The following is a transcript of the keynote panel session of a three-day international webinar “Decoloniality And Disintegration Of Western Cognitive Empire – Rethinking Sovereignty And Territoriality In The 21st Century”, held April 14-16, 2021. The panel consists of Walter Mignolo and Catherine Walsh, co-authors of the book On Decoloniality (Duke University Press, 20180 and eminent Native American scholar Tink Tinker as well as University of London professor Fernando Herrero. It is moderated by Victor Taylor, Executive Editor for Whitestone Publications. The transcript is in two parts.
The program for entire conference, for which video recordings are available for each presentation, can be found here.
Victor Taylor: Thank you, Carl [Raschke], and thank you, Roger [Green], for all your work on this conference it’s been a really remarkable day, so we all appreciate it. As Carl said I’m Victor Taylor and I’m one of the senior editors associated with Whitestone Publishing and the executive editor of The Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory which is an online journal that Carl and I started more than 20 years ago. So, tonight it’s a real pleasure to facilitate this panel on the book On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, and Praxis. And I have the honor of introducing the panel that really doesn’t need an introduction. It’s wonderful actually be reconnected with my friend, Walter. We had several conversations on decoloniality in Philadelphia and Denver virtually not too long ago. I haven’t met Catherine yet but hello, Catherine, it’s nice to meet you.
Catherine Walsh: Oh, thank you, Victor for the questions. Thank you for to Carl and to Roger for the organization of this and it’s a great pleasure to be part of a conversation with Tink, with Fernando, and also with Walter who we’ve been in conversation now for close to 25 years.
So, my reflections, I guess, we’ll start from my own perspective, let’s say my situated, embodied, grounded perspective of decoloniality. Carl mentioned the beginning, then in the previous session, different perspectives of decoloniality have been floating, so I’ll share some of mine and some that Walter and I sort of wove together in the book, but thinking now, from my perspective.
I guess, maybe a beginning way to simply say what decoloniality is, is a kind of posture and attitude and an action. And I think that the intertwine of those three is particularly central and I’ll explain a bit later why. So, this pasture and attitude and action began with the invasion of the Crown and the Cross more than 500 years ago. So, it had a particular beginning in 1492, and it had a particular place, a territory, a land, which we call Abya Yala, or some continue to name as “Latin America” and also the Caribbean, or the Americas in a broad sense. So, decoloniality in that sense points to a kind of resistance and refusal, and insurgence and a resurgence, but also a re-existence.
How to exist despite, against, refusing this order that began with the colonial invasion and as I’ll explain has taken on new and different forms. Decoloniality is against colonial domination, but it’s also for. So, it’s not just resistance or a posture of resistance, but it’s for the ongoing creation of ways of thinking, of ways of knowing, of ways of sensing, being, and living outside coloniality. Outside or despite coloniality, and in its borders, its fissures, and it’s cracks. So, in that sense decoloniality necessarily brings forth or points to the issue of coloniality. The two necessarily go together and began together. So maybe saying a bit about what coloniality is will help sort of define the concept that we have on the table. If we think of it as a kind of matrix of power, and that’s something that we write about, Walter and I, in the book. A matrix of Western, euro-centered power that’s based primarily on the ideas of race, but also the idea of gender. Sort of that coming together that we can talk more about later.
But also, the use of these ideas to control subjectivity, intersubjectivity, labor, authority, knowledge, but also spirituality and nature, which often aren’t talked about when we talk about coloniality in a in a general, theoretical sense. So, if we say that coloniality began in Abya Yala and then traveled the globe, it gave origin to a kind of what we might term Western modernity, and to Western rationality, and to patterns of power that are constitutive of the ongoing is systemic structures of racism, of capitalism, of heteropatriarchy, of Christianity, of anthropocentricism, of expropriation and dispossession – all intertwined.
