Extractivism in academia refers to the practices and dynamics of exploiting knowledge and resources from marginalized or less powerful communities, often without adequate reciprocity or benefit to those communities. Academics often impose their own research agendas, methodologies, and values on the communities they study, without considering or respecting the perspectives and priorities of the community, or without taking any responsibility and/or offering tangible benefits to these communities. Universities or research institutions may also enter partnerships with communities or organizations, often from less privileged backgrounds, in a manner that disproportionately benefits the academic institution, while the other party receives little compensation, support, or credit for their contributions.

In this session, we will discuss (1) how, in addition to epistemic extractivism, financial, labour and even ontological extractivism are linked to resource extractivism, often unevenly affecting academics and communities in the Global South. We will also (2) reflect collectively on decolonial ethics in research practice and the possibilities of co-creative and collaborative knowledge practices. As we will see, it takes more than goodwill, empathy or self-reflexivity to tackle the pervasive nature of resource extractivism, which is rooted in racialised and gendered colonial violence and other multiple forms of discrimination.  

By looking at possible alternatives to extractivism in all its forms and how to end it, this session will show the need not only to 'unlearn' oppression in academia but also to break it down in order to end colonial violence and imperialist structures and ideas. The session will be interactive and participants will be invited to share their thoughts on terms such as decolonisation and academic extraction. What do they understand by these terms? How important are terms such as intersectionality and reflexivity in their (academic) work? Finally, do they reflect on their social identities and the impact these have had on their academic and professional choices?

Invited speakers

Adriana Moreno Cely is a postdoctoral researcher at the Educational Sciences department at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. In 2022, she defended her PhD dissertation on 'Decolonizing research partnerships in development cooperation'. Adriana holds three Master's degrees in Natural Resource Management, Education, and Humanitarian Aid & International Cooperation. Her working experience has been focused on education and community development in urban and rural areas, promoting self-management processes and community autonomy using gender-sensitive approaches. She has developed and adapted several participatory and decolonial methodologies to work with young and older adults, mainly in Latin America. She has worked with local and Indigenous communities for 15 years as a practitioner and activist. She combines collaborative research approaches and decolonial thought to build bridges between diverse knowledge systems. As a whole, her research focuses on how Indigenous and local knowledge can be engaged to transform the universities into more pluriversal spaces. Adriana is a co-PI on a VLIR-TEAMS project to create a Bolivian community learning research network in sustainable territorial governance.

Swati Kamble is an anti-caste intersectional feminist researcher-activist. Her research broadly focuses on human rights and social justice movements, decolonisation and intersectionality. She has a  PhD in socio-economics from the faculty of social sciences at the University of Geneva. Her doctoral research focused on the political mobilisation of India's caste-affected, caste-oppressed communities, their movement history and how this movement has shaped oppressed caste women activists into agents of change. She studied how Dalit women activists influence policy processes by negotiating and navigating andro-centric, upper-caste bureaucratic spaces of power. Additionally, she has studied Roma women’s movement in Hungary and how the European decade for Roma inclusion plan’ policy did not reflect the issues of Roma women that the Roma civil society has been advocating for. Currently, she is researching the digital activism of Dalit women and middle-class Dalit women’s mobility in the Indian neo-liberal market. She is also collaborating with Dalit, indigenous and marginalised groups and organisations in India on a project around mapping and archival of indigenous forms of knowledge and decolonisation.


Gert Van Hecken is associate professor at the Institute of Development Policy (IOB) and coordinator of the Debating Development series. His research focuses on the politics of knowledge in processes of social change, on critiques of neoliberal natures and ‘green economy’ proposals, on alternative (transformational) paradigms, social movements and processes related to degrowth, as well as on other processes of (re)imagining and (re)enacting alternative social-ecological futures. He teaches various courses on the political economy of social and ecological change, and is involved in several institutional partnerships with knowledge centers in Latin America.