Hierarchies of knowing
Knowledge should be a common inheritance for the growth and sustainability of humanity, not a market commodity for the benefit of the few, writes Professor Steven Ratuva, Director of the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of Canterbury.
Professor Steven Ratuva FRSNZ, Director of the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of Canterbury
Described by Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist, as ‘cultural arbitrary’, knowledge inequity in many Commonwealth countries is a product of our shared history and power structures, including colonialism, endemic inequality, institutional racism, and cultural bias in the curriculum. These processes have normalised the dominance of western knowledge over that of non-western cultures and the global south generally. This, in turn, has been reinforced by the marketisation of knowledge: a system in which knowledge is framed as a commodity, and rankings, metrics, and paywall publishing are coin of the realm.
Rather than enriching knowledge for the advancement of humanity, this complex system merely makes it subservient to the dictates of the market. It is tied, inextricably, to economic inequality and the uneven distribution of power, and is exacerbated by globalisation, which has forced diverse knowledge systems to kneel to narrow market interests. But how do we challenge these powerful forces of cultural domination? Perhaps one place to start is by teasing apart some of the assumptions and power structures that fuel knowledge inequality in our universities.
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