The following is the video and transcript of the sixth “Critical Conversation”, a monthly Zoom seminar with advance registration sponsored by The New Polis and Whitestone Publications and involving indigenous and international scholars. The seminar took place on Jan. 12, 2020
Roger Green: Good morning, everybody. Thank you for your patience. My name is Roger Green, I’m the General Editor of The New Polis. I want to thank you all for being here from all around the globe. Especially, we want to thank Walter Mignolo and Victor Taylor, who my colleague Carl—who’s doing some of the technical stuff right now—is going to introduce in just a few minutes.
I have a couple of announcements to make as we get started. One is please keep your mics muted when you’re not speaking because of the background noise. And as questions arise, you want to put them into the dialog box as they come up, we’ll be taking questions in the second part of the talk—the second hour. Today is the one of multiple—it’s our most widely attended so far—”Critical Conversations” and so, just a couple of things to think about, first of all we’re always calling for more submissions on The New Polis for writing.
You do not need to be an academic to be a contributor to The New Polis at all, and we take general submissions or submissions particularly right now on issues related to decoloniality, to the doctrine of discovery, to indigenous issues—that’s a particular focus that we have this spring. So, we have today’s talk, on February 9th we will have another talk with Tink Tinker who’s wazhazhe / Osage Nation and Glenn Morris, who I believe I saw in the chat earlier today, and is Shawnee and runs The Fourth World Center at CU Denver, and they will be talking about critiquing issues of the language around sovereignty for American Indians in particular.
In March we will have Jonathan Fardy, talking about his little book Althusser and Art and so we’ll be asking people to maybe read it, because it’s very short. And then Walter will be back with us for a whole conference around decoloniality in April and he will be one of our keynote speakers, and we invite you all if you’re working on these issues to contribute to or possibly propose something for the conference as well. There’s a link that will be up on The New Polis later on today with more information around that.
And then, just one last reminder here, if you are contributing to this, as you can see, we are recording right now and if you do end up participating, just know that we are recording this and that we will re-release the videos with transcripts on the website—we have another transcript from last month’s talk which was with Barbara Mann, a Seneca scholar and Tink Tinker as well on issues of native world view, so be looking for that as well, it’s just been the holiday so the transcript is still coming. Without further ado, I’m going to introduce my colleague Dr Carl Raschke from the University of Denver, who will introduce Victor and Walter. Thank you for being here.
Carl Raschke: Thank you, Roger. I just wanted to add one thing about the recording. This is for pure formal legal reasons, so don’t sweat it, that if you participate in this seminar you are, by participating, de facto allowing us to record and publish whatever you say and, so forth. So, if by chance you don’t want that to happen you need to unparticipate.
Okay, so Roger mentioned the conference we’re having, the call for presentations, which will include not only academics. We want people who are not academics as much to be involved in the presentations, in the conversations, particularly community people, perhaps not just locally in Denver which is technically the virtual hard side of the conference but wherever. In other words, we want this to be both a local and a global—let’s call it a glocal—conversation. So, that call will be up later today or late this evening at the latest—it will be on The New Polis. If you will look in the chat right now you can see the general URL for The New Polis. So, stay tuned for that.
Okay, so I want to introduce our next participant who is a longtime friend and colleague of mine. He and I have worked very closely together in running what is a non-profit organization that sponsors The New Polis and also other publications such as The Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory which has been around actually since 1999—it was the second electronic academic journal to be founded. So, its coming up on its 21st anniversary right now.
Victor has been not only a director of the white stone foundation since early on, but he is executive editor for The Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory and by extension for The New Polis—we also have an arts publication known Esthesis.org, or arts related, arts discourse publication, you might say. These are all part of the family of White Stone Publications. So, that being all said, I’ll turn it over to Victor and again please watch for the announcement of the conference.
Victor Taylor: Okay great. Thank you very much, carl and thank you, Roger. I appreciate this opportunity. And also thank you to Walter for agreeing to participate today. Just to sort of preview of what we’re going to do, I have a PowerPoint presentation, slide deck, and a couple years ago Walter and I did something similar at the University of Pennsylvania, and what we’ll do is, I have some key passages from On Decoloniality and I’ll have Walter sort of reflect on these and elaborate on some of the key concepts that will provide participants who may not be very familiar with Walter’s work a context for the conversation today, and for those of you who are very familiar with his work, it’ll give you a kind of different insight into his thinking about these critical concepts.
Carl Raschke: Excuse me, Victor, could you just give a de facto bio of Walter?
Victor Taylor: And that’s what I’m going to do, that’s what I’m going to do now. So, to begin with, I’ll share my screen—and Roger is that good? Thank you. So, the conversation, if you can see, is from Walter’s recent book, On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, and Praxis, and it’s a real honor to be here today with Walter. We met several years ago when he came to York College and gave a brilliant talk for us. Actually, Carl was part of the same series that year, I believe.
So, just as a kind of quick biography, although he doesn’t need much of an introduction—he’s widely known as a scholar—Professor Mignolo, as it says here, is the William Hane Wannamaker Distinguished Professor of Romance Studies and—we want to include the “and”—and Professor of Literature at Duke University. Professor Mignolo has written more than 15 to 20 books, numerous articles. If you look on YouTube, there are numerous interviews that he does. He’s incredibly generous with his time with scholars and he is also quite adept at moving the entire critical field forward with his insights.
So, I don’t want to be hyperbolic, but I think Walter is probably one of the most significant thinkers in colonial studies today, and I really appreciate his work very much and I know that many of you do as well. I think some of you probably know his book The Darker Side of the Renaissance. It’s widely read in the humanities and graduate seminars, not to mention the other related book The Darker Side of Western Modernity. These are sort of classics in the field that everyone has read.
And then this latest book, On Decoloniality, I think is an excellent critical dive into the concept. I think Walter and his co-author Catherine Walsh have done a wonderful job of presenting decoloniality in a very interesting context that looks forward—it’s very forward-looking. When we were at Penn and The Slot Foundation, many of the questions, toward the end, were really about Walter’s work going forward and the presentation will end with Walter describing his forthcoming book with Duke University Press.
All right, so with that let me begin with sort of biography II. Walters research focus, and this comes from the Duke “People” page, so I’m presuming that it’s entirely accurate—if not Walter can correct it—but as we see here on the slide: “Professor Minolo’s research stands on four basic premises”—and for those of you who may not be very familiar with decoloniality it’s sort of important to note these points—these premises are that “a) the there is no world-system before 1500 and the integration of America in the Western Christian (European) imaginary; b) that the world-system generated the idea of “newness” (the New World) and of modernity and c) that there is no modernity without coloniality” and I think that this is a critical point to keep in mind during the slide deck “coloniality is constitutive not derivative of modernity; d) the modern/colonial imaginary was mounted and maintained on the invention of the Human and Humanity that provided the point of reference for the invention of racism and sexism together with the invention of nature.”
