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Latin American Studies Modernity and Decoloniality
by
Walter D. Mignolo

Introduction

The epistemic and political project known as modernity/(de)coloniality originated in South America, more specifically in the Andean region. To say “modernity and decoloniality” is to name in a colonial way the project that is being decolonized. Modernity/(de)coloniality are complex, heterogeneous, and historical structural concepts. They are entangled in ways shown by the work of groups introduced in this article. The key concept, however, is coloniality. Like many other similar and parallel projects (see the article on the Caribbean Philosophical Association), the key concept of coloniality calls into question the idea that knowledge is disembodied and independent of any specific geohistorical locations. The members involved in the project argue that such belief has been created and implanted by dominant principles of knowledge that originated in Europe since the Renaissance. In order to build a universal conception of knowledge, Western epistemology (from Christian theology to secular philosophy and science) has pretended that knowledge is independent of the geohistorical (Christian Europe) and biographical conditions (Christian white men living in Christian Europe) in which it is produced. As a result, Europe became the locus of epistemic enunciation, and the rest of the world became the object to be described and studied from the European (and, later on, the United States), perspective. This article concentrates on the overall profile of the project and on those members of the collective that, in the first stage, provided the foundational concepts and, in the second stage, expanded the base toward new horizons. We have entered a period in which universal assumptions about knowledge production are being displaced. In other words, knowledge, like capitalism, no longer comes from one center; rather, it is geopolitically distributed. That global distribution demanded a concept to account for it. Geopolitics of knowledge is a key concept in modernity, coloniality, and decoloniality.

Introductory Works

The project has its point of origination in Latin America, but it is not for Latin America only, in the same way that Marxism, postmodernism, or psychoanalysis originated in Europe but is not for Europe only. The concept of decolonization originated in the Bandung Conference (see Wright 1956). The concept of coloniality originated in South America in the 1990s (Quijano 2009, cited in Aníbal Quijano and Coloniality of Power). Postcoloniality originated in the 1980s, right after the publication of Francois Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1978). Both postcolonialism and (de)coloniality are results of the Bandung Conference. The conference was neither for capitalism nor for Communism, and it was not a compromise—a “third way,” as was proposed in the 1990s. It was something else, a delinking from both, that is, decolonialization (see Quest’s The Lessons of the Bandung Conference), and that means that both capitalism and Communism were indeed two types of colonialism (one with an emphasis on free market and the other with an emphasis on state control of the market), but both inheritors of the Enlightenment. Bandung was a departure, a delinking and the initiation of a long process of decolonization and decoloniality as a set of global, interrelated projects without a center. A historical description of decolonization in Africa and Asia can be found in Duara 2003. The poetics and politics of decolonization were magisterially articulated by Césaire 1955 and by Fanon 2004. In Latin America, the legacy of José Carlos Mariátegui (see Mariátegui 1971) was a key antecedent of the concept of coloniality. The “failure” of the process of political and economic decolonization was not questioning coloniality, as Quijano has shown us, but rather in the logic that underlined the particular historical form of colonialism. The experience that Africans and Asian countries were going through had already happened at the beginning of the 19th century in Latin America, and it was already known by the 1960s that “independences” were indeed a new form of colonialism: that is, international colonialism in the process of building the national states (see González Casanova 2003). It was also clear at the time that coloniality operated not only in the sphere of the political and the economic but basically at the epistemic (see Fals Borda’s Uno siembra semilla pero ella tienen su propia dinámica and Sánchez Lopera 2008), cultural, and aesthetics levels (see Achinte’s Comida y colonialidad cited under Decolonial Aesthetics).

  • Césaire, Aimé. Discourse on Colonialism. Translated by Joan Pinkham. New York: Monthly Review, 1955.

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    Written in France during the Algerian war, a decade after the end of fascism in Germany and at the moment when Paris was at the crossroads of African liberation movements and French Caribbean intellectualism, Discourse on Colonialism is a necessary point of reference for any discourse on decolonization and decoloniality.

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  • Duara, Prasenjit. Decolonization: Perspectives from Now and Then. Rewriting Histories. London: Routledge, 2003.

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    A necessary reading to understand the historical background common to both postcoloniality and decoloniality.

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  • Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. Translated by Richard Philcox. New York: Grove, 2004.

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    Written during the trying years of the Algerian wars of liberation, and at the end of Fanon’s short and influential life, this book is a key treatise on decolonial political theory in the line of Guaman Poma de Ayala in the early 17th century and Ottobah Cugoano in the late 18th century. Foreword by Homi K. Bhabha; preface by Jean-Paul Sartre.

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  • González Casanova, Pablo. “Colonialismo interno (una redefinición).” Rebeldía 12 (2003): 409–434.

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    This classical article provides a missing link between postcoloniality and decoloniality: internal colonialism and the colonial history of the Americas and the Caribbean. Decolonization in Africa and Asia are the second wave of decolonization in the modern/colonial world. In the Americas we have talked about revolutions (American and Haitian) and independences (South and Central America). Available at Biblioteca CLASCO.

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  • Mariátegui, José Carlos. Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality. Texas Pan American Series. Translated by Marjory Urquidi. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971.

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    Mariátegui´s book is a turning point in the history of Latin American thought and a landmark in the geopolitics of knowledge. The problem of the Indian is a socioeconomic problem, states Mariátegui, refuting centuries of arguments that makes the Indians a cultural problem. It is also a turning point in Marxist theory—Mariátegui introduces the decolonial option. Originally published in Spanish in 1928.

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  • Sánchez Lopera, Alejandro. “Orlando Fals Borda. Aporías de un pensamiento sin desilusión.” Nómadas 29 (2008): 206–211.

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    A useful article to understand the decolonial work avant la lettre that this Colombian sociologist engaged in, next to other sociologists such as Pablo González Casanova and Rodolfo Stavenhagen.

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  • Quest, Matthew. The Lessons of the Bandung Conference: Reviewing Richard Wright’s The Color Curtain 40 Years Later.

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    This is useful review of the book and the consequences of the Bandung Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement.

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  • Uno siembra semilla pero ella tienen su propia dinámica. Interview with Orlando Fals Borda.

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    Fals Borda was a pioneer in not just opening up the social sciences and area studies but also decolonizing them. He initiated these arguments in the 1970s, and they are nicely recollected in this interview.

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  • Wright, Richard. The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference. New York: World, 1956.

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    A classic report on the conference, written by a black author right after the event.

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The Concept of Coloniality

Concepts such as dependency theory, theology, and philosophy of liberation gave way to the concept of coloniality, which prompted the formation of a cluster of scholars and intellectuals around 1998. Common to all of these projects was a concern for elucidating the conditions of domination at the national as well as the international level. The collapse of the Soviet Union forced US scholars to rethink the entire program of area studies that had emerged in the 1950s. Area studies, as Pletsch 1981 cogently argues, implies an international division of the scholarly and intellectual labor according to which the First World has and produces objective knowledge and science; the Second World has nonobjective knowledge and sciences; and the Third World has culture to be studied by the sciences of the First World. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was necessary to move beyond the Third World, as Escobar 2004 argues. The concept of coloniality emerged as a response to this sea of changes and that historical conjuncture, in the same way that a few years earlier Europe needed the concept of biopolitics as a response to the limits of its own historical imagination. However, Oto and Quintana 2010 argues that coloniality allows us to see the limits of biopolitics when thought out as a universal concept rather than a regional one.

  • Escobar, Arturo. “Beyond the Third World: Imperial Globality, Global Coloniality and Anti-Globalisation Social Movements.” Third World Quarterly 25.1 (2004): 207–230.

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    Escobar provides, indirectly, an update to the early critical vision advanced by Pletsch 1981. Pletsch wrote the article from the perspective of political sciences as a discipline. In this article, Escobar brings together his early critiques of developmentalism and the perspective offered by the collective modernity/coloniality/decoloniality. In a second moment, Escobar establishes a parallel between social movements and decolonial thinking and theory. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Oto, Alejandro de, and Ana María Quintana. “Biopolítica y colonialidad. Una lectura crítica de Homo sacer.” Tabula Rasa 12 (2010): 47–72.

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    Biopolitics and coloniality are concepts that have different points of origin. One originated in Europe in response to European issues and problems, and the second originated in the ex-colonies of South America. De Oto and Quintana explore the shortcomings of biopolitics in the light of coloniality and, by doing so, shift the geography of reasoning that endows concepts originating in Europe with epistemic privileges.

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  • Pletsch, Carl E. “The Three Worlds, or the Division of Social Scientific Labor, circa 1950–1975.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 23.4 (1981): 565–590.

