Mills (2022) Decolonial perspectives on global higher education: Disassembling data infrastructures, reassembling the field

David Mills (2022) Decolonial perspectives on global higher education: Disassembling data infrastructures, reassembling the field, Oxford Review of Education, DOI: 10.1080/03054985.2022.2072285

Abstract:The expansion of university systems across the planet over the last fifty years has led to the emergence of a new policy assemblage – ‘global higher education’ that depends on the collection, curation and representation of quantitative data. In this paper I explore the use of data by higher education policy actors to sustain ‘epistemic coloniality’. Building on a rich genealogy of anticolonial, postcolonial and feminist scholarship, I show how decolonial theory can be used to critique dominant global higher education imaginaries and the data infrastructures they depend on. Tracing the history of these infrastructures, I begin with OECD’s creation of decontextualised educational ‘indicators’. I go on to track the policy impact of global university league tables owned by commercial organisations. They assemble and commensurate institutional data into rankings that become taken-for-granted ‘global’ policy knowledge. I end by exploring the policy challenge of building alternative socio-technical infrastructures, and finding new ways to value higher education.


UCLDH online seminar “Decolonizing Knowledge Infrastructures: Open Access & Multilingual Scholarly Publishing”, March 10, 5pm (GMT) | UCL Centre for Digital Humanities – University College London

Technology is global, but where we live affects how we apply digital solutions to humanities work. We all have what Roopika Risam described as a digital humanities (DH) “accent”. This seminar series explores those accents by looking at DH research here, and there, and over there too. This is a chance to build greater global awareness and empathy about regional and local approaches to digital humanities in the twenty-first century.

Virtual Lecture Series: Angela Okune (University of California) – Postcolonial Objectivity: Reaching for Decolonial Knowledge Making in Nairobi. January 20th, 2022, 09.30 am (PST) | Association for Cultural Studies

Angela Okune (University of California) – Postcolonial Objectivity: Reaching for Decolonial Knowledge Making in Nairobi
January 20th, 2022
9:30 AM PST/ Pacific Standard Time (GMT -8)

Abstract: Based on work over the last decade within Nairobi’s tech-for-good sector, followed by a year of ethnographic research within organizations in Kenya’s research landscapes, I trace shifting contours and edges of what is considered to be good knowledge in scientific representation in Kenya. I scale between analyses of the political economy and geopolitics of translocal knowledge production to ethnographically rich descriptions of Kenyan histories of imperialism, publishing, and post-war Development. The asymmetrical knowledge infrastructures established have created conditions where everyday research amongst particular communities in Nairobi is often experienced as extractive, externally-driven, and extroverted for a Western audience. Some social scientists in Kenya are responding by pursuing knowledge that gains its validity through recognition of and grounding in its location. I call this emergent regime of scientific representation in Kenya “postcolonial objectivity” and suggest that a recurrent argument and goal of postcolonial objectivity is robust contextualization of knowledge. I close by discussing my own attempts towards postcolonial objectivity, working to build supporting technical infrastructure as an experimental space for collaborative effort to figure out what kinds of questions can be asked under postcolonial objectivity going forward.

Bio: Angela Okune studies data practices and infrastructures of research groups working in and on Nairobi, Kenya in order to explore broader questions of equity, knowledge production and socio-economic development in Africa. Angela received her doctorate in Anthropology from the University of California, Irvine and has been awarded research fellowships by the National Science Foundation, The Wenner-Gren Foundation, and University of California Berkeley Center for Technology, Society and Policy. From 2010 – 2015, as co-founder of the research department at iHub, Nairobi’s innovation hub for the tech community, Angela provided strategic guidance for the growth of tech research in Kenya. She was a Network Coordinator for the Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network (2014 – 2018) and co-editor for open-access book Contextualizing Openness (University of Ottawa Press). She currently works as a Senior Program Manager at Code for Science and Society. Angela also serves on the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) Council and as a Design Team member of the Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography (PECE). Angela is an Associate Editor on a collective editorial team for the Open Access journal, Engaging Science, Technology, and Society and is a founding member of the experimental, open ethnographic data portal called Research Data Share (

Webinar: Decolonising the global publishing industry | LSE

Dominated by companies and university presses in the global North, the academic publishing market validates certain kinds of knowledge for profit, enhancing its authors’ careers and marginalising those who publish elsewhere. Authors from Global South institutions are underrepresented in such internationally ‘esteemed’ outlets, perpetuating hierarchies of knowledge, language, research topics and methodologies. The role of academic publishing in this two-tier system of global scholarship often goes unacknowledged in decolonial debates, affecting careers, conference attendance and North-South collaborations.

While transforming editorial board make-ups has been considered the ‘low hanging fruit’ of change, the diversification agenda might serve to reinforce existing models without challenging the centuries-old ownership of the publishing terrain. This event will address the potential for new models where non- Western languages and reputable Global South journals are internationally valued, and the types of work considered publishable is overturned. To achieve these decolonial ambitions, we ask whether the academic publishing sector only responds to the whims of university practices or can it be a force for change in itself?

Register for this event on Zoom or watch on Facebook live.


Chair: Dr Ram Bhat, LSE Fellow, Department of Media and Communications.

Dr Godwin Siundu, University of Nairobi, Editor of the Journal of Eastern African Literary and Cultural Studies.

Dr Simidele Dosekun, Assistant Professor, LSE, editorial board member of Feminist Africa.

Professor Florence Piron is Full Professor in the Communication and Information Department at Université Laval and founder of a decolonised open-access publishing house.

Elizabeth Walker is Global Head of Portfolio for the Area Studies programme of journals published by Routledge, Taylor & Francis.