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    Ugly democracy: towards epistemic disobedience in development education

    da Costa, Marta (2023) Ugly democracy: towards epistemic disobedience in development education. Policy and Practice: A Development Education Review, 36 (Spring). pp. 14-32. ISSN 1748-135X

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    Abstract

    In the current context of global threats to democratic life, through a rise in fascism, populism and right-wing governments, the thirty-sixth issue of Policy and Practice: A Development Education Review calls and opens a space for reflecting on ‘development education’s distinctive and rounded view of democracy’. This article answers the call by engaging with this current problem-space and the answers development education in Europe have historically mobilised in response to it (Scott, 2004). Rather than starting from the position that the current forms of violence we are witnessing are not democratic or ‘real’ representations of freedom, the article addresses democracy – a modern construct – in its entirety, examining the entanglements between democracy, development education, and modern/colonial systems of oppression. Drawing on political perspectives from contexts where democracy is assumed and contexts where it was imposed, the article aims to dislodge the self-evident position of democracy as the universally desirable answer for development education, and consider the possibilities opened by starting from a position where democracy is part of the problem as well. Building on, and contributing to, decolonial scholarship in the field, the article draws on Elizabeth R. Anker’s (2022) study of ugly freedoms as a framework from which to complexify discussions about democracy and consider possibilities for thinking about development education differently – through more compromised, understated engagements with global issues that resist investments in purity, ‘doing’ and certainties, opening different possibilities for thinking and experiencing freedom. The article ends by suggesting a set of reflexive questions that might support interrogations of democracy in development education practice.

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