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Gathering of Kindred Folk Re-imagining Higher Education!

Gathering of Kindred Folk Re-imagining Higher Education!

Posted by on ago 12, 2015 in all posts, on the road | 0 comments

As you may be are aware, there is a knowledge movement slowly building all over the world, an emerging network of lets call them Eco-versities for now – of people and communities reclaiming their local knowledge systems and imaginations to restore and re-envision learning processes that are meaningful and relevant to the call of our times, that cultivate new stories and possibilities, that re-connect and regenerate diverse ecological and cultural ecosystems.

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From the start of our adventures in this landscape of these diverse ecologies of knowledges focusing on Higher Education emerging around the world we dreamt: – what if these places could share their experiences, knowledges, their learning approaches amongst and between themselves and strengthen the beautiful and important work they are all doing?! What even more wondrous and powerful transformations could occur! As we visited places across different countries, as well as writing and making films, we took on ourselves the role of traveling story-tellers – telling stories to people we met of the other places we had visited and what they had been doing. Some links between places started to emerge through this as people and places begun to hear more about each others’ work.

Now that our physical journey to many of these places has come to a rest, as well as carrying on writing and editing the films, we have put our energy into that original dream.

We are really excited to have co-created with Manish Jain from Swaraj University (Udaipur, India) a Gathering of Kindred Folk Re-imagining Higher Education! This ‘Re-Imagining Higher Education’ event will gather more than 50 other leading visionary-doers and thinkers from more than 20 countries at Tamera Peace and Research Centre, an eco-village in southern Portugal this August (from the 20th – 26th).

We are gathering this group from a variety of learning places around the world – to share experiences, wisdom, insights and challenges to learn about how transformative learning is being imagined and enacted in each place. Our primary focus is to bring together people who are hosting or who are deeply involved with ‘alternative’ or ‘post-traditional’ places of higher education, or who are somehow re-imagining higher education in their work. Many of these have emerged from different social movements, ecological movements and indigenous communities.

During the six days we will spend together in Portugal we will host an interactive process through a structured un-conference format where there will be a lot of time for sharing and co-creating with self-organizing sessions and open-spaces. Our intention is to co-create a gathering that can propel this movement forward, where stories are shared, creative sparks fly, and friendships and alliances are woven. We hope to be able to explore common emerging themes such as sustainability and social justice; unlearning and decolonizing; indigenous ways of knowing; healing; gift culture; re-engaging community, nature and the built environment; local media; literacies; the question of certification; mentoring; rites of passage; right livelihood and social/eco entrepreneurship, and many others. We will keep you posted on how the event goes on our Facebook and Twitter page. We will also let you know how you can participate in this emerging network.

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Re-learning Hope

Re-learning Hope

Posted by on feb 26, 2014 in all posts, on the road | 0 comments

I have been thinking a lot about hope these days. Reflecting on the places we visited on this journey and the people we have met, one of the most noticeable qualities we encountered along the way has been the experience and expression of hope.




Despite the adversity encountered by First Nations peoples’ in Canada or indigenous communities in Mexico who suffered the violence of colonialism, dispossession of their lands, repression of their culture and way of life or else by favela residents in Rio de Janeiro facing prejudice on a daily basis on top of the challenges of poverty and inequality, we met hopeful people and places.

People who were creatively engaging with the challenges imposed by the conditions they faced in the present and the legacies of the past by building and living alternatives. This in stark contrast to the discernible absence of hope we seem to be submerged in through the dominant mass media we are submerged in, and the academic and institutional environments we are educated in.

I have been reflecting on a quote Gustavo Esteva, founder of Unitierra in Oaxaca, Mexico, related to us during one of our conversations. Quoting Czech novelist, dissident and former president Vaclav Havel, Gustavo described the notion of hope Unitierra was using. This notion of hope, I believe, gave coherence to their autonomous and collective forms of learning and engagement with the challenges faced by urban and indigenous communities in the Oaxaca region. I recently traced the source of the quote by Havel:

Hope is not a prognostication — it’s an orientation of the spirit.. […] Each of us must find real, fundamental hope within himself. You can’t delegate that to anyone else.

