The following is a transcript of a community-wide debriefing by participants for the online conference “Decoloniality and the Disintegration of Cognitive Empire – Rethinking Sovereignty and Territoriality in the 21st Century.” The conference was held April 14-16, 2021 and featured such international luminaries as Walter Mignolo, Catherine Walsh, and Tink Tinker. Because of the length of the conversation, it is in two parts. The first part can be found here.
Participants include Brian Kirn, Suhayb Yunus, Dianna Able, Rachel Foley, Alyssa Putzer, Jared Lacey (University of Denver); Kieryn Wurts (University of Bonn), Joshua Ramos (Houston Community College), Jennifer McCurdy (Iliff School of Theology), Jill Fleishman (Denver CO), Carlos Steinkamp Calandria (Areté Preparatory Academy, Los Angeles).
Dianna Able: Yeah, I agree, I don’t think, especially with what some of the panelists were talking about with living in between and colonized people fitting into the colonial matrix of power, but also trying to hold on to their history. We don’t have a history to hold on to. You know, “white,” there’s not much culture or anything for me to fall back on. And so I think it is like what Rachel and Alyssa were saying: it’s recognizing our place in it, recognizing that we have privilege and then to use that privilege in ways that lift other people up to our level and making sure that their voices are heard, and we take our cues and take our directions from them and use ourselves as a conduit for service for whatever group we’re working with to use our privilege to help them.
Kieryn Wurts: I’m going to try to jump in here on that. I think that that’s a difficult one. When white people talk about white privilege… I’ll put it this way: there’s always like that, not always, but you often get the sense that it just keeps self-perpetuating like a myth of superiority. And isn’t that the whole history of colonization? There is like a socio-economic and political power that’s implemented through colonization which is bad and real and brutal.
But there’s also that’s fed by a myth of white superiority. That’s kind of how it’s made possible that white people believe themselves, or people who consider themselves white. And I think there are a lot of great works I can’t name right now – it’s late here in Germany. But that talk about how the lines of whiteness are continually moved and changed throughout history.
Just to take an example from the US, Italian Americans 100 years ago wouldn’t have been considered white by a lot of people. There would have been a lot of racist attacks against them and now they’re often considered part of white America, whatever that is.
That’s just one very simple concrete example to illustrate that the lines of whiteness are moved and have moved throughout history, a lot. And, of course, whiteness hasn’t always existed. Being a white European as opposed to other people is also racially constructed. A myth, you know, and so I think, maybe if white people can decolonize, I think one of the best things white people can do is just like – or people who consider themselves white, people who count as white people, who pass as white – is just to not believe this myth of superiority because, even when people talk about privilege they’re still believing that myth, “I have this privilege, I have this level.” And so, I think that just maybe that’s the unlearning they’re getting at in the questions.
Suhayb Yunus: It’s unusual, but I think I have a better answer. Although, that’s because it’s not mine.
Religious traditions would say yes, because the whole principle of the metanoia that comes at conversion is about that.
It’s baptismal in a way. You’re washed off of what came before. Although, now have the desiccated traditions retained enough of the spiritual pedagogy that enable that, I don’t know.
In terms of what white people can do, if you want to go the Malcolm X route, he would say talk to your own community, but don’t get involved with the rest of us.
And you know, a part of that is the danger of tokenism because if you’re saying, “well, we’ll just follow the lead of whoever’s up there,” but then, if you are in institutions and you happen to be in positions of authority and able to select these people, then you know, can you be sure… if you’re not running in meritocratic way or if you’re not able to see through the color -because choosing people to lead because of their color is the same thing as choosing them not [to]. Putting them down, it’s the same as putting them up.
In order to avoid tokenism, there is that opinion in the ether that you should stick with your own community, these communities stay with themselves or work together. Mignolo talked about the Bandung Conference, which I think is pretty helpful example of that line of thinking because that was just all the weak countries, basically, you know all the major nations in the Third World coming together and talking about how they can – basically it was like a cooperative effort from all these non-white, non-European, non-American communities and traditions. So you know that opinion is there and then there’s the other opinion that everybody needs to work together and then kind of figure out where everybody’s place in the effort. Which way it’s going to go, though, I don’t know. I don’t have any position on that.
