The Diverse Solidarity Economies Collective

In this episode of The Co-op Podcast, Michelle Stack is in conversation with Dr. Caroline Hossein, award-winning author and founder of the Diverse Solidarity Economies (DiSE), a collective made up of 20+ Black and racialized feminist leaders about varieties of cooperative models beyond the colonial narrative of cooperatives.

The Co-op Podcast was produced as part of a PWIAS-funded COVID-19 working group that looked at the potential for cooperatives to help higher learning become more resilient in the face of epidemics by creating conditions for belonging, accessible knowledge, caregiving and food and shelter security.

Podcast with Caroline Hossein.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Podcast with Caroline Hossein.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Introduction

Michelle:
Welcome to co-ops and campuses which is being recorded on the occupied and ancestral territory of the Musqueam people where the University of British Columbia, Vancouver is located. The pandemic has brought news of university cutbacks, bankruptcies and mergers. And a rising number of staff and students living with increased insecurity. But is there an alternative to the doom and gloom? Co-operatives are owned and democratically governed by members. Mondragon Cooperative University for example didn’t lay off any staff. It has 4000 students and they have job opportunities throughout their education and they play a central role in governance. The gap between the top paid workers and bottom-paid workers at the university is far less than at other universities. Ten per cent of the world’s workforce are employed through cooperatives. So why aren’t co-ops more part of the secondary education system in Canada? Would it be possible to have a cooperative university? Or how about even more co-op housing, co-op bars, restaurants, bookstores and grocery stores on campuses. In this series, we will have researchers and cooperators give us answers to these questions and many more. Today, I am very pleased to be interviewing somebody well-known for her work on cooperatives. Dr Caroline Hossein is an Associate Professor of business and society in the Department of Social Science, York University. She is the founder of Diverse Solidarity Economies, and she recently led federal government training on the social economy for Racialized Canadians. Based on her work, a documentary was recently produced, The Banker Ladies, which she will talk about with us in a few minutes. Dr Hossein, thank you so much for joining me today.

Caroline:
Oh, thank you, Professor Stack. It’s very nice to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Michelle:
I’m so excited because I’ve followed your work and I went to one of your Big Ideas talks and was so excited. So I was just thrilled when you agreed to this podcast.

Caroline:
Oh, great. Thank you. Appreciate it.

How did Dr Hossein get involved with cooperatives?

Michelle:
Maybe we can start with how have you been involved with cooperatives in the social economy?

Caroline:
So I always start with a little story because I am a first-generation Canadian. My parents emigrated to Canada from various parts of the Caribbean and back in 1971. And part of getting a footing in this land means adjusting and sometimes most of the time people can’t do that on their own accord. So they reach into lifelines and the social economy. Informal collectives, various forms of cultural associations have always been sort of a lifeline growing up. It’s something that you kind of or it’s a part of your way of being, I think, and that’s how I know Canada just from those kinds of social support systems. So it kind of made sense when I decided that what am I going to do with my life? I actually studied in the Maritimes, which if anyone has been out there, you should know it’s a bastion of all kinds of cooperatives and has a wonderful legacy of the movement behind it and what have you. Right. So that really left a major, I guess, impression on me while I was a student about the value of cooperative institutions. So when I went when I decided what I was going to do, actually being a professor wasn’t my first. I keep saying I have many lives. But my first life was actually I worked for about a decade in international development and worked for a number of organizations overseas that were supporting cooperatives and women’s associations and farmers groups and cooperatives, many of them informal, actually, to assist them to get access to any kind of development assistance. So that kind of trajectory has been something that’s sort of been so much a part of who I am. And so by the time I found myself, you know, becoming a professor, it just felt like when I define what the social economy, for me, it actually does mean cooperative institutions, both formal and informal. And even today, I think about just what I do research-wise, I work on something which I’ll talk to you in a minute about called ROSCAs. These are informal cooperatives. But even just my day to day life, like, how do I bank, you know, I bank at Meridian credit union, my insurance is Desjardíns, so I just try to embody as much as possible more democratic forms of business into who I am. So it’s just consistent with the kind of person I want to be. So if I’m writing and thinking about cooperatives and the social economy, I want to be a part of institutions that help me in many facets of my life.

Rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs) and other informal cooperatives

Michelle:
And that you mentioned ROSCAs and that was something I learned about from you, from your talk, and I was wondering if you could talk more about ROSCAs and discuss the concepts of cooperativism and the theory of the Black social economy.

Caroline:
Yeah, so these are three sort of ideas that are I guess, at the core of what I’m doing, and I’ll just start with something called ROSCAs because that’s probably where most people may know me from. It’s these are a Rotating Savings and Credit Associations. That’s the academic term. But when you move into more cultural groups, they have their own sort of local vernacular. They’ll call it Susu if they’re from parts of Africa or English-speaking Caribbean. Many African societies which are French-speaking, they call it Les Caisses Informelles, some will say Tontines or Haitians have Sol. But, you know, you move around to Indonesia, they have Arisan, Korea has Kye, India has Chits. So ancient societies all over our world have these cooperative institutions that are not formalized or regulated but actually created by people who embody the principles of what a cooperative is. And it’s formed organically in a very sort of consensus-building mode with people who often are on the margins but figure out how to pool resources outside of any external entity. So that’s what’s been really fascinating to me about ROSCAs. But there is something they’ve sort of been sort of this forgotten or left out sister of the group if you know what I mean. People just haven’t heard of them.

Varieties of co-operative models

Michelle:
Yeah. So interesting. I mean, I always find it bizarre when it seems like what when co-ops are discussed as having originated, you know, in the UK or as if there were not similar models or cooperative models long before that in many, many places around the world. So I really appreciate your work and a challenge in a sense to…

Caroline:
Yeah. And so when you think about that. Like when you think about sort of origins, you know, being very European or Anglo American, that’s where ROSCAs kind of disrupts that narrative because they’re trying, and that’s why I came up with this term cooperativism. But I’m looking at something called varieties cooperatives. And we play with I’m a political scientist, so by nature, we think about things in varieties like varieties of capitalism. Right. We understand that concept (varieties capitalism) that Sweden has its own variant. America, UK, various parts of the world will play with capitalism, Japanese with various connotations. Right. So the same goes for cooperatives. Right. Like there’s so many different forms of cooperatives that often we tend to emphasize those that are formal. But we should remember a lot of them had informal origins. Right. And some still do, because it depends on the activity that people are doing and the reasons why they have to come together to cooperate. And that’s actually the sort of like, you know, you study these cooperatives, but you need a theory that goes with it. And I felt really stressed most of the time because I couldn’t find a body of work that could be reflective of the very people, mostly those who are racialized and women that could actually theorize about how and why they do this kind of hidden cooperativism, and so that’s where I came into creating this body of work called the Black social economy. What I’m trying to do is to look at how can cooperation be politicized in very quiet spaces by people who often aren’t a part of any sort of formal solidarity type of institution. And so that’s the essence of what the black social economy is. It’s really about thinking through difference. It’s about politicizing pooled resources in a way to help one another, both economically but also socially.

How co-operative organisations have responded to her work on ROSCAs?

Michelle:
how has cooperatives or the cooperative organizations responded to your work on ROSCAs?

Caroline:
So that’s a provoking question for me right now in my life because …I’ve realized and I like so I’m going to tell you a story actually.

Michelle:
Excellent.

