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  • Laura Donkers

Decolonising Collaboration

I'm so pleased to share that my abstract was accepted for the upcoming AMASS Conference, University of Lapland, Feb 16-17 2022. I will get to present my paper Decolonising Collaboration: re-learning how to listen to the silenced. This paper responds to the provocation that from certain positions and in certain contexts, the strengths of communities (rather than their challenges or weaknesses) can be overlooked and remain unrecognised. What is lost and what can be gained when such strengths are visualised?




The central theme is: DIALOGICAL ARTS THROUGH SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES: ACTING ON THE MARGINS, REDEFINING EMPOWERMENT. I felt this online conference presented a great opportunity for me to share what I had learned about the listening process by working with and for communities in the Outer Hebrides and in Aotearoa.


The central question my paper explores is:


What does a decolonised practice mean for collaboration, and how might it change the dynamics of discourse in collaborative art projects?



I will use this paper to reflect on what it is that a collaborative artist hopes to achieve by calling on others to contribute their knowledge and what can be discovered through this process. What is there ‘to know’, ‘be said’, or ‘shown’ beyond the artist's own perceptual limits?


From my perspective, I seek to increase multivocality and foster pluralism. I attempt to cultivate a decolonised approach to engagement as a way to open up new forms of inquiry that support the perspectives of the colonised and subaltern in society.[1] But, this approach begins with the self-decolonisation of practice - but what is this and how do I achieve it?



By way of answering this, my paper will explore the following complex themes:

  • questioning representation, authorship and ownership,[2]

  • critical self-reflection of the ongoing ‘listening-observing-not-knowing’ process,[3]

  • acknowledging the challenges and limitations of arts-based methodologies.[4]



[1] Seppӓlӓ, T., Sarantou, M., Miettinen, S. (2021) Arts-Based Methods for Decolonising Participatory Research. Routledge New York [2] Smith, L.T. (1999) Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Zed Books, L


ondon [3] Charnley, K. (2011) Dissensus and the politics of collaborative practice. Art and the Public Sphere. 1 (1) 37-53. Intellect Ltd


[4] Wella, R. and Pulè, M. (Eds) (2020) Conducting Participatory Arts Projects: A Practical Toolkit. University of Lapland


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