A Reader- Foreword by Akwasi Asabere-Ameyaw
Edited By George J. Sefa Dei
23. Revealing the Secular Fence of Knowledge: Towards Reimagining Spiritual Ways of Knowing and Being in the Academy Riyad Shahjahan & Kimberly Haverkos 367
WHAT IS A FENCE? Afence is a structure that directs movement by restricting and preventing passage across aboundary. It both excludes and contains, while simultaneously demarcating space. It is con- sidered a safety and security device for property owners as it prevents trespassers, wanderers, and predators from entering. It also limits the view from both inside and outside. In this chapter , the metaphor of the fence is used to illustrate the construction and maintenance of dominant forms of knowledge production in Western academia. In its quest to maintain control over the production of knowledge, the academy has erected a secular “fence of knowledge” which permits the entry of cer- tain epistemologies and ways of being while leaving others outside the “gates” of the academy. By the term “academy,” we are referring to universities and colleges and not to K-12 schools, because we want to situate our discussion in the context of the “highest” centers of learning locat- ed in the West—those spaces where the “fence” is strongly guarded. A secular epistemological vision does not simply insist that religious practice and belief be confined to a space where it cannot threat- en political stability or the liberties of “free-thinking” citizens, but it builds on a particular concep- tion of the world (“natural” and “social”) and of the problems generated by that world (Asad, 2003, p. 191). Within the academy, the secular fence of knowledge concentrates the effects of a secular epis- temology by privileging certain knowledge forms (e.g., empiricism, rationalism,...
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