Hope in this deep and powerful sense is not the same as joy when things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something to succeed. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It’s not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

It is this hope, above all, that gives us strength to live and to continually try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now. In the face of this absurdity, life is too precious a thing to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, emptily, without meaning, without love, and, finally, without hope.

(The quote comes from an article he published in Esquire magazine in 1983 – available online – and is also found in Havel’s 1991 book. Disturbing the Peace.)

This existential, embodied and non-future oriented understanding and experience of hope appears honest, empowering and appealing to me. It also resonates with the practices of Unitierra, as well as other places we visited, and the attitude they are living by.

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By contrast ‘hope’ is not a word you often hear in the corridors of educational institutions. In my 20 + years in such places of higher education I do not remember ever having really encountered it, either as a topic of learning or a focus of discussion. No doubt it has similar ‘fuzzy’ connotations as ‘love’, ‘compassion’, things seldomly considered as worthy subjects of inquiry or conversation in institutions concerned with ‘knowledge’.

Instead these institutional learning spaces have excelled at developing and imparting the very useful (and valued) skills of empirical inquiry, analytical thinking, and – though some would argue decreasingly so – critical thinking.

In the social sciences in general (and I am not even speaking here of the humanities and natural sciences too, where this also applies, but that is another story), the tools of critical thinking and empirical enquiry have been sharpened for generations, with methodological developments and morphing theoretical paradigms. But the conditions within which such developments take place are rarely examined in any depth, let alone challenged. Can critical thinking apply itself to itself?

This question has haunted me for years, as has the sense that there is a largely unarticulated and un-criticized set of assumptions, habits of thinking, practice, belief and social organization, that are a part of disciplinary ethos and institutional life. Beyond that still, there is an unquestioned and unchallenged set of assumptions, practices, values, beliefs and social organizational norms surrounding our system of higher education (or more broadly education). If these disciplinary, institutional and educational systems where to be considered a society and culture of their own, social scientists would be investigating them, also challenging claims to universality and so forth.

My restlessness and increasing unease within the academic contexts I taught and researched in then came from this sense that the conditions within which I was working, thinking, researching, teaching in, where shaping my practices, values, beliefs and how I related to others and to the place I lived in, but in ways that were both taming and at the same time part of a larger and deeper logic I did not fully understand.

I could also sense how this taming, reproducing a logic, set of values, ways of relating, acting and believing was also affecting students. Students, like all of us, are bombarded with the negativity and sense of hopelessness of the mass media. But their capacity for critical thinking is also, hopefully, sharpened through the course of their studies.

Across the social sciences students learn about countless injustices in the world today and in the past, and to critically engage with various modern institutions from a perspective that also points out the adverse effects of these: government, corporations, the economy, development, medicine, technology and so forth.

This is a hugely important part of a modern education, the capacity to also understand the horrors of the world and carefully consider the causes of these. At the same time, given the triumphalism of neo-liberalists across the political classes, business and academia, there is also the sense that we are at the end of the road for any further experimentation – that the battle of big ideas and for the organization of society is over. Whether fully conscious of this or not, this has bred a cynicism in the corridors of academia, a cynicism and sense of hopelessness that is also transmitted to students.

This has made me wonder how academic institutions reproduce hopelessness by the taming of imagination, thought and learning, which at the same time devalues and delegitimizes other aspects of our human experience and capacity to learn. Aspects which have to do with the other ways by which we are in and learn in the world not only by critical thinking, empirical enquiry, analysis, but by feeling, doing, valuing, relating to others and place.

This journey has been for us in a large way about re-learning hopefulness, in the sense quoted above by Havel, learning that what we are doing can make sense even when other things in the world (media, political, corporate and academic consensus and its legitimized cannons of knowledge) appear to point in the opposite direction.

