The function of knowledge is to liberate

This bold and radical statement was made by Sivanandan in an editorial when, in 1974, he had been asked to take over the editorship of the IRR’s journal RACE and was changing it into Race & Class a journal ‘for Black and Third World liberation’. This conviction which has fashioned the journal till today had its origins in part in the struggle which transformed the IRR in the early 1970s which was about the type of research the IRR should be undertaking and on whose behalf. Till then the belief had been that the study of ‘race relations’ was neutral, when in fact the study was mostly aimed at helping the government to contain a ‘social problem. Out of the struggle at the IRR and the transforming of its journal in the early 1970s came the conviction that research and hence knowledge were highly politically charged. The interpreters of experience – such as academics – could do much damage in terms of setting parameters for policy-makers whilst completely excluding those under discussion from the debate. Hence his maxim, ‘the people we fighting for are the people we are writing for’.  The ‘interpreters’ had to be intelligible and accessible to all and, above all, allow the oppressed ‘the authority over their own experience’.