Positionality statements as a function of coloniality: interrogating reflexive methodologies

Jasmine K. Gani, Rabea Khan

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Declaration of positionality and the confession of privilege as a way of revealing unequal power dynamics in knowledge production has become an increasingly encouraged reflexive practice in international relations and other disciplines. However, we interrogate the potentially negative implications of this methodology, occurring through a reification of material, assumed, and imagined hierarchies between people, which then is advertised and (re)produced by its utterance. We further query the modernist origins of reflexive methodology, which has inspired the practice of declaring positionality, and argue that its underpinning coloniality has bearings for its use today. We then explore how this coloniality manifests: Thus, first, we consider the extent to which publicly acknowledging privilege paradoxically acts as a means of centering whiteness through the narcissistic gaze and an assertion of legitimacy. Second, we argue positionality statements offer a redemption of guilt for the hegemonic researcher. And lastly, rather than ameliorating unequal power dynamics in the production of knowledge, we contend positionality statements may constitute hidden power moves in which one is able to signal and reinstate one’s authority vis-à-vis people, but especially women, of color. We end with a call for a reparative scholarship that acknowledges these limitations in positionality statements.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbersqae038
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number2
Early online date9 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


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