So, for those of you who are kind of maybe new to Professor Mignolo’s work, I think these four premises give us kind of four corners of this scholarship as a context. In Walter’s Academia.edu biography, which is very brief, he describes himself as a semiotician and a decolonial thinker, a semiotician from Argentina and a decolonial thinker from Argentina, too—so he’s both. So, I think the first question is, and we talked about this, it’s a very interesting sort of path toward his work today, but I’m hoping that Walter could describe that history, that path from semiotician to decolonial thinker. So, Walter, maybe you can explain the trajectory of your career to this point.
Walter Mignolo: Well, okay. It’s my turn now to thank all of you, I mean Victor for kind of kicking the ball, and then Carl and Roger for kind of playing the game and all of you to be in this room from all around the world. It’s something that we didn’t think, before Covid, to do this kind of conversation. I love this kind of conversation more than lectures, so I think that this is something that will stay with us if we survive the crisis. So, thank you again for everything.
I want to start with a couple of references to what has been said. Thank you for the introduction, Victor
If I had the chance, if we would have many days in a room, I would ask all of you, the almost 299 people listening, what does coloniality and decoloniality mean to you, because if you are here this morning, afternoon, or evening it’s not because of me, it’s because the concept of coloniality and decoloniality.
I am one of the people who are kind of thinking, living, teaching, writing around those concepts but is the concept not the people. So, the second thing I want to say when you listen, just think about, and perhaps when you intervene you may say something, what coloniality or decoloniality may mean to you. Why are you interested, attracted, or whatever feeling or sensing attach you to coloniality and decoloniality?
Roger and Carl have insisted on inviting non-academics, I think it’s very important and it’s very important, I want to stress, that coloniality is not an academic concept. Coloniality doesn’t come from the Université de Paris or Heidelberg or California or University whatever. It’s not a university concept, it’s a concept that emerged in the struggle, in the field, as an outcome of dependency theory in South America, between the Sixties and, I would say, the Eighties.
So, Quijano, Aníbal Quijano who introduced the concept, he was a sociologist, he was teaching at the University of San Marcos in in Lima, Peru but his life was more outside of the university. So, he was using the university to do his job, rather than being used by the university. So, coloniality didn’t emerge—it emerged in the early Nineties—as an academic concept, but decolonization neither. Decolonization is not an academic concept in its inception.
I don’t know if somebody in the west mentioned decolonization, but that doesn’t matter. When decolonization really took hold it’s with the struggle of the third world for liberation. So for me, the Conference of Bandung in 1955 remains a kind of icon of whatever we can say about the specific moment, the intention of Sukarno, etc but was a kind of established decolonization, not only as a kind of orientation of the struggle, but as a way of thinking and of a way of being in the world.
People thinking about decolonization, they were saying—I mean especially, I would say, the teaching that I gathered from the Bandung Conference—is neither communist nor capitalist but decolonization. And that was not the third position like Giddens or Beck, a third position that was a kind of a mixture between liberalism and communism. That was something else.
So, it was not exactly clear what decolonization meant but, basically, at that point decolonization was that the native or indigenous people in Africa and Asia will build their own nation state. When Quijano introduced the concept of decoloniality it was very clear for everybody that the state was not the solution, it was a problem. But not a problem like for Reagan, because for Reagan the state was a problem because he wanted a market to control everything.
For decolonization, or the third world, the state is a problem because it’s dependent on this interstate system and the capitalist system. So, the question today is what does decoloniality mean after the end of the cold war? So, those are the kind of the preliminary observations. Now, going back to the semiotician or the colonial thinker, before that I will say that the book itself, the book we wrote with Catherine, is a summary of 20 years of work.
What is called the collective modernity/coloniality/decoloniality was formed around 1998. So Quijano introduced the concept in ’92 but it took a while until several of us who were working around colonization, coloniality, etc didn’t know each other until somebody—Edgardo Lander from Venezuela—gathered us in Montreal at the International Association of Sociology and he organized two panels and that kind of was the beginning. It was a beginning not planned and that is the beauty of modernity/coloniality is that there never was a Chair or a CEO.
It was a group of people who kind of enjoy thinking together. And whoever organized meetings in one or another institution that year was the kind of the organizer, but it was never a chief, to put it that way. So, 20 years of work is kind of the book. It’s a summary but it’s also a looking forward—here, this is where we are at this point, according to Catherine and myself, but with the collaboration of 20-25—or perhaps more—people who are working around the concept of coloniality introduced by Quijano.
So, the other thing I want to say is that, for us, coloniality is a concept that emerged in the third world, in the South American Andes, where the indigenous population is about sixty percent, but it’s not about the indigenous. I mean, it’s about the world. So, coloniality is not a token of South American culture, because at that point it was clear that we cannot just let Giddens and Beck and whoever to talk about globalization as if globalization only people in the North Atlantic can address the question of globalization.
So that was the moment in which, from Quijano on, we kind of decided to take our intellectual destiny in our own hands. So, that is a kind of decolonial thinking and decolonial thinking means thinking around the concept of coloniality, in the same way that being a Marxist thinker means to think around Capital or from Capital on, or being a psychoanalyst means to think about key concepts introduced by Freud. So, you cannot detach coloniality from decoloniality.
Coloniality is a decolonial concept and you cannot detach the unconscious from psychoanalysis. The unconscious is a psychoanalytic concept and psychoanalysis exists because of the unconscious. The same here. What that means is that we are not proposing a universal theory of decoloniality or decolonization, not at all. There are a lot of people now using decoloniality, decolonization, coloniality, colonization in different ways.
And that’s good. That’s good because people are realizing that all the options they have—Marxism, liberalism, Catholicism, Islamism, etc.—are missing something and what they are missing is not that they are incomplete theories—kind of abstract, a way of looking at it—there is something missing because there is something that we feel and we cannot find it in that option.
There is something in me that says, “well, for a long time I was looking, and I started with philosophy and then literature and then Marxism and then semiotics.” So, I was looking for something and the fact that I was moving through different fields is because all of them gave me something but none of them gave me this, “ah, that’s it.” So, in that search, when I found the concept of coloniality that was—and I said this in a couple of books—a kind of epiphany.
So, coloniality not only put everything together rationally, but it put everything together in me, connected all the kind of things, sensation, thinking, feeling that I was kind of playing around, connected all of them, didn’t subsume as a universal. It made me understand why I was not satisfied. And then by teaching and giving lectures and seminars around the world, I began to understand that when people hear coloniality at that moment, the same kind of effect is produced and in people who have felt the coloniality before it was similar.
So, what is interesting about coloniality is that it touches people, and the question is why, and that is not universal. Every human being is different and every kind of local history, national history, etc. as sexual/racial classification. So, there is not a unit. It cannot be a universal perspective or model and that’s why we’ll start talking about pluiversality.
So, the point I was driving at is that coloniality/decoloniality is in a way intent, of course, on the global but not the universal, because every theory and every cosmogony aim at the totality, to eliminate the global—be they Popol Vuh, The Bible, the Quran. Any kind of cosmogonic narrative, a kind of story of the creation of the world and of human beings aim at the totality. But what happened to us is that since the 16th century one totality, that was Christian totality, gained hegemony and began to kind of relegate the other totality to the past or to folklore or to other kinds of interesting things.
