PARC Conversations

[We endeavour to share this call in as many African languages as possible; please see clickable links below for each available language. Further options will be added in due course.] 

Call for Contributions (Afan Oromo) (Af-Soomaali) (አማርኛ) (ትግርኛ) (اَلْعَرَبِيَّةُ) (Français) (isiZulu) (Kiswahili) (Sesotho) (Wolof)

Examining Power Relations in Research Partnerships between the Global North[1] and Africa.

15 February 2022

Established in January 2020 by a generous donation from the Perivoli Foundation, the Perivoli Africa Research Centre (PARC) represents the University of Bristol’s cross-disciplinary commitment to championing transformation in research and partnership to advance Africa’s achievement of its own aspirations. PARC’s aim is to contribute to efforts to better understand and to redress the multi-layered power imbalances and inequities in Global North-Africa research partnerships – and in the global research and science ecosystem as a whole.

PARC is committed to centring the perspectives and directions set by African research actors as key points of departure for its work.

The purpose of this call is to solicit contributions – in the form of opinion pieces, blogs or reflective articles – from African and Africa-based scholars, research managers and students about their experiences of the nature, impacts and implications of any power imbalances in partnerships with researchers or institutions in the Global North.

Background

Research and the processes of producing knowledge are not free from power imbalances and inequities. All stages of research (from the development of ideas for inquiry and the conception of research projects to data collection, analysis, publication, dissemination of and access to research outputs) involve relations among actors with different degrees of power. African decolonial literatures show that the web of power relations between African and other actors involved in knowledge production is profoundly shaped by colonial experiences and legacies.

Universities, research institutions and government-affiliated organisations in former colonial powers are actively involved in inquiry and knowledge production in, on and ‘for’ the continent. Rarely, if ever, is the ‘gaze’ returned or reversed, with African scholars and experts engaged in generating knowledge in, on or ‘for’ the global North.

Much, if not most, research in Africa involves various forms of ‘partnerships’, ‘networks’ or ‘collaborations’ between African scholars, higher education or research institutions and their counterparts in the Global North.

Power imbalances in these relationships manifest on multiple levels. For example, financing and technical support for research activities is often derived from bi- and multilateral or private philanthropic funding bodies based in the Global North[2]. Funding streams typically reflect donors’ priority agendas for ‘development’ in Africa, mostly offering support for shorter-term projects, rather than longer-term programmes. Grants are often held, and projects conceived and led by research institutions in the global North. Such financial and technical control is frequently paralleled by epistemological dominance. More often than not, theories, concepts and approaches generated within the context of global north socio-historical perspectives and languages are used to produce knowledge in and about Africa. African languages take second, if any, place in the dissemination of findings.

The layers of epistemological, financial and technical power imbalances shape the interplay between African scholars and research institutions and those in the Global North and, ultimately, their relative positioning, prestige, and influence within the global science and research ecosystem. Calls to redress such asymmetries have intensified within the context of ongoing debate on decolonising higher education and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Initiatives on “equitable partnerships” have yielded insightful conversations and lessons. However, at PARC we believe that any effort to redress systemic power asymmetries must begin with centring the perspectives and directions set by Africans and Africa-based researchers and institutions.

Web-based platform for reflection and exchange

So PARC aims to provide a web-based platform for reflection, dialogue and intellectual debate on the lived experiences and perspectives of African and Africa-based researchers, research managers or students regarding current or previous collaborations with scholars or institutions in the Global North –  across the sciences and all fields of study.

We are keen to receive contributions that consider the nature and manifestations, as well as experienced impacts and wider implications of different kinds of power imbalances in such partnerships. Similarly, we are keen to receive reflections on what needs to change, where and how –  at individual, institutional or policy levels, to redress the asymmetries – and on promising approaches encountered thus far. Contributions may address one or more of the following, or any other relevant topics:

  1. The setting of overall agendas to which research projects are expected to contribute
  2. The direction(s) of the ‘development gaze’ – from Global North to Africa’s challenges, a focus on mutual or common challenges, or a reversed focus on Global North challenges
  3. The division of roles and responsibilities in the conception of research ideas and projects
  4. Approaches to the use and selection of theories, conceptual frameworks and methodologies which guide research projects
  5. The selection of partners and research collaborators
  6. The allocation of financial and material project resources
  7. The selection of research sites, research participants etc.
  8. The availability and use of research equipment and materials
  9. Decisions on approaches to data analysis, and the writing up of research findings
  10. Publishing questions (authorship credits, selection of journals or publishers, etc)
  11. Approaches and languages used in the dissemination of research outputs to potential users of the findings
  12. Active participation in research seminars, conferences or other scientific forums

PARC believes that making this call for contributions available in several African languages is one way of tackling the legacies of colonialism. Hence, we are making every effort in this regard. However, we will accept contributions only in English and French at the time being. We are aware of the influence of colonial relations in this regard, and we strive to build our financial and technical capacity to redress this challenge.

Contributions ought to be between 800 and 1,200 words in length. Please send your contributions to parc-conversations@bristol.ac.uk  and contact Dr Eyob Balcha Gebremariam (eyob.b.gebremariam@bristol.ac.uk) with any queries or for additional information.

[1] This initiative employs the terms “Global North” and “Global North-Africa” cautiously. It understands the former as an analytical category that captures actors benefiting from the unequal power relations derived from historical and contemporary processes such as slavery, colonialism and the neoliberal restructuring of the global political economy since the 1980s. ”Global South” the equivalent analytical category includes societies that continue to suffer from historical and contemporary unjust relations that render socio-economic, political, financial, military, cultural and epistemic dominance to the “Global-North”.

[2] Examples include USAID, UKRI, CIDA, IDRC, SIDA and others), multilateral organisations (WB, UN, EU) or private philanthropies (Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation).

2 thoughts on “PARC Conversations

  1. Just feel strongly empowered to participate in such an innovation in terms of repositioning certain common considerations of inequities that occur between south countries and global north.

    1. Dear Chehou, we will be more than happy to receive your contribution. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

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