Journal of Decolonising Disciplines launched at UP

Posted on August 15, 2019

The Journal of Decolonising Disciplines (JDD) was launched at a recent conference, titled “Unsettling Paradigms – The Decolonial Turn in the Humanities Curriculum at Universities in South Africa”. This conference was hosted by the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Humanities. Held in conjunction with seven other universities, the conference emanated from a five-year collaborative project, titled “Unsettling Paradigms: The Decolonial Turn and Curriculum Transformation in South Africa”.

The editor-in-chief of the JDD is 24-year-old master’s candidate Siseko Kumalo who conceptualised it while he was at Rhodes University. At UP, he worked with the Dean of Humanities, Professor Vasu Reddy; Deputy Dean Professor Maxi Schoeman; Heather Thuynsma, Communications Officer; and Head of the Department of Philosophy Professor Leonhard Praeg in getting it off the ground.

Prof Reddy said: “The JDD is in our view a flagship of decolonial scholarship, globally, and directs us toward creating a publishing platform that attracts scholarship from thinkers based in the northern hemisphere and in the Global South. JDD aspires to be a space of international repute, attracting scholarship from scholars and activists on the African continent and other locations in the Global South and North to work in solidarity with the efforts of their counterparts.

“This requires our concerted and collective efforts, specifically in disciplines that are defined as traditionally outside the ambits of socio-political debates, to consider the political (and epistemological) position of these disciplines and how they can be opened up to democratic efforts of knowledge production in the context of epistemic equality.”

The Journal publishes across disciplines, from the Humanities, to the Sciences, Economics and Management Sciences, Law and all other disciplinary domains that are committed to thinking through the decolonial turn in the university. This is done as a way of advancing the scholarship of decoloniality and decolonisation in the global academy.

Siseko Kumalo with Iram Yousuf who contributed to the inaugural edition of the Journal

“Furthermore, we are doing more than merely speaking about decolonisation; we are actioning it in line with advancing the aims of epistemic justice in the university sector, not only in South Africa, but across the globe,” explained editor-in-chief Kumalo.

The Journal provides a unique platform for the advancement of knowledge that goes beyond the abstract and theoretical (i.e. traditional forms of the knowledge project). Although heavily leaning on the theoretical side of things, the Journal publishes empirical research that deals with the challenges of decolonising knowledge.

“The JDD is a space that does more than merely talk about decolonising knowledge, it is dedicated to doing this work in collaboration with knowledge practitioners and workers from across the sectors and disciplinary divides in higher education,” Kumalo said. 

The Journal is published twice a year –  one edition a general issue and the other a special issue. “We (Kumalo, Professor Sharlene Khan of Wits University and Professor Louise du Toit of Stellenbosch University as associate editors) are toying with the idea of creating a third issue wherein scholars can also contribute response pieces to the publications that feature in the general and special issues,” said Kumalo. 

The decision to publish in isiZulu, Sesotho and English was made in line with the thinking of democratising knowledge production in the broader sense of the decolonial mission in society. Furthermore, there is a desire to see African languages used effectively in the higher education landscape of the country, said Kumalo.

For each article published in isiZulu or Sesotho, a translated abstract will be included in English. “This is to ensure that the scholarship gets as much exposure as is possible in the Journal. This move is also aligned with the intention of decolonising knowledge and speaks to a project that I will be undertaking for my PhD, i.e. Resurrecting the Black Archive. This is to say we want to see knowledge that has been developed in African languages reflected in the materials taught in the university space; and I contend that this knowledge does exist, thus decolonisation is not an inventive project but an excavation.”

The Journal has published scholarship from some of the country’s leading scientific minds, including Emmanuel Mgqwashu, Head of Department of Education and Deputy Dean in the Faculty at Rhodes University and Dr Nomusa Makhubu of the University of Cape Town’s  Michaelis School of Art.

Kumalo said the editorial board was trying to get the Journal onto the African Journals Online platform. “This will ensure that the work published with the JDD is read widely and across the borders of South Africa. This is also done with the intention of positioning the JDD as an international platform that publishes cutting-edge research from scholars who are aligned with the socio-political objectives of the scholarship of peoples of the Global South.” The board was also working on getting the Journal accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training, he said. 

How does he intend making the subject matter accessible to students?

“The subject matter that is taken up in the Journal engages contemporary issues that students and academics are facing. We should pride ourselves in the discipline that comes with being in the university. And this means that if students are willing to engage with the content and the material that we publish they ought to do so by way of the scientific standards that are established within the academe. I premise this statement on the reality that the JDD is still a scholarly journal that requires the routine and substantive engagement that any other academic journal requires,” he said.

- Author Primarashni Gower

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