But again, the point here is that we are not claiming that we are the owner of decoloniality. People can think decoloniality in a different way. What Catherine and I did was to say, and we said this in the book several times, this is the way we think coloniality and decoloniality after Quijano and that is the way we think, we do, we move, we live in the world.
So that, Victor, is a kind of introductory observation before going into the decolonial thinker and as a semiotician. I don’t know if you want to say something or somebody will?
Victor Taylor: No, Walter, I think that was excellent context setting. I think from the passage I pulled from On Decoloniality, that “decoloniality denotes a way of thinking, knowing, and being” emphasizes that point. So, I think you’ve addressed the major ideas of this passage, but could you talk a little bit about your journey from semiotician to decolonial thinker?
Walter Mignolo: Well, that is a very appropriate question because now I have been writing about that. Somebody in Argentina, a woman philosopher, we are doing an interview, but the interview is becoming a kind of short autobiography, an intellectual autobiography. And then, I have two young colleagues, they are in their 35s-40s, who started a conversation, dialogues, reconstructing not just my life but also reconstructing an atmosphere of, let’s say, the Córdoba, Argentina before I went to France, because all of those beautiful years in Argentina in the Sixties before I went to France—I went to France at the end of ’69, ‘70 almost—were kind of ruined by the Onganía dictatorship.
And that erased the memory and what we realized is that the younger generation of Córdoba don’t know about that. So, we kind of started that. So, my journey starts there. So, basically, I was looking for something as any kind of young person, and we had a professor Luis Perieto, who was just coming to Córdoba from France, he was doing research in France and he introduced us to semiology.
It was an obligatory seminar in the humanities, facultad de filosofía y letras, philosophy and literature, we called it for the humanities. So, it was under the title of grammatica, grammar, but it was a course on semiology. I took the seminar because it was obligatory and I almost failed. I passed with the note of four, which was the minimum, like a C minus, and I think that Luis, the professor, approved me because he saw that I was making an effort, but we agreed that I didn’t understand a thing.
So, I passed but the next year I came back as auditing student and I was hooked. So, when all this kind of turmoil in Argentina began in 1966 and after that, our professors who were leaving the country because they were all Marxist—Marxist Gramscian. Gramsci was a big, kind of like it was in England at the same at the same time. So, past and present in England, pasado and presente in Argentina. They were independent but they were two Gramscian kinds of taking over and the young people delinking from the Communist Party.
So, our professors, who were leaving, said “kids, finish your licensiatura (your master’s) and get out of here,” and at that point I was obedient, so I obeyed. And there was a fellowship to study abroad and I applied, and I got it and I went to France. I went to France because—that is, later on I began to understand what was happening to me—I went to France because I wanted to be as intelligent as Foucault or Derrida or Lacan—if I was there, well if not as much at least close to.
So, I studied with Barthes, because before that I had contacted Barthes and he was accepting students from abroad. So, Barthes, for me, was the key point because at that point he had already written Éléments de Sémiologie, that appeared in a journal, Communications that everybody was reading at the time. So, he was he was a connection with semiology in Argentina, even if Perieto was doing a different kind of semiology it was semiology, nonetheless.
But then, when I got to France and I met another South American, in Spain—I was going to Spain, also—we were sudacas. So, sudaca was a kind of despective name for people coming from the south. So, I began to realize not only that i would never be close to Foucault or Derrida, it was very difficult to connect with French students of my generation. So, all my friends at that point were non-French. They were coming from India or the Middle East from South America—of course—from Spain, but none of them were French or Western European.
And something clicked there, because in Argentina I was the son of an immigrant, so I never felt Argentina was my country. So, I began to connect what was happening to me that I feel this kind of thing. But anyhow, I just postponed that, and I did my dissertation. My dissertation was between semiotics, but also in France I began to be interested in the school of Bielefeld and the school of Bielefeld was a school of heavy discourse analysis based on Chomsky’s cartesian linguistics and explanatory models in science.
So, I became interested in philosophy of science which I already had some in Argentina, but I put more focus on it. So, I was divided between the French semiology and the analysis of the text, discourse, and coherence that was the kind of key word of Bielefeld. So, my thesis was called Modèles et poétique. So, it was a model that was coming from the science and poetics that was a kind of elaboration on
Jacobson’s question that kind of occupied me for many years. Jacobson’s question was, what makes a verbal utterance or text a work of art—a work of art of literature.
So, I worked there in my thesis and then I worked all through the 80s, I was working on this. At the same time that, because I was in the United States, I became acquainted with what at that point, in the late Seventies was still—I mean now we talk about Latinx, but at that time was just—Chicano—Chicanos and Chicanas. So, when I discovered what Chicanos and Chicanas meant, but also Latinos because the Cubans were around and those were the year of life in the hyphen. So, you see, I discovered the hyphen and then I connect to what happened to me, what I felt in France with all my friends who were not from Europe or from Western Europe and what happened in Argentina.
So, while I was doing work on textual analysis, literally theory, discourse analysis, etc. in the early Eighties, I began to work on the historiography of the Indies, the historiography of the New World. And interestingly enough, I entered into that, number one, because I began to understand, to sense that the Chicanos were a present consequence of a long history of colonization. So, since I was coming from semiotics, I couldn’t study economy or political theory, I studied science.
So, the question I asked myself in the late Seventies, coming from this question, the Jacobsonian question, what makes of a verbal text a work of art, I asked, what makes of a verbal text a work of historiography. So, I wrote a monograph and a long article in ’81, published ‘81 and ’82, that became one of the points of renovation of colonial studies. The others were Rolena Adorno, who introduced Guaman Poma de Ayala, and Beatriz Pastor who was at Dartmouth.
So, the three of us kind of introduced—all of us young at that moment—a kind of change in the study of colonial discourse, like colonial literature and colonial discourse. But coming from semiotics and discourse analysis, at the end of the Eighties, I realized that to talk about discourse in the colonies was very short because what do we do with Guaman Poma de Ayala, what would you do with the Mexican codex, which, kind of, are images?
So, at that point I introduced the concept of colonial semiosis. So, everybody was talking about colonial economy, colonial literature, colonial historiography, colonial politics and I say, hey, I have to talk about colonial semiosis. So, I talked about colonial semiosis. But that was the path toward The Darker Side of the Renaissance.
So, The Darker Side the Renaissance is a kind of confluence of semiotics, discourse analysis, and my early training. Two courses that I took in the licensiatura were on peninsular Hispanic literature, but in the peninsula Hispanic literature one of the professors, whom now I thank very much but at that point was very boring and I didn’t ask myself why, she was doing philology. And philology didn’t make any sense to me because we were interested in content, but philology became a fundamental tool since I introduced colonial semiosis and I kind of began to dig into the Renaissance.