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    Clarifies the relationship between geohistorical locations and epistemology and provides a scholarly analysis to understand how the geopolitics of knowledge works. The three-world division does not correspond to any ontology of the world and, also and above all, the classification was invented in the First World. Pletsch’s article did not receive much attention until recently, when geopolitics of knowledge came into the picture.

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History

The formation of the project of modernity/coloniality/decoloniality began in 1998 by serendipity rather than by design. That year, Venezuelan sociologist Edgardo Lander organized three panels in the meeting of the International Sociological Association in Montreal, during which Lander, Aníbal Quijano, Enrique Dussel, Fernando Coronil, Arturo Escobar, and Walter Mignolo discussed the topic of coloniality. Just before that meeting in 1998 in Montreal, Kelvin Santiago Valles ran a series of very successful annual workshops on the concept of coloniality. One of the last workshops was published in a special issue of The New Centennial Review (3.3 [2003]: 47–69). Between the meeting in Montreal in 1998 and the workshops organized by Santiago Valles in Binghamton, the concept of coloniality was debated in related meetings. Finally, at Duke University in 2001, a group gathered to discuss “Knowledge and the Known,” intending to elucidate the visible face of modernity and its darker side, coloniality. The event was attended by Aníbal Quijano, Catherine Walsh, Enrique Dussel, Edgardo Lander, Fernando Coronil, Zulma Palermo, Javier Sanjinés, and Arturo Escobar, among others. Freya Schiwy and Michael Ennis, at that point graduate students, edited a special dossier of the journal Nepantla (see Schiwy and Ennis 2002). Since that meeting, the project continued to advance and be defined in its overall conceptual structure and goals. There are several volumes, in Spanish and English, that are compilations of papers by members of the collective. Chronologically, the first was Walsh, et al. 2002, published in Ecuador. In 2007 and 2008 three compilations of articles by members of the collective were published in Spanish: one in Bogotá (Castro-Gómez and Grosfoguel 2007) and the second and third in Madrid (Cairo Carau and Mignolo 2009, Cairo Carau and Grosfoguel 2010). Mignolo and Escobar 2009 was the first to introduce an English-speaking audience to the work of the collective. Two anonymous authors posted an overview on Wikipedia (Grupo modernidad/colonialidad), which was reviewed and approved by the collective. Rodríguez, et al. 2010 initiated the hard task of decolonizing European sociology at the very site where sociology originated. This volume shows once more the scope and the force of decolonial thinking.

  • Cairo Carau, Heriberto, and Ramón Grosfoguel, eds. Descolonizar la modernidad, descolonizar Europa: Un diálogo Europa–América Latina. Problemas Internacionales 37. Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Políticos para América Latina, 2010.

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    This book collects the papers of a conference that took place in Madrid with the participation, among others, of Enrique Dussel, María Lugones, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Walter Mignolo, Franco Cassano, and Nelson Maldonado-Torres. This book seeks to trace the difference, in the dialogue between Europe and Latin America, between Marxism (which originated in Europe) and coloniality of power (which originated in Latin América). The first confronts capitalism, the second Western civilization (Eurocentrism), which includes Marxism.

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  • Cairo Carau, Heriberto, and Walter D. Mignolo, eds. Las vertientes Americanas del pensamiento y proyecto des-colonias. Madrid: Trama, 2009.

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    This book consists of a collection of articles that emerged from a summer school course organized by Heriberto Cairo Carau, “El pensamiento descolonial y el surgimiento de los indígenas como nuevo sujeto político en América Latina,” which took place at El Escorial 24–28 July 2006. An advanced version of the book was published in Tabula Rasa. Bogotá–Colombia 8 (2008): 243–281.

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  • Castro-Gómez, Santiago, and Ramón Grosfóguel, eds. El giro decolonial: Reflexiones para una diversidad epistémica más allá del capitalismo global. Bogotá, Colombia: Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 2007.

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    This collection incorporates new works by new members of the collective and in that sense is a companion of the collection titled Indisciplinar las ciencias sociales (Quito, Ecuador: Editorial Abya Yala, 2002). It also introduces the work of young scholars incorporating and expanding the basic conceptual apparatus of the project. It includes articles by Quijano, Walsh, Maldonado-Torres, Mignolo, Castro-Gómez, Ramón Grosfoguel, Cajigas Rotundo, Santamaría Delgado, Fernando Garcés, Flórez Flórez, Mónica Espinosa, and Eduardo Resrepo.

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  • Grupo modernidad/colonialidad. Wikipedia.

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    This article, written by two anonymous authors who are not members of the collective, was read by several members of the collective and is considered a very accurate and scholarly presentation of the project.

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  • Mignolo, Walter, and Arturo Escobar, eds. Globalization and the Decolonial Option. London: Routledge, 2009.

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    This is the first collection in English that collects key articles by core members of the collective, including the inaugural article by Quijano, ¨Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality.¨ It also includes articles by collaborators Manuela Boatcă, José Saldívar, Madina Tlostanova, and Zilkia Janer and a critical summary of Mignolo 2010 (under Decolonial Aesthetics).

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  • Palestra. Tabula Rasa 8 (2008).

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    This section includes an article by Cairo Carau that introduces a dialogue between coloniality and imperiality. It includes articles by Walter Mignolo and a debate article by Pablo Iglesias Turrión, Jesús Espasadín López, and Iñigo Errejón Galván, along with Mignolo’s response. The group of essays opened up a dialogue with indigenous intellectual and activists Nina Pacari (Ecuador) and Félix Patzi Paco.

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  • Rodríguez, Encarnación Gutiérrez, Manuela Boatcă, and Sérgio Costa, eds. Decolonizing European Sociology: Transdisciplinary Approaches. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010.

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    This book builds on the work challenging the androcentric, colonial, and ethnocentric perspectives eminent in mainstream European sociology by identifying and describing the processes at work in its current critical transformation. The book considers the self-definition and basic concepts of social sciences through an assessment of the new theoretical developments, such as postcolonial theory and subaltern studies.

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  • Schiwy, Freya, and Michael Ennis, eds. Special Issue: Knowledges and the Known: Andean Perspectives on Capitalism and Epistemology. Nepantla: Views from South 3.1 (2002).

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    This dossier includes articles by Sanjinés, Guardiola Rivera, and Walsh, with an introduction by Schiwy and Ennis, graduate students at that time. This was the first meeting in which the idea of a collective project was consolidated and a plan for the future was outlined. Present in that meeting were Aníbal Quijano, Zulma Palermo Enrique Dussel, Catherine Walsh, Javier Sanjinés, Edgardo Lander, Arturo Escobar, Castro-Gómez, Guardiola Rivera, and Walter Mignolo. Available online by subscription.

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  • Walsh, Catherine, Freya Schiwy, and Santiago Castro-Gómez, eds. Indisciplinar las ciencias sociales: Geopolíticas del conocimiento y colonialidad del poder. Perspectivas desde lo andino. Quito, Ecuador: Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, 2002.

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    This volume emerged from the meeting at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolivar (2001), which consolidated the formation of the collective. Contains contributions from Aníbal Quijano, Egardo Lander, Zulma Palermo, Freya Schiwy, Santiago Castro-Gómez, Fernando Coronil, Walter Mignolo, Javier Sanjinés, and Walter Mignolo. The first volume that reflects and summarizes the work of the collective. The book constitutes a written foundational document.

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A Narrative of the Conceptual Apparatus

This section focuses on the project’s main concepts and provides a chronological and biographical context that will allow the reader to see how the collective operates. We can no longer talk about epistemology in general and then of geo-epistemology as a derivation of the first term. On the contrary, there is no general epistemology; every epistemology is geohistorically located in the colonial matrix of power. By implication, the colonial matrix of power cannot be observed from outside of it. The “hubris of the zero point” is nothing but a geohistorically located epistemology that became imperial and attempted to absorb into itself and erase all other epistemologies. The work of the modernity/coloniality/decoloniality project is showing that we arrived at the end of disembodied abstract universals beyond any geohistorical location.

Dictionary Entries

The four articles cited here appeared in an important publication whose project runs parallel to the project of modernity/coloniality: Dictionario del Pensamiento Alternativo. The publication falls under the auspices of Centro de Ciencia, Educación y Sociedad (CECIES), a civil association promoting social progress in Latin American countries through a wide spectrum of activities. This is a clear example and needed activity to remind the world that Latin America is not an area of studies but a conglomerate of potent, original, inventive, and creative thinkers, artists, and activists that are moving toward a new world and not expecting instructions on what they should think or a definition of who they are. Canaparo 2009 introduces the concept of geo-epistemology, Oto 2009 examines the decolonial turn, Palermo 2008 looks at the decolonial options, and Quintana 2008 explores the coloniality of being.

