Am I a Colonizer or Decolonizer … of Methodologies? Part II by Charity Odetola

Charity Odetola

Good day to you all, I return to continue what I started, when I previously mentioned the African Diaspora and its effects on my social identity and professional role. Once again, I am Charity Odetola, a West African woman and budding evaluator, where the aftermath of colonization and the African Diaspora have influenced a lack of national and self identity. However, this paucity of identity has urged me to practice moments of self-reflection and reflexivity, especially of my positionality and how it influences my surroundings. In those times of introspection, a main point of inquisition is to what extent can I approach the field of evaluation and its practice, while needing a stronger footing on my sense of identity. 

In evaluation, we often hear that context matters. Yet, how can I as an evaluator situate my evaluation approach and practice without first knowing or understanding my personal context. I purport that being aware of my inner context would allow me to better understand the influences, biases, and subjectivities I can bring to an evaluation. Thus, if these were missing, an evaluation can already be in jeopardy before its launch. 

To overcome this impasse, I have set out to understand my current situation and the different practices, behaviors, and values that have led to it. As a result, I came to see how current behaviors have led me to ask myself if I am a colonizer or decolonizer of methodologies. Coming from societies previously colonized by European powers, I ask myself in what ways am I contributing to or perpetuating colonizing beliefs in my evaluation work? Does, and to what extent, can pursuing higher education in a Western culture, where practices and behaviors held by my family’s culture might be regarded as secondary or lesser, play a detrimental role to decolonizing mainstream methodologies and approaches? Subsequently, am I currently adopting practices that impose my current education on “alternative” curricular systems? 

Asking myself these questions regularly allows me to do my part and my best to consider “alternative” methodologies and schools of thoughts, than those already established (usually influenced by the West). 

Were this process to strike a chord with your current practices, I invite you, at your discretion, to practice moments of reflexivity that could affect your evaluation practice. 

Lesson Learned:

The source of my inanity and misplaced identity have highlighted the need for action, to underscore the importance of decolonizing methodologies. A lesson I’ve learned, and I’m still learning, is highlighting my “alternative” culture, and imposing it as having great importance and being of good repute, to decolonize Western methodologies.

Rad Resource:

Reversing sail: A history of the African diaspora, written by Michael A. Gomez, is a great text on the topic mentioned in this entry.

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7 thoughts on “Am I a Colonizer or Decolonizer … of Methodologies? Part II by Charity Odetola”

  1. Hi Charity,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, this was incredibly insightful and I thoroughly enjoyed reading both post 1 & 2. I am a visible minority and second-generation settler-Canadian and there were things that you said that resonated with me, in particular when you noted, “how can I as an evaluator situate my evaluation approach and practice without first knowing or understanding my personal context?” I started asking myself, how does my socio-economic, cultural and religious backgrounds influence how I evaluate things? As an educator, and I’m constantly evaluating students on their performance, but my personal context has an influence in how I construct a course or how I build my relationship with them. As a person learning about the field of evaluation, I’m now asking myself, how does my personal context influence the way I approach evaluation, whether it’s being an evaluator or being evaluated. In addition your question about “in what ways am I contributing or perpetuating colonizing beliefs in my evaluation work?” and the pursuit of higher education in Western culture is an interesting question. On one hand, I am content to resign to accepting the fact that higher education as a distinctly western institution, is here to stay and that it’s a necessary part of thriving in our modern context. At the same time, I wonder what kind of reform, or decolonization can and should take place. All in all, at the core of this is as you pointed out, a question of identity and who do I see myself belonging to. Ultimately, I’d like to say that I would affiliate myself with the institution I work for before the culture that I grew up in, but there are moments where there are cultural clashes that I don’t know how to approach. Anyway, thanks for sharing, it was a pleasure to read!

  2. Hi Chairity,

    Thank you for sharing both of your posts. You have brought up many insightful responses to decolonizing Western methodologies when we should also be focused on other cultural lenses when working with evaluation. Being from European decent, I need to ensure I am checking my privilege, influences, biases and subjectivities that I bring to evaluation. In order for this to happen, I need to ensure I am not only using evaluation methodologies from European decedents but also steering my education towards recognition of alternative methodologies, ensuring we are recognizing their worth and varied viewpoints that they have in evaluation practice! As I learned from my psychology degree, there are many types of research biases and the essential one to bring up is culture bias. I need to be checking my own assumptions about the motivations and influences that are based on our own cultural lens. Ethnocentrism is a common theme in evaluation and needs to be addressed. We cannot continue to keep judging another culture by the values and standards of our own culture. In order for culture bias to be eliminated, we need to move towards cultural relativism; that is when an individual’s beliefs and activities should be understood by others in terms of that individuals’ own culture. We should also continue to be cognizant of our own cultural assumptions, recognizing and showing unconditional positive regard towards alternative methodologies while valuing their worth and varied viewpoints.

    Thank you again for shedding light on a huge issue in the evaluation community!
    Rebecca oliver

  3. Hello Ms. Odetola,

    Your posts (part I and II) resonated deeply with my inability to reconcile Western evaluation practices and my own identity. As a visible minority and second generation Canadian, your prompting for “reflexivity that could affect [my] evaluation practice” elicited a deep reflection on my own approach to evaluation, within my current context of practice. It is imperative in our increasingly globalized world to not only recognize but make “a commitment to gear…education towards the recognition of alternative methodologies, recognizing their worth and the varied viewpoints that they add to evaluation practice”. Your discussion begged me to focus on my personal context as an evaluator and how Western methodologies may influence evaluation practices. Is it correct to measure all programs through this ethnocentric lens; is the established “yardstick” reliable in evaluating all programs, or does it influence outcomes based on perceived measurements of success? As Chen states, in addition to the scientific aspects of program evaluation, “evaluators must be able to select the evaluation program that complements the needs and realities they face – the art aspect of program evaluation” (Chen, 2005, 3). This “art” of evaluation allows room for the decolonizing of evaluation methods and approaches and a recognition of alternative approaches to evaluation.

  4. Hello Ms. Odetola,
    Your posts (part I and II) resonated deeply with my inability to reconcile Western evaluation practices and my own identity. As a visible minority and second generation Canadian, your prompting for “reflexivity that could affect [my] evaluation practice” elicited a deep reflection on my own approach to evaluation, within my current context of practice. It is imperative in our increasingly globalized world to not only recognize but make “a commitment to gear…education towards the recognition of alternative methodologies, recognizing their worth and the varied viewpoints that they add to evaluation practice”. Your discussion begged me to focus on my personal context as an evaluator and how Western methodologies may influence evaluation practices. Is it correct to measure all programs through this ethnocentric lens; is the established “yardstick” reliable in evaluating all programs, or does it influence outcomes based on perceived measurements of success? As Chen states, in addition to the scientific aspects of program evaluation, “evaluators must be able to select the evaluation program that complements the needs and realities they face – the art aspect of program evaluation” (Chen, 2005, 3). This “art” of evaluation allows room for the decolonizing of evaluation methods and approaches and a recognition of alternative approaches to evaluation.

    Thank you for these thought provoking posts
    Mona

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