Innovative, justice-based partnerships for development require an intellectual foundation which adequately integrates distributive and representative justice with existential and cognitive aspects. This paper addresses cognitive justice as a basic precondition for achieving just partnerships. Using Dabashi’s provocation, ‘Can Non-Europeans Think?’ to open out debates about knowledge and the (de)coloniality of power, it argues that development partnerships (the key means to attaining sustainable development) must take claims of epistemic and cognitive justice seriously to significantly change our thought and practices.
The discussion problematizes assumptions about knowledge, systems and evidence, using Mignolo’s decolonial schema. Without due consideration of ‘sanctioned ignorance’, the development profession remains complicit with the coloniality of power. Decoloniality starts with greater methodological attention to ontology and epistemology, as these shape problem framing and problem choice, while pointing to the elisions of colonial modernity.
Four main practical strategies are considered: i) curricular ‘de-linking’; ii) situated place and person-centred knowledges, iii) adopting pluralizing, connected ways of thinking about culture(s) and iv) developing shared transformative methodologies for research and practice.
The concluding observation is that DSAI has collective responsibilities toward cognitive justice, given its role in professional education and enculturation, and as a platform for practical and scholarly communications.