  • Canaparo, Claudio. “Geo-epistemología.” In Diccionario del pensamiento alternativo II. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Biblos Lexicón, 2009.

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    A clear introduction to the relevance of geo-epistemology, which means simply that there is no epistemology per se, but there is always a necessary mutual implication between geohistorical locations and epistemology. Above all, geo-epistemology is a concept associated with the modernity/coloniality project and analyzed as a crucial domain in which the colonial difference was established. See Nelson Maldonado-Torres.

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  • Oto, Alejandro de. “Pensamiento Descolonial/Decolonial.” In Diccionario del pensamiento alternativo II. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Biblos Lexicón, 2009.

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    This article describes the features of what it means to think decolonially and how thinking decolonially forces one to ask: What are people who are not thinking decolonially thinking? What does it mean, for example, to think sociologically, or philosophically, or economically, or politically? These questions lead to understanding decolonial as an option, which is explored in Palermo 2008.

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  • Palermo, Zulma. “La opción decolonial.” In Diccionario del pensamiento alternativo I. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Biblos Lexicón, 2008.

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    This contribution makes clear that the decolonial is an option and not a mission. It also serves to distinguish a decolonial turn from the decolonial options. A decolonial option means that a new choice enters into the game. Defining itself as an option questions any claim to universal truth and objectivity.

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  • Quintana, María Marta. “Colonialidad del ser, delimitaciones conceptuales.” In Diccionario del pensamiento alternativo I. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Biblos Lexicón, 2008.

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    This article goes into further specifications of the colonial matrix of power. The colonial matrix has been described in three trajectories: coloniality of power (control of economy and authority), coloniality of knowledge (epistemology; see Canaparo 2009), and coloniality of being (a geohistorization through colonial epistemic and ontological difference of Heidegger’s universalization of Being and of Levnas’s “otherwise than Being”).

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Aníbal Quijano and Coloniality of Power

Quijano 2009 (first published in 1989) establishes coloniality as a relational concept. If coloniality is the darker side of modernity, coloniality (what modernity hides) cannot be understood without its relation to modernity. Quijano 2009 and, in greater depth, Quijano 2008 look at, simultaneously, the visibility of the narrative of modernity, the invisible logic of coloniality that the rhetoric of modernity hides, and the decolonial responses that modernity/coloniality engenders. In addition, coloniality is the force and the energy of domination and control that engender responses by those who do not want to be dominated or controlled. Coloniality, in other words, engenders decoloniality. Further articles on the topic by Quijano may be found in Escritos Anibal Quijano. The triad of modernity/coloniality/decoloniality is an epistemic strategy that delinks from the denotative foundation of Western epistemology based on the relationship between words and things. If, from the perspective of modernity, one can understand what modernity is without paying attention to coloniality and decoloniality, the inverse doesn’t hold: from a decolonial perspective, there is no modernity without coloniality; modernity is incomprehensible without coloniality. Coloniality is shorthand for the colonial matrix of power (patron colonial de poder, in Quijano’s words). The matrix consists of several interrelated domains. Expertise in one domain without knowing the interconnections with the other will yield poor results in any decolonial analysis. Coloniality of power points toward the managerial strategies geared toward the conceptualization and control of authority (governments, army, education); the economy (coloniality as a historical process goes hand-in-hand with the emergence of an economy of accumulation and of exploitation to increase production and accumulation [e.g., capitalism]); knowledge and subjectivity (science, philosophy, law, aesthetics, theology, etc.); and gender, sexuality, and ethnicity (thought concepts such as man-woman, heterosexual normativity, and racism to classify and rank ethnicities). The colonial matrix is, in short, the pillars on which Western civilization rests. In Western terminology, it focuses on modern political theory and the political economy and how they serve imperial projects. Decoloniality provides the analytic tools to unveil the imperial dimension of the colonial matrix and works toward a world in which coloniality is no longer in force.

  • Quijano, Aníbal. “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Social Classification.” In Coloniality at Large. Latin America and the Postcolonial Debate. Edited by Mabel Moraña, Enrique Dussel, and Carlos A. Jáuregui, 181–224. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

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    The article extends the basic ideas presented in the inaugural article and explores in detail the limit of the concept of totality. This critique is fundamental to understanding the concept of exteriority introduced by Enrique Dussel and delinking explored by Walter Mignolo. Originally published in Spanish as “Colonialidad del poder y Clasificación Social” in Journal of World-Systems Research 6.2 (2000): 342–386. Also available online.

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  • Quijano, Aníbal. “Colonialidad y modernidad/racionalidad.” In Globalization and the Decolonial Option. Edited by Walter Mignolo and Arturo Escobar, 22–32. London: Routledge, 2009.

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    This is the foundational article of the project in which Quijano states that Eurocentrism is an epistemological not a geographical question; that is, it expresses the connections between epistemology and geohistorical locations. It emphasizes the colonial dimension of knowledge and makes of decolonization basically an epistemic question with political consequences. Originally published in Spanish in 1989.

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  • Quijano, Aníbal. Des/colonialidad del poder. Praxis Digital.

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    A reflection that is not only analytic on the logic of coloniality but also prospective on the grammar of decoloniality. In this article, Quijano further elaborates his basic thesis advanced in Quijano 2009.

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  • Escritos Anibal Quijano. Sociedad, política y colonialidad del poder.

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    The site collects many articles by Aníbal Quijano. He has disseminated his ideas through seminars, lectures, workshops and articles rather than books.

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Enrique Dussel and Transmodernity

Enrique Dussel’s “Introduction to the Frankfurt Lectures” was delivered in 1991 and published in 1992 (see Dussel 1995). In it, Dussel introduced in his conceptual architecture (that started in 1977 with the publication of Filosofía de la liberación the concept of transmodernity. Apparently, the concept had been either used or introduced before, but what is relevant here is the original way in which Dussel defines it in his own philosophy. There are three characteristics to Dussel’s transmodernity, expanded on in Dussel and Fornazzari 2002: its emancipatory dimension, its genocidal dimension, and its geopolitical dimension (modernity from the Renaissance on emerged in the entanglement of Europe with its colonies). “Trans” brings space into consideration, while “post” silences space in benefit of a linear conception of time that highlights Europe and European history, as is notorious in Hegel’s lessons in the philosophy of history. Postmodernity did not detach from the Eurocentric conception of time. By 1990, when both Quijano and Dussel introduced their respective concepts, they were working independently from each other. Quijano, a sociologist, was involved in the debates of dependency theory. Dussel, as philosopher and philosopher of religion, was involved in the debates of theology and philosophy of liberation (see Dussel 1983). While coloniality unveiled the darker side of modernity, transmodernity revealed that modernity was construed as a European phenomenon while it was possible only because of Europe’s imperial/colonial entanglements with the rest of the world since 1500. Dussel’s transmodernity is conceptualized in the frame of world-system analysis. In his elaboration, it is part of his conceptualization of the analectic method and the concept of exteriority. A useful analysis of Dussel’s transmodernidad can be found in Sáenz 2004. Analectic means the superseding of dialectics from the perspective of being excluded from modernity—the “other” who is racially inferior and rationally deficient. In that regard, both coloniality and transmodernity are always already decolonial concepts (neither modern nor postmodern). For this problem, Paz García 2011 is very helpful. Recently, Dussel has interrelated his concept of transmodernity with the concept of interculturalidad (see Dussel 2005), introduced also in the 1990s by indigenous scholars, intellectuals, and activists (see the section on Catherine Walsh).

