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3 - Decolonizing Writing: Situating Insider– Outsider Researchers in Writing About COVID-19

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2021

Su-Ming Khoo
Affiliation:
National University of Ireland, Galway
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Summary

Introduction

The purpose of this chapter is to explore the ethics of writing, informed by an insider–outsider researcher position that argues for a decolonial engagement. The discussion focuses on writing as a method of inquiry and the ways writing about COVID-19 can be decolonized. This is significant beyond writing about COVID-19 as it questions how research participants are included or not included in research writing and for whom we write. As such, I argue for a reimagining of research participants’ role and place in written research outputs.

The imperative to decolonize research engagements

Research has to rid itself of its colonial legacy, where that continues to give the researcher power to define and present the researched as specimens, for it to be a good engagement on the African context (Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2017). Good research engagement is complicated as it is about ‘finding your own way – making your own path’ (Pedri-Spade, 2016, p 389). To this end, Kumalo and Praeg (2019) argue that decoloniality has been co-opted as a discourse without much change in the status quo. The researcher has to carefully consider their process of generating, representing and disseminating knowledge. Good research engagement for indigenous researchers is based on establishing good relationships with all, as well as ensuring that the knowledge produced is not confined to obscure texts that are useless to indigenous peoples (Pedri-Spade, 2016). In talking about indigenous people it is important to highlight, as Ndlovu-Gatsheni argues, that ‘coloniality continues to wreak havoc in the domains of culture, the psyche, the mind, language, aesthetics, religion and many others’ (2019, p 206). Decolonial approaches are not necessarily adopted in research just because indigenous researchers are involved.

In this chapter, I explore my response to an invitation to write about Zimbabweans in South Africa in the wake of COVID-19, which provides important reflections on research writing ethics. Ethics here are beyond the binary of judging something to be morally good or bad and refer instead to ethics that lead to questions, openness, curiosity and imagination, as in the aesthetics of poetry (Leggo, 2011).

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Researching in the Age of COVID-19
Volume III: Creativity and Ethics
, pp. 29 - 38
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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