Co/Decolonizing Work

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My sister-in-law, Dr. Lorri J. Santamaría, and I have been on a journey together in this lifetime where our paths have intertwined and our personal and professional lives have intersected at significant points. Currently, Lorri and I find ourselves working together again in education. The first time was decades ago in the mid-1990s as bilingual education and bilingual special education teachers at an elementary school in Tucson, Arizona. Now, our pathways have crossed again in scholarship, this time through research and specifically in applied research methods and methodologies that center multiply marginalized populations.

We are multiracial women scholars of Color who both are cancer thrivers and acknowledge that our physical presence in this world has been (re)gifted to us in the form of the breath we take in each moment. Our individual scholarship, though different, has led us to a convergence point. Lorri’s research in Applied Critical Leadership (ACL) explores a leadership model arising from critical theory and critical pedagogy traditions that transforms status quo educational practices driven by scholars of Color. My research is also rooted in similar traditions with minoritized families of children with dis/abilities stepping up into leadership roles as co-teachers and co-instructors through Family as Faculty approaches embedded in special education teacher preparation courses. On our respective and, oftentimes, circuitous academic paths, we have arrived at a place where our minds and spirits are interconnected. The path unfolding before us is one where all of our assets, skills, interests, and passions unite.

Our emergent and co-created understandings have led us to conceptualizing Co-Decolonizing Methodologies. These methodologies are what we would like to explain. Below is a beginning explanation of our orientation and framing of these methodologies. They are dynamic and ever-evolving ways of working with and alongside our indigenous brothers and sisters as well as other minoritized peoples who we aspire to uplift, affirm, and support.

To understand “Co-Decolonizing” as a concept and practice, one must first know the history and subjugation of people through colonization and white hegemony. Second, one must explore the work by scholars such as Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Eve Tuck, Leigh Patel, Bagele Chilisa, [to be continued]

Co-Decolonizing work is distinctive from Decolonizing work in that Lorri and I, as scholars of Color, acknowledge that our positionalities (Black Creole and Bi-racial Mexicana heritages, respectively) in relation to indigenous peoples locate us as co-conspirators in the dismantling of oppressive colonialist ideologies and practices. For example, when working with indigenous or other minoritized populations with whom we cannot claim membership or affiliation, we strive to enact co-decolonizing research. Here we work alongside and support those with whom we share common or similar goals. Neither of us profess engagement with decolonizing research methods or methodologies, particularly when working with indigenous populations, because we have not experienced what it is to have our land taken from us, to be dispossessed by unfair and insidious treaties, or to be displaced in direct and personal ways. That said, as mother-scholars of Color, we recognize other ways we – individually and as a larger collective – have been colonized – mind, body, and soul – by white hegemony and its continued destructiveness. In these ways, under very specific conditions, we affirm decolonizing methodologies as central to our work.