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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Conversations from Jimma on the Geographies and Politics of Knowledge


Drawing from decolonizing scholarships that call for a reorientation of knowledge-making that is more inclusive and reflective of oral modes of communication, this article takes the form of a performance autoethnography between two friends. This approach allows a rich complexity of subjects to emerge—from “decolonizing” pedagogies and curricula to university administration and the geopolitics of knowledge globally—at the same time that we retain a specific attention to our university in Jimma, Ethiopia. Our intention is to challenge conventional academic modes of writing through a contextualization of the contemporary struggles that young professors face while teaching in semi-rural Ethiopian universities. Although our discussions reflect our personal struggles, they are reflective of larger general trends in Ethiopian higher education. Academics working on the African continent often confront intersecting material, ideological, linguistic, financial, and political factors that work to exclude African knowledges from global or transnational knowledge exchanges. Our conversation allows us to reflect on the broad tapestry of the current moment, including interactions with administrative staff, violent histories of knowledge colonization, racial and gendered politics, the potential for social science knowledges for social justice, and more.

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