Walter Mignolo and Border Thinking

Mignolo 2000, building on the legacies of Quijano and Dussel, introduced two interrelated concepts—border thinking and colonial difference—and reinterpreted the “geopolitics of knowledge” that Dussel had already introduced in his Philosophy of Liberation (Dussel 1983, cited under Enrique Dussel and Transmodernity). The first chapter of that book is titled “Geopolitics and Philosophy.” Border thinking (border epistemology or border gnosis) was inspired by Chicana thinker and activist Gloria Anzaldúa and her seminal book Borderlands–La Frontera: The New Mestiza (see Anzaldúa 1987). Colonial difference was a response from the perspective of border thinking to the debates of the time on cultural difference. Thus, colonial difference (extended later to include imperial and colonial differences, the first in reference to the differences between empires and the second between empires and colonies) was crucial in reinterpreting the relations Dussel saw between geopolitics and philosophy in terms of geopolitics of knowledge (see Mignolo 2002). At that point, border thinking was already a door that led to decolonial ways of thinking. Alcoff 2007 offers a critical analysis of the epistemology of coloniality, while Domingues 2009 advances a critique from the perspective of the social sciences in Latin America. Border thinking and geopolitics of knowledge were indeed expansions of the pluritopic hermeneutic elaborated on in The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality and Colonization (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995). In 2005 Mignolo presented a paper at the collective meeting in Berkeley, organized by Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Ramón Grosfoguel, and José Saldívar, that was on the one hand a theoretical summary of the work done by the collective up to that point (see Mignolo 2009). Furthermore, it introduced four new key concepts and reinterpreted the concept of delinking introduced by Egyptian sociologist Samir Amin in the early 1980s. The four concepts are the theo- and ego-politics of knowledge and geo- and body-politics of knowledge, through which Mignolo describes the overarching frame of modern epistemology and the epistemic foundation of the colonial matrix of power. From the 16th to the 18th century, theology was hegemonic in establishing and controlling the categories of knowledge. With secularization, the ego-politics of knowledge displaced (but did not replace) theology as the overarching epistemic frame on which politics of knowledge is grounded. Decolonial thinking needs to delink from both frames, and for that Mignolo elaborates on the concept of the geopolitics and body-politics of knowledge (see Mignolo 2010). Once again, we witness the potential of decolonial concepts across disciplines. Gilmartin 2009 explores border thinking in political geography and Carter 2010 in the domain of education, both beyond the scope of Latin American studies.

  • Alcoff, Linda Martin. “Mignolo’s Epistemology of Coloniality.” New Centennial Review 7.3 (2007): 79–101.

    DOI: 10.1353/ncr.0.0008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Alcoff develops a sophisticated argument in which “the epistemology of coloniality” is put in contrapunctual dialogue with Foucault’s archeology of knowledge. The article is very helpful for its view of a philosopher and Latina whose thinking is inflected by her dwelling in the colonial difference. Available online by subscription.

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  • Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands–La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 1987.

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    This book provides the foundation of border thinking or border epistemology, in conjunction with the project of modernity/decoloniality as developed by Mignolo 2000.

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  • Carter, Lyn. “The Armchair at the Borders: The ‘Messy’ Ideas of Borders and Border Epistemologies within Multicultural Science Education Scholarship.” Science Education 94.3 (2010): 428–447.

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    This paper aims to further articulate multicultural science education scholarship. In particular, it explores the notions of borders and border epistemologies as intellectual resources to think again about the challenges of science education in the global world that demand more sophisticated concepts to unravel some of its complexities. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Domingues, José Maurício. “Global Modernization, ‘Coloniality’ and a Critical Sociology for Contemporary Latin America.” Theory, Culture, & Society 26.1 (2009): 112–133.

    DOI: 10.1177/0263276408099018Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article provides a critical analysis of the modernity/coloniality project but mainly focuses on Mignolo from the perspective of a Brazilian sociologist. As such, the article emphasizes the implications of the project for the social sciences in Latin America. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Gilmartin, Mary. “Border Thinking: Rossport, Shell and the Political Geographies of a Gas Pipeline.” Political Geography 28.5 (2009): 274–282.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2009.07.006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article illustrates the scope of the project and how the conceptual apparatus and the experiences on which it is based transcend the local history of Latin America and resonate in any global situation where coloniality and colonial differences are at work. The situation in Ireland, analyzed here, runs parallel to the recent case of Chevron in Ecuador. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Mignolo, Walter D. Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

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    The main thesis of this book is that there are only local histories, but some local histories can imagine and enact global designs while the majority of local histories have to live with it. Local histories are entangled in and by global designs in a power differential. That power differential is explained as the “colonial difference.”

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  • Mignolo, Walter D. “The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference.” South Atlantic Quarterly 101.1 (2002): 57–96.

    DOI: 10.1215/00382876-101-1-57Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article elaborates on both concepts expressed in the introduction to this section. It further clarifies that the location of border thinking is the colonial difference and that it is the colonial difference that allows as to argue that there no epistemology in general and that all epistemology is located in the colonial matrix of power. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Mignolo, Walter D. “Delinking: The Rhetoric of Modernity, the Logic of Coloniality and the Grammar of De-coloniality.” In Globalization and the Decolonial Option. Edited by Walter Mignolo and Arturo Escobar, 303–368. London: Routledge, 2009.

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    Previously printed in Cultural Studies 21.2–3 (2007): 449–514. Translated into Spanish and published as a monograph.

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  • Mignolo, Walter D. Desobediencia epistémica: Retórica de la modernidad, lógica de la colonialidad y gramática de la descolonialidad. Buenos Aires, Argentina: del Signo, 2010.

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    Translated into French and German. This monograph provides a critical summary of the project up to 2005, when it was written, and it is a key work, after Quijano’s seminal one, to understanding the scope and goals of the project.

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Early Core Members

This first period of the project, summarized here, has been analyzed in a series of articles that appeared at the beginning of the 21st century. Lander 2000 provides the platform of what the project will become, identifying the main issues, commenting on the core members, and entering into dialogue with authors who are exploring similar issues and advancing similar claims in the Caribbean (Michel-Rolph Trouillot) and in the Yucatán Chiapas region (Gudrun Lenkersdorf). Escobar 2009 and Grosfoguel 2008 provide useful analytic contextualization of the project, focusing on key concepts and goals. There are a number of articles that describe and analyze the contribution of the project. In Grupo de Estudios Sobre Colonialidad 2010, a collective in Buenos Aires reflects on the bicentennial from the perspective of coloniality. Pachón 2008 provides still another analysis of the project. Quintero and Petz 2009 explores the potential of colonial difference and geopolitics of knowledge, and Quintero 2010 reflects on the relevance of the project for the social sciences in Latin America. In Special Issue: Teorías decoloniales en América Latina, various authors emphasize the theoretical contribution of the project not just to Latin American thought but to thinking on a global scale.

Edgardo Lander

During the first period of the collective, the contributions of Venezuelan citizens Edgardo Lander (sociologist) and Fernando Coronil (anthropologist) were substantial both in terms of their active participation as well as some key reflections within the frame of the project. The edited volume Lander 2000 includes the papers presented during the three panels Lander organized at the meeting of the International Sociological Association in 1998. Lander’s work has three major lines of inquiry: intellectual property rights, environmental catastrophe, and the politics of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, which is connected with his concern for global democracy. Lander 2009a is one of the latest reflections on the fatal consequences of development. Lander extends this critique in Lander 2011 by saying that is development is only one aspect of a larger problem— a civilizational crisis. To advance a solution for the problem, Lander argues that we need to attend to the fundamental question of knowledge (see Lander 2009b). All of this is directly relevant to the ways we envision democracy (see Lander 2010).

Fernando Coronil

The landmark article Coronil 1996, published just before the first meeting in Montreal, provides the epistemic foundation of more recent publications in which Coronil confronts the question of postcoloniality in Latin America. This selection focuses on the particular type of critiques that defines the modernity/coloniality/decoloniality project. In this case, the questions are: Who is advancing a critique on Eurocentrism? Where? Why? When? In his two subsequent influential articles, Coronil 2008 and Coronil 2004, he convincingly shows that the postcolonial and the decolonial are indeed two different, although interrelated, projects. They are interrelated because the modern form of colonialism (that is, since the 16th century), is common to both. But while the Latin American experience is based on Spanish and Portuguese colonialism and, therefore, the Renaissance, postcolonial studies is based mainly in the experience of the British colonization of India. In this sense, Ibero América and British India are two particular configurations located in different moments and spaces of the colonial matrix of power. Neither has priority over the other, whether one privileges time (whereby Ibero colonization is first) or one privileges language (thus, British colonization enjoys the global favor of English).

  • Coronil, Fernando. “Beyond Occidentalism: Toward Nonimperial Geohistorical Categories.” Cultural Anthropology 11.1 (1996): 51–87.

    DOI: 10.1525/can.1996.11.1.02a00030Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article fits well with the mood of the time and the questioning of Eurocentrism that Quijano and Dussel launched in the early 1990s. It was the point of departure of Mignolo’s elaboration on postoccidentalismo in his book Local Histories/Global Designs (see Mignolo 2000 under Walter Mignolo and Border Thinking).

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  • Coronil, Fernando. The Magical State: Nature, Money and Modernity in Venezuela. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1997.