So, The Darker Side of the Renaissance was finished before I knew Quijano, so The Darker Side of the Renaissance is a book on colonialism, on colonization of languages, colonization of memory, historiography, everything I had been doing in historiographical discourse went into chapters three and four. And, in the late Eighties, as a fellowship I got to do the student initiative on the Renaissance related to the Americas, I went to the Newberry and the John Carter Brown Libraries and then I discovered the maps.
And when I discovered the maps I kind of connected with a lot of people who were talking about cartography and writing analyses of maps. So, chapters five and six are on cartography. So, you see that it’s basically a semiotic argument on the one hand, but on the other hand, what brought the idea of the book, because I was doing researches and writing articles—not thinking about a book—was a map that Susan Danforth, who was in charge of cartography in the John Carter Brown Library told me about.
I was looking at maps, I had a big table and kind of looking at a lot of maps, and Susan comes and said, “do you know the map of Matteo Ricci?” I’d never heard about Matteo Ricci—I don’t know if you’ve heard about Matteo Ricci. Well, it turned out that Matteo Ricci, to kind of put everything together, was a Jesuit who in 1582 or something like that, late 16th century, went with the Jesuits to Japan and China. The Jesuits were kind of trying to colonize, to save and convert more people not just in the Americas but also over there.
So, the story told by Matteo Ricci, and Susan gave me the big Italian book with the narrative of Ricci on the map, according to the narrative, Matteo Ricci invited to the Jesuit mission some of the wise men of the Ming Dynasty. And she showed me the map and the map that she showed was—I don’t know if, probably, you’ve seen Abraham Ortelius map, a map published in 1570 that is more or less the map we see today with the Atlanic in the center, the Americas on the left and Europe on the right of the Atlantic and then Asia. So, the map we see today is this kind of more stylistic development, more details but the overall picture of distribution of lands and water was already there in 1570.
So, apparently the wise men of the Ming Dynasty, and you know the Chinese are very polite, they are not kind of aggressive as the style we are used to lately—they were very polite and said, well—this is a kind of paraphrasing, a kind of reinvention of that, how I imagine them—this is a beautiful image but we wonder why, if China is in the center, why you put it there on the upper right margin. So, for the Chinese, you know, the map was the famous kind of nested rectangles. So, with the Ming Dynasty in the center and then with each rectangle you kind of go away from the center towards the less civilized on the other side.
Well, apparently Ricci took the message and he invited them again two weeks later and he had drawn the map that you see now every when you go to the east. So, he put the Pacific in the center, and for a western viewer that is very disturbing because if you put if you put the Pacific in the center then the America appear on the right and Europe appears on the left. But what that did for me is what the change of gaze means.
So, the whole Darker Side of the Renaissance was, in my career, a turn around. I began not just to keep on saying how the West looks at the other, even if they think that the other is good or is great, now the question is how the other looks at the West. And so, I did The Darker Side of the Renaissance and that was crucial for me because in order to do that I was not in the non-West.
I mean, I come from South America and South America is the West. It’s a marginal west, in the North Atlantic distribution or Huntington—Huntington’s Latin American civilization—or Hegel—Hegel said there is a bunch of barbarians there having civil war. And that was before the civil war in United States. So, I was not in the known West, I was in the west but in the marginal west—in the third world, I was coming from the third world.
So, that is after reading Anzaldúa in ’87, border thinking became for me the particularly powerful tool. So, when I met Quijano, first the concept of coloniality and then two or three years later him personally, coloniality put everything together. Why? Because I understood, number one, that colonization since 1500 referred to a specific historical moment or style or form of colonization—Spanish colonization, Portuguese, Dutch, French, UK, US.—but coloniality was the logic of all those colonies.
Coloniality is what put everything together and I understood two things there—I mean at that moment, but took a while—as you said Victor, there is no modernity without coloniality. The school of thought that emerged from Quijano starts from that. That is the basic assumption. So, any way of what we call theory or ways of thinking within a frame has that.
Marx has surplus value, Freud has the unconscious, but modernity/coloniality is what distinguishes our school of thought from other ways of talking about colonization, coloniality, and decoloniality. And that, again, we are not judging, and we are not saying you are with me or with my enemies. No. We are saying this is the way we do it. And we’re open dialogue.
Victor Taylor: So, I think …
Walter Mignolo: Let me do coloniality and then a second point and then I’ll let you, Victor.
Carl Raschke: Excuse me, Victor. Before you go on, we’ve had some requests from people in the chat. Walter, did you have some slides that you wanted to share with what you were just saying? Because, I think there was some sense that there were some slides to illustrate what you were talking about. I don’t know. I just got a number of requests from the chat for that.
Victor Taylor: So, I have slides that are kind of excerpts from Walter’s book that kind of tracked through the conversation. Walter got a little bit ahead of the slides, but I can send those to Roger, and he can share them if he likes.
Carl Raschke: Send them to me, if you could, and I can share them. Only because I took the slide down you had because it was also a request to take them down because they couldn’t see Walter. So, when we put them up, keep it up just temporarily.
Victor Taylor: So, I think at this point, because I do want to hear about your next project, Walter, but to go back to something you said, just to elaborate a little bit more, in On Decoloniality, you and Catherine emphasize interculturality, which I think is a critical concept that you address but also this idea of “doing with” “working with” and in the book you talk about how you are a professor—you’re a prestigious professor at duke—you also talk about how you identify as a militant intellectual and a pedagogue. Could you talk a little bit about how working outside the confines of academia also sort of shaped your thinking as you begin seeing the connections with coloniality and then later with decoloniality?
Walter Mignolo: Okay, so I’m sorry I was too abstract before, but I was telling the story of how I got into decoloniality. So, where do we go from here? I think I will show the slide and showing the slide will help people to have a better sense of this, because our way of thinking has become a little bit complex now with a lot of people working and a lot of concepts. So, I will show the slide and then address the question of ‘working with” and the question of interculturality and … Which one is the other one you mentioned, Victor?
Victor Taylor:I think then to talk a little bit about your forthcoming book. Yeah, so if you want to show the slide that would be great.
Walter Mignolo: I will start with my forthcoming book and the slide and then address the “working with.” So, I was saying that for us—when I say “us” I mean the people working after Quijano—there are two basic assumptions: that there is no modernity without coloniality and that—there is another concept that Quijano introduced—when he talks about coloniality it’s a coloniality of power.
And then he introduced the colonial pattern of power that we translated into English at the colonial matrix of power. So, there was a lot of elaboration on that concept through the 20 years. So, the next book the introduction is a long introduction, it’s about 90 manuscript pages, in which I try to explain the historical and the conceptual. I won’t go into the historical here—people can read the book later on.
I will go into the conceptual. So, the coloniality of power is the will to power, if we can use some kind of Nietzschean terminology. Coloniality of power is what drives people, not just the colonizer but also the governor, those who govern. And those who govern maybe in the state, maybe in the bank, maybe in the corporation, maybe in the mass media, etc. Those who govern are those who kind of control and manage and to control and manage you need a will—you have to be convinced, for whatever reason, that you are the person, or your mission is to govern, to manage.