Jennifer McCurdy: I will add, though, I thought about this about this question a lot too.
And just as it’s not up to me to indigenize something, I feel like in a lot of ways as a white person it’s not up to me to decolonize something. But I do think that what is colonialism at its base: it’s capitalism, profit, it’s inequality, it’s Christiandom [sic], it’s this moral and ethical exceptionalism or epistemological dominance. And so I feel like as anybody if we’re rejecting those things, in a lot of ways we’re rejecting colonialism.
And so we can even do these things in our basic, personal, individual lives.
But I know it’s a hard question to answer.
Jill Fleishman: If I could jump in here just for a minute and go back to some of Dr. Tinker’s teachings.
In his writings and in his teaching, he often reflects that the cultures of American Indians and other indigenous peoples have much to teach Europeans and North Americans about the world, about human relationships in the world, and about indigenous cultural values that can become a source of healing and reconciliation for all creation. And in that concept, he puts forth the idea that we should sit back as non-natives and listen and give the dignity to the indigenous peoples that they have knowledge of the world that we have not even begun to learn.
And in doing so, he also puts forth the idea that we as non-natives are not superior.
And we can’t go to work to decolonize so that we can bring them up to our level.
We’re all equals and we need to give them the respect and the dignity that they deserve.
I’d like to tell you a little story.
Years ago, well, many decades ago, after Dr. Tinker began teaching at Iliff, a trusted colleague whisked Dr. Tinker aside to share a guarded secret that colleague thought Dr. Tinker should know.
This friend and colleague imparted to Dr. Tinker that in 1893 a prominent Denver physician had gifted a book of Christian history to the newly founded Iliff School of Theology in Denver – a book that was bound in the flayed and tanned skin of a murdered Indian victim. This important book was publicly displayed in a glass case as a treasure at this Christian School of Theology for more than 80 years. As Dr. Tinker asked, what were they thinking?
In 1974, at the insistence of many Iliff students, the flayed skin was removed from the book and the human remains were given to members of the American Indian Movement for a proper American Indian ceremonial burial. Even then, however, Iliff failed to understand the gravity of its wrongdoing in housing and displaying this trophy.
They demanded that those involved in the repatriation of the body part be sworn to secrecy and required the AIM members sign a nondisclosure agreement, so there would be no repercussions against the institution over this heinous history. The unbound remainder of the book was hidden away in disgrace. Although, since 2015, the NDAs have been cast aside and Iliff has committed to owning its part in this human tragedy of promoting racism and lasting and generational damage to indigenous peoples, the book itself without the binding continues to reside this day in a safe at the Iliff School of Theology. Iliff is struggling and is in conversation with indigenous peoples to try to decide what to do with the remainder of the book, as well as how they can move forward with this piece of history in their background. But it’s not only in the background of Iliff.
Back in the 1800s, late 1800s, this was the whole entire attitude of the founding of our country. And if you go look at Johnson V. McIntosh, it’s laid out so clearly there.
In decolonizing, we have to go back to this history, and we have to listen to indigenous peoples, and we have to put them at the center, today, of ongoing issues that they’ve been struggling with and facing for centuries. For example, how we treat nature, the climate change, the pipelines, and that sort of thing. There are a lot of nonprofits out there run by non-indigenous people and they’re doing what they think is good work and a lot of it is good work, but if they would listen to indigenous peoples whose very being is tied to the land
for centuries, and let them take the lead on these issues, it would go a long way to decolonizing our minds, as well as our institutions and our structures around us.
So, I’ve said my piece.
Suhayb Yunus: Well, that solemn note is actually a good segue into the eighth question if you want to read that Brian.
