By Alice Demattos Guimarães
PhD Candidate, Western Norway University of Applied Science
Global Conversation: Decolonising cultural management education
An invitation to reflect our role and position in times of changes
In a first-ever digital format, ENCATC embraced resilience adapting its annual congress to the unprecedented year of 2020 and the COVID-19 outbreak. In a online platform, from the 3rd to the 11th of November, the 28th ENCATC (Digital) Congress grasped the novel momentum to instigate virtual debates under the umbrella of “Cultural management and policy in a post-digital world – navigating uncertainty” as its main theme.
As long-well-known by its community, the cultural industry incessantly has to adapt and innovate to get through historical socioeconomic transitions. Contemporary, digitalization has been at the forefront of such efforts. The global pandemic has undoubtfully brought emphasis to this when rapidly shifting everyday basis routine to virtual dynamics. Complying the health crisis modus operandi, social isolation has damaged the culture sector and shacked the educational system. The online (re)configuration of various activities has also further exposed the abyssal and multiple inequalities worldwide. At least half of the globe did not have the means to instantly accompany the “post-digital” passage.
ENCATC 2020 Digital Congress and its participants shared the belief that culture and education are essential tools to bring us through the most challenging periods. At a time of enormous societal upheaval, one can argue that COVID-19 pandemic is also a moment of transformation. In essence, every transformation is a cultural project in which paradigmas are to be changed. Black life matters sustains the great example of social agendas been reenergized in current setting. Indeed, new challenges have arisen but possibilities too emerge for humanity wherefore for arts & culture and teaching & learning in a post-digital context.
ENCATC Congresses aim to provide space for encounter, to learn from leading experts and exchange between diverse practices. As an opportunity to access the latest advancements in cultural management and policy, it covered from education and training, to research and business models. In transferring to a digital format, there was also the prospect of coming to common questions and answers that may support all actors to navigate the uncharted waters. At a time when the counternarratives with respect to racial (in)justice and socioeconomic (im)balances were popping up everywhere intersecting with digital and internationalisation of arts and education, it was coherent that ENCATC invoke the reflection of its own space as an institution that “represents, advocates, and promotes cultural management and policy education” not only at European level but universally.
It is easily arguable that digital and computational arts & culture and teaching & learning further weigh to reinforce the existing global unevenness which is (re)produced in the canons of knowledge. Knowledge and education are interrelated: education is to expand knowledge. Oddly, among the innovative topics explored in the Congress, “Education in a post-digital context” was present. By inviting a global conversation about to what extend cultural management and policy education is welcoming real diversity, ENCATC was acknowledging the knowing, perceiving and experience of “others”, beyond the still dominated Eurocentric discourses and Anglo-Saxon authors and theories.
Education, alongside with arts & culture, represents the driving force bringing the Congress’ participants to work together, sharing and collaborating with the at hand “desire to reconstruct tomorrow” . Tomorrow can only be different if the reconstruction accepts the prefixe ‘co’ and collectively, in a multitude of perspectives, challenges the status quo. This also means to question the academic knowledge as well as the aesthetic, cultural, social values of Western discourses, frameworks and contributions in order to move forward. In this sense, recontextualized knowledge is one of the main lessons that can be taken from this global shakeout.
Decolonising movement have risen to precisely confront the (cultural and moral) authority of the “established” knowledge. ENCATC could not be more accertive in inviting a real group of international scholars to make happen its session of Global Conversation tacking the matter of “Decolonising cultural management education”. As well pointed out during the provoking talk, cultural management, policy and education must also rethink its curricula, pedagogical and research practices in order to be a real significant tool to the co-reconstruction of tomorrow. An international summit with references, experts and enthusiastics about the theme surely has the scope to set in this essential paradigma transit.
In an truly Global Conversation, its structure and representation was already food for thought. Different continents – Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania – were made present. Counterpoint the usual dynamic, US and UK were also there but to chair the talk; while (semi-) peripheries were in charge of the 40min-panel discussion, first commenced by a 20min-keynote speech by the South-African scholar, Avril Joffe. Thoughtfully, she started by asking “why is it important?”, meaning why to, in the second day of the Congress, dedicate the global conversation focused around the thematic “Education in a post-digital context” to address the process of de-coloniality in the field of arts and cultural management higher education. (Self-)Reflective moment suggested.