Caroline:
But I do want to say that first, let me say that the international cooperative system actually does embrace ROSCAs, self-help groups, informal women’s associations, because mutual aid, because so much of the global south, where the majority of people live on this planet are actually engaged in cooperative systems that are in the informal arena. And so I get a lot of love based on from those more internationally-minded institutions, so the global solidarity and social economy movement, there’s a really big one. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, by Gibson Graham called the Community Economies Research Network and they’ve done phenomenal work in terms of sort of what they say, smashing up these binaries of Marxism and capitalism to really open up this idea of feminist futures, which are much more collective. And they’ve actually been very open to these ideas because it actually fits with their ideas of sort of why are we all aspiring to be this formal, cooperative institution if there’s a kind of elitism that lurks within it? Right? And I can say that for a lot of Black scholars who are trying to push economics to be more inclusive, they’ve also been very opening of this idea of ROSCOs mutual aid and self-help. So the story comes now. So the story is that when I first came to York University, I had a tricky time being able to teach a foundational course on the social economy called something like the intro to the social economy. And at first, I thought, well, it was because colleagues, I would say cooperativist colleagues felt that maybe it was better for me and a much more junior position to take on easier types of classes, like upper-year courses, where I could focus and specialize on what I do for that at that level, as it would be easier. But I was really intent on teaching the foundation’s course because when I looked at the syllabus, I felt that the knowledge that it was focused on was just post-industrialization. And so, again, getting back to your narrative making or your knowledge, the knowledge-making, it seemed very Eurocentric in its origins because of the timeline of where they went. And it’s not that I wasn’t going to teach things like, you know, the Rochdale Pioneers or Desjardíns or the Antigonish movements. Of course not. I’m a product of that. But I do think that it’s important that students learn a foundation, that we start thinking about different types of timelines and in different kinds of geography. Right. Like so if we’re going to inform people, then we need to travel, take our students and travel with them to places, ancient locations, take them to Ethiopia, get them to understand what a cooperator means in India. India is one of the largest numbers of cooperatives on this planet! Why are we not talking about them? And they have a much more, diverse way of thinking about what counts as a cooperator. So the story, the moral of that story was that I think that in teaching and pushing some timelines worries people who are very attached to a certain cooperative story. And in Canada, the way that we talk about the Canadian cooperative movement always starts with Desjardins. We are fixated on the Quebec economy social, which I think is a wonderful, beautiful movement that we have. And it’s world-renowned for a lot of positive reasons. But is not the only way that people have been cooperating and creating and contributing to cooperative history. Here in Canada, we often leave out the story of Indigenous people. We lose the story of new immigrants. We miss the stories of Black communities who came since the Underground Railroad when they set up True Banks (a ROSCA). So there’s a lot of missing pieces. And then we become very selective in the ways that we want to, you know, teach a first-year foundational course. So even just that mark of wanting to teach at a low-level university course and diversify and open up the space to have a conversation about cooperatives becomes a political project. Right? ROSCAs become troubling because they are actually questioning what we think we know.

The colonial narrative of co-ops

Michelle:
And sort of challenges the colonial narrative of co-ops and maybe ask some questions about where were co-ops built too and were they built on indigenous land. So on occupied land, you know, all the questions that come around that. If you think about co-ops today, what do you think they need to do to be anti-racist and decolonial organisations?

Caroline:
Yeah, that’s a powerful question we could have, like, you know, sessions on this. This could be a theme of a podcast.

Michelle:
Could be a degree.

Caroline:
I know! So much. So if I have to focus on sort of that question and think about the Canadian cooperative sector, it’s not news to anyone. I hear it over and over again. Male, pale and stale. Right. Like that’s kind of how the Canadian cooperative sector is perceived from anyone looking in. OK, and that’s as a practitioner that’s about people wanting to join a cooperative and get engaged, whether it’s a housing co-op, whether it’s a fancy food store or whether it’s, you know, banking, what have you. There is that kind of, I guess, perception in the academy. You will know this to even those who work in the cooperative sector largely fit that description as well. So there’s a lot of, you know, I guess bias, a lot of perceived understanding of what kind of knowledge actually counts when we think about what cooperatives are. And one thing that I mean, I guess as an academic, what I’m preoccupied with is how do we undo that or unlearn the ways in which knowledge about cooperatives has been done historically. And I think a part of that means doing better research. It means to reread the history of cooperatives. There’s a really good book (2012) on the history of cooperatives by John Curl. And of late I’ve been suggesting people read it. It’s an American book, but he actually does locate a lot of the history of cooperatives in the US to Indigenous people because he does see a lot of the potlatches. A lot of the sort of communal way of being is really sort of the precursor to what we think we know about cooperatives. Prof Wanda Wutunee at the (I think she’s at the University of Winnipeg. I could be wrong) but she wrote a wonderful book called Living Rhythms. And what I liked about that book was that not only was she putting on full display cooperatives, but just the larger meaning of what the social economy means for Aboriginal people in the Canadian context and how really diverse and sort of different they are even in having tensions with one another. So I just think that decolonizing and trying to think more globally when we think about cooperatives is important. And that would start with how we define co-ops. So we should be looking in informal spaces to mutual aid. I think COVID… Don’t you think COVID has helped us to unpack what cooperatives are?