So coloniality of power is that kind of subjective. How that was formed, I won’t go into that, but here is where we are. Well, the colonial matrix of power is the tool, the instrument that is being deployed by that will to power that is driven by colonialism and both are hidden, masked by the rhetoric of modernity. What we see is modernity, is prosperity, is progress, is happiness waiting for us. We will be better—don’t worry we are doing the best.
So, modernity since the renaissance is a set of discourses, images, sounds promising a wonderful life. And you see it today, in the United States at least, but in Argentina too, in all the advertisings of the bank on television, etc. You may have noticed that everybody looks at their credit card and smiles, look at the health insurance and smiles, and they get something, and they run on the beach and jump with their hair in the air and smile.
So that is the kind of the overwhelming image of happiness, but in order to have that kind of happiness two things happen, you have to have money. So, you see that, but you don’t see the people who are suffering, who don’t have health insurance etc., and that is coloniality. So, the question is how: does the colonial matrix of power manage to control that?
Quijano said that there are three axes that articulate the colonial matrix of power that you see in front of us: domination/exploitation/conflict. Those three are not there, right? When Maria Lugones, in 2003 or ’04 or ’05, published “The Coloniality of Gender”, she introduced a complement to Quijano. So, now we see domination/oppression/conflict.
So, shortly exploitation address more the question of the exploitation of labor, expropriation of land appropriation of land, etc., and oppression means oppression at large. It’s not just the kind of exploitation of the proletarian that we inherited from Marx, but is basically racial and sexual oppression, but racial oppression not in the sense of just color of your skin—racial in that everything has been racialized. The languages have been racialized, the religions have been racialized, the countries have been racialized—if you come from Pakistan you are suspect.
So, those are the three axes that articulate the colonial matrix of power. So, conflict—decoloniality is one of the ways in which conflict emerged, but it’s not the only one. So, what happened here for example after the killing of George Floyd. They were not decolonial, but that was a conflict.
That is how the promises of modernity, of make America better or just globalization with Obama incentivized that kind of conflict that emerged from exploitation and domination, and then of that complex something emerged. So, decoloniality, as we understand it, is a way we address the question of modernity/coloniality and domination/exploitation/oppression. So, this is trying to make sense of how the colonial matrix of power works.
Somebody asked at the beginning if I could address the question of Samir Amin who introduced the word “delinking” in ‘89 in a book that was called … Oops, what happened?
Carl Raschke: I took it down. Do you still want it up? I’m sorry. Some people can’t see you when this is up. So, if you still need it put it right back up.
Walter Mignolo: We have to have half and a half. So, Samir Amin introduced the concept la déconnexion which then was translated into English as “delinking.” So, Samir Amin, a brilliant Egyptian Marxist, proposed delinking from capital. At the same time, more or less, Quijano was not
using the linking he was using desprendernos, to extricate ourselves, but not from capitalism but from the colonial matrix of power.
So, that is a big difference with Samir Amin. So, I use the term delinking, honoring Samir Amin and I acknowledge that, in the book, Delinking, which has been translated into many languages—it was a
short book. I honor and recognize Samir Amin, at the same time, I said we are talking about not just delinking from capital, because capital is one aspect of the colonial matrix of power.
So, we can come to the image. Ah, but I am disabled.
Carl Raschke: Here, hold on one second. Sorry about that. I’ll leave it up. Okay now go ahead.
Walter Mignolo: Okay so I want to go as quick as I can so that we can have another intervention. So, what you see there, let me put it another way, this is the unconscious of Western civilization, to use a kind of pedagogical analogy. And this colonial matrix of power was not there in Greece. The Greeks didn’t invent it. There was a different kind of ballgame. This began to emerge in the 16th century.
So, this is not a cookie cutter that you can apply, this is a kind of map that guides you. Like any kind of map, the map doesn’t replace the city. When you walk through the city you have a lot of experiences, but the map kind of helps you to walk around.
So, let’s talk about the four domains—those are domains, this is the level of the domains and there are four domains. We put knowledge and understanding on top, and you can put everything there, aesthetics, philosophy, religion, science, etc., because knowledge will control everything. Capitalism is not just exploitation of labor, transaction, etc., it is a knowledge that you have to convince people—as has been said since 2008—that there is no alternative, capitalism is not perfect but there is no alternative.
So, knowledge is what kind of masters the mentality of the people. That’s why Thiong’o was talking about decolonizing the mind in ‘87 ’86. So, economy is not just material transaction it’s a knowledge built, a specific kind of knowledge built and justification around the transaction. The first master narrative that we know about capitalism—what we call capitalism—is Adam Smith because for the Greeks, economy was not a big deal. The oikos was the management of the extended family.
But the Greeks themselves didn’t see very well the merchant. The merchant was kind of lower, marginal. So, Adam Smith began articulating the first master narrative of what we call capitalism. So, liberals call it capitalism, Marxists call it capitalism, liberals like it, Marxists don’t like it. They agree that the question is capitalism. We delink from that and for us the problem is the colonial matrix of power.
So, knowledge controls governance and so, in the west, we have, well we have Machiavelli, but Machiavelli comes from Plato and Aristotle and then comes the School of Salamanca in Spain and then comes Locke etc., etc., until political theory today. So, there is a theory of governance, there is a theory that goes together with an ethic because Adam Smith was not an economist, he was a philosopher and a moralist.
So when he talked about the Wealth of Nations, that was a kind of unfolding of the previous book that wasc alled The theory of Moral Sentiments. So, it was about objectivity and this kind of economy in The Wealth of Nations. So, governance in the past 500 years was monarchic governance until 1750 more or less, 1800 and then the secular nation state.
We have still monarchies in the gulf, we have monarchy in Spain and England, but basically, the nation state. And the nation state is the bourgeois form of governance because the monarchies are kind of that religious aristocracy of the 16th 17th until mid 18th century. And then you have the economy, and the economy has to be detached from capitalism, but today it’s like economy and capitalism are the same. No, they are not the same.
So, in this 500 years we have at least three types of economy, we have mercantilism. There’s a lot to say about that but mercantilism was kind of displace but not replaced because still we have a kind of the trade war organization. It was replaced by capitalism in the sense of an industrial economy that Marx elaborated.
And at that moment the question of the theological concept of governance was displaced by the liberal concept of governance. So what Marx offered was, within the same principle, a change of content. So, he offered a different kind of governance from the perspective of socialism not from the perspective of Liberalism.
And then, if we jump to the late the 20th century the kind of governance has changed in the sense that until 1970, more or less, the economy was part of society and today, with neoliberalism, the society has become part of the economy. And that for me explains, in part, it is more complex than that, but one small element is that we had, we have still, a president that is an entrepreneur, who didn’t come from the kind of tradition of political formation.
So, that’s governance. And then economy and I just kind of explained economy. Economy, since slavery until today, is an economy in which you have you have to live to work in a different way, from slavery from the proletarian who has worked so many hours in the 19th century to today. And the genius of capitalism was—and that is knowledge and understanding, that kind of the control and manipulation of the senses, what we call esthesis now—to convince people that it’s great to be busy.