Before delving into more of the embellished content, concepts, and cases covered in the conversation, the further speakers shall also be properly introduced. Firstly, as chairs, from the UK and the US respectively, Ana Gaio and Alan Salzenstein. Then, from the geographical South but not necessarily part of an “Southern coalition”, Australia, Xin Gu joined instigating the inevitable flaws that can be part of the post-digital context. Following, from Puerto Rico, Javier J. Hernández Acosta contributed with the Latin American tradition of linking culture to social rights. Before heading to final considerations within Q&A, the 2019 Laureate Fellowship Awarded, Milena Dragićević Šešić, from Serbia, added up with an often left behind semi-peripherical view of the “self-colonized” Eastern Europe.
Counterpointing the geohistorical systemic power asymmetry and sociospatial segregation in a institutionalized culture of privilege in its local historic features, movements are elsewhere claiming to tomorrow’s contruction start in the basis of contesting the structural unevenness of socioeconomic complexities, intersecting with racial, gender, territorial, ethnic, generational, and opportunity issues. The convergence of movements fight in the roots of capitalism, patriarchy and colonialism. In this perspective, the conversation ended up converging to an epistemology approach, because, as it was highlighted, decolonisation is the replacement of colonial concepts and knowledge: de-coloniality reinforce an epistemic change (Maldonado Torres, 2007). In also coinciding various references, Sousa Santos was also brought up and this proceeding section takes this link to mention this authour’s encouragement to embrace “Epistemologies from the South” as a project fundamentally focus on recognizing othered epistemic agents and collectives that have been historically oppressed.
According to the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosofy, the term “epistemology” comes from the Greek, in which “episteme” can be translated as “knowledge”, while “logos” can be translated as “argument” or “reason”. Hence, within the decolonialization effort, it is crucial to understand knowledge as situated, dependent on a context in which it is inserted. The standpoint of any source of knowledge is partial, selective, and incomplete (Ribeiro 2017). From this angle, the curricula, pedagogical and research practices not only in arts & cultural management but multidisciplinarly extensive, should observe their own subjectivity of a partial view in a way to promise a more objective global comprehension. This awareness does not necessarily match representativeness: recognizing one’s privileged social locus is no excuse to release themselves from responsibility to face systemic inequalities. No matter how people belonging to privileged groups are aware and fight oppression hard, they will not fail to benefit, structurally speaking, due to the oppressions they inflict on other groups (Ibid.).
Not literally mentioned during the talk, yet certainly aligned with the problematic in question, Grada Kilomba defends that the priviledge of not being distinguished that (re)produces power. This means that when one talks about people, the allusion is a white person (most likely high-midlle class from the Global North). Kilomba refers to that as taking the “whiteness” as the human condition. In this sense, when curricula are treated technically rather than critically, it assumes certain nature of reality, truth and knowledge that does convey views and experiences which most likely are linked to the “White Priviledge”, as introduced in Avril Joffe’s speech: the epistemic position of centrality in seeing the world. Curriculum is part of teaching, learning and practices within art & culture management. It must includes both intentional and operational factors to achieve the (decolonial) epistemic transformations in the means of a contextualised social process. As identified, multiple epistemic traditions co-exist and education should embrace multi-versity: diverse knowledge and perspectives standing up in resonance with multiple voices.
What it is being taught, how it is taught and if there is space for agency is at stake when reflecting about cultural management and policy. In tackling it, Xin Gu nurtured those inquests remarking the repercussion of having digitisation embedded in arts & culture management educational community. The process of online teaching and learning requires a broad commitment on the public sphere, private innitiatives and civil society to reimaging the creative arts in a format in which face-to-face social interaction is lost. Challenges to reforming narratives regarding technology are many, so are the opportunities of experimentation and co-creation. At a time when failure is smoother accepted amid uncertainty as the order of the day, to devote efforts, actions and discussion towards equity is about co-creating tomorrow based on multiverse frameworks.
On account of that, Javier J. Hernández Acosta, illustrating with Latin American experiences and own examples, displayed the cultural agent whose profile is built transdiciplinarly and role is to change socioeconomic reality through cultural-creative practices. Recounting an episode in which his work about bringing scholars from elsewhere to broad the cultural management and policy field has oddly received the feedback about the lack of “theory” (a.k.a: which theory?), he highlights the relevance of composing such conversation at times of societal transitions. Admitting the existence of language barrier as well as epistemologic differences, the need of revaluating the creative professional is approached by wondering how to develop social agency pondering to the mission in the local territory. By emphasizing the presence of arts & culture among international agendas, as ones of UNESCO and the SDG’s which are taking up cultural policies as pro-social action.
Playing around the previous talk, Milena Dragićević Šešić “whinged” about not having the Latin American references translated to the Eastern European languages, upon touching the matter of legitimacy to what she calls the “academic capitalist” in which only Anglo-American publications are take into consideration. Therefore, in face of akin epistemicide, subservity may be needed: critical thinking, controversial topics, and subalter knowledge must be advocated and shared. The multitude of voices and perspectives are essential in decolonising cultural management education, further contesting the patriarchical established curricula, pedagogy and research with feminists cards as well. Accordingly, to come to a conclusion with reference to this reproachful and inspirational global conversation, this brief text could only end by calling the “Epistemic Disobedience”: inviting the readers to consciously act on de-linking both epistemically and politically from the web of imperial knowledge (Mignolo, 2011. Are we ready to take this forward?
Questions for further discussion:
- What of the socialisation of cultural management and policy community with practices modelled on predominantly Western ways and mental images? Are we, as such community, actively decolonizing our intellectual landscape?
- Are we as scholars, educators, students, and enthusiats globally contributing to a world of multiple voices? What role do the ones “not characterized” play in the social process of contextualizing knowledge?
- To what extent are cultural agents receiving the analytical skills and understanding abilities to foster diverse possibilities for transnational multiverse cultural cooperation practices and programs according to the decolonial vision and values?
MALDONADO-TORRES, N. (2007). On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to the Development of a Concept. Cultural studies, 21(2-3), 240-270.
MIGNOLO, W. D. (2011). The darker side of Western modernity. Duke University Press.
RIBEIRO, D. (2017). O que é lugar de fala? Belo Horizonte: Letramento: Justificando.
de SOUSA SANTOS, B. (2015). Epistemologies of the South: Justice against epistemicide. Routledge.
Alice Demattos Guimarães is a Brazilian cultural-urban economist, graduated in economics from the Federal University of Minas Gerais. She has worked as a researcher in the field of urban development correlated to the cultural sector, with focus in museums and performance arts. She holds a master in Global Markets and Local creativity as an Erasmus Mundus scholarship awarded between the University of Glasgow, Universitat de Barcelona, and Erasmus University of Rotterdam. Her master’s thesis investigated the ordinary cities as a stage for culture, creativity, and social inclusion, studying the practice of the social circus in Latin America, intigating a decolonial approach. She has also collaborated as project officer in ENCATC in 2020. Currently, she is PhD Candidate with a fellowship in “Alternative finance as a responsible innovation within the cultural sector” within the CrowdCul project at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.
 ENCATC uses Florian Cramer’s understand of is ‘post-digital’ as a situation in which digitalization is embedded in all spheres of life with profound impact on cultural practices and social transformations. Moreover, the scholar and novelist Dominique Kalifa suggests that ‘post-‘ is intrinsic to uncertainty – the order of the day in a global pandemic setting.
 Reference to the epigraphy of the Congress Concept Note, by Dominique Kalifa: “There is today a desire to reconstruct tomorrow and the days after in a different way not knowing what this tomorrow will look like. This feeling of uncertainty is linked to the difficulty to project ourselves”.
 In the UNESCO Creative economy report 2013: Widening Local Development Pathways, “the legacy of a continental tradition of linking culture to social rights” is highlighted when accessing the Latin American creative sector.
 Noteworthy that Sousa Santos pouses the ‘South’ metaphorically representing the human suffering, not necessarily a geographical parameter: it can be located in both the geographical North or South.
 Grada Kilomba is a Portuguese writer, psychologist, theorist and interdisciplinary artist, working on critically examine memory, trauma, gender, racism and post-colonialism.