Interest in co-ops during the COVID-19 crisis

Michelle:
Yeah, I am so amazed at the interest. You know, I grew up in a housing co-op, right? Where I’d mentioned it before and always the question was, oh, you grew up in a commune, you know, did all the children have the same father? And I’d have to explain it was a cooperative. Go through that. And I do find there is a lot more interest right now.

Caroline:
But the idea of doing things informally and collectively is no longer seen as shady business. Commercial firms have just not been able to meet people where they are in a lockdown. Neighbours “all of a sudden” are pulling goods together. Right? And now, that seems like it’s fair game. And in so many ways, the lockdown in COVID has actually helped me to explain why black people would hide what they do cooperatively. Like it’s not something illegal or dodgy or criminal that they’re doing. They’re actually helping one another because of certain forms of oppression that exist. And I think that if we want to decolonize and become more anti-racist, we should start with looking at our own local context in terms of how do people organize, given the kinds of racial capitalism that might be existing in location and where people live and to call on Canadian scholars to address that so many times, I can’t tell you that the cooperative movement here in Canada will run to the US to ask African-American scholars about, you know, sort of the gaps in cooperatives. Well, why aren’t our cooperatives more diverse? And might be because you’re not getting the context of how Canadians are. Historically, a lot of us are immigrants who are black, we’re not we’re very diverse in that, but we also come from places that understand cooperatives, but they may not look like the formal types of credit unions or cooperatives that we have here, but people are practising them in much more informal arenas.

Governments in Canada criminalizing indigenous knowledge and practices of cooperation

Michelle:
And it’s so important what you were saying about the potlatch, for example, and thinking about the history of a social economy among many First Nations and also the suppression of that, like the erasure of that through the banning of the potlatch, through the banning of the social economy practices. So it really it’s you know, it’s really interesting to think about covid as this time to realize we’re interdependent, but also what does it mean to be interdependent and interdependent and decolonial to think about what does it mean to think about cooperative ism, but to do so using a more decolonial framework? So it’s just its such interesting work you’re doing.

Caroline:
No. And I think you got you hit something on the nail here. It’s this idea of when there are people who are at risk or feel under threat they will organize below the radar. And there is a reason why cooperative institutions get banned. We saw that in the African-American context. Jessica Gordon Nembhard wrote that book rightly titled Collective Courage and noted that people took risks and will die if it was known that they were cooperating. So you hide those systems because they’re seen as subversive. And I think it’s the same in the Aboriginal context. People will could lose their lives if they were coming together because it was seen as sort of, you know, not obeying the higher order. And Haiti had that in the 1950s under the Duvalier oppression, all associations, all cooperatives were illegal and they ran them underground. But people seriously, if they were publicly organizing or cooperating in anything, that would seem to me benign, could be jailed and then murdered. So, you know, for certain groups of people, there are reasons why cooperatives look a certain way.

Role of co-operatives in sustaining solidarities

Michelle:
For sure. For sure. Yeah. So often not understood. What role do you think cooperatives could or do play in forming and sustaining solidarities?