It has also been a learning and unlearning journey, in the deepest sense, with both happening simultaneously. Unlearning in as much as layers of habits, beliefs, ways of thinking, relating, valuing are brought into consciousness and, at least to an extent, let go of in the face of new possibilities.

I have always liked (Deleuze and Guattari’s) expression of how thinking, or rather new thoughts, emerge from a situation of shock with the world, when something new is brought to awareness, provoking us to try to make sense of it in a different way. Instead of falling back to habits when faced with the new, or taming it into an academic logic, through this journey we sought to embrace this shock of the new, explore it, open ourselves to it. In many cases the new happens to be really very old!

Unpeeling an ingrained logic and habit of thinking and the emotional tone of hopelessness is not easy. I think for us it has been gradual and is ongoing.

At this point of the journey – and looking back at what we have written up in these posts since October 2012, we can see some contours of what we have been learning and some key ideas and experiences that have crystalized, configuring what might be described as enlivened learning. That is, a learning that is not tamed, reduced or reductive, abstracted or detached…. Rather, a learning that takes place from our whole being and within our network of relationships with others, humans, non-human beings and things.

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De-professionalizing – stepping out and beginning the reflective process

De-professionalizing – stepping out and beginning the reflective process

Posted by on abr 15, 2013 in all posts, on the road | 0 comments




Around the year 2000, I moved to the UK and began navigating down the open and unchartered waters of my post-graduate degree (it being a self-created research project). A few months into the degree programme, I dove deeply into a great sea of literature that engaged with critiques of education and international development.

During this phase of literary free-diving, many new worlds of thinking, acting and living began to open for me. I found it simultaneously thrilling and disorientating. Yet, the direction it has led me to, this journey of enlivened learning we are on now, feels exactly right.

Since that time in the early days of living in the UK, I have often encountered three terms that are expressed in overlapping ways – de-colonization, unlearning and de-professionalization. It has taken me a long time to understand what these mean and I am still learning, particularly along this journey we are on now. I feel that I can grasp the logic of these terms, intellectually, but it has taken me much longer to be able to grasp what it might mean to experience them.

These last several months, I have noticed many, many different things that are causing me to pause and reflect on how my mind and body have been conditioned and colonized through my education and social upbringing.

As Udi finishes a series of posts on Brazil, I am going to finish a series of posts that explore de-colonization, unlearning and de-professionalization, as I have not only come to understand them, but as I have come to experience them more fully along this journey. The pictures you will see in this post I have taken straight from the internet – images that come from googling ‘unlearning’. I thought this would be an interesting way to represent how others have represented what this term means through imagery. I will put in my own images in future postings on this topic.

This post here is a beginning – that I hope will help to open a series of windows to reflect on how, during our enlivened learning journey, I am unlearning and relearning much of what I was educated to believe, to think, to do and to live — how I am ‘deprofessionalizing’ myself, and how I find that I am becoming increasingly ‘de-professionalized’.



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This image comes from a consultancy-related blog: http://franklincovey.com/blog/consultants/durelleprice/2009/02/21/unlearning-101/ — I found it interesting that the first lines of this post use Einstein’s famous quote and how ‘unlearning’ is imperative in the university context: “Albert Einstein, icon of intellect and insight, said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Universities are focused on higher learning when perhaps they should promote a course entitled Unlearning 101.”

First, a little bit on colonization….

The words ‘colonized’ and ‘colonization’ are often reserved for, and orientated towards, different indigenous and minority ethnic groups. During my own schooling, for example, the word colonization was used in ways that referred to the taking over of people, communities (most often indigenous or other minority groups) and land by another outside, foreign force. In other words, we (sort of) learned about the physical aspects of colonization. I say sort of here because our learning exploration on colonization, even as a physical force, was very limited and almost entirely one-sided.

