chapter  7
14 Pages

The Racialised Knowledge Economy

ByFataneh Farahani, Suruchi Thapar-Björkert

The focus of this article is to challenge and problematise how racialising and othering processes construct knowledge production and knowing subjects in the academic institutions. We draw on our conversations, writings, and experiences within the Swedish academy as “non-Swedes” (for discussion on construction of Swedishness, see Mattsson, 2005) and through our specific geo-political positionalities (Farahani, 2010, 2015; Koobak & Thapar-Björkert, 2012). Thapar-Björkert’s post-colonial positionality was shaped through the legacy of her parents’ anti-colonial activism. The spatial-colonial contexts of academic institutions in the United Kingdom, together with the nationalist biographical trajectories that she shared with her parents in India, gave postcoloniality an emotional and political salience. She developed strong perceptions of “white privilege” encompassed within what Chicano scholars refer to as “academic colonialism” (see Reyes & Halcon, 1988). Farahani was raised in a traditional working-class family in a specific political-historical Iranian setting and carried a suitcase filled with failed dreams of a miscarried revolution (1979 Iranian revolution), a pointless, long war between Iran and Iraq (1980–1988), and several experiences of exile. Her entrance to Western academia as a “mature” and “different” student is characterised by firsthand experience of the variety of (post) colonial challenges of “adjustment” to different societies and academic milieus. We consider our positions and positionings as a ‘space for theorising” (hooks, 1989) and our theorising as a “location of healing” (hooks, 2005: 36. hooks, 1994) to articulate multilayered subject positions which locate us differently in different contexts. Emphasising the empirical significance of intersectionality for transformative knowledge production, we aim to distance ourselves from a deployment of “ornamental intersectionality” which as Bilge (2013) argues is an active disarticulation of radical politics of social justice and undermines intersectionality’s credibility as “an analytical and political tool elaborated by less powerful social actors facing multiple minoritizations” (see Bilge, 2013, p. 410). By employing our personal—yet subjective and mediated—experiences, we pay particular attention to how we can use (our) 87experience as an analytical source. However, we want to avoid offering our experiences an exclusive privilege of definition since it might strengthen an epistemological standpoint that those who have “experience” know better and have somehow access to genuine knowledge, regardless of their intersecting subject positions, political ideologies and positionalities in relation to power and powerlessness. On the other hand, disregarding and disbelieving people’s lived experiences has always been a powerful approach to discredit the political views, writings, or artistic expressions of women and racialised and sexualised minorities. In doing so, the experience of unmarked privilege (white—male middleclass—privilege) becomes the only dominant singular story. In addition, by merely placing accounts of people of colour and women in the category of “experiential,” we neglect their theoretical contributions. As a result, white scholars are often seen as the only ones most equipped for theorising and producing knowledge and in a schema which constructs a disembodied theorist as the legitimate academic subject, drawing on one’s own experiences of racialisation can be “dismissed as subjective and ‘confessional’” (Simmonds, 1997, p. 52).