Caroline:
Yeah, and I think that, you know, cooperatives are actually at the core of solidarity systems. I mean, there are so many tensions with the social and solidarity economies. I’m sure you see it that people are having these conversations about scaling up and trying to be a B-corp, or an individual social enterprise and maybe they have a place somewhere. But I do believe that if we’re thinking about a solidarity economy, then it’s one of protest. It’s one of trying to disrupt and make a social change that makes our economies better, not to be complacent with a neoliberal economic design that has been always there to oppress people who don’t fit certain types of norms and values. And when I think about cooperative institutions, I often think of them as sort of like the Old Kid in the block that are both informal and formal. And they have always not tried to become a commercial institution because it’s actually rooted in membership. One member, one vote, that kind of idea. You know, and I think of struggles I remember those which are cooperative and collective like the Nigerian Delta who had to lose lives, but they had to collectively organize to protest major oil companies to stop their destruction. Or we think about all these landless workers through the MST movement in Brazil who are still fighting for space to own land, cultivate and to have a livelihood. Worker co-ops in Argentina, when they were fighting against sort of, you know, massive sort of restructuring programs in the 1990s, had this whole slew of worker co-ops take through. And also embedded in that was a political resistance to the kinds of ways that economies were trying to dominate people’s lives. And I think that cooperatives are really key to making people have a space to have voice. And the movement that really inspires me. And I hope people will check them out is SEWA in India. Right. Like that’s like the size of Canada. Their membership is the size of us. They’re like over 30 million members. Ela Bhatt one of, you know, she was a lawyer by training, could have probably done anything else in the world. I was reading her biography recently and she said that you know, these women were always in collective institutions, very informal, and what SEWA did was to create a larger umbrella for them to be able to then mobilize and petition real structural change so that they could have voice and participate in various political processes at national, regional and these Panchayati Raj at the very local levels. And I think that that’s what for me, solidarity economy is about. It’s about tapping, tapping into the collective the cooperative sort of we may not win as individual individuals but will win as a group for the betterment of all of us, not just one or a few of us. If that makes any sense.

Taking back how we’d like to see our economy

Michelle:
It makes a lot of sense. It reminds me I got to go to a couple of economics classes in India and Mumbai at a women’s university, Dr Patel. And she was talking about a student that did a thesis and she said, why? You know, when women talk on the train, is it called gossip? And when men talk, you know, we think it’s important. And she was talking about how the women use the train ride to form these economies would talk about jobs or how to deal with issues in the workplace and would support each other. So in a sense, it was like the train became the place to develop a social economy. So it really

Caroline:
And to network, right? Yeah. The spaces that we define as sort of making change sometimes doesn’t work for everyone because we’re not really entitled to the right kinds of opportunities. Not all of us have them. So if, you know, creating those spaces in the bottom of a mosque or in some sort of, you know, makeshift outdoor under a tree is a way that women can collectively organise or meet in someone’s bedroom or at home. I mean, these are the ways that people are organizing because it makes them feel safe and it makes and it’s a way of bonding with other people. And we now don’t have to, like economics is not forcing us how to organize, we are actually taking back how we would like to see our economy. I think that’s important.

What knowledge counts and who decides?

Michelle:
That’s key, really, isn’t it? It’s that sort of sense that that one can have some control and working collectively. So what knowledge would count in terms of how we understand co-ops?

Caroline:
So, again, it speaks to that sort of that process of decolonizing. Like how like what counts, what counts as a cooperator, you know, and why are we always privileging the formal or those that are regulated? And I think that part of what I do as a feminist, as a black feminist, is to think about more inclusionary modes of the ways in which the economy can work and that that the social life should not be taking a backseat to the ways in which we participate in an economy. I mean, it just seems so upside down to me and I think to many people out there. And so when I think about financial economies or community economies, what I’m thinking about is something that is much more attentive to other worlds and whether we’re living in Canada. To look at the very variety of people that we know here as Canadians and to tap into that kind of understanding of the kinds of cooperatives we need. And so I like to say that we should be reading much more interdisciplinary. We should be thinking about things that are just outside of formal domains. When we’re thinking about documenting stories that people may not call them a cooperative, they may call them an association, they may call them a mutual aid or self-help group. But when you look closer, you start to realize, wow, these semantics are really playing a game with us. And that these are parts of a cooperative story that we’re missing out on when we don’t count them as part of how we learn about cooperatives.

Michelle:
Really makes me think about how who we see as knowledge producers and beneficiaries of knowledge and so often the kind of how do we increase cooperatives in indigenous communities or racialized communities, rather than saying, you know, how do we learn and connect with the cooperative work that’s already happening and has been happening for generations.

