Framing a decolonial view of knowledge and information stewardship

25 October 2023 | Story Kamva Somdyala. Photos Nasief Manie. Read time 5 min.
Prof Jaya Raju.
Prof Jaya Raju.

Professor Jaya Raju’s scholarship journey has culminated in a need to question western, dominant epistemology used in research and especially that which involves local and indigenous communities.

This Professor Raju professed during her recent inaugural lecture, titled “Leading a ‘decolonial turn’ in research methodology from a knowledge and information stewardship perspective” held on Wednesday, 18 October, at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Chris Hani Lecture Theatre.

“The discipline of knowledge and information stewardship is there to encapsulate robust, critical and responsible curation of data, information and knowledge which are entrusted into the custodianship of this discipline; a diversity of information that goes beyond libraries and memory institutions,” Raju explained.

“The revolution of this discipline is evidenced here at UCT with its libraries; with scholarly communication initiatives such as open access as a public good in its various iterations, hosting a continental platform for African open access publishing within a social justice framework, creative research landscape analysis services for collaboration and other research opportunities.”

Raju is the head of the Department of Knowledge and Information Stewardship in the Faculty of Humanities. She is a specialist researcher and author of library and/or information science (LIS) education and its epistemological implications for the discipline and for professional practice.

Prof Raju with some members of her family.

“Our postgraduate students at UCT are also flying the knowledge and information stewardship flag with master’s and PhD dissertations in research impact analysis, research data management, open scholarship, metadata creation and management, to name a few that go just beyond technical algorithms to creatively engage social and cultural spaces,” she said.

“It becomes inevitable that such an engaged research discipline has an interdisciplinary nature. These disciplinary attributes compel one to question how research is conducted in a world which is increasingly becoming sensitised to critical matters of equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. These transformative pillars are also significant to the decolonisation project, which articulates a rejection of the privileging of scholarship of dominant western knowledge systems and intellectual traditions and calls for the centring in research in knowledge production of the concerns and worldviews of what has become known as the colonised other, so that they understand themselves through their own assumptions and own perspectives.”

Colonial matrix of power

Raju quoted from several scholarly work to strengthen her presentation. Bagele Chilisa, a writer who focuses on indigenous research methodologies, was one of the people quoted by Raju. “Chilisa views decolonisation of research methodology as a process of conducting research in such a way that the worldviews of those who suffered a long history of oppression and marginalisation are given space to communicate from their frames of reference.

“The lived experience of the black subject is essential to the method, as this research method is one that conscientises the African subject to make sense of the world. Walter Mignolo and Catherine Walsh write that decoloniality aims to delink from the colonial matrix of power in order to imagine and engage in becoming decolonial subjects. That is, to open other canons of knowledge and ways of knowing and thus disrupt the notion of western thought being the only framework for knowledge systems,” she said.


“Scholars see the big four, interpretive and transformative paradigms as sufficiently inclusive to accommodate indigenous research methodology and practices.”

“There’s been evolving discourse as to whether an indigenous research paradigm should be added to the big four euro-western typology of paradigms, namely: positivist, interpretive, transformative, and pragmatic. Scholars see interpretive and transformative paradigms as sufficiently inclusive to accommodate indigenous research methodology and practices.

“Others argue for an additional, indigenous paradigm to the current typology as they are not assured that the subsuming of indigenous research into the big four would give indigenous research the distinctive recognition they believe is needed for an alternative and decolonised path to research that is disruptive of the dominant western academy and its mainstream research methodology.”

Good science

Raju is currently contracted with Rowman & Littlefield publishers to produce a monograph, titled “Decolonizing LIS research methodology”, which is due for completion in 2025.

She concluded: “As tempting as it is to opt for a fifth paradigm, in the interest of good science, I opt to wait completion of the monograph I am part of for completion; the monograph will include empirically-based case studies on decolonising knowledge and information … methodology from pre-selected regions: Africa, Asia, Oceania and North America among indigenous and other historically marginalised social groups impacted by the decolonising effects of western dominant knowledge systems, research and epistemologies.”

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