Betweener Talk: Decolonizing Knowledge Production, Pedagogy, and Praxis







As a book that doubles as a performative act of dialogue, Betweener Talkis an ambitious, inspiring exchange of ideas that work against ideologically binary views of the world. Grounding the conversation is the authors’ shared childhoods in Brazil. Marcelo Diversi and Claudio Moreira’s dialogue attempts to capture some of the paradoxes and symmetries of their lives, now as academics in the United States.They say, “we are claiming this position, betweener, not to fix our identities but to situate ourselves in the socially constructed, fluid space from which we are writing, thinking, and giving meaning” (19). Although the intended audiences for the book are scholars/educators and auto-ethnographers, Diversi and Moreira also propose this book to anyone interested in expanding a sense of “Us,” for those Betweeners—like them—who are working towards inclusive dreams of social justice, democracy, and liberty for all. 

The first part of this book theorizes betweenness and decolonizing resistance. Diversi and Moreira talk about their beginning of a critical postcolonial duo, and describe their ontological and epistemological standpoints. Part two, the book’s centerpiece, which takes up stories from the margins, consists of five exciting chapters discussing the betweenness in identity, class, race, sexuality, Indigenousness, and knowledge production. Part three concerns theoretical and methodological framework of (auto)ethnographic studies and postcolonial resistance as a decolonizing scholarship for social justice. Diversi and Moreira conclude with a dialogue on decolonizing praxis and the search for humanization. Their conversation is interdisciplinary and promotes intersectionality. It helps me understand the work of decolonization and its relationship to education. By connecting visceral knowledge to pedagogy, praxis, and social justice, Diversi and Moreira’s work resonates deeply with me, as someone who is working on decolonizing Christian religious education in Indonesia.     

Diversi and Moreira argue for visceral knowledge as an integral part of decolonization for those who have been colonized and oppressed. Moving from decolonizing discourse to decolonizing praxis, visceral knowledge, for those suffering the ongoing impacts of oppression “allow[s] the wound to speak up in their own bodies” (14). Embodied knowing of the oppression needs to be brought from the periphery to the center of decolonizing knowledge production. Using a form of conversation that gives shape to their message on decolonization is brilliant since this practice stand in sharp contrast to the Western-normative way of publishing research.

Diversi and Moreira’s effort to present their ideas through a not-so-common way shows the work of decolonization; it presents the connectedness and co-construction of meaning. Betweener Talkdisrupts the hegemony of academic discourse, a hierarchical legacy of logical-positivism, and the superiority of mind and rational thinking over the body and emotion. This binary mode of thinking has been socialized for centuries through education that informed by the philosophical context of Western metaphysical dualism. Diversi and Moreira’s work disturbs this dichotomy and showcases the struggles of the colonized aiming for social justice. “We see this book as a stage where we perform our dialogue over social justice in the world we inhabit” (14). The in-between space, they argue “is not a metaphorical site but a bodily, visceral site” (207).

While I wish they talked more about how, exactly, to bring their multiple identities into a meaningful intersection of an in-between space—how, in other words, to bring I into Us in (auto)ethnographic research, their work is a must-read for scholars/researchers who are questioning the boundaries and assumptions in their theoretical and methodological frameworks. It is also an important book for those doing passionate, decolonial work at sites of struggle and for educators who bring viscerality (body and emotion) to their teaching-learning activities. Essentially, Betweener Talkis an exemplary text, in both form and content, for all who are working toward inclusivism and social justice.

Mariska Lauterboom

Graduate Theological Union

Categories: (B) Book Review

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