So, in that sense the structures and patterns of power that operate are not just those of the past, but in fact we’re constitutive of the formation of modern nation-states and what we might call the corporatization of states today. States that are obviously based on capital, and on transnational alliances, but also in liberal, neoliberal, and even progressive forms, which is something that we’ve lived recently in recent years in Latin America. But it’s also based in social institutions, including universities and schools. And it functions as a kind of an assumed authority over land, over resources, and over life.
So, in that sense decoloniality, at least as I understand it, is rooted in the living memory and a living reality, or in a lived reality. And then the recognition and refusal and the continuing configurations and mutations of colonial power. Decoloniality is not a lineal point of arrival. The decolonized have come to leave coloniality, to leave colonial power. It’s not linear and it’s not a done deal, nor is it a kind of dogma or paradogma, or a new replacement word for critical. It’s also not a term that necessarily collapses all forms of colonialism into one. In other words, it necessarily recognizes the differences of settler colonialism, of external colonialism, of internal colonialism and all the ways those mesh together and their specific context. So in that sense, you might say that decoloniality is a concept, it’s an analytic, but it’s also, which is particularly key for me, a form of praxis, which is increasingly assumed by social movements, by communities, by engaged intellectuals, by artists, by activists and many, many others against the ongoing violence, dispossession, and war altogether waged against specific bodies, against people’s cultures, knowledges, spiritualities, and against nature, and for the insurgent and resurgent creation, construction, and possibility of other modes of that knowledge being existence in life.
So, in that sense and following the second part of the question that you asked, Victor, what does it mean in both a theoretical and practical context? I think one of the things that makes this book unique is that Walter and I wrote it in two parts, each with our own voice and each, in a sense, with our own particular ways of understanding, thinking, and practicing the interdependence and continuous movement of decolonial theory as praxis and as decolonial praxis as theory, in other words, theorizing practice. So, for me the decolonial took form first in concrete, practical context, not in an academic with theoretical sense. I began to think about the decolonial with my first reading of Frantz Fanon in 1971, not in a university or in a university classroom, but in a study group organized in 1971 by the Black Panthers which I was invited to be a part of.
So, reading Fanon with the Panthers, with members of the Panthers, is a very different context of beginning to understand the notion of the colonial and the decolonial than it is to read it in a classroom or in the theoretical environment. The second piece of history, which Walter knows but the rest of you may not, is that for 16 years I lived in and worked with Puerto Rican communities in the United States. And it was in that context of everyday life, of education-based work, and of shared battles, including with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund against the colonial reality of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. that gave me another sense of the decolonial, of the colonial struggle.
I’ve had to see systemic racism in the context of education and the legal system, but also in the concrete practice of everyday lives. And how race, along with gender, language, knowledge, and existence-based ways of being in the world are constitutive parts of what we understand or call the colonial matrix of power. So, confronting this and working against it and also assuming a kind of responsibility to work against it is part of a praxis that helps me begin to theorize then what decoloniality could be. In the last more than 25 years I’ve lived in Ecuador, Latin America, and here, based on what even began before that the indigenous movement, which is known in the 90s as the strongest indigenous movement in the region, invited me, asked me, petition to me to accompany in certain tasks. And one of these was towards their building of what they call the political and epistemic movement.
Political and epistemic. And so, it was in that context of learning with the movement and then the task that the movement gave me and the tasks that later the Black movement here also gave me that I began to learn, to unlearn, to relearn other notions of how we carry the colonial in our body and what it means to assume a kind of decolonial responsibility which is what I understand as decoloniality, as praxis. So, in that sense, and in part in what both movements asked me to put in practice in the university, in work, has been part of my bringing together of the theoretical and the praxis-based notion or practical-based notion of decoloniality. In a very concrete sense, and we can talk about this more later in the question answer period, is over 20 years ago we began here in Ecuador, and Walter has been part of that, a doctoral program that intends to work through not a decolonial program, because that goes against – it’s not to institutionalize decoloniality – but rather to begin to think about how we begin to fissure or crack the colonial matrix of power that exists in universities and begin to create other ways of learning, of knowing, of thinking, of sensing, of being, of doing that are interconnected.
