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.

Welcome to a new episode of Living decoloniality.

My name is Carla Vitantonio, and the sounds and noises you hear in the background

are from the city where I live and work, Havana, Cuba.

For the last episode of this season, I have the pleasure to have with me Matilde Dani,

who has supported me through the production of this second season.

She is talking from Berlin, and we are miraculously connected via Zoom.

Hello, Matilde! Would you like in the best tradition of this podcast

to introduce yourself for our listeners, and also to tell us what is connecting you

and the topic of this podcast?

Hello, everyone! Thank you, Carla, for this opportunity.

I am Matilde. The hands will put the sources in the caption, basically,

and I am a graduate of the European University Institute.

I have a Master’s degree in International Political Economy,

so apparently decolonization is far from my academic background.

But at the European University Institute, where Carla and I

met, decolonization in the face.

It was thanks to Professor Diane Stone, who introduced me to the subject of curriculum

decolonization. I then started to pull on this thread,

moving from decolonization of knowledge to cultural diplomacy,

to the decolonization of etnographic museums in Europe,

on which I developed my thesis.

And from there onwards, you focused especially on coloniality of being

and coloniality of knowledge.

With this experience in your backpack, and the months spent with me listening

to the recordings from our guests who are mainly engaged in the aid sector,

Matilde, if you had to identify, let’s say, two threads that are common

to all the practices we heard of, which ones to do mention?

Well, I think the first thing that comes to my mind is the strong call to reconnect

with nature. It’s somehow the essence of all these practices that you call along the podcast.

And this change involves conscious effort to re-familiarize ourselves

with the complexities of the natural system and trying to grasp their spatial

and temporal dynamics, whether through agricultural practices,

wildness, exploration, or artistic expression, the goal remains the same,

to deepen our understanding and relationship with the natural world.

And central to this effort is the moving away from an anthropocentric view

that sees nature only as a resource to be exploited for the benefit of men.

Instead, it is necessary to recognize the interdependence between humans,

other living beings, and the wider environment.

And this part requires appreciation of ecological interrelationships and a commitment

to promote sustainable interaction with the surrounding environment,

as well as a willingness to learn from people, tribes, and indigenous communities in general,

which have maintained these connections.

The second focus, I believe, is on questioning the subtle score and challenging dominant narratives.

In all these stories that you showed us, we have seen, or better heard. individuals

and groups breaking out of societal norms and expectations to search alternative ways

of living and interacting with the world.

Whether it is a feminist perspective, decolonial approaches,

or rethinking our relationship with the land, there is a shared desire to break free

from oppressive structures and imagine a more sustainable and equitable future,

which means basically it’s about making a different kind of future than the one

that’s being set out by the Western, Capitalistic, and colonial powers.

A-ha, and why do you think they are a decolonial practice?

Well, you really hit a crucial point here.

The conversation around decolonization is absolutely necessary because it forces us to confront

the deeply rooted colonial mindset that has influenced our global vision of the world.

And personally, these topic resonates with me on a profound level, especially given the passion

that I mentioned before for museum decolonization, which intersects with the themes of knowledge,

decolonization, highlighted in your podcast.

And when we look into the difficulties that you have spoken with your guests along the podcast,

it becomes clear that cultural decolonization is not just justified, but kind of imperative.

If we take the relationship with nature, decolonization demands us to reclaim indigenous perspective

on our interconnections with nature.

And you talked about challenging the colonial national exploitation and dominance over nature,

which is still present today, even if we are talking about decolonization for centuries.

And this search for a connection and to severe our alliance on extractive practices

and foster a more symbiotic relationship with the first, driven by respect and harmony,

which is an urgency underscored by the escalating climate crisis.

In essence, the practices discussed in your podcast embody the essence of decolonization.

And they center indigenous knowledge, challenge, deep rooted power structure,

and advocate a profound respect for all life forms and our environment.

That’s why I believe the work you’re doing through this podcast is incredibly important.

By showcasing example of the colonial practices, you’re using empowering examples

inspire people to envision an act of meaningful change in their own communities.

And it goes all back to the first episode of this season where you explain the concept of extrapolation.

You involve extending insights and practices from one context to another,

aiming to draw inspiration from diverse sources to the sector.

Wow, thank you Matilde.

Listening to what you said, I realized that perhaps, while my focus has been and still is decoloniality within the NGO sector,

this podcast could be also an inspiration for others.

From my side, and going back to my sector, the aid sector,

I bring home the need to rephrase, reinvent,

reshape our relation of human beings inside a bigger ecosystem, nature, the environment around us.

The need to ask questions within this relationship and to learn with humility how to play our role.

As one of our guests said, as a respectable being in nature.

What does it mean for a person that works in the NGO sector?

While I appreciate that an increasing number of donors and organizations produce guidelines and give recommendations on how to avoid doing harm to the environment,
I feel that this won’t be enough, as long as we keep looking at this relation as if we humans are the only active subject of this relationship.

Reshaping our relationship with the word around us means accepting the agency of others stakeholders

The people affected by a disaster and willing to find their own solution, the river affected by a dam,

the forest destroyed by a fire or by human need for wood.

We need to question ourselves and to be able to accept that at times we, professionals in the aid sector,

are only but a small part of this complex system.

Reshaping the relation means learning how to learn, means giving ourself time for healing.

Ultimately it means decolonizing our minds and our sights, getting rid of that coloniality of being we have been talking about.

Some of the people we interviewed were generous enough to suggest possible pathways.

I’m sure that there are many more.

A second common practice that I found through the experiences we collected and that I would like to see more often in the sector is the effort to live behind our way of thinking life as a series of binaries.

Life is much more complicated than certain simplifications and our experience teaches us that.

I’m trying to say that especially when it comes to human resources using binaries brings the risk of becoming tokenistic

and of not recognizing the many different manifestations of power imbalances.

In short, coloniality is intersectional.

But I also mean that when for example we are designing an emergency response or a development project,

we should avoid falling in binary categories and be aware that problems and solutions are much more complicated than that.

Tailoring projects to such a complex reality is perhaps a step towards a more decolonial response.

This is for me a part of the process to decolonize knowledge.

Matilde, thank you very much for being so supportive, flexible, creative and easy to work with throughout this journey.

And I also want to thank all our listeners encouraging them to revert to us for any curiosity, doubt, idea.

This podcast was built also with your precious contribution. Until the next time.

You listened 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 spreaker 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