My name is Michael Dudley, the Indigenous and Urban Services Librarian at the University of Winnipeg. In this blog I will be exploring the intersections between the systems of knowledge and ways of knowing represented by both libraries and diverse cultures, especially Indigenous ones. Specifically, I will consider the ways in which libraries — as repositories of normatively-structured information employing hierarchical, Western, rational systems that name, organize and make accessible the world of knowledge — may be “decolonized” so as to recognize and incorporate other ways of knowing and being, and therefore be better able to serve and engage with multiple publics.
About the masthead image:
This is a photo of a centuries-old “Geography of Africa” tome housed in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria. I present it here as a metaphor for the present project: a book printed during the Imperial era, offering the then-current state of European knowledge about the world — in this case Africa — by Europeans and for Europeans. The cherubs above (white, of course) carry a banner labelling the scene for us, and the African “Other” is portrayed as a cornucopia-like source of wealth, offering forth the bounty of the Continent, including ivory, to the European reader. The promise of civilization awaits in the form of the massive obelisk on the horizon, even as serpents portend that the knowledge gained in Africa may be dangerous.
It is, in other words, a near-perfect manifestation of the Colonial model of the world — a model that (as we shall be discussing) would be subsequently legitimated and codified in library classification and cataloguing schemes.
NOTE: The content on this blog are the opinions and statements of the author, and do not represent those of the University of Winnipeg or the University of Winnipeg Library.