Being taken over by physical force is violent – where the perpetrator and the victim experience violence. During school, I do not remember any point in time when we critically considered the colonization processes, the unjust forms of violence, that Native Americans endured (and continue to endure today). It was something of an inevitable fact that was going to happen, that was meant to happen. It was always downplayed, minimized and cushioned into a formation of knowledge that somehow (implicitly) validated and legitimized the violent taking over, the colonization, of all of the United States of America and the genocidal impacts on the many hundreds of indigenous communities that once covered these lands – that emerged from these lands. The many forms of violence, associated with colonization, that I have learnt so much more about on this journey, is incomprehensible.

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This image was used several times in the film ‘Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden’ to help understand the multiple processes of colonization and the dominant understanding of ‘American Progress’ – see other images used in the film here: http://schoolingtheworld.org/film/presskit/photo-gallery/

Since my initial literary free-diving phase when I first came to the UK, I have come to perceive and understand colonization, and the processes of colonization, as not only something that is physical. I now see colonization as mental, emotional, cultural, spiritual, ecological… I also understand colonization as long-lasting, inter-generational – and continuously masked in new forms (I will discuss this more later – but an example of this is the ‘Empire of Money’ phase that the Zapatistas describe and I discussed in a previous post).

Colonization is violence in multiple forms – violence that does not disappear, that has not disappeared and continues to be deeply and traumatically experienced – in North, Central and South America, in Australasia, South Asia, East Asia, Central Asia, Africa, Europe and the Arctic…


Each of the educational initiatives we are visiting along our journey are directly facing previous and continued forms of violence associated with colonization — but, significantly, aside from just facing them, they are creating ways to move beyond them.  This aspect to me – this moving beyond is what is most important.


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This image comes from Jack Uldrich a ‘global futurist’ blog called Unlearning 101 — http://www.unlearning101.com/fuhgetaboutit_the_art_of_/unlearning-curve/

What moving beyond does is to not only perceive places, other people and ourselves as in deficit, but instead focus on possibility, healing, compassion, community, creativity and imagination. I feel this moving beyond is what we can all learn from, no matter our own background, cultural context, social and educational upbringing.


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I really like this quote by Arundhati Roy – it was used on the facebook page of ‘Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden’ — Roy now publishes a great deal of social and eco-justice related writing that is as poetic and engaging as her first (and only) work of fiction, ‘The God of Small Things’


For any of us to move beyond, from what I understand, we must go through de-colonization processes of unlearning and re-learning much of what we have been taught.

My own process of de-colonization is about going to the core of my own assumptions of what I think is true or ‘right’ — for example, about the stories through which I was taught in school (particularly with reference to ‘history’ that is often incredibly one-sided and narrow) and all sorts of aspects of my life, or how I have chosen and will continue to choose to live my life (what is important to me and what I value), particularly my so-called ‘professional’ life.

All of us have to learn to ‘be professional’ to be absorbed into any working system. To get to the point that I was working as a lecturer in academia, I had to unsurprisingly jump through all sorts of professional hoops.

Within the walls of the university, I have often sat through long departmental meetings and reflected on the communication structures that are in place during those hours – how we communicate, the words and the tones that we use, who dictates the flow of communication, the minute and mundane details – typically around illogical administrative expectations – that occupy hours of discussion, the context of where we are actually sitting (inside plain, institutional walls). The air is stale. There is no fresh breath of creative life during these hours. Yet, this is the essence of professionalism. The conduct and criteria carried out during these meetings.

My quest to de-professionalize my so-called professionalized self came long before leaving the institutional halls of academia. I have always pushed boundaries, this is part of who I am, and I am highly sensitive to structures of power and authority. I am sure my parents have much to say on this topic! :)


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This wonderful book, along with several others related to unlearning, is published through Shikshantar: The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development and is freely downloadable here: http://www.swaraj.org/shikshantar/stories_resistance.html


My sensitivity to power also led me to my post-graduate studies which were essentially a critical exploration of power structures within the education and international development fields.

