Changing the “Dristi” - Reversing the Gaze and Providing a More Holistic Perspective
The large-scale epistemicide on a global level was a direct result of the colonization of the world (Bonaventura de Sousa Santos, 2014). Beginning in the 16th century, the practise of colonialism resulted in the epistemically, ontologically, and temporally divided as well as hierarchically organised world that Anibal Quijano (2007) refers to as the colonial matrix of power. Epistemes are modes of thought and knowledge; they determine the bounds of what can be known, as well as what constitutes valid knowledge and how such knowledge can be produced in a valid manner (Meghji, 2021). Knowledge traditions in the colonized countries were not just devalued, but in the process, devalued the very existence of the people who had constructed the various knowledge systems. For centuries, the countries in the south had to tolerate what has been termed as ‘methodological eurocentrism’ (Bhambra, 2014). Such was the stronghold of the western worldview on the colonized that it turned them into ‘captive minds’ (Alatas, 2007), where the intellectual, even those located in the south, adopted “uncritical and imitative approach to ideas and concepts from the West”. Hence, there were calls made to ‘provincialize’ European social thought (Chakrabarty, 2009) as well as re-establish its own episteme.
While there is a need to expose the interplay between power, knowledge (epistemology) and being (ontology) and how the imbalances of power created during colonialism had epistemic-ontological dimensions, it is also necessary that we conceptualize Indian Knowledge Systems (IKS) as a universal episteme. For us, it is as much about turning the gaze as providing an alternative to western ontologies and epistemologies.
Even, the subjects which have western origins need to be reconceptualized from an Indic lens, and some of these efforts can start with the G-20 summit itself. However, the objective here is not to establish yet another hierarchy; rather, it is to combine and synchronise radically different worldviews and practises from around the world that point toward a world that is ecologically responsible and socially just.