I remember in the Eighties, in the Nineties when people were happy to say “oh, I don’t have time, I am so busy,” and that was a kind of pride to be busy. So, to be oscioso is to be lazy or you are a loser—you have to be a winner. So those are the kind of mechanisms of the rhetoric of modernity, how to convince you to be a happy slave. And to be a happy slave is because you can buy things.
So, happiness becomes equal to having, having for the billionaires to having for the middle class who by Louis Vuitton to the people who buy in Walmart. So, there is a kind of extensive map of people convinced—and they feel good. They don’t feel good if they don’t get out now, because they cannot consume, they cannot go to the restaurant, they cannot go.
So, what we call capitalism is that kind of economy that could manage first to force people to live to work and then manage to convince people that is good to live to work because you don’t have anything better to do. It prevents you from thinking you have better things to do. And technology, in the sense of the iPod—I see people who don’t have anything to do in the airplane and they have to kind of go back and forth on the iPad looking for something—so technology is not just a way of making business, it’s a way of controlling the subjectivity of the people. What do you do now if you don’t have an iPod?
And then the other domain, the crucial domain is the concept of a human. The concept of the human as we understand it today is a Western renaissance concept. And the concept of the human was created by whom? By European men, who were Christians, who were white, and who, if they were not, they say they were heterosexual. So, the concept of the human is a model of humanity that allows for the emergence of racism as we know it today.
Racism is not a question of Babylon or Greece. Yes, there were differences in Greece and Babylonian, the Inca, the Aztec etc., but racism as we know it today goes together with a new type of economy. It’s a justification of exploitation and oppression of people to serve a new form of governance and new form of economy.
So, the human, or as Sylvia Winter will put it, human man—if we follow Sylvia Winter a little bit, here because it’s very helpful. We have been in conversation with Sylvia. Sylvia quotes us, we quote
Sylvia. Sylvia introduced new elements on the concept of races that were elaborated by Quijano, when he said that racism is a fundamental concept in the creation of the colonial matrix of power, in the sense that you needs races to exploit because you cannot exploit an equal, you have to make people inferior, and convince people that they are inferior so they obey, or you force them to obey.
So, Sylvia said men/human to emphasize that the concept of human, even if the dictionary said human refers to men and women, I disagree. I mean it means that in the dictionary, but in real life human means men. Men/human and she articulates two kind of men/human. One is the man/human of the renaissance, related to theology, related to monarchy, and the man/human of the enlightenment which is guided by reason.
And we can say today that after cybernetics that kind of started an explosion of technology until artificial intelligence, I would say that we are in a kind of men III. This is no longer theology, it is no longer masculinity related to reason. Those didn’t go away but now there is a new tool of control and it is related to technology in the sense of going toward artificial intelligence.
Okay, so these are the four domains. And you can ask how do we decide that those are the four domains and not others? For us this is a way to reconstruct what the rhetoric of modernity is telling us. So, we got those fourth domain by looking at the discourse of modernity and how they control and emphasize knowledge, how they control and emphasize governance, economy, and the concept of human.
So that is kind of looking at what modernity hides at the moment that is announced, and this is what I’m going to say is crucial, we have to understand that since the 16th century through today the constitution, transformation, etc., of the colonial matrix of powers is simultaneous with destitution. So, modernity is simultaneous with coloniality the constitution is simultaneous with destitution and this shows you the logic of coloniality in the process of destitution.
Oh, I forgot one element. So, here there is another level which is the level of the enunciation and this is what you don’t see because knowledge, human governance, all that are there in the discourse, in the images, etc., but the enunciation you don’t see. And the enunciation is what controls everything and the fact that you don’t see the enunciation is fundamental for euro-centrists to have been able to convince us of universalism, because the enunciation is not there.
So, you announce the universal, but you don’t emphasize who is announcing the universal. So, what is the enunciation? I gave you three components. Institutions. So, the church, of course, the monarchy, the university, the museums—that kind of control knowledge and understanding—the IMF, the World Bank, etc. There are a bunch of institutions that anchor the enunciation.
Actors. Those institutions are in a dialectical relationship with actors. The actors who govern the institution are not anybody. I mean, we cannot apply to be director of the IMF or to be the next Pope. So, each institution has its own way of controlling who will be the actor that represents.
And the last one and the most important is languages, because all knowledge and understanding—hegemonic—is based on six European modern languages: Italian, Spanish and Portuguese that were more prominent during the Renaissance, and in Italy especially for the Renaissance. And then the Enlightenment: English, French, and German. And now English has taken over. And those languages are based on Greek and Latin.
All other languages are local. These are local, too. Do you see what I mean? These are local, too, but it sounds like they are universal. Chinese has way more speakers than English and Spanish, but Chinese is not a language of hegemonic knowledge and understanding. We don’t discuss in Chinese, we don’t discuss in Urdu, we don’t discuss in Hindi, we don’t discuss in Aymara. The Aymara do and Hindi do too, but you see the constitution of the enunciation destituted all other forms of governance, all other form of economy, all other kind of languages.
So, that is the question of the destitution. The destitution is really the enunciation because the enunciation has the power to rule out, by opinion, by scientific argument, by force, too—but it so happened that force always has to be justified in the rhetoric of modernity. You can kill in the name of human rights like Clinton did in Kosovo, but you need human rights as a rhetoric to justify what you destitute.
So, the things that have been destituted that are important today are the communal wisdom. Science, philosophy, Christian theology destituted communal wisdom, it destituted living in harmony and plenitude, replaced it by the hierarchy of society, competition to do it better, to be the first. So, living in harmony is not ever perfect but the question is that until the 16th century there was no cultural civilization that controlled the other.
So, Western Civilization, which has its own way of knowing, living, thinking, etc., destituted the communal economy. Today there are a lot of examples, even—not even—but in the studies of the economy of the gift and the economy of reciprocity that is found not just with indigenous people but historians of economy of Islam—or not Islam but the Muslim Arab world—are talking about a type of economy of gift and reciprocity that has nothing to do with the kind of exploitation, accumulation, and investment of the surplus to produce more.
So, Western Civilization destituted other kind of communal economy and destituted all the lesser humans—that is the races and the sexes that are destituted by the concept of the human, by the concept of the human as knowledge. It’s not that every human being said, I am human. Human is a singular way of conceiving humanness using this singular way to destitute other human beings. And so, racism and sexism are two basic tools.
And finally, decoloniality is the movement of reconstitution of the destitute that is meaningful to us today. And this was what Quijano said in ’92 when he wrote the article on modernity and coloniality, he said that taking the state was no longer a solution, he said decolonization, in the sense of decoloniality now, calls for epistemological reconstitution. It means that we must reconstitute the way we know—and then we added, because of oppression, the question of esthesis, so the reconstitution of knowing and sensing and emoting.
And that cannot be a model. It cannot be a model because the local histories of different countries in the world are different and different people, too. So, to do decoloniality in India or in Pakistan or in Zimbabwe or South Africa or in Bolivia is a different ballgame. And that Victor is kind of connected with the question that decoloniality is in academia but is no longer limited to academia.
