In horizontal position there are many things to invent: horizontality in knowledge production institutions: Perspective or paradox?

Receipt: February 23, 2023

Acceptance: March 31, 2023

Horizontality in knowledge production institutions: perspective or paradox?

Sarah Corona Berkin (coord.), 2022 CALAS-Gedisa, Mexico, 328 pp.

More than two decades ago, Dr. Sarah Corona Berkin proposed a powerful concept that questioned the conventional methods of knowledge production, through which she sought to transform the colonial and heteronomic relations of research laden with symbolic violence for dialogic methods of horizontal research. This proposal was based on his experience of accompaniment and construction of knowledge with communities. wixaritari in Jalisco and Nayarit.

The horizontal production of knowledge, more than a theoretical-methodological proposal, constitutes a form of dialogic production of knowledge, human relations and inclusive options of the world in the face of vampiric and extractivist perspectives that consider the subjects as objects of study or de-subjectivized and appropriated as informants. Thus, the horizontal production of knowledge seeks to understand, interpret and transform social conditions from the dialogic relationship of the diverse voices, perspectives and knowledge that participate in situated realities and assumes that a single perspective is incapable or insufficient to achieve this.

The horizontal construction of knowledge is a contextual, dialogic and situated process that seeks a collective production of knowledge, in which everyone is present from places that do not correspond to the original positions or languages, but from a mutant dialogue of appropriations and recreations that modify and broaden individual and collective horizons of understanding, interpretation and participation, avoiding the political trap of trying to know others without their participation.

From these first approaches, an outstanding group of researchers was articulated that strengthened the research perspective of horizontality through the Horizontal Knowledge Production Network, with the participation of co-authors of this work who have written important texts, such as Between voices... Fragments of "cross-cultural" educationby Sarah Corona Berkin (2007), which is based on the educational experiences of indigenous teachers. wixaritari and Western mestizos on "inter-cultural" communication and education of current and relevant issues for young people with a positioning that names the political relations between different and unequal subjects in the public space.

Another book along these lines is Ver con los otros. Comunicación intercultural by Jesús Martín Barbero and Sarah Corona Berkin (2017), which has an impact on academic debates concerned with the role of the scientific field in the (re)production of colonial order and social inequality, through a critical platform on the hegemony of the West and the ways of seeing through its science and technology, in which the construction of the image is defined by the cultural context and its impact on people's social place.

Epistemic vigilance and the double hermeneutic frame the dialogic framework of See with the othersThe project, which contains a strong conviction that research is carried out to prefigure a better world and requires everyone to participate in the definition of the complex dialogic structure that defines what I have called the "condition of the world". emticand blurring the boundaries between what is etic and the emicThe inside and the outside, the researcher who investigates and the object of study, the normalized self and the exotic other, the legitimized knowledge and the proscribed knowledges.

Another collective work that precedes the book that is the subject of this review is Horizontality. Towards a critique of methodologyedited by Inés Cornejo and Mario Ruffer (2020), which makes an epistemological critique on the production of knowledge that aimed to equalize the terms of the dialogue between researchers and researched and to see, from the spatial metaphor, that the word invokes and the horizon is always beyond.

Rather than presenting the path traced from the thematic axes defined by the book reviewed, which involves personal knowledge that the authors have experienced in the institutions, the texts address the peripheral, residual or emerging expressions of knowledge production that express and resist the normalizing, hierarchical and overpowering weight of the institutions, recognizing the institutional limits that limit or facilitate the production of new knowledge.

The reflective, critical and illuminating perspective of this work is based on the involvement of its authors in the institutional frameworks that interpret the colonial forms of knowledge production, the bureaucratic and disciplining institutional relations, as well as the commitment to make visible other possible conditions from the horizontal production of knowledge oriented to the conformation of decolonial and democratic projects that are more egalitarian and participatory.

The four sections that make up this book correspond to a taxonomy of knowledge producing institutions imagined as realities enhanced by the incorporation of horizontal forms in their operations. These classificatory sections are identified by Sarah Corona Berkin and María del Carmen de la Peza in the "Introduction", as they take into consideration the debate based on international experiences for the production of knowledge, institutions whose main objectives are to finance, develop and communicate new knowledge production; state institutional experiences whose purpose is to produce knowledge for better public coexistence and bureaucracy as a condition of existence of modern state institutions.

The horizontal commitment to establish methods of knowledge production is inscribed in a humanistic perspective that seeks to avoid the de-subjectivization of those who participate in the germinal dialogue of knowledge, who are frequently reduced to things or objects, their dialogue is denied, their knowledge is degraded or they are reduced to inputs for meta-interpretations validated from the rickety and tired codes that sustain the disciplinary system of the social sciences.