So, in terms of the last point, in terms of time to think about closing, what does this mean today? What is the sort of timely and important issue of how decoloniality makes sense today? I guess, I would say in the beginning it’s important to think that coloniality never ends, it’s not something of the past that we’re resurrecting. But coloniality continues to configure, to mutate, to reconstruct its matrices of power. And beginning to name that is extremely complex, it’s not sufficient to say, “the system” or “the colonial system,” but we need to be more specific about what we’re really talking about. So, I think about, concretely, some of those configurations today taking place. Of the militarization, the policing, the profiling, the surveillance that happens in cities, on the land, and in the virtual sphere, as well, as well as listening to our Zoom conferences.
The various forms of extractivism, of extractivist economies taking place, including those that include extracting knowledges and how those have advanced in these times of COVID, particularly in the Global South, but I presume, as well, in that territory of the North of Turtle Island. We can think about the re-canonization of knowledges and the growing “dehumanities” of universities where technofied knowledges, technological knowledge, is more important and the social sciences are increasingly made silent, eliminated, and the controls that exist in universities today.
But also what I think is particularly key is the targeted de-existence. De-existent present and taking form in racialized, in genderized, in heteronormative, in territorialized and generational forms, particularly with relationship to COVID. And so how certain populations, certain peoples, certain ways of being need to be eliminated and are being eliminated. I think about here what’s going on in South America, of the almost 50 indigenous black and peasant leaders assassinated in Colombia in just the last three months. Part of an ongoing pattern, but how it’s increasing and how COVID is enabling that to happen. I think of the strategies by states and allied forces to attack and kill children and native communities. It’s the new strategy, let’s eliminate the children, the future generations and that’s happening in Argentina, in Chile, in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador and Colombia, as well as Mexico, as well as elsewhere.
But I also think about the elimination of black youth in cities here, and the levels of feminist-cides, trans-cides, and gender violence, including the trafficking of young girls, and of the well-planned destruction of the Amazon that’s taking place, of the devastating levels of extractivism, of expropriation, of dispossession of land and life, and the connections that it makes with struggles elsewhere. I think of also the globalizing movements of Black Lives Matter and land-back and how they also exist here in different ways, but also about the globalization of strategies to fragment, rupture, and divide movements and struggles. I think about the importance and the timeliness of decoloniality that I think could not be more clear and it’s about today, for me, the struggle and survival, but also about the possibilities of existence otherwise, existence in and making cracks, decolonial cracks in this what seems like a totalizing system of coloniality. It’s about planting hope where there’s hopelessness, and it’s about the crucial work to be done.
Work to be done including, but not only, in and on the land, on territory, but also in and on social institutions, particularly universities and schools. And it’s about the praxisic significance of thinking and acting with and what all that means and the different contexts that we are, how to connect across territories, across lands, across peoples, across struggles, not to collapse, to understand the differences but to think and act with. I use a lot the questions of the “hows” because I think they point to not just what is decoloniality but how to practice, how to put into praxis a decolonial posture, attitude, action, how name, how to analyze the matrix of power present taking form today, and how to resist, how to refuse, how to insurge and resurge, and how to re-exist in these present times. How, as many peoples here in Abya Yala argue, how to sew and cultivate life where there’s death. These, I think, are only some of the crucial decolonial questions of these times that help us see that decoloniality is not a condition or a presence of the past, but it’s this continuing struggle today that begins to bring us together in some ways, to analyze the realities that we’re living in, but most of all to assume a praxis not just against this coloniality or colonial matrix of power, but for the possibilities of living, of thinking, of being, of sensing otherwise.
Victor Taylor: Thank you so much, Catherine, that was just beautifully said, it was lyrical. Thank you very much. Professor Herrero would you like to respond to the same set of questions?
