Strategic Narcissism: A Lived Experience of ‘Decolonising’, Inclusion of and ‘Collaborations’ with Indigenous Researchers

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Heba Abd el Gawad


Based on my lived experience, the current decolonizing turn towards increasing the inclusion of and collaborations with indigenous researchers is characterized by strategic narcissism. Collaborations are shaped by wishful thinking, ignoring our lived experience and realities on the ground. While decolonizing is framed by Global North academic institutions as a moral project, it could be seen as empty, exploitative and extractive by indigenous researchers. In this short commentary, I reflect on recent ‘decolonial’ attempts to reform the practices and policies of inclusions of and collaborations with indigenous researchers based on my lived experience as an indigenous Egyptian heritage and museums researcher. I argue that the current promotion of Eurocentric perceptions of equity and ethics as universal is rooted in strategic narcissism. It serves the Global North in clearing its consciousness while forcing indigenous researchers into colonial assimilation and violence. I call for a shift towards empathy as an indigenous-centred approach to dismantling current recolonizing decolonial framing honouring the emotional tax and lived experience of indigenous researchers. Global North institutions and researchers are invited to self-reflect and question for whom are they doing this decolonizing work?

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