How we each experience and ‘exercise’ power – on each other and on ourselves — and why we do so as well as the effects this (can) has – have been burning questions and interests that have consumed many hours of my life.   I use the term ‘exercise’ here as I feel that we all are constantly receiving and exercising power. It is what makes us human. Explorations of power are not only an intellectual exercise for me — in fact, it has been a passion of ethical, moral and even spiritual belief.

There is much about leaving my academic work in the UK and embarking on this journey that is to do with ‘de-professionalizing’ myself, to somehow disconnect with the hierarchical structural centre of academia, whilst still staying connected at the margins.

I want to disentangle myself from the constraints of rationalism that comes through forms of institutional power and authority that I experienced during my time in studying and working in academia.


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This logo comes from the ‘Institute of Unlearning’ website: http://www.unlearning.org/home.htm

  

I want to unlearn the hierarchies of power and legitimacy, particularly around leadership, knowledge and relating, I feel that I placed on myself to be able to survive within the institutionalized system.

I want to experience and learn more about how generosity and hospitality can be a central priority (how it can be offered) that has often been devoid within the academic system.

I want my learning to be transformational, not imposed.

Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educational activist (whose writing is accessible and inspirational) wrote in his most well-known book Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the young generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.

In the academic environment, as in many institutional working environments, leadership decisions, ways of relating and professional conduct most often take rational forms for efficiency and accountability. And, being rational tends to be driven mostly, if not almost entirely, by ourheads. In other words, our hearts tend to be marginalized, if not silenced.


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This image comes from the blog ‘All things learning’ — http://allthingslearning.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/unlearning-teacher-learning/

Rather than working only through our heads (as is the dominant form of learning in the educational system, including academia), Udi and I have both struggled to continue allowing our hearts to lead our work, our ideas, our relationships – with students and staff within and outside the walls of the university.

As the university becomes increasingly bureaucratized and corporatized, there is very little space for anything beyond teaching-learning relationships that are based on efficiency. Thus, teaching-learning relationships that are based on co-creativity, generosity, curiosity, hospitality are becoming increasingly rare.

When we each learn through and make decisions with our hearts (rather than only our heads), there is more life. What I have experienced in each of the places we have visited over these last 7 months – is that learning, relating and leading is prioritized as much with the heart, the hands and the home —- as the head. This is because learning is about connecting first and foremost – connecting between theory and practice, connecting to a deep sense of self with community and the land and all of its beings.

It is a somewhat brave step for me (part of the de-professionalizing process I think) to open up personally on this topic. I feel slightly timid, like I am about to jump into cold water. I know the water will be refreshing and rejuvenating, but it is still somehow intimidating. However, I feel it is important for my own un-learning.

If you are still reading at this stage, thank you! I’d love to hear comments and feedback — and even more, to hear about your own experiences of resistance in your professional life, or your own un-learning, de-colonizing or de-professionalizing processes!


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This image comes from a blog – ‘artsyville’ — posting March 23, 2009 ‘an odd kind of math’ — http://artsyville.blogspot.com.au/2009_03_01_archive.html

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Desarrollo = Cosmovisión y Crianza… Aprendiendo de PRATEC

Desarrollo = Cosmovisión y Crianza… Aprendiendo de PRATEC

Posted by on feb 1, 2013 in all posts, Peru, PRATEC | 0 comments

Estamos en el barrio de Barranco, otra vez bajo el cielo gris de Lima, relajándonos en un café tras otro peligroso viaje en taxi a través del tráfico agresivo. Acabamos de tener una reunión de 90 minutos y una entrevista con Grimaldo Rengifo Vásquez, uno de los fundadores de  PRATEC (Proyecto Andino de Tecnologías Campesinas), una red de organizaciones que trabajan con las comunidades indígenas en todo el Perú a través de una perspectiva que valoriza y que busca fortalecer el conocimiento y las prácticas andinas. Grimaldo Rengifo Vásquez, Eduardo Grillo, Greslou François y Marcela Velásquez, profesionales del desarrollo y la agronomía que no estaban satisfechos con los modelos de desarrollo que estaban siendo aplicados sin ningún tipo de cuestionamiento en Perú y en otros países, iniciaron esta organización en 1986.

