The open question ‘who knows?’ can be read as a starting point in times when certainties and foreseeability are challenged in a way Western populations had not experienced for a long time. Major crises on a global scale – climate collapse, pandemics, energy supply, financial crises, wars – have shaken the whole idea of predictable futures. The precarity of existence is palpable for most human beings.
But the question also refers to the multiplicity of actors and media of knowledge and their – highly variable – degree of visibility and recognition. There are many co-existing knowledge ecologies, in Boaventura de Sousa Santos words, related to different epistemological foundations and transmitted through different media – story telling, songs, dance, cultural techniques, technological media, arts, writing, calculation, etc.
Today, knowledge production and circulation is not anymore exclusively linked to printed books and written text but diffuses through video tutorials, internet blogs, open source materials and digitized or digital archives, huge databases and the processing of big data, online forums or message boards concerning specific interests, social media and classical audio-visual media theoretically accessible worldwide. The perspective on subaltern knowledge, however, gives us a more historically informed insight that only in a continuously narrowing sense of Western enlightenment as well as of scientific and technological progress, knowledge production was exclusively linked to the world of books, language and numbers while it had always been something oral, incorporated, mimetic, observational, experiential and practical in the everyday of all societies. The notion of “subaltern knowledge” developed by Gayatri Spivak broadens significantly the boundaries of knowledge towards narrative, corporeal, experiential, sensed, popular, community-based, traditional, non-legitimized forms of knowledge.
The handbook wants to create an online space for international research, discussion, reflexive and critical thinking, through the deconstruction of dominant discourses and through a reinforced awareness on minorities’, subaltern and situated approaches. It does not just collect texts, but also other types of material, as well as interdisciplinary concepts to contextualize, discuss and evaluate the relevance of the various contributions incorporated into the handbook.
This handbook neither wants to teach you how to produce subaltern knowledge or how to think about subalternity in arts and culture, nor does it claim to provide all or most important information on the topic/s. It is In-Process because knowledge is understood as an ever-changing, situated set of practices, methods, thoughts, concepts and (tentative) results. It is a growing online collection of material and resources that can help to deconstruct, maybe hack, the classical use of a handbook.
Since the start of SHAKIN’ as an Erasmus + project in Autumn 2020, the project partners and collaborators collected text, online and offline projects, sound, initiatives in and outside academia etc. following a bottom-up principle. Throughout the first two years of SHAKIN’, we shared inspiring material amongst researchers and cultural producers, be they students or teachers. Rather than concentrating on producing specific media outcomes, we wanted to support all the initiatives and resources that are already out there and to promote their interconnections. These links, enriched by personal comments of the contributors, are at the core of the handbook and are intended to inspire and support alternative practices to the dominant way of producing, sharing and talking about knowledge.