Caroline:
Yeah. And I remember there being a cooperative scholar by the name. He was looking at cooperatives, globalization and cooperatives from below. Richard Williams wrote this book and it’s a bit dated, but I think it was useful. And then he said, the cooperative movement, if we’re trying to grow this as a sector then go South. It’s not like there are so many co-op firms. I guess why because these firms are on the periphery of how to do a mainstream business because it’s not a shareholder model. Why don’t we try to build that up and try to look for as many people who buy into a more democratic economic system that is focused on membership. Why wouldn’t we want to open up and figure out how all these other cultural groups are doing cooperatives? Because then there’s more people who are going to start to demand that we change the ways that is the ways that business is organized and that we start subsidising actually cooperative institutions because they actually fit the ways we want to live.

Michelle:
Yes, an important point.

Caroline:
Yeah, I mean, I think that that’s the point, right? Like when I expand cooperativism and this idea of inclusion.

What does it mean to be cooperative, committed to dismantling white supremacy, ableism, patriarchy and heteronormativity?

Michelle:
Yeah, for sure. In terms and realizing knowledge producers that often aren’t even considered. OK, so now I have a question that, you know, is no problem to answer, I’m sure, which is what does it mean to be a cooperative, committed to dismantling white supremacy, ableism, patriarchy and heteronormativity?

Caroline:
Well, acknowledge whiteness, yes, androcentrism too, like when you think about the whiteness and the maleness that really dominates -domineers actually- the discourse within the cooperative sector. Then you start seeing all these ‘isms’ that are completely ignored. And I think how do we start to unpack this? I think it’s one thing that Gibson Graham does and the feminist members of CERN, Community Economies Research Network, does is that they’re in the business of inventorying. And what they mean is that you start taking stock of all the kinds of cooperatives that exist in our world today. Not just formal ones, but informal ones, and so you start moving in and out of locations to start appreciating the variety that actually belongs within the solidarity economy. And I think that concept of taking inventory is very key to sort of being an antidote to sort of this one sort of narrative that comes from one specific location, I also think that this idea we have to undo this idea of charitable models and I think a legal scholar by the name of Dean Spade wrote a little book called Mutual Aid. He wrote an article in the journal Social Text looking at its Solidarity, and not charity, something like that. Basically, it kind of sort of reifies what maybe, you know, the activist group, INCITE who said, that the revolution can’t be funded (with donors). We really have to think about we as individuals, how do we pool and mobilize what seems like very small sums of money, but at least it’s not coming with strings attached. And that if we’re really thinking about a transformation or really trying to rethink a new way of working and living together, then we’re going to have to fund that. And I do think that pushing up against these kinds of biases of white supremacy, ableism, patriarchy, this heteronormative way of being, the only way we can do that is we start self-financing and taking control of the kinds of cooperative and solidarity systems that we would like so that we’re not beholden to what I call or what many people call as this Babylon or this establishment that sort of dictates and tears us and divides us on winners and losers. But actually, we’re sort of coming together as a group to sort of define what our futures will look like and something that’s much more collective and cooperative.

Dr Hossein’s work on the diverse solidarity economies and the collective.

Michelle:
That seems to be the work that you’re doing also, and the diverse solidarity economies and the collective. And can you talk a bit about that? Because I was fascinated by that that work just. And how it got started. I know you’re a founder.

Caroline:
So I’m one of the founders. I have to give recognition to my colleague and her name is Christabell PJ and she’s a prof out of the University of Kerala. And I always send people to her as one of the most brilliant feminist economists out there. If anyone finds their way to Kerala, it’s probably one of the best places to be a woman on this planet. They’ve done tremendous work in terms of their Kudumbashree movement, self-help groups and Christabell writes on this phenomenon quite a bit. They’re (Kerala) renowned for their idea of variety of cooperativisms. I just participated in a conference they had called Cooperative in Solidarity Economies at Kerala University. I mean, the whole university was vested in this. They speak about they don’t have these silly, you know, conversations about do informal ROSCAs count as part of a cooperative like I mean, they’re so advanced in the ways that they’re thinking about collective and solidarity economies that we are just trying to catch up to where they’re at. So she’s the other member of the DISE collective out in India and we are really at the nascent stages of doing this work. It was actually came out of something called the Black Social Economy Hub back in 2015. And then we had the DISE lab and now it’s the DISE Collective, so it’s had many sorts of iterations. We decided that it was important for us to have a footing somewhere in the Global South. And why not Kerala? It’s a leader in sort of the thought process of cooperative institutions, though not often really recognised in many places, but we recognise that and it’s very feminist in its orientation. And so what I’m doing and you can see on the DISE Collective is that there is a group of women, mostly they’re all women of color. Many of them are living in outside of Canada. So there’s an international scope. And what we’re all doing, we’re all political economists of some sort who are questioning mainstream economics. We are trying to document and open up knowledge-making. So that is much more feminist. It is much more considerate of various groups of people when we start to think about economics and politics, I guess.