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    This book was published at the inception of the ideas and environment that would lead to the modernity/coloniality/decolonality project, and it brings to the fore many of the issues that Coronil himself discusses in his most recent work. In the introduction, Coronil engages the concept of subalternity and postcoloniality.

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  • Coronil, Fernando. “Latin American Postcolonial Studies and Global Decolonization.” In The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Literary Studies. Edited by Neil Lazarus, 221–240. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521826942Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, Coronil confronts area studies with global decolonization. Latin American studies is embedded in the area studies paradigm, while global decolonization is embedded in the decolonial paradigm. This is another important contribution to shifting the geography of reasoning and asserting that there is no master epistemology. Available online by subscription.

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  • Coronil, Fernando. “Elephants in the Americas? Latin American Postcolonial Studies and Global Decolonization.” In Coloniality at Large: Latin America and the Postcolonial Debate. Edited by Mabel Moraña, Enrique D. Dussel, and Carlos A. Jáuregui, 396–427. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

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    In this article, Coronil makes a geo-epistemic argument (see Canaparo 2009 under Dictionary Entries). He shows the dense history of decolonial thought in America to explain that the use of postcoloniality responds more to the market than to a conscientious assumption of decolonial thinking legacies. Thinking decolonially and geopolitically, he argues that decoloniality is a common process that connects different local histories.

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Arturo Escobar

Escobar published a landmark book on development (Escobar 1995) in which he introduced a crucial distinction between “alternative developments” and “alternatives to development.” Escobar framed his argument in the context of the Third World and on the question of Nature. His reflections on imperial globality and global coloniality (see Escobar 2004) show his concern with the Third World joining forces with the decolonial project. His early book (Escobar 1999) on questions of culture and nature, although focusing on anthropology, is relevant for the modernity/coloniality/decoloniality project.

  • Escobar, Arturo. Encountering Development. The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

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    In this classical book, Escobar unveils the underside of development. Showing that the rhetoric of development hides the need to appropriate and expropriate, the argument is akin to the arguments framed later on, in Escobar’s contribution to the collective volume published by Edgardo Lander (see Lander 2000 under Edgardo Lander) on the vocabulary of coloniality. What development hides is the relentless need to underdevelop: thus, the making and unmaking of the Third World.

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  • Escobar, Arturo. El fín del salvaje: Naturaleza, cultura y política en la antropología contemporánea. Bogotá, Colombia: CEREC, 1999.

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    In this book, Escobar explores a series of issues that are relevant to both anthropology and the project of modernity/(de)coloniality. Such topics include ecology and politics, anthropology of development, sustainable development, and social movements.

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  • Escobar, Arturo. “Beyond the Third World: Imperial Globality, Global Coloniality, and Anti-Globalization Social Movements.” Third World Quarterly 25.1 (2004): 207–230.

    DOI: 10.1080/0143659042000185417Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Here, Escobar argues that the increasing realization that there are modern problems for which there are no modern solutions points toward the need to move beyond the paradigm of modernity and, hence, beyond the Third World. Imperial globality has its underside in what could be called, following the premises of modernity/(de)coloniality, “global coloniality,” meaning the heightened marginalization and suppression of the knowledge and culture of subaltern groups. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Later Members

After the initial moment, the project was enriched by the contributions of scholars who joined the group at the beginning of the 21st century. Among these scholars, who have been making major contributions to the conceptual and analytical arsenal as well as to the reorientation of knowing and doing, and thinking from doing, are Catherine Walsh, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Santiago Castro-Gómez, Javier Sanjinés, Zulma Palermo, and María Lugones.

Santiago Castro-Gómez

Santiago Castro-Gómez introduced in several articles the key concept of ¨zero point epistemology” or la hybris del punto cero. Through this concept, Castro-Gómez defines modern Western epistemology as the location of an observer who cannot be observed: the knower is detached from the known. In Christian theology, that pattern of observation was given by God: God was such an observer and Man was to understand the world through the understanding of God’s design. With secularization, the place occupied by God was transferred to the secular reason. Reason became the name for the hybris of the zero point. The concept helps in understanding the system of classification put in place by Western epistemology, from the classification of people to the classification of places. It shows how Western epistemology lives on hiding that it is one geo-epistemological location (see Canaparo 2009 under Dictionary Entries) that presents itself as universal. Another aspect of Castro-Gómez´s contribution is his rereading of certain aspects of Michel Foucault’s work in tandem with the concept of coloniality of power (see Castro-Gómez 2005 and Castro-Gómez 2007).

  • Castro-Gómez, Santiago. La hybris del punto cero: Ciencia, raza e ilustración en la Nueva Granada (1750–1816). Bogotá, Colombia: Universidad Pontificia Javeriana, 2005.

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    The argument in this book interweaves two lines of reasoning: that modern epistemology is indeed a zero point epistemology in which the observer is beyond the observed and cannot be observed, and that zero point epistemology created a system of racial classification that encompassed the entire world, including Europe. The actors and institutions of such epistemology were basically white European men.

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  • Castro-Gómez, Santiago. “Michel Foucault y la colonialidad del poder.” Tabula Rasa 6 (2007): 153–172.

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    In this article, Castro-Gómez accomplishes a double task. One is to show Foucault’s hierarchical concept of power allows for a new interpretation of the hierarchical theory of power that undergirds the modern world-system analysis and therefore the perspective on the coloniality of power. The other is to read Foucault decolonially.

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Javier Sanjinés

Javier Sanjinés’s contribution to the collective project resides in his insightful interpretations of mestizaje, the cultural and political history of Bolivia, and his reading of the national problem interlocked with the history of racism and colonialism. Sanjinés 2002 focuses on mestizaje, one of the foundational themes in South America, particularly in the areas of dense concentration of pueblos originarios colonized by the Spaniards. He expands and elaborates on this thesis in Sanjinés 2004. The author’s most recent book in Spanish, Sanjinés 2009, engages in a critical exploration of the history of Bolivia to understand present conflicts and search for roads toward the future.

  • Sanjinés, Javier. “Mestizaje Upside Down: Subaltern Knowledges and the Known.” Nepantla: Views from South 3.1 (2002): 39–60.

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    In this key article that anticipates his book (Sanjinés 2004) with the same title and different subtitle, Sanjinés clearly shows that mestizaje is an oxymoron: it predicates the homogeneity of the nation-state based on a category that implies heterogeneity. This was not the problem for the foundation of modern European nation-states. Available online by subscription.

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  • Sanjinés, Javier. Mestizaje Upside-Down: Aesthetic Politics in Modern Bolivia. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004.

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    The book was translated into Spanish as El espejismo del mestizaje (La Paz, Bolivia: Embajada de Francia, 2005).

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  • Sanjinés, Javier. Rescoldos del Pasado. Conflictos culturales en sociedades postcoloniales. La Paz, Bolivia: Programa de Investigación Estratégica en Bolivia, 2009.

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    Taking the colonial nation-state as its point of departure, instead of the European modern nation-state, Sanjinés calls into question the concept of modernity and its companions: the concepts of revolution, citizenship, nationalism, development, and progress. The book is being translated into English and will be published by Duke University Press.

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Zulma Palermo

Palermo 2005 enters into a fruitful dialogue between the author’s previous works on literary criticism and cultural studies and the modernity/coloniality project. In a vein parallel to Sanjinés in Bolivia, Palermo engages the problems of nation-state formation entangled in colonial legacies and new forms of global coloniality: independent nations from Spain serving the interests of England and France. The argument is presented as a series of proposals to decolonize knowledge and culture as it relates to the Argentine national imaginary. Palermo follows suit in the edited collection Palermo 2010, while Palermo 2009 ventures into new terrain.

  • Palermo, Zulma. Desde la otra orilla: Pensamiento crítico y políticas culturas en América Latina. Córdoba, Spain: Alción, 2005.

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    Palermo develops a series of compelling arguments and a proposal for the decolonization of knowledge and culture. The proposal confronts the long chain of subjections in the history of Latin America. In the lines of previous work on economy dependency and theory of liberation, Palermo focuses on culture and epistemology, following up on Quijano’s statement that Eurocentrism is basically an epistemic question. But, contrary to Quijano, who focused on coloniality of power, Palermo explores the possibilities of decolonizing knowledge and culture.

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  • Palermo, Zulma. Arte y estética en la encrucijada descolonial. Buenos Aires, Argentina: del Signo, 2009.

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    In this volume, Palermo and collaborators identify discourses and artistic practices in Latin America that are clearly looking for and proposing forms of delinking from modernity/coloniality and, therefore, engaging in decolonizing subjectivity through artistic practices and the critics of the Western concept of aesthetics.

