actively search for those whose participation is meaningful but challenging.

Some call them “invisible stakeholders”. I also feel the need to underline something that is increasingly important to me in my own decolonial turn.

The need to unveil, accept and praise the partiality of every point of view.

No point of view can be fully objective simply because it belongs to a person and every person has a position in the world from which they observe and judge.

Objectivity is a myth and the risk of this myth is transforming certain point of view into universal categories,

which is what happened with categories like development or with the universalization of certain categories, methodologies and concepts developed in Europe and in the global north.

This is especially important when we practice research in our sector and potentially it can bring us to look with different eyes at one of the humanitarian principles, the principle of neutrality.

I’ll note this down for the future.

You listen to living decoloniality. Practical examples of decolonial re-existence through the aid sector.

I am Carla Vitantonio and you can reach me through my Spotify and speaker channels or through my Instagram Carla Vitantonio.

This podcast was deliberately recorded with minimum technical equipment trying to preserve as much as possible the feelings and intentions of those who participated.

If you liked it, please subscribe and share it through your network.

Living decoloniality was produced in partnership with the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership. The logo is a present from Eugenio Nittolo