Brian Kirn: That’s an excellent segue. “Tink Tinker discusses the fact that many natives conformed to modernity and even converted to Christianity in the 19th century without considering the compromises they needed to make in conforming to this ‘up-down image schema’ or the idea of one group being superior and maintaining control or authority another. How do we see colonial compromises like this continuing to take place today?”
Dianna Able: I’m not sure if I have an example of where I see it today, but one thing that Tink said that really struck me, and probably the most profound moment of the conference that I’ve seen so far, is when he said when I cross over and go into the spirit world – and I know there’s a name for it, I just don’t want to mispronounce it and mess up – but he said, when I go there and meet my ancestors, are they going to recognize me or am I too far colonized. And then he said, I’m struggling really hard to teach my granddaughter the ways of our culture so that her ancestors will recognize her. And I had never thought about that. That had never crossed my mind, and when he said that I was just – it just kind of took my breath away.
Brian Kirn: Yeah, unfortunately, as so many of are so very white, this colonial legacy that we that we have means that we ourselves and everything we do, going back to what Jennifer was talking about in her questions, is seemingly a colonial compromise of some point that every step that I take towards decoloniality is tempered by the very colonialality of my existence.
Kathleen Dalton: Well, I think one of the starts might be […]
institutionally, that we have more representation of who we are as a peoples.Because power seems to beget power, and as long as we have a white power structure that makes our laws, that forms our institutions of knowledge, they will retain power and the only way to break that down and to get away from our colonial past is representation of a more inclusive population. I think that’s a good start.
Suhayb Yunus: I do like to push back a bit on this phenomenon I see becoming more popular today: the white guilt.
I don’t think that that’s necessarily propitious. It’s not really assisting any of the indigenous movements necessarily. I mean, I think it goes back to what Jared was mentioning Tink Tinker said about not looking for apologies. Because acknowledgement is one thing, but then to identify yourself with whatever guilt might arise from that is another.
Alyssa Putzer: Going off of that a little bit, I’ve attended a lot of Black Lives Matter protests over the last couple of years and one thing I’ve noticed is this really interesting infiltration of white people and white-identifying people into the BIPOC community.
A lot of times there’s this push for white people to go to the front of the line as a form of protection, to kind of use their positionality as a way to give the BIPOC community an opportunity to voice what they need to voice.
But at the same time, it does kind of create this compromise where the BIPOC community is still standing behind the white community and is still relying on the white community to have a voice. And so I’m not really sure even where I stand on that, but it’s it’s this really interesting dichotomy of the intended reversal of power, but I don’t know how much is actually warranted from that, how much is actually gained by the BIPOC community from that.
Kathleen Dalton: Well, and I would say that I wouldn’t strive for ‘white guilt’ per se. My point was more to make room for different or alternative perspectives through representation. You know, you need to quiet the loudest voice if you’re going to hear those who have been marginalized and then consider their perspectives.
Carlos Steinkamp Calandria: I think this is an appropriate part where the idea that I was going to mention earlier could play a part, and please excuse me, this is not my field of study. I am in an academic setting; I am a high school teacher, but it’s not quite as advanced. I just dabble with these thoughts and ideas and I discussed them when I was getting my undergrad, but I’m definitely at a different level than everybody else here, however, I think it’s very interesting.