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  • Palermo, Zulma. Pensamiento argentino y opción descolonial. Buenos Aires, Argentina: del Signo, 2010.

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    The main thrust of this volume, with a substantial introduction by Palermo, is to establish a dialogue between the legacies of the national left of the 1960s in Argentina and the decolonial option today. Both projects have much in common as they are both aware that local histories and colonial histories are entangled with global imperial designs managed by local imperial histories.

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Nelson Maldonado-Torres

Nelson Maldonado-Torres has made two major contributions to the project that can be summarized in two main trajectories: his explorations of “coloniality of being” in connection with the geopolitics of knowledge and his reading of Emmanuel Levinas and Enrique Dussel through the lenses of Frantz Fanon. If it was not clear up to this point, there is no mistake now that the modernity/coloniality/decoloniality project originated in Latin America and is not “about it” but dwelling and thinking in it, just as European thoughts are not “about Europe” but emerged from intellectuals and scholars dwelling and thinking in Europe. Geo-epistemology comes again to the forefront, as it is a fundamental way of doing and thinking that constitutes the project. We are overcoming the time when it was believed that Europe and the United States have knowledge and the rest of the world has culture, a premise under which area studies in the United States were built. Therefore, this project announces the end of “Latin American studies” as conceived in the 20th century with Maldonado-Torres making signal contributions to a trajectory initiated by Enrique Dussel. Maldonado-Torres 2004 examines the complicit relations between race and space in the work of several European thinkers. He identifies the persistence of the pattern of European thinkers such as Levinas, Negri, Žižek, Habermas, and Derrida. In his decolonial move, Maldonado-Torres takes the work of Frantz Fanon as a guide for changing the epistemic direction and working toward radical diversity and decolonial geopolitics of knowledge. Like any European epistemic and political project is for Europe and for the world, so is the modernity/coloniality/decoloniality project. Maldonado-Torres 2007, on the coloniality of being, was published in both Spanish and English. Maldonado-Torres 2008 reflects on Levinas, Dussel, and Fanon and establishes a fruitful dialogue between the modernity/(de)coloniality project and the Caribbean Philosophical Association.

  • Maldonado-Torres, Nelson. “The Topology of Being and the Geopolitics of Knowledge. Modernity, Empire, Coloniality.” City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Cultures, Theory, Policy, Action 8.1 (2004): 29–56.

    DOI: 10.1080/1360481042000199787Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Maldonado-Torres examines the complicit relations between race and space in the work of several European thinkers. He identifies the persistence of this pattern of European thinkers such as Levinas, Negri, Žižek, Habermas, and Derrida. In his decolonial move, Maldonado-Torres takes the work of Frantz Fanon as a guide for changing the epistemic directions and working toward radical diversity and decolonial geopolitics of knowledge. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Maldonado-Torres, Nelson. “Sobre la colonialidad del ser: Contribuciones al desarrollo de un concepto.” In El giro decolonial: Reflexiones para una diversidad epistémica más allá del capitalismo global. Edited by Santiago Castro-Gómez and Ramón Grosfoguel, 127–168. Bogotá, Colombia: Siglo del Hombre, 2007.

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    This is a fundamental article that expands the coloniality of power to the analysis of the coloniality of knowledge and of being. It moves from Levinas in the margin of Europe, to Dussel, in the merging of the modern-colonial world, to Fanon, which brings not only geopolitics to the fore but also body-politics and asks questions about the interrelations between epistemology and racism. An English translation—“On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to the Development of a Concept”—is available in Cultural Studies 21. 2–3 (2007): 240–270.

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  • Maldonado-Torres, Nelson. Against War: Views from the Underside of Modernity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

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    The argument revolves around what Maldonado-Torres defines as “decolonial ethics” based on the study of three thinkers located in “the underside of modernity”: the Jewish European philosopher Emmanuel Levinas; the Afro-Caribbean Frantz Fanon and the Latin American of European descent, Enrique Dussel. One could say after reading this work that his analysis of “coloniality of being” led to the “decoloniality of being” through decolonial ethics.

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María Lugones

Of particular significance was the arrival to the collective of philosopher María Lugones. Before joining the collective, Lugones published a book that goes well into the spirit of decoloniality (Lugones 2003). In her most recent book within the collective, Lugones’s explorations of gender, race, and sexuality within the modernity/coloniality/decoloniality framework have enriched the project with new dimensions. One such dimension is to have integrated into the project the conditions of Latino/as in the United States. “Latin American studies” suffers another coup. “Latin America” can no longer be contained and delimited to the convenience of area studies specialists. At the same time, Lugones has entered the scene with a critical take on the project itself. Her criticism goes hand-in-hand with her critiques, from the perspective of the project to current debates on gender, race, and sexuality. Lugones joined the collective project after her influential role in the gender/sexuality debate and in pedagogy and coalition making among Latino/as communities. The happy encounter between Lugones’s previous projects and the modernity/coloniality/decoloniality collective engenders two distinctive and distinguished outcomes: the publications of two seminal articles on coloniality, gender, and sexuality and the creation, at Binghamton, of a program De-Colonial Thinking integrated into the CPIC (Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture). In Lugones 2010, Lugones connects this follow-up article with her previous work, Lugones 2007. In ‘Heterosexualism and the Colonial/Modern Gender System’ (Lugones 2007), she proposed to read the relation between the colonizer and the colonized in terms of gender, race, and sexuality. Her work is not adding a gendered reading and a racial reading to the already understood colonial relations. More radically, it proposes a rereading of modern capitalist colonial modernity itself. She advances a framework not as an abstraction from lived experience, but as a lens that enables us to see what is hidden from our understandings of both race and gender and the relation of each to normative heterosexuality.

  • Lugones, María. Pilgrimage/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition Against Multiple Oppressions. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.

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    Collects some of her previous articles and includes new ones. The publication was celebrated as a brilliant argument theorizing resistance and multiple oppressions, a common concern for the project.

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  • Lugones, María. “Heterosexualism and the Colonial/Modern Gender System.” Hypatia 22.1 (2007): 186–209.

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    Brings together coloniality and gender system in a very original way. While the distinction between feminine/masculine and moon/sun could be found among many civilizations, the category of “women,” and therefore the gender system, is part of the social classification of people in the world. It is a double operation by which gender becomes one domain of the colonial matrix at the same time that gender is one domain that constitutes the colonial matrix.

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  • Lugones, María. “Toward a Decolonial Feminism.” Hypatia 25.4 (2010): 742–759.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1527-2001.2010.01137.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, Lugones proposes that the modern, colonial gender system is a lens that allows us to see and theorize further the oppressive logic of colonial modernity. She looks for social organizations in which people have and are negating modern, capitalist modernity at the same time that they are searching for new ways of life. She describes that search as the cosmological, the ecological, the spiritual, and the economic non-modern.

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Catherine Walsh

A notable number of contributions to the collective have come from Catherine Walsh in the past ten years. Trained in sociology and pedagogy, born and educated in the United States, and residing in Ecuador for almost two decades, her contributions have been remarkable on several fronts: first through the creation of a PhD program at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, in Quito, which started its fourth cycle in July 2011. The PhD program “Doctorado en Estudios Culturales Latinoamericanos” includes an area in which coloniality and decoloniality are explored. Second, Walsh has been instrumental due to her work with indigenous and Afro communities in Ecuador, and by extension with Colombia, Bolivia, and Brazil, in establishing a productive dialogue with the goals of the modernity/coloniality/decoloniality project. Decoloniality is a common term, although the historical, epistemic, affective, and political trajectories in which the term is used vary according to the variations of the geo- and body-politics of knowledge. Walsh’s third important contribution is her advisory role to the Ecuadorian government as well as to related institutions dealing with problems of racism and affirmative action. Finally, her publications and conceptual contributions have added to an already rich conceptual apparatus. Walsh’s collaborative work with Juan García, intellectual, activist, and leader of the Afro-Ecuadorian epistemic and political project, resulted in two outcomes: the creation of the Fondo Ecuatoriano at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolivar and the publication of several joint articles in which the Afro-Ecuadorian project is conceptually argued (see Walsh and García 2002, García and Walsh 2010). Walsh’s work with indigenous scholars, intellectual leaders, and activists led her to explore two crucial concepts introduced by indigenous intellectuals and appropriated by political discourses of the state and discourses from economic institutions serving the advancement of modernity and capitalist economy. Walsh’s scholarly, intellectual, and political struggle on this front has been without rest the past ten years. Among her articles are Walsh 2004, Walsh 2002, Walsh 2010b, and Walsh 2008. All this preliminary work was reelaborated and updated with new information from the processes of Asamblea Constituyentes in Bolivia and Ecuador and ended up in her groundbreaking book Walsh 2009. An extensive interview discussing the context, the goals, and the consequences of the issues the book confronts may be found in Walsh 2010a.

