Nina Baur: Decolonizing Social Science Methodology. Positionality in the German-Language Debate. [Abstract]

The debate on decolonizing the social sciences is intrinsically linked to debates about objectivity, subjectivity, and positionality because postcolonial scholars criticize the idea that “objective” knowledge is possible and argue that research findings are influenced by researchers’ subjectivity and positionality. However, when empirically addressing issues such as social or global inequality, objectivity and comparability would be direly needed. This dilemma is often hidden because the current postcolonial debate focusses on theory rather than methodology and methods and ignores differences in epistemic cultures. Using the German-language debates on objectivity and subjectivity, I illustrate that social science methodology has suggested some solutions to handling positionality, namely a reflexive methodology and an empirically-grounded epistemology, using social theory, using methods, and collaborating. I use my own research style to illustrate what applying these techniques might mean in research practice and point to some blind spots that methodological research should address in future research, amongst them reintegrating theory and methods, overcoming power structures in the global system of science, handling language, and decolonizing ethnography.

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