The question of the role of white people in in decolonizing: I think that as much as we are all equal in nature and innately one and the same, systematically the system has made it so that certain people have power and certain people have don’t have power. So I don’t think it’s useful for us to be like, “Oh no we don’t actually have the power,” like it’s not real; we’re all equal, but we have to see how we can use this power to revert it or invert it. And I think an interesting concept is the idea of not decolonization or decoloniality, but recoloniality, of reinventing the pre-existing cultures or the ways in which these have evolved […] and these practices to permeate our culture and flood it again in a way kind of like repainting the canvas rather than trying to chip away at the horrible stain of history and trying to remove it. I propose that it would be more interesting to find ways in which we could repaint it by inviting the culture to actually recolonize and re-take over the world. And there are certain things that can’t be undone. I’m from Spain, so the Spanish invading Latin America and indigenous culture mixing with Spanish culture, you have – like in Puerto Rico, you have the Taino culture which mixed with African traditions which mixed with Christian traditions, and now they become a homogenic mixture that is not that easy to separate. And even the people nowadays it’s like, “okay well I’m part Spanish and part African and part Taino, how do I decompartmentalize myself and identify with which root, because I am all of these.” And rather, what if we could embrace the diversity, the new third, that has come from the – or the new fourth – that has come from the mixture of three and allow those voices and allow those cultures to take predominance which, I think, and this might be a bit frivolous, but I see it happening with even in the music industry. I have a music background, with the rise of Latin American artists being more independent and mixing with African American traditions and you see it a lot in the arts, the intersectionality. I think it’s way more evident than in the academia, because arts are more accessible, basically. No matter what background you come from, you have access to some sort of artistic movement, whereas the academia poses the question of access. There’s a monetary issue and education issue, literacy issue. So how can we take the model of the arts that, in general, has been mostly inclusive with some exceptions and is more open and more welcoming and how could we apply that to the more socio-economic, political structures, academic structures.
And, yeah, I think from here on, I would just be ranting and repeating myself and I don’t know if I said anything specific. I was just sharing thoughts based on everything that I translated and that I absorbed, so that’s my little grain of salt. Thank you for hearing me out.
Jennifer McCurdy: To respond to that, I just was rereading Homi Bhabha recently, The Location of Culture,and he talks about two different kinds of cosmopolitanism.
And he said the dangerous kind is the colonial cosmopol – “global cosmopolitan” – and I’m reading this – “global cosmopolitanism, which is prosperity and privilege, and a neoliberal, free market world” that there’s this great faith in technology and we live in these imagined communities like Silicon Valley and he said that’s one kind of this sort of like, “Oh we’re all the same, and we’re all living together in this multicultural way, but it’s actually very much still about you know neoliberalism.
But then he calls the kind of cosmopolitanism that he aims for is vernacular cosmopolitanism. And he calls it “wounded cosmopolitanism” but it’s this he calls it, “a right to difference in equality,” so we’re equal but we’re different. And he said it’s not about authenticating anybody’s origins or identities and it creates solidarities and works towards democracy. And so his example is Trinidad. And he says in Trinidad, the people may [be] complete in some ways in their losses, but they’ve not lost their culture: they’re communitarian, they’re busy, they’re noisy. But they’re still tolerant. And so it’s a different kind of cosmopolitanism, and so I feel like what you’re saying Carlos is more this vernacular cosmopolitanism where people are coming together in their differences rather than in this one big market neoliberal society.
And you know these sort of false sort of communities that aren’t really communities, it’s people are constantly moving for finding jobs for profit and for somehow to continue to contribute to the market society, and so we form and deform and reform all of these global cosmopolitan communities, but it’s not very authentic.
Carlos Steinkamp Calandria: Right, and I think that that is because of the nature of the issue of power. As much as the ‘colonizing entities,’ i.e. white people, want to help, we have, we possess a certain amount of power and privilege that, as has been mentioned before, it’s dangerous to even acknowledge and feed because we don’t want it. On one hand, we need to be aware of it and, and on another hand, we need to de escalate it, but then on another hand, we need to use it for the empowerment.
This is kind of like the tri-chotomy that happpens at this crux where even different cultural and sociological movements have disagreements. Like, “no, we should do it like this, and we should do it like that, and we should use this or we should give up that,” and it makes it very, very complicated to create this vernacular cosmopolitan because they’re still, like even in the music industry with the example that I gave about the Latin American music, you still have the record labels that are mostly run by corporate white America.
