Bilchiinsi Philosophy: Decolonizing Methodologies in Media Studies

Abstract: In recent times, there have been calls for decolonization in academia as a whole and the field of communication and media studies with particular focus on narratives such as #CommunicationSoWhite and #RhetoricSoWhite. Despite these wide calls for decolonization there remains a lacuna of research on the topic within the African academy. Drawing on what I call an African feminist autoethnography framework grounded in a decolonial philosophy of Bilchiinsi, I present critical reflections on my experiences as an African scholar conducting research on media studies on the continent. I argue that although canonical theories can be useful in theorizing African media systems, it is imperative to decolonize research by first looking to Indigenous African epistemologies and knowledge systems to support knowledge production in media studies and communication(s). I draw on my experiences as a scholar co-creating knowledge with marginalized communities in Northern Ghana to discuss the legitimacy of African knowledge systems and parse out methodological strategies that were informed by these knowledge systems. I demonstrate the ways in which my knowledge gathering in this region is guided by the Dagbaŋ philosophy of Bilchiinsi which ontologically emphasizes respecting the human dignity of interlocutors. I highlight the need for a paradigm shift in knowledge-building in media studies and communication(s) especially when African communities are the focus.