And that comes back to the beginning, when you’re inviting people, you know, you don’t have to be academic to think. I think that that is very important to remember. And now today, probably, academicians, not all but significant numbers, are people who are not necessarily thinking.
Lewis Gordon, a Jamaican philosopher, has a wonderful book called Disciplinary Decadence, and disciplinary decadence is when people began to fight within a discipline to have the right without the discipline and to save the discipline. Well the same happened with capitalism. People are desperate to save capitalism—they don’t care about human life or the life of the planet. And we saw it here, we saw it in brazil.
So, academia, but not just academia—it’s modernity—accustomed us to defend the abstract universal. We defend democracy. Give me a break. People are dying, people are being killed in the middle east in defense of democracy.
So, the question is stop thinking about defending abstract universals. That is the question, the big invite of decolonial delinking. But decolonial delinking is not just resistance because if you resist you play the game of whoever wrote the rules of the game. So, resistance has to be followed by re-existence and re-existence is epistemological or sociological anesthesic reconstitution.
And that is my next book. So, after the first chapter, the introduction that explains all that, there are three or four sections and chapters in which I do different kinds of exercises on analyzing how modernity/coloniality works, and what are the kinds of decolonial venues that can be opened. I am not the one to say this is the way. I even try to say, well, this is what I see and this is what I do, it’s up to you now to kind of find—if you are interested in this—your own way to kind of delink, to extricate yourself and to work toward the reconstitution of knowing and the reconstitution of sensing.
So, the question is, Quijano said it several times, we need a new horizon of meaning. The horizon of meaning that modernity of Western Civilization traces for us and for the world now is not working. So, there is another dimension I did in the book which is the kind of global geopolitics. So, there are two levels, one is that of the global geopolitics, which is the kind of geopolitical knowing, sensing, and believing, and the other is the corpo, or the body, the body politics of knowing, sensing, and believing.
This is related to oppression, the other is related to exploitation, just in a kind of very schematic way. But it’s a long book it will be about 670 pages. So, I try to kind of see this in different instances, in different domains, but also in different kinds of locales. So, Victor it’s yours.
Victor Taylor: Great! Well, thank you so much, Walter. I think you gave us an incredible context for your work and I’m looking forward to the 600+, almost 700 pages to read in the spring. We have some time left. I know some of the participants are eager to ask some questions. I think Roger’s been keeping track of those, so maybe there are a few questions that we can ask Walter.
Carl Raschke: Can I ask a request, since we have a limited amount of time left, maybe, if Roger’s monitoring them, if it’s possible, to combine the quest some of the questions so the different topics get addressed?
Walter Mignolo: Yeah, I think it’s good to read several questions, yes.
Roger Green: Okay, let me start with Christine de la Luna. She says her question is, “understanding decoloniality as an alternative theory to that of hegemonic or macro narratives Euro-centrism/westernism, occidentalismo, what do you see as an existing gap to further the project of decolonial study, to further the disruption of colonial epistemological ideologies and cultural expressions within the neoliberal capitalist global system of education?”
Gustavo Rinson is curious about the lineage that you talk about of research concerning technology, the currency of artificial intelligence, and quantum computing what are our ethical and moral responsibilities? Raphael Sartorius says, “Professor Mignolo, what do you think about the BDS or boycott divest sanction movement who intends to boycott Israel considering anti-Semitism and decoloniality as reference points?”
Carl Raschke: Can I request, we have about fifteen minutes before we have to quit, but at the latest ten after—that would be ten after 2:00 everybody’s time on the east coast.
Roger Green: Okay, yeah. We got started a little late so that sounds right to me. I’ll just ask one or two more and then I’ll let you just fill up the rest of the time, Walter and Victor. So, Rehab Hassan asks, “can decoloniality be applied to narrative theory?” And Dora Rebelo says, “where does the unlearning that is needed for decolonial thinking fit into your four-level scheme?”
I’m going to pause there. There are a couple more and I’ll just direct Walter and Victor to the questions in the chat. There’s one from Kieryn, but I’ll let you go with the ones that I’ve just asked for now, maybe.
Walter Mignolo: So, we have to finish at 2:00 or since we started later we can go ten minutes later?
Roger Green: We can we can go ten minutes later, for sure.
Walter Mignolo: So, I’ll trying to be as short as possible. Alternative, we don’t talk about alternatives we talk about options, and that changes the way we think about it. I mean Escobar had a very good expression several years ago, when he talked about alternative to … , alternative to capitalism. But I talk about option. What do I mean by options? We live among options. So, religions are options; ideologies, in the system of ideas, liberalism, Marxism, etc., are options, secular options; and disciplines are options.
We live among options—we live among narratives. Modernity convinces us that quantum mechanics represent the world. No, it’s a narrative. Quantum mechanics is like Popol Vuh or The Bible. It’s one way to narrate.
So, to talk about options means two things, that there is nothing but options and decoloniality is an option that didn’t exist until recently. So, we are introducing that option among the existing options. So, it’s alternative to every option, right? It’s not alternative it is something, else because we don’t want to replace, we want to do something else.
So, that is one thing that they kind of reconfigure reality in the sense that it appears a different kind of narratives. It’s a kind of pluriverse of narratives. And the second is that decoloniality is an option, not a mission, we are not trying to convert people to decoloniality like the Christian trying to convert or the Marxist or the liberal or the neoliberal.
It’s an option that is there and whoever sees us as beneficial or whatever can take it and run with it. We are not writing a sacred text, we are not kind of writing a model, we are just living, thinking, writing and that is kind of to open up the conversations.
We don’t talk about decolonial studies, we talk about decolonial thinking because decolonial studies, like alternatives, keeps you within the frame of mind of modernity. You have a field of studies and then you have a method. Those of you who are in the Ph.D. period at this time, probably, are used to the question what, is your method?
If somebody asks me what is my method, I fail. I don’t know what is my method. It’s the way, because if you have a problem, you think, and you find a way. It’s a joke but it’s serious that that people will say, I got a fellowship and I have a method, now what am I going to study? You have a method, but the question is what is your problem, what is your question? The problem and the question for us emerge from coloniality which then kind of generates decolonial thinking.
So, how is it attached to education? Well, in two ways. You cannot decolonize the curriculum, and you cannot decolonize the university at this point. It’s like decolonizing the state, forget it. But you can do decolonial work at the university or at the museum or any other institution. But also, education is not limited to the university or the institution of education.
Education is conversation that can happen in every place, and we can use the university for that, but we can do it in a different setting and many of us, Catherine, myself, many other people do. So, we have to distinguish education from schooling, but what the university and school does is school people not educate. Education is conversation, it’s conversation where people exchange and learn from each other.
So, in relation to decolonial studies and education, these are the things that we are discussing now. And Catherine has long experience on this, so when she talks about decolonial education, or decolonial pedagogy, she comes from Paulo Freire and then she met Quijano or decoloniality. So, this is a huge thing, but we have to open up. Cross out the concept of studies. I can say more on that, but I don’t have time.