So it’s like, okay, we give it the pass because, like being conscious and being multicultural and Latin culture now it’s ‘in,’ but if, in a decade it stops being the norm, then they’re going to focus on something else. So it becomes an issue of of empowering. How are we going to make sure that the vernacular cosmopolitan can not only have their cultural expression, but they can also be part of that kind of more urban cosmopolitan Silicon Valley thing, so that they have the power to make decisions because, otherwise, we have to dismantle the whole economic system, which is a much bigger endeavor.
And this brings back the point that was mentioned before, of just allowing people to have leadership roles, based on their socio-economic background, which is a bias in and of itself.
But all these things are very messy, but I think as as the role that we can have, to answer the question that was said earlier, I think that the role we can have as a colonizer culture as white people is figuring out the way in which we can allow these other cultures, indigenous cultures, these things that we have othered, and welcome them and make them part of the narrative, make them part of thelobal experience. And then also welcome them but also empower them so that they have the power to make the decision to do that in the first place. But at this point, I guess, before the baton can be passed, I think structures need to be made so that there is space for the baton to be passed. It’s kind of weird to pass the baton when the system that’s in place doesn’t allow for that really in an efficient way.
So we need to reevaluate power and use it, use the power, to give it up and how do we do that, how would we – this is an interesting question – how would we use our power – that is, well, it’s not our – it comes from systematic – we don’t necessarily embrace or want this power, but it’s there unfortunately. So how do we, how can we use it to give it up or dismantle the structure of power in the first place.
Suhayb Yunus: I think you mentioned something that I think is is interesting and important and will lead us to the next question which I’ll read right after this, but the idea of a culture being in. The fashion of Latin culture being in right now, or black culture being in right now, so you see it on the TV everywhere. Can we strip that from the economic incentives that the powers that be see in making those things fashionable? Because people can turn a profit by promoting these images and and the whole cultural phenomenon, the zeitgeist of right now.
But then in 10 years, in 5 years, in 3 years, when it’s not making money anymore will we stop seeing that. And if it is underwritten by an economic interest, how much can we trust… If that happens, how can we commandeer that, so take it and then and then make it something that’s authentic and lasting.
And then, that I think goes to the sixth question or leads to the sixth question. Which is on the topic of theory and praxis: how do these two relate?
“Dr. Harrero said that they do not have to occur simultaneously but Dr. Mignolo said that they are the same thing, so theory equals thinking equals praxis.” What do people think about this?
Carlos Steinkamp Calandria: Well, hopping on what you just said, you made a very interesting point about the economic incentives behind this kind of cultural promotion. The very interesting thing is what’s behind that if there’s an economic incentive.
That means that people are consuming it. And if people are consuming it, does it mean that people are becoming more inclusive or are they being convinced to be more inclusive because – it’s a chicken or the egg question. Is the industry promoting these images because people are interested in them or is the industry making these images interesting in order to make money from them?
And if it’s the former, then I think there is hope for some sort of longevity to this, because then it’s not being driven by the corporation, but it’s being driven by actually the client. People are being more aware, more inclusive and therefore consuming products or cultural content that is more in line with the liberal ideas that we have towards a better society and a better world.
Suhayb Yunus: Yeah, I think the caveat to that would be that if the interest is stemming from the consumer, then, is that interest an actual genuine altruism, a genuine change in the heart and mind towards something that’s more inclusive because of and for the sake of the other or is it something that makes them feel better about themselves by associating themselves with this movement. So if it’s that, then that’s problematic and if it’s not that, then, okay, then we can get on board the hope train.
Carlos Steinkamp Calandria: Yes, and I definitely see a trend, especially in my high school students where like being ‘woke’ is cool. Like there’s this notion of like, “oh being diverse,” and even institutions like universities, businesses embrace this like, “we need diversity, because that’s what people are attracted to.”