Como Frederique Apffel-Marglin escribió en un maravilloso artículo sobre PRATEC en 2002:

En el curso de sus actividades profesionales eventualmente llegaron a la conclusión de que el desarrollo en sí era el problema. Esta toma de conciencia no vino rápidamente, sino que emergió lentamente después de una vida de actividad profesional al servicio del desarrollo. Al principio pensaron que las cosas no estaban funcionando porque las metodologías que utilizaban eran defectuosas. Trabajaron duro para diseñar mejores metodologías. Atravesaron muchas fases y diversas modas: el desarrollo comunitario, el desarrollo participativo, la tecnología apropiada, el desarrollo sostenible, las mujeres y el desarrollo. Intentaron con todo lo disponible, siempre con el objetivo de captar la realidad de la agricultura campesina andina y de la vida campesina en general. Por fin llegaron a la conclusión de que ninguna metodología serviría para lo que ellos buscaban,  y que el problema radicaba en la idea misma del desarrollo. Es en esta coyuntura que dejaron sus actividades profesionales y su estabilidad laboral y fundaron PRATEC, una organización no gubernamental. En otras palabras, se desprofesionalizaron. Habían llegado a la conclusión de que el desarrollo había fracasado. Las pruebas se hallaban esparcidas por todo el paisaje peruano en lo que algunos de sus colegas han llamado “la arqueología del desarrollo”, es decir, las infraestructuras en ruinas, abandonadas a la intemperie después de que los funcionarios del proyecto se habían ido, descuidadas por los campesinos para quienes habían sido destinadas y dejadas a deteriorarse. La evidencia también se hallaba en sus repetidos esfuerzos por idear y encontrar mejores metodologías y la toma de conciencia final de que dentro de su perspectiva profesional y sus limitaciones, era imposible aproximar el desarrollo a la realidad campesina  y por lo tanto hacer el desarrollo relevante para las vidas de los campesinos.

From Fieldwork to Mutual Learning: Working with PRATEC. Environmental Values 11 (2002): 345–67. Traducción no oficial. La cita textual del libro en inglés se encuentra en la versión en inglés de este post. 

Me gusta especialmente esta imagen de una arqueología del desarrollo: las huellas en ruinas de esquemas fallidos, soñados en otros lugares con visiones diferentes de lo que es el buen vivir, ahora dispersos por todo el paisaje, siendo tapados por la vegetación y convirtiéndose en casas de aves e insectos. Supongo que el equipo PRATEC considera el paisaje de las ideas del desarrollo igualmente lleno de esquemas a medio cocinar, ahora tirados inútiles sobre el piso, a la merced de elementos diseñados en las distantes oficinas de alguna gran organización, lejana de las vidas cotidianas de las personas aquí en Perú. Y en la foto de abajo, ¡cuántas cosmovisiones diferentes, cuántos modelos diferentes de desarrollo hacia la buena vida existen!

Un mapa de los grupos indígenas en Perú que encontramos en las oficinas de PRATEC en Lima. Foto tomada por Udi.

En nuestra reunión con Grimaldo, él nos contó la historia del surgimiento de la organización a mediados de la década de 1980, en medio de un clima de violencia y conflicto en el país a raíz de los levantamientos guerrilleros. Décadas de proyectos de desarrollo, los efectos de este conflicto y de las invasiones neoliberales apoyadas por el estado sobre las tierras indígenas y sus recursos, habían dejado a estas poblaciones en un estado de desesperación, destruyendo la base cultural o tejido social que había sostenido a estas comunidades durante miles de años. El conflicto con la guerrilla solamente, Grimaldo nos dijo, había matado a 70.000 personas, la mayoría indígenas.