We don’t talk about philosophical studies or even philosophy as a discipline, philosophy is a way of thinking, so decolonial is a way of thinking and living in the world. Philosophy doesn’t have the kind of property rights of thinking. Philosophy is what the Greeks decided to call what they were doing in thinking, and that’s fine. But that destituted, in Western civilization, other ways of thinking.
So, people, even in African or Latin American, began to think, do we have a Latin American philosophy?
do we have an African philosophy? as if a philosophy was something to have. So, the liberation of thinking starts by decolonizing schooling, by liberating education, and liberating thinking. Where do we do it? Well, it depends on all of us, whatever we are.
Unlearning. That’s a great question. The levels, the four domains, and the enunciation, that is the process of unlearning. We are unlearning modernity by kind of revealing how coloniality works. Unlearning is when the postmodern says, we don’t need any more macro-histories, and we say, well, sorry of your kind no, but we need macro-history because you erased our macro-history.
So, coloniality in that sense, the colonial matrix of power is a pattern of, not a global historical macro-narrative, but a macro-narrative absolutely necessary to unlearn the narrative of Christianity, to unlearn the narrative of Hegel, to unlearn the narrative of Marx, and to unlearn the narrative of Freud, Lacan, etc., without denying their contribution.
And that is the point. Modernity thinks that the new supersedes all the rest. No, we disagree. That is why it is an option. So, we have to think about coexistence, so that psychoanalysis and postmodernity and neoliberalism and decoloniality they coexist. And I think that one of the questions in relation to liberalism and all that. I think it’s very important to think about what we can do. And what we can do is where we are.
I don’t think at this moment we can imagine that we can take the state and kind of transform the state into a decolonial states. That’s impossible. It was possible to have the Iranian revolution or the Cuban revolution, but at this point there are a lot of problems because of the harassment of the United States. But there is a lot of constitution because the very concept of nation state. The nations care for the nationals they don’t care for the human and that is why we have the problem of migrants and refugees and all these kinds of things.
So, the question there is what can we do? What are we? I think we have to be modest. Now, we are living in in a world where the United States has 800 military bases around the world, trillions and trillions of dollars are circulating in armament, but also in the corporation, banks, finances, technology. What can we do?
Well, we can take the example of Stacy Abrams. That is fantastic what she did. But she has a north, she has an orientation: we have to get all these people of color in Georgia to become aware of what is going on and to vote for the Democrat. It’s not that the Democrats are a solution, but, at the same time, it is a way of preventing the extreme right from going forward.
So, Stacy Abrams did it in Georgia as a black woman because there is where she could do something. So, that’s what we have to do. There is no answer to lending the question: what to do? What to do depend on each of us. Where are we and what are we ready to fight for?
being aware that the planet is controlled by the economy of exploitation but also being aware that the West cannot control capitalism anymore. So, that is something I don’t see much discussed in the West but it is much discussed in the east. Capitalism is global but has it escaped the hands of liberals and neoliberals. China is capitalists, if you watch, but it’s not neoliberal, neither is Russia, neither is Iran.
Why not? Because neoliberalism is not just capitalism. The global design of neoliberalism was to homogenize the world, and that was clear since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And that is what
Failed. Capitalism succeeded globally but the world cannot be homogenized anymore according to the West.
So, the West has to learn to be modest, to learn that that is fine, but this is not the universal model, that everybody wants and is dying to think it is, and lately less and less.
So, the question of Israel. I think that somebody said in the east. Kishore Mahbubani, I don’t know if you are familiar with the name, was the ambassador of Singapore to the United Nations in the Nineties and then he went back to Singapore and created the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He’s a very tremendous intellectual. I mean, not decolonial, but he’s a tremendously western intellectual. But he was saying, in 2007-2008, that the most dangerous country for global peace today is the United States and we are seeing this every year.
And that, I think, is the question of Israel. I think that the recent agreement between Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Trump was a clear maneuver toward being able to control the Middle East, which is becoming more and more difficult because of Turkey, because of Iran but because of Russia and China, and mainly china which has a lot of interest in Syria—not political interest, economic interest for the belt and road initiative.
So, I think that what we see in the Middle East is two things. One is a desperate move of the United States to control the interstate system and the second is that people are not talking too much—I don’t know why—about this powerful alliance between Israel and the United States, which was incentivized because of Kushner. but Biden may be more moderate, but Biden said many years ago that to a Zionist you don’t have to be Jewish.
But that is the question of the history of Zionism, the secular Zionism. But now the Jews are kind of if you are anti-Zionist you anti-Jew. No, I am anti-Zionist and I have a lot of Jewish decolonial friends who work with Palestinians. So, Judaism doesn’t equal Israel.
So, applying decoloniality to narrative theory. Oh boy! This is the one! I will give a talk in Toronto on Friday about this. You don’t apply decoloniality, that is a modern thing. And that is one of the things that happened to the postcolonial. The postcolonial became a theory to be applied. Not that not that Bhabha or Spivak were doing that, but the postcolonial began to.
And this is another difference between postcolonial and decolonial. The postcolonial is an academic discipline or field of inquiry, but the decolonial emerged outside of academia and then entered into academia. So, you don’t apply, but what you can do is briefly the following: when Freud or any psychoanalyst is in front of somebody who has asked to be analyzed, the analysé as the French would say, what is the psychoanalyst doing? He’s doing two things, he’s listening to that narrative because there are not two people who are equal, each person is different, and every narrative is singular.
So, each narrative—100, 200,1000—are all different narratives, but the psychoanalyst is doing two things there. He’s listening to the narrative but he’s also thinking about what the unconscious is telling him about this narrative, and vice versa—what this narrative is telling me about the unconscious. So, what we do about narrative—and I will do it with two examples of two narratives from South Africa that they call non-fictional literature, Njabulo Ndebele and Antjie Krog, he’s black she’s white Afrikaans.
What I do is this: I ask what these two narratives tell me about the colonial matrix of power and what the colonial matrix of power helps me to understand about this narrative. You see, the strategy is totally different because when you apply you remain in the surface of the narrative and you interpret the meaning etc., etc., the conflict of interpretation that we have etc., etc.we are changing the geography of reasoning. And that is one of many examples that is difficult to understand because we have been schooled, in body and soul, to think otherwise, to think in the modern way, to think we have a theory and we have the application. No, thinking and writing and doing is praxis. What kind of praxis? The most basic praxis we can think about, which is the practice of living.
To live we have to work and that is beautiful, but living to work that is not, that this is slavery. So, the question is we have to regain the beauty, or as a communitarian feminist in guatemala like Lorena Cabnal—there are some people here from from South America here—brilliant thinker, and of course she is not in the university, brilliant thinker and doer—said, “I recover the joy without losing the indignation.”
And I think the Caribbeans are saying the same thing. The question is to recover the joy of living and thinking, because neoliberalists don’t want us to do that. Neoliberals want us not to think—and that is why the iPod—not to have time or energy to think because we have to work. So, that kind of delinking is delinking ourselves and it’s only by delinking ourselves that we can do something because you cannot decolonize if you are a modern subject.