And some people are coming from a place of authenticity and some people are faking it in order to have a better image of themselves protect their self-image and stuff like that. So, yeah, I mean, of course, people are coming from different places and some people are coming from a more authentic, educated, legit approach and some people are just kind of like hopping in because that’s what the society is leaning into and they don’t want to be judged and they don’t want it -but even that is some sort of cultural transformation that I think promotes change. Because if, all of a sudden, I have a student who is who is maybe more conservative or he has ideas of racism that he has absorbed from his parents and stuff like that, and he goes to school and he hides them because of what other people are going to think and he kind of like takes positions and kind of like camouflages himself into this new environment, he could be actually transforming and decolonizing himself in a weird, passive, unintentional way as a result of the predominance of cultural diversity and self-awareness.
So, is it really bad? Is it really about where they’re coming from? Should we really say like it’s problematic if they’re coming from a bad place or should we say it’s problematic in theory but then in the practice in the end it ends up contributing to the cultural whirlwind of transformation and decolonization.
Suhayb Yunus: [So] it’s almost Darwinian: if these views aren’t going to be used, then they’re going to get weeded out as we evolve.
I think somebody else was trying to say something earlier, whether.
Rachel Foley: [I was just] trying to make the point that it might have been cultural appropriation.
Brian Kirn: But in appropriating decolonial culture […] You know where do we take that? Okay, so, yes, they are they’re mimicking, they’re just kind of going along with the crowd and, yes, that is cultural appropriation, but if the culture that they are appropriating is one that helps them to delink from racism and from colonial strains of thinking from – and become more decolonial, where do we put that cultural appropriation on a moral scale?
Dianna Able: All of this reminds me of – I’m not sure if y’all will remember – a few years ago, the huge trend and craze with Native American head dresses and Native American outfits, especially in the music scene, and young girls getting dressed up in these super elaborate head pieces to go to festivals. And everyone who was in their circles were like, “Oh, you know you look so good,” and whatever and then we had the outpouring of knowledge from indigenous and native communities saying, “Hey, this is super wrong, you do not get to where that, dream catchers are not to be tattooed on your body.” And so, while that was a really harsh form of cultural appropriation and all of these white girls running around in this piece, that does not fit them, a lot of people got educated about it and learned from that experience. And I know personally I did all the research and learned about the significance of dream catchers and head dresses.
And so there’s always like that that other side of the coin, as to, even if it was promoted with wrong intentions, it still has the capability to teach and help give back significance to people who didn’t know that it was there.
Carlos Steinkamp Calandria: Yeah, it’s almost a weird thing where it’s like if those people hadn’t been culturally appropriating something and making the indigenous community completely infuriated about it, we would have never actually heard the voice of the Native American community and we would have never leaned towards educating ourselves. And now, like if a kid comes to a Halloween party in my high school with a Native American costume, the whole school all the teachers, the majority of the student body, are going to shut that down and education is going to take place. And this student is going to have a kind of ‘traumatic experience’ and it’s going to serve him to grow and be like, “Okay, so in the modern world that I live in, this is something that’s not okay,” because of why, because of racism and because of other things. And all of a sudden, you have this kid who, if he hadn’t done that, wouldn’t be asking himself these questions and growing in these ways and in a way, transcending his own cultural appropriation and his own racism, and I find that fascinating.
Jennifer McCurdy: I think we can learn from each other. And there’s one thing to say, you know, I’ve been a student of Tink’s for a long time and I have a lot of conversations with him about… I want to do things that are, in some ways, things that I’ve learned from him and his indigenous worldview, but I will never be indigenous and my goal is not to be a Native American. And I think that’s the difference. It’s I can do things that sort of push back on capitalism. I can do things, I can teach, from my perspective, I can teach what colonialism is to other people.
But I can’t really be the one to teach about what an indigenous worldview is. That’s not my role, and so I think that there’s a lot of things we can learn without appropriating it. And so we can act in ways that are environmentally, you know, that are better for the environment and the climate, but that doesn’t mean we’re being indigenous because we’re doing it in a way that I learned from Tink Tinker.