Fernando Herrero: It’s 10:39 Coordinated Universal Time, also called British Summer Time, Greenwich London Time. We are in digital convergence and, obviously, when I make reference to those two those two features, we already are activating legacies of British Empire, the industrial and the scientific revolution. And we are activating as well, I suppose, the legacies that we must take into account. Greenwich also is close to the All Royal Naval College, which has a spectacular Baroque in the painted hall and is the place where Boris Johnson was calling for free trade and invoking global Britain in the context of Brexit Britain when COVID was already taking place, already landing in the Isles. So that the Brits have problems admitting to the Baroque but also they have problems admitting to many other things, imperialism and colonialism under the current global dilemmas. There will be other times and spaces, and this is at least one instance or the digital convergence of communication among three, four or even a few other interlocutors.
But I stick to the norms. What is decoloniality? What does it mean in theoretical and practical terms? And why is it important and why now? If we take into account notions such as eurocentrism, universalism, racism, imperialism and we place the prefix “anti,” we’re already beginning to walk in that direction of decoloniality. It will take into account the prefix “de-“ or “dis” or “dia.” We see a process of disillusion, of antagonism, of oppositionality and that perhaps may be the beginning of it. I personally see the interrogation mechanism is the process that grabs me more. What is much more complicated will be that construction after that deconstruction. Some other working definitions, and I’m painting with a very thick brush, decoloniality might be said to be the thoughts and the actions of the non-whites reconfiguring the big picture of things.
“White”, as understood in the U.S. Census of the existing taxonomy, or off-white, or ethnic white – anything that is white as a dominant category if we put the light on the negation of that, we are beginning already to see some of the actions, the dispositions, the postures, as Catherine said, that we want at least to pay attention to reconfiguring, or wanting to reconfigure because obviously the big picture of things that we’re looking at, we’re dealing with the history of imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, racial-ethnic disparities, and subjugation. Clearly, these are unbearably difficult and complex processes that are not easy to understand, let alone dismantle. In the language of the conference the big power, knowledge, setup, or frame, the Western cognitive empire, I suppose decoloniality may be said to be insurrection to this type of domination. Another possible definition, maybe, is some kind of historical awareness or vast dimensions that we may want to call imperial or colonial time-spaces.
Typically, 500 years across the Atlantic, Europe and the Americas, and there will be others, were dealing with the interrogation of the universalism of the West, which is a civilization on category typically called Liberal West in U.S. geopolitics. And they will be again other big names: Western-European legacy, Christianity, civilization, enlightenment, sophistication, or high culture. We only have to think about the notion of classical music to understand what that means, that classical music? And I confess to liking the classical music, but that already tells us something about what we want at least to interrogate. So, decoloniality is about wanting to add other dimensions to that big thing so that it doesn’t stand alone, imperiously alone, not out there, but in here, in us. At the most elementary or silly or accessible level, if I may put it that way, the way decoloniality is used, at least in my immediate environment of the UK at the street level, comes typically in the in the vicinity of education sectors. So, there will be efforts to put all the less visible names in the curriculum and the study programs under the name of inclusion.
Museums, for example, recognizing that the collections may have problems in terms of language use, provenance, proportional representation, links to complicated events in third-world locations and events. That the colonial may come up in relation to public stature toppling and the provision of the narrative of the life of the nation. And let us note the decline of the civilization of language at least since the 80s. The colonial is more often than not near people of color, and this has all sorts of euphemisms around decoloniality. So, people of color, whenever there are people of color, sometimes decoloniality is attached to that or something similar to decoloniality. Minority diversity always against an ideological dominant white spectrum near what is called “Gaming the UK,” which is really awkward for me, it’s a really awkward nomenclature, that is official, that you stand for “Black, Asian, minority, ethnic embracing.”
Obviously decoloniality kicks in quickly near the notion of racism in cultural life. In relation to mass media, television, film award ceremonies, art, sports, and typically now recently in relation to digital abuse or players of color. There’s obviously some official recognition triggered or responding to decoloniