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Knowledge, Occupation and Violence: Limits of Knowledge Democracy?


As part of the on-going ‘mainstreaming community-based research’ project of our UNESCO Chair we are developing a series of case studies on community-university research partnerships looking at policies and supportive structures making it possible for university based academics and civil society academics to work together in the co-creation of knowledge for a better future.

Among the nations where CUE has been best demonstrated and built into university practice is Palestine.  Because of the history of that part of the world, higher education institutions have never had the luxury of thinking of knowledge as something neutral. Knowledge linked to community engagement has been a key to survival and resistance for the many years of the struggle of the Palestinian people for a home of their own.

We recently invited one of the leading activist scholars and practitioners of CBR in Palestine to contribute a case study for our project.  We quote from her response,

“It is truly unfortunate that because of escalation of the political situation, and a drastic increase in Israeli army violence, we are hardly able to do anything except emergency, it has been really terrible here. A real reign of terror.  Palestinian children killed, children without limbs, children who lost their entire families, women and elderly killed, even disabled people killed by bombing a disability home, plus so many men, about 200 killed so far, more than 1000 injured, and the health services are unable to cope”

What is happening is that everyone in the universities, in the civil society sectors, in the political organizations are mobilized once more for resistance and survival.  The epistemologies of war and digital death in the form of drones and technological delivery of violence are lined up against the epistemologies of survival, or resistance, of mobilizing relationships of solidarity.  The on-going work of universities supporting the day to day needs of community health, democratic participation, care for the young and the old dramatically thwarted by the needs of the occupiers for total control and subjugation.

What does this mean for knowledge democracy?  What does an epistemology of survival look like? While perhaps less dramatic, what are the lessons from other jurisdictions about knowledge, occupation and violence?

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