So I think there’s a difference between learning from and practicing in ways that still maybe have the same ends as far as like keeping everybody healthy and keeping the environment clean and not killing off the entire Earth without claiming a specific identity. I think when you start claiming identities that’s when you start getting into trouble. And I know that there’s a group of Navajo professors who are working with this one global development group in Denver, and they want to teach what they know because they see it as the last ditch effort to save the planet. And so they want white people to listen to them, and I asked them, I said, “Aren’t you afraid to share this knowledge, aren’t you afraid it’s going to be appropriated yet again?” And one of the answers was well, this isn’t our knowledge, this is everybody’s knowledge and we can share it. We can’t help what people do with it, but we’re going to share it. And so, I don’t know, I think it’s an interesting conversation, appropriation.
Rachel Foley: [This] goes back to the discussion of whose knowledge is it anyway. And maybe the thing is that knowledge just needs to be shared, which does kind of make things susceptible to appropriation, but it also gives people space to learn about things other than the things that they’ve seen. So I feel like maybe the whole solution to decolonizing is like sharing knowledge, just sharing what we know about ourselves about each other about and about our own cultures and religious practice.
I think that the academy should be free or broken down in some way that would make it accessible like Kieryn said.
That’s all I have to say about that.
Jennifer McCurdy: But on the other hand – so the book Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, she got a lot of criticism from other indigenous people for sharing some what they thought was specifically indigenous knowledge that they didn’t think should be shared. So I don’t think there’s really a good answer about
not this knowledge should be shared. And everybody [thinks] differently about it.
Rachel Foley: That’s true, too.
Carlos Steinkamp Calandria: Jennifer, I really, really like something that you said earlier about identity and the idea of how we can spread knowledge and how we can spread awareness, but we can’t really claim a new identity as an indigenous. I can’t claim an identity that’s not mine, I could stand with Black Lives Matter, but I will never be black. And the issue is that I can’t help – white people can’t help being white.
But when the culture streams in a direction that you know whiteness now is associated – because of obvious historical and racial and systemic reasons – with ‘badness,’ with being bad. And I think, on one hand, there’s the white guilt that comes with that and all the neoliberalism and the whole discussion we were having before about inauthentic cultural practices. And then there’s the more dangerous, more problematic issue of white supremacy, people being like, “No, my identity is not bad! My identity is the best! My identity superior! And we must maintain it and keep it because it’s in danger, because it’s dying, because it’s being tainted by,” you know, the decolonization that is slowly but surely taking place in our society.
So, it’s weird how do we, in a way, free the liberal white person that
wants to help from the notion of being white is bad and you shouldn’t identify with your whiteness, you shouldn’t be proud of it.
You shouldn’t even – it’s almost a taboo, but then it’s also, you can’t be anybody else, so then where’s the space for this privileged being that wants to help, but whose ancestors have done all these messed up things and has power but shouldn’t have it.
There’s an existential crisis that I think a lot of white neoliberalist scholars undergo because of this. And I think it’s because of the initial idea that we have associated whiteness with badness in a certain way – which is totally legit and it makes sense, but it’s having these kind of really dangerous consequences.
So how can we, how can we prevent white people from appropriating and identifying themselves as cultures that are not their own without falling into white pride or white supremacy? Is there a way of healthfully creating a white identity that is actually helpful for decolonization and for the empowerment of oppressed groups?
Kathleen Dalton: I think one of the ways is to just be aware of the artificial idea of racial superiority, one over the other. What is it that we fear that we cannot recognize other human beings without the need to oppress them? I think that’s a start face our own fears.
Suhayb Yunus: It wouldn’t be one of the reasons why – first of all, I don’t really have a problem with appropriation as much as other people seem to. There’s certain things which, like, obviously, what Dianna was talking about with the headdress, but then there’s some stuff that I think it’s just white people talking about some kinds of appropriation. I don’t hear that from other people because it’s like you get into the minutia where it’s not really […]
But I think if we take it as almost like endemic problem in the white community that they can just so easily commandeer these other identities and take them on, and I think the first thing to look at is what’s going on in that individual or in that community that they can do that, that they feel the need or the urge, the desire to have this sort of protean self, to take on other identities. And I think that is probably has something to do with what Dianna was suggesting earlier about where’s white culture. White people have culture. Avocado toast?