A partir de entonces Grimaldo dijo que un nuevo período de reconstrucción había comenzado entre estos grupos y PRATEC se convirtió en su socio/compañero en este proceso. Esto implicó para PRATEC llegar a entender otra cultura y cosmovisión (una manera de ver, estar y ser en el universo) diferente de la suya. Para Grimaldo, la cosmovisión de los Andes peruanos era diferente a la cultura amazónica campesina donde fue criado, pero también de la agronomía académica en la que se había formado en la universidad. La base fundamental, la que sostiene a esta cultura andina, es la agricultura y la cosmovisión de la crianza que caracteriza a las relaciones de la gente con la naturaleza.

Choba choba, o trabajo comunitario en la chacra, Lamas. Foto tomada por Kelly.

A menudo nos encontramos con esta palabra crianza. La escuchamos en la ciudad de Lamas, donde el proyecto local Wama Wasi, que forma parte de la red de PRATEC, trabaja con las comunidades Quechua Lamas en esta región del norte del Amazonas. Lo escuchamos en nuestras conversaciones con Elena Pardo en Cusco, en CEPROSI (Centro de Promoción y Salud Integral), que también forma parte de la red PRATEC, que trabaja con comunidades quechuas que viven alrededor de esta región de los Andes.

Nos encantó este término, crianza; tiene una profundidad y una belleza para transmitir el corazón de esta cosmovisión tan extendida en la región. También tiene profundas conexiones con la publicación anterior de Kelly sobre  Maize and milpa in Mexico, y las publicaciones sobre el búfalo en Alberta. A nuestro entender, el término crianza significa que las personas ayudan a crear y a mantener, o nutrir, la naturaleza, mientras que la naturaleza a su vez, ayuda a crear, mantener y nutrir a la gente. La relación es de parentesco, de la misma familia, y por lo tanto muy diferente de la forma habitual en que hemos llegado a comprender “la agricultura”, donde los cultivos son “producidos”. El concepto tradicional de “agricultura” no implica de ninguna forma o no tiene en cuenta el que el “agri”, los cultivos, nos estén también “produciendo” a nosotros. Esta relación, práctica y comprensión de la “naturaleza” como estando por fuera de nosotros y siendo manipulada por nosotros para nuestros propios objetivos y fines cada vez más puramente comerciales, es reemplazada por un sentido de mutualidad y reciprocidad. Ayudo a las plantas a crecer porque ellas me ayudan a crecer, y los dos somos parte de una colectividad más grande que es, en esta cosmovisión, nuestra madre tierra, un ser vivo que nos mantiene a todos vivos.

La singularidad de PRATEC ha sido la de practicar una escucha profunda y aprender de las comunidades indígenas con las que trabajan. En lugar de comenzar desde el lugar de “expertos” educados en una cosmovisión particular, empleando palabras tales como “progreso”, “desarrollo”, “reducción de la pobreza”, “rendimientos crecientes”, “crecimiento del PBI”, “producción de cultivos”, PRATEC en cambio le prestó atención a los valores y prácticas culturales que han sostenido la vida de estas comunidades en estos lugares durante miles de años. Llegar a conocer estos valores y prácticas, como por el ejemplo la crianza, pero también aquellos valores y prácticas que rodean al concepto de chacra, el campo o el lugar donde se practica la crianza y que constituye la mayor parte de la vida laboral de la comunidad, fue el primer paso en la trayectoria de PRATEC y sus fundadores. Vamos a escribir más sobre la chacra en un post posterior ya que es un lugar y concepto central para las comunidades Quechua Lamas que llegamos conocer, y, además, es muy similar a la milpa mexicana (ver publicaciones de Kelly sobre Maize and Milpa).