  • García, Juan, and Catherine Walsh. “Derechos, territorio ancestral y pueblo afroesmeraldeño.” In Actualidad de las luchas y debates de los afrodescendientes a una década de Durban: Experiencias en América Latina y el Caribe. Edited by Jairo Estrada Álvarez, 49–64. Bogotá, Colombia: Instituto Latinoamericano de Servicios Legales Alternativos, 2010.

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    While this entry focuses on political claims, it cannot be effective if there is no epistemic ground to argue. Political claims from Afro communities cannot be made within the conceptual apparatus of Western political theory and political economy.

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  • Walsh, Catherine. “Interculturalidad, reformas constitucionales y pluralismo jurídico.” Boletin ICCI ARY-RIMAY: Publicación mensual del Instituto Científico de Culturas Indígenas 4.36 (2002).

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    Interculturalidad is a concept coined, used, and elaborated by indigenous intellectuals. Walsh is the most reliable source, beyond indigenous intellectuals themselves, to understand what is at stake in the concept that has been appropriated by international organizations and by the Latin American left. Interculturalidad integrated into Western epistemology, from the left and the right, is deprived of the epistemic meaning and political force that it has within indigenous cosmology.

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  • Walsh, Catherine. “Geopolíticas del conocimiento, interculturalidad y descolonización.” Boletin ICCI ARY-RIMAY. Publicación mensual del Instituto Científico de Culturas Indígenas 6.60 (2004).

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    This article, published in a journal of the Instituto de Culturas Indigenas, is a clear indication of the collaborative work between indigenous intellectuals and activists in Ecuador and the modernity/decoloniality project. It is clear in this and other contributions that the modernity/decoloniality project, led by Euro-descendants, works in collaboration with the project of decoloniality advanced by Indians and Afro-descendants.

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  • Walsh, Catherine. “Interculturalidad, plurinacionalidad y decolonialidad: las insurgencias político-epistémicas de refundar el Estado.” Tabula Rasa Bogotá–Colombia 9 (2008): 131–152.

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    In this article, Walsh explores the concept of plurinacionalidad. A concept central to political debates in Ecuador and Bolivia, plurinacionalidad shows the limits of mono-national states and in consequence of Western political theory. There is also another example of thinking by doing and doing in thinking, the epistemic shift that decolonial thinking is advancing.

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  • Walsh, Catherine. Interculturalidad, Estado, Sociedad: Luchas (de)coloniales de nuestra época. Quito, Ecuador: Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, 2009.

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    Walsh continues the exploration from her previous article and examines the consequences of plurinationality. What does it mean to refund or to decolonize the state? Refunding and decolonizing the state are arguments advanced by the white left and indigenous intellectuals, respectively. Issues concerning the formation of plurinational states are fully explored and its connections with intercularity explained.

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  • Walsh, Catherine. Decolonial Thinking and Doing in the Andes. A Conversation by Walter Mignolo with Catherine Walsh.” Reartikulacija 10–13 (2010a).

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    An extensive dialogue in which Walsh explains the overall context in which the book was written, its place in her work as intellectual and activist, and the epistemological consequences of her thesis, as well as her role as creator and director of the Latin American Cultural Studies PhD program at the Universidad Andina, Quito.

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  • Walsh, Catherine. “Interculturalidad crítica y pedagogía de-colonial: In-surgir, re-existir y re-vivir.” Entrepalabras: Revista de Educación en el Lenguaje, la Literatura y la Oralidad 3–4 (2010b).

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    Elaborating on the connections between interculturality and reexistence in this journal published by the Universidad Mayor San Andrés in La Paz, Walsh shifts the geography of reasoning and pushes geo-epistemology further: we are here entering into a fruitful dialogue with actors thinking in categories of thought alien to European epistemology, even in its peripheral version in Latin America. In this article, we can also understand the three layers put forward by Maldonado-Torres, moving from Levinas, to Dussel, to Fanon.

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  • Walsh, Catherine, and Juan García, “El pensar del emergente movimiento afroecuatoriano. Reflexiones (des)de un proceso.” In Estudios y otras prácticas intelectuales latinoamericanas en cultura y poder. Compiled by Daniel Mato. Caracas, Venezuela: Latin American Council of Social Sciences, 2002.

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    An important essay to understand that we are facing “an emerging way of thinking” and not only a political organization. It expands on the scope of el pensamiento latinoamericano alternativo mentioned in relation to several articles published therein on coloniality/decoloniality.

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Decolonial Aesthetics

In 2010, twenty years after the introduction of the concept of coloniality, new domains began to be explored, one of them being decolonial aesthetics. Decolonial aesthetics refers to ongoing artistic projects responding to the darker side of imperial globalization. This is the terrain where artists around the world contest the legacies of modernity and its reincarnations in postmodern and altermodern aesthetics. Aesthesis or aiesthesis, generally defined as “an unelaborated elementary awareness of stimulation,” or a “sensation of touch,” is related to awareness, sense datum, sense experience, and sense expression and is closely connected to the processes of perception. Aesthetics, on the other hand, is defined as a philosophical theory of what is beautiful as a rational investigation about existence, knowledge, and ethics. Thus, aesthetics is concerned with the appreciation of beauty and good taste—the domain of the artist. This definition emerged in 18th-century Europe and can be described as modern aesthetics. In the last two decades of the 20th century, postmodern aesthetics contested the principle of modern aesthetics and argued that postmodernist aesthetic practices may adopt any form, outlook, or agenda, new or old, and may allow for other (than postmodernist) practices and alternative approaches. More recently, altermodern aesthetics entered into the Western debate. Altermodern aesthetics claims postmodernity is depassé and that a new modernity is emerging reconfigured by globalization. Decolonial aesthetics move in a radically different direction (see Mignolo 2010). It is not clear when the concept and the idea entered into the thoughts of the collective. Perhaps it was Adolfo Albán Achinte who introduced the expression around 2003 or 2004 (see Achinte 2011). But it did not catch on until the end of 2009 and early 2010 in different and simultaneous places. In Argentina, by 2008, Zulma Palermo was editing the volume on Arte y estética en la encrucijada descolonial (see Palermo 2009 under Zulma Palermo). At the doctoral program on Latin American Cultural Studies at the Universidad Andina, around seven out of twenty-two students gathered around the concept. Adolfo Albán Achinte, already faculty at the PhD program, was also present as professor. In Bogotá, Colombia, Pedro Pablo Gómez, editor of the journal Calle 14: Revista de investigación en el campo del arte, was already introducing the concept (Gómez 2010), including the invited article by Madina Tlostanova (Tlostanova 2011). The journal’s fifth issue was entirely devoted to arte y decolonialidad. Rojas Sotelo’s web page (Narcochingadazo Decolonial) provides useful information about these recent developments. The project is finding its place in western Europe, eastern Europe and the Russian Federation. Between sociology and photography, Rolando Vázquez (a Mexican nationality residing in The Hague, Netherlands) has drawn new lines of inquiries on coloniality and the visual, and in his work, he has promoted a dialogue between Latin America and Europe. Vázquez 2007 explores visualities hidden and devalued by the performative and spectacular visuality of modern imagery in the author’s photography. In the domain of video art, Alanna Lockward (of Dominican nationality and residing in Berlin) is the founding director of Art Labour Archives, a cultural platform and agency responsible for producing situation-specific art events. She has recently engaged in a multimedia project “decolonizing Germany” (Lockward 2011) and is the managing editor of TDI (the Transnational Decolonial Institute).

  • Achinte, Adolfo Albán. “Comida y colonialidad: Tensiones entre el proyecto hegemónico moderno y las memorias del paladar.” Calle 14 4.5 (2011): 10–24.

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    Explains his own concept and emphasis on reexistence rather than on resistance and provides a true argument of decolonial aesthetics—the liberation of aesthetics and the senses, rather than a new theory of “taste” in the modern sense. It analyzes how coloniality works even through the management of the paladar to bring the body to the standards of civilization.

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  • Gómez, Pedro Pablo. “La paradoja del fin del colonialismo y la permanencia de la colonialidad.” Calle 14 4.4 (2010): 26–38.