The horizontal method of knowledge production aims at transforming knowledge-power into power-knowledge and power-knowledge. This proposal is inscribed in the zones of contact between different and unequal knowledge, actors and social situations, which is why it must fulfill a strategic function of deconstructing the powers that produce, reproduce, structure and institute these unequal and subaltern relations. The horizontal deconstruction of powers makes it possible to strip away the appearance of objectivity and methodological asepsis that conceal the role of heteronomic perspectives in the reproduction of the social order, its ideological frameworks and the powers that maintain and reproduce it.

It is interesting to analyze the texts that make up this work in terms of horizontal deconstruction of inter- and intra-institutional knowledge and powers in accordance with the clues, experiences and proposals made by their authors, as is the case with the power-knowledge networks inscribed in international cooperation relations and projects analyzed by Gabriela Sánchez Gutiérrez and Raúl Cabrera Amador in "Instituciones internacionales. Horizontalidad e instituciones de cooperación internacional"; in "Algunas rutas para descolonizar la investigación internacional: desandando el poder en sentido contrario" by Renée de la Torre, as well as in "Horizontalizar las Naciones Unidas: la experiencia de los pueblos indígenas" by Jochen Kemner.

In Horizontality in knowledge production institutions: perspective or paradox? critically question the functioning, organization, criteria and power structures that define the action of the institutions dedicated to generate, organize and manage the production of scientific knowledge, as can be seen in the text by María del Carmen de la Peza Casares: "La horizontalidad en las instituciones de financiamiento a la ciencia: el caso del Conacyt México"; or in "Las instituciones de divulgación científica en México: mover el eje comunicativo hacia la horizontalidad" by Mario Andrés De Leo Winkler.

Interpretations on the hierarchies and structures of power-knowledge and the biopolitical devices that define the functioning and asymmetrical relations in health, cultural, psychiatric and judicial institutions are also explored, such as those found in "La horizontalidad en las instituciones de salud" by Beatriz Nogueira Beltrão and Carlos Alberto Navarrete; in "Instituciones estatales. Requerir cultura, administrar el mito: paradojas de la horizontalidad en instituciones culturales estatales" by Mario Rufer and Maai Ortiz and in "De cómo reciprocar" by María G. Lugones.

Likewise, Sarah Corona Berkin, in the chapter "La cuarta reforma de los libros de texto gratuito. Un proceso horizontal", offers an important interpretation of the conceptual axes and the political rationale that organizes free textbooks from a critical, diachronic and trans-sexennial perspective. Finally, in "Democracia traspapelada. Towards a critique of the really existing paperwork", David Bak Geler makes a sharp reflection on the discomfort generated by the entangled bureaucratic worlds -identified as protective instances of collective interests- to the members of the upper classes and power groups, for whom bureaucratic mediations become cumbersome obstacles, because they are used to impose their wills and interests without obstacles, inconveniences or regulations.

Beyond the research projects and the academic networks generated, the Horizontal Knowledge Production Network became the Scientific Research Program, a la Imre Lakatos, in which a theoretical-conceptual perspective organizes long-term research fields that articulate diverse investigations and form a heuristic and dialogic platform of research-action and incidence, made from relationships of horizontality in the research-transformation process between subjects that transform the researcher and researched relationship in the generation of knowledge, a process that also affects processes of change in their proxemic frameworks.

I highly recommend Horizontality in knowledge production institutions: perspective or paradox?I consider it essential for researchers and teachers interested in the construction of research processes that seek to influence the social reality to transform it into a better place to live, more inclusive, more democratic and happier.


Corona, Sarah (2007). Entre voces… Fragmentos de educación “entrecultural”. Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara.

Barbero, Jesús Martín y Sarah Corona Berkin (2017). Ver con los otros. Comunicación intercultural. México: fce.

Cornejo, Inés y Mario Ruffer (eds.) (2020). Horizontalidad: hacia una crítica de la metodología. Buenos Aires: clacso; México: Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos Avanzados (calas).

José Manuel Valenzuela Arceemeritus research professor at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte and emeritus researcher of the National System of Researchers (Sistema Nacional de Investigadores).sni) of Conahcyt. He holds a PhD in Social Sciences with a major in Sociology from El Colegio de México and a Ph. honoris causa by the Autonomous University of Baja California. His works have been pioneering and of great importance for the understanding of the socio-cultural processes that define the U.S.-Mexico border, Latin American cultural studies, popular cultures and youth movements in Latin America and the United States. His most recent books are: The dance of the extinct. Juvenicide, violence and hitman powers in Latin America.. México: udg/colef, 2022; y Cuchumá. The sacred mountain of Tecate. Mexico: Gedisa/colef, 2022. She is currently on a sabbatical research stay at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Instituto de Investigaciones Culturales-Museo.


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