La siguiente etapa de PRATEC, tal como Grimaldo narra en la entrevista, consistió en difundir este entendimiento particular sobre la importancia de la escucha atenta y del aprender de las comunidades. Para tal fin, pasaron un período de más de quince años realizando cursos en todo el Perú para diferentes grupos de profesionales y estudiantes. Esto gradualmente llevó a la consolidación de un grupo de personas a lo largo del país, profesionales del desarrollo y la agricultura,  maestros y activistas de la comunidad, que estaban interesados en practicar este enfoque alternativo al desarrollo. La siguiente fase de trabajo de PRATEC se ha focalizado entonces en fortalecer estas prácticas y sistemas locales con el fin de alcanzar no una concepción externa y experta de la buena vida, o del desarrollo, sino para actualizar lo que esto significa para los mismos pueblos indígenas.

Todo ello ha supuesto, para las personas que trabajan en PRATEC, muchos de los cuales son agrónomos universitarios, ingenieros agrícolas y educadores, desaprender y re-aprender muchas cosas. Al igual que Grimaldo, otros con los que hablamos en PRATEC, mencionan este proceso de cuestionamiento de los supuestos y de la cosmovisión que habían aprendido en instituciones académicas y de desarrollo.

Tan penetrante y poderosa ha sido la fuerza de esta cosmovisión que promueve un determinado tipo de desarrollo y progreso impulsado por la tecnología y orientado al mercado, que una parte importante de la labor PRATEC con las comunidades locales implica reparar o corregir la des-valorización de las formas de vida indígenas que venía sucediendo desde la llegada de los españoles hace quinientos años. Resulta interesante señalar que aunque muchos de los fundadores de PRATEC y muchas de las personas que trabajan hoy en día en la organización fueron formados inicialmente en el campo de la agronomía, la mayoría de ellos están ahora activamente involucrados trabajando en el área de la educación.  Como afirma Grimaldo, la última etapa en la trayectoria de PRATEC ha sido la de trabajar con escuelas y con política educativa, como una manera de fortalecer las formas locales de conocimiento. Para este cambio es también importante la obra realizada por Elena Pardo en y alrededor de Cusco. Elena proviene del mundo de la educación: trabajó durante muchos años en el Ministerio de Educación antes de iniciar CEPROSI. Aquí en Perú, así como en México y Canadá, encontramos que la escuela es una institución clave tanto para el desmantelamiento como para la reproducción de una cosmovisión particular. Cómo PRATEC y sus organizaciones afiliadas trabajan con las escuelas será el tópico de las próximas publicaciones.

Red de los proyectos de PRATEC en Perú

El enfoque de desarrollo de PRATEC, al que algunos llaman “post-desarrollo “, es muy conocido tanto en Perú como a nivel internacional, y es a la vez respetado y controversial. Desafía a pensar en quiénes son los expertos, quiénes deberían tener el derecho de imponer el desarrollo (en particular con ciertas ideas de progreso) en una comunidad, y qué tipo de desarrollo o concepción de la buena vida deberían imponer. Cuando visitamos, Waman Wasi, una de las tantas organizaciones que integran PRATEC, en Lamas, la región norte del Amazonas, nos contaron cómo el área está llena de diferentes iniciativas de desarrollo llevadas a cabo por numerosas organizaciones, cada una con su propio conjunto de expertos, asesoramiento y modelos. Algunas ofrecen incentivos para que el pueblo Quechua Lama cultive café o cacao para exportar. La lógica detrás de esto es que el pueblo Quechua Lama debe entrar en la economía monetaria mundial para satisfacer sus necesidades, ya que son pobres (de dinero). Para Wama Wasi, con quien pasamos tiempo, este enfoque no reconoce la autonomía y autosuficiencia de estas comunidades, ni cómo la chacra representa una cosmovisión que sustenta toda una forma de vida, no sólo materialmente, sino también culturalmente, en términos de los roles familiares y las relaciones, y espiritualmente. Aunque son pobres de dinero su sentido del buen vivir no está relacionado al tener o poseer cosas, sino que está relacionado a la crianza, a la chacra, y a otros elementos de su cosmovisión que sustentan su ser y estar en el mundo.

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