n Journal of Public Administration - Engaged scholarship and liberatory science : a professoriate, Mount Grace, and SAAPAM in the decoloniality mix

Volume 50, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0036-0767


Liberatory science is often conflated with postmodern epistemology. These concepts are not the same. Their difference lies largely in the fact that, although postmodern epistemology salvages the knowledge enterprise from the absurdity of modernism, it does not do so to the extent of achieving cognitive justice or liberatory science. Liberatory science is intended to attend to this omission. For, it is "publicly answerable and of some service to progressive interests" (Ross, 1991:29). Engaged scholarship is a means to liberatory science. It is pursued for the public good, for engaged scholarship is scholarship of consequences with utilitarian value. Liberatory science and engaged scholarship are considered in this article, which argues that they have been lurking in what emerged in student activism in South Africa dubbed #FeesMustFall as the variables of the decoloniality project. In other words, as the article argues, this movement is not just only about tuition fees. It invokes a fundamentally important question of the theory of knowledge or philosophy of science. This activism lays bare the colonial logic of Western epistemology, its civilising mission and the imperial ambitions of the global powers using education as a means to "indoctrinate the young" (Giroux, 2015:15).

University students in South Africa are wrestling against this indoctrination, which, in the words of Peter Childs and Patrick Williams, is characterised as "civilisational Others". But aren't students fighting the war of their professors? This question is asked because the epistemological and gnoseological questions require the thought leadership of the professoriate. But, where is the professoriate in the decoloniality discourse pursued for the transformation of higher education? Its tinkering on the edge of the theatre of play which is supposed to be playing is as much as being indifferent. In reaction to #FeesMustFall, beyond a mere issue of tuition fees, a question that the nation should pose to the South African professoriate is: The discussion on engaged scholarship and liberatory science is, towards the end of the article, reduced to the specificities of the discipline. The article establishes that since 2011 the South African Association of Public Administration and Management (SAAPAM) has managed to ask the right questions and courageously take a stand against modernism and the nihilism of the gerontocracy of the discipline. However, the right answers to the right questions SAAPAM eruditely formulated are still outstanding. In other words, the question is: What is the alternative to modernism? Certainly not postmodernism. The article agitates for a liberatory science through engaged scholarship to sustain the decoloniality project.

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