But even historically, go back to wherever your roots – first of all, white is diverse. German culture is not the same as English culture. But you have a history and perhaps the blurring of it, at least in America, one’s own lineage or white people’s own lineage, where exactly do they come from, which nation in Europe – not that there were nations at the time, necessarily, but which area, which region in Europe, what’s there, what’s their heritage, and not having a sufficient pride in a type of way. I mean a sort of identification with that region and the sense that it’s okay to be German, it’s okay to take part in those practices, in those cultural practices, recognizing that there are things that were done by these different communities, different peoples, that should not have been done, but the cultures themselves are extant. They have […] they carry something for the individual. And maybe rediscovering that that identity that is authentic to the person will kind of prevent them from going into something else because it’s perhaps because of the sense of loss of identity that they find it so easy to take on other people’s.
But I don’t know this more speaking from an American context.
We can go to the to the next actual list question because I think there’s still…
Brian Kirn: Question number seven is our last one.
Suhayb Yunus: “Is decoloniality a product of or a push back against modernity?”
I would suggest that Mignolo would probably say it’s both. Or I think he would something else, because he doesn’t like dyads. So he would just add a third option: it’s some kind of triad of things. But I think in general he would probably say it’s both.
I don’t know what other people think.
Usually Whenever someone suggests that something is both, everybody jumps on board with saying it’s both.
Alyssa Putzer: I will validate your response and say that I agree, Suhayb, that it’s both. And maybe more. I think it’s both a product of and a result of modernity and this kind of modern way of thinking about what coloniality is and how to combat that. As well as kind of a response to modernity to kind of revert back a little bit.
Brian Kirn: So, if I go ahead and change up this question here, I have heard modernity equated to capitalism, at least in an economic sense, so how well do we think the question “Is decoloniality a product or a push back against capitalism?” how well does that work?
Suhayb Yunus: Well, I think modernity incorporates much more than capitalism. I mean, there’s clearly a sort of imperialistic crusade to capitalize the world – just like we’re democratizing the world and everything – but there are certainly…
I mean, I wouldn’t say that communism is necessarily decolonial. It might be in a sense, it might not be. It kind of depends on how it’s articulated and manifested but there’s no reason why I don’t think that there can’t be like capitalist decoloniality. Whether that’s ideal or not is another conversation. And, you know, if we were to follow the same line of thinking of Mignolo and Walsh, they like to talk about decoloniality not being one thing and they’re being many types of decoloniality, allowing different communities to come up with their own version, so if a community decides that capitalism is the economic system that they want in their articulation of decoloniality, then I don’t see what the incoherence necessarily would be. It would, again, depend on how they do it.
But, yeah, I think modernity just incorporates a lot more. Like a big part of modernity is the sort of anathematization of religion, and what does that have to do with capital – I mean, they’re related and they certainly, obviously, they went in hand in hand, otherwise they wouldn’t have historically corresponded – but they are distinct phenomena.
Brian Kirn: All right.
Carlos Steinkamp Calandria: I mean, I think we can even flip it around and even say that decoloniality is the result of modernity because it allows for the spread of information. Basically coming from there, we receive the information through our technological access, and now we can resist colonization because we have a medium through which we can acquire information.
Brian Kirn: Has our as our conversation petered out here?
Alyssa Putzer: Are there any more questions on the list?
Brian Kirn: That was the last one.
Alyssa Putzer: Awesome. Well, I have been passed the host power from Carl. I will try not to let it get to my head, but I’m just going to close this out here if no one has anything else to say. I just wanted to thank you all for this really stimulating conversation. I know that I have gotten a lot from this and I hope that you have as well, and I hope that you’ll join us again tomorrow at 8:30 Mountain Time for the final day of the conference, so we hope to see you tomorrow and the link should be in your email.
So, I thank you all attending today.