Michelle:
Wow, yeah, I was really fascinated by the work and saw sadly saw the info about the conference too late, but it’s fascinating.

Caroline:
They’re going to have more, I think so. And there’s a new there’s another conference going to be up in June. A summer school if people are interested. I’m a part of the Miami Institute for Social Sciences, and that is really about undoing a Western paradigm of how we make knowledge. You might be actually interested in this. How do we start funding our own social sciences in a way that’s much more people-focused as opposed to sort of administrators dictating what gets funded and what doesn’t get funded

Michelle:
Rankings that are based on money and profit. Yeah,

Caroline:
So why not start having these conversations? And I think that summer school is going to take place on Thursdays in the month of June. It’s very easy to register for these things now because everything is virtual. But I mean, those are the kind of conversations that are being had now. And it’s a pretty exciting place, you know, that we’re at in the in history to be having these kinds of conversations that even in places like where I am and we are endowed with resources, how can we think about now start financing our own kinds of institutes that produce knowledge in ways that I guess look for people who are not even being seen.

Thinking about the politics of knowledge production

Michelle:
It’s so important right now? Like if you look at some of my research is looking at journal impact factors and how language is seen as world-class is in English because that’s what rankers count. Right. And then how that ends up impacting who is seen as a knowledge producer, what knowledge gets funded, what knowledge gets published in the whole, you know, a predictable chain that that occurs around that.

Caroline:
And just to think about like, how can people have voice in their universities and their workplaces. I think we may have more luck with universities that don’t have med schools. I think that there’s some sort of theory out there on this. But I do think that is it possible to have a cooperative university like something like the Mondragon University? Can we actually aspire to something like that? Not just having a bookshop that’s cooperative or a coffee shop, but actually rethinking the actual design of the university from the ground up, is that something that’s doable?

Michelle:
Yeah, it’s a really interesting question, Cilla Ross is looking at that, trying to create a cooperative university. So it’s an interesting. interesting moment.

Caroline:
But it’s that idea of self-funding. Right. And that’s what I’m a part of that Miami Institute, that’s exactly what she’s trying to do. It’s a lady, a scholar by the name of Mairbel Morey. She wrote a book on white philanthropy. And what she’s trying to do is unpack, you know, like, why do even institutes, research institutes, why are they so tied to the foundations who actually have a political purpose of how they want to order the ways in which we are organized in society? And there’s been research on that. All these wealthy foundations have a plan. And so is there a way that we can start self-financing? Can cooperative institutions or that methodology be something that we learn from in our own institutions some way somehow so that we can, you know? At least work in a much more inclusive or rethink the ways in which our governance operates in many of these places.

Michelle:
Thinking about it not just in terms of the coffee shop, like you say, but the very structures of how we think about knowledge and sharing knowledge and what counts and who counts.

Final words

Caroline:
Yeah, well, this was really great.

Michelle:
Yeah. Thank you so much. I’ve really appreciated our conversation. You’ve got me all excited about all sorts of things. Anything I left out?

Caroline:
No, I’m really happy to have had this opportunity to share with you, get to know you a bit. And yeah, I’d like to talk some more.

Michelle:
Yes, same here. I have all sorts of things I want to talk with you about. So, Dr Hossein, thank you so much again for joining me and for sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience. Hopefully, we’ll talk soon again.

Caroline:
The honor was mine. Thank you,

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