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    In this article Gómez once more distinguishes colonialism from coloniality. But he goes a step further, explaining first that colonialism and coloniality are two different phenomena. The first refers to historical circumstances of colonialism in the modern/colonial world, while coloniality points toward the underlying logic of Western history since 1500 and Western civilization. This is the paradox alluded to in the title.

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  • Lockward, Alanna. Decolonizing Germany: Wild at Hair. 2011.

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    In this fascinating multimedia work in progress, Lockward has brought together some of her previous publications, installations, and videos as well as her work on black European diaspora, and turned it into a sustained reflection on decolonial aesthetics.

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  • Mignolo, Walter D. “Aiesthesis decolonial.” Calle 14 4.4 (2010): 10–25.

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    A reflection on the coloniality of aesthetics and the need to liberate aesthesis, elaborated on by the work of three artists: Pedro Lasch, Fred Wilson, and Tanja Ostojic. In this article, Mignolo explores the basic assumptions of modern aesthetics legacies and concludes that modern aesthetic colonized aesthesis. Therefore, it is necessary to decolonize aesthetic to liberate aiesthesis.

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  • Rojas Sotelo, Miguel. Narcochingadazo Decolonial.

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    A webpage with information about the event “Narcochingadazo,” an installation by Pedro Lasch and Rojas Sotelo, at the Museo of Arte Contemporáneo de Bogotá, and one of the many installations composing the controversial exhibit Estéticas descoloniales.

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  • Tlostanova, Madina. “La aesthesis trans-moderna en la zona fronteriza Eurasiática y el anti-sublime decolonial.” Calle 14 5.6 (2011): 11–31.

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    This article argues for the need to decolonize aesthetics and to liberate aesthesis from the myths of Western modernity. Aesthesis belongs to all, aesthetics to European control of knowledge and subjectivity. A large part of the discussion is devoted to the decolonial aesthesis of the Eurasian borderlands: the territories in the east (Central Asia) and south (Caucasus) of the Eurasian continent that were formerly Russian/Soviet colonies and have produced complex instances of decolonial art in the works of Saule Suleymenova and Zorikto Dorzhiev.

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  • Vázquez, Rolando. Critical Photography. 2007.

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    Vázquez’s critical reflections on visibility and modernity found another outlet in both his photography as well as his reflections on “Aesthetics” and “Critical Photography.” In his own words: “These photographs are about the passing of time, the movement of withdrawal. They are about the limit, the border between the visible and the invisible, between presence and absence. It is not photography of ruins nor of decay. It is rather a photography that seeks the limits of presence, the limits of the visible, the limit of photography itself, that is, the limit of photography as a technology to capture the present.”

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Geopolitical Opening

Modernity/coloniality/decoloniality is a project that emerged in South America, the Caribbean, and among Latin Americans working in the United States but is not only about Latin America. It is about the world and, as many have already said, the project represents a “perspective” that opens up the politics of knowledge based on local histories and experiences, as one can see in a symposium such as that organized by Latino Policy Research. As a perspective, the conceptual apparatus transcends Latin America and enters into the global debate for the liberation of knowledge and subjectivity. Manuela Boatca, a sociologist of Romanian nationality residing in Germany, has strongly advocated for the decolonization of European sociology (Boatca 2010; see also Rodríguez, et al. 2010 cited under History). Madina Tlostanova, a philologist and philosopher of Uzbek-Adyghe decent residing in Moscow, is director of the Research and Educational Center for Transcultural Studies (People’s Friendship University of Russia). She has worked on both decolonizing gender (Tlostanova 2010) and decolonial aesthetics (Tlostanova 2011 cited under Decolonial Aesthetics). Ovidiu Tichindeleanu, a philosopher and cultural critic of Romanian nationality residing in Cluj/Chisinau, studied with María Lugones and has extensive experience in decolonial thinking. He is the editor of IDEA arts+ society, which in 2009 published the first translation into Romanian of texts by Anibal Quijano and Walter Mignolo. Tichindeleanu explores postcommunist societies and cultures from a decolonial perspective in Tichindeleanu 2010 and Tichindeleanu 2011. Last but not least, the conceptual apparatus has begun to resonate beyond Latin America and the regions just mentioned. It has called attention to scholars in critical management studies (Ibarra-Colado, 2007 and Farías, et al. 2010), the field of political geography (Gilmartin 2009), and education (Carter 2010).

  • Boatca, Manuela, Sérgio Costa, and Encarnación Gutiérrez-Rodriguez, eds. Decolonising European Sociology: Transdisciplinary Approaches. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2010.

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    This is the first volume in which, in the kingdom of sociology ruled by Max Weber and Pierre Bourdieu, such an attempt is being carried forward. The volume has gathered a stellar cast of scholars and has introduced decolonial thinking in the field of European sociology.

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  • Carter, Lyn. “The Armchair at the Borders. The ‘Messy’ Ideas of Borders and Border Epistemologies Within Multicultural Science Education Scholarship.” Science Education 94.3 (March 2010): 428–447.

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    The aim of the papers discussed is to further articulate multicultural science education scholarship. In particular, it explores the notion of borders and border epistemologies as intellectual resources to think again about the challenges of science education in the global world that demand more sophisticated concepts to unravel some of its complexities. Mignolo problematizes some of these ideas for the ongoing thinking around multicultural approaches to science education. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Farías, Alex, Eduardo Ibarra-Colado, and Ana Guedes. “Internationalization of Management, Neoliberalism and the Latin American Challenge.” Critical Perspectives on International Business 6.2–3 (2010): 97–113

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    This paper aims to problematize the lack of different worldviews on international management (IM), and the virtual silence in Latin America regarding this field within the context of the ongoing crisis of neoliberal policies and discourse. To achieve this goal, the authors embrace a decolonial Latin American perspective based on developments in international relations (IR).

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  • Gilmartin, Mary. “Border Thinking: Rossport, Shell and the Political Geographies of a Gas Pipe-line.” Political Geography 28 (2009): 274–282.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2009.07.006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rossport is a small, sparsely populated rural area in the west of Ireland. Over the past seven years, some of its residents have been engaged in a struggle against the building of a gas pipeline. This paper takes the story of Rossport as the starting point for a broader discussion of epistemology (in particular, “border thinking” and “decoloniality of knowledge”) within political geography.

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  • Ibarra-Colado, Eduardo. “Organization Studies and Epistemic Coloniality in Latin America. Thinking Otherness from the Margins.” World and Knowledges Otherwise (Fall 2007): 1–24.

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    This article discusses the current state of organization studies in Latin America, disclosing the epistemic coloniality that prevails in the region. Adopting an approach based on the recognition of the relevance of the geopolitical space as a place of enunciation, it sustains the relevance of the “outside” and “otherness” to understand organizational realities in Latin America.

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  • IDEA arts + society.

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    This bilingual journal on critical theory and contemporary arts started as a common platform for artists and philosophers in 1999, pleading for the social importance of artistic practices and critical theory in the region of the former socialist block. In 2009 issue 33–34 published the first translations of Aníbal Quijano and Walter Mignolo in Romanian, which reconsidered the possibilities of the critical theory of post-Communism in relation to decoloniality.

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  • Tichindeleanu, Ovidiu. “Towards a Critical Theory of Postcommunism?” Radical Philosophy 159 (January–February 2010): 26–32.

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    A critical evaluation of the dominant cultural ideologies of the post-Communist transition, making the argument for a conception of post-Communism that opens a vision of de-occidentalized Europe. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Tichindeleanu, Ovidiu. “Decolonizing Eastern Europe: Beyond Internal Critique.” In Special Issue: Romanian Pavillion at the 54th Biennale di Venezia 2011, Performing History. Edited by Maria Rus Bojan, Ami Barak, and Bogdan Ghiu. IDEA arts + society 38 (2011).

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    In this short statement, Tichindeleanu proposes a task for critical post-Communist thought and artistic practices: the public creation of an epistemic space of resistance and alternatives to both capital and coloniality, articulated from the location and based on the historical experience of eastern Europe, as a necessary place of connection to non-Eurocentric visions of an other-modernity.

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  • Tlostanova, Madina. Gender Epistemologies and Eurasian Borderlands. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230113923Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Tlostanova examines Central Asia and the Caucasus to trace the genealogy of feminism in those regions following the dissolution of the USSR. The forms it takes, she finds, resist interpretation through the lenses of both Western feminist theory and women of color feminism. Tlostanova’s decolonial argument stresses that Eurasian borderland feminism must chart a third path sensitive to the region’s own unique past.

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LAST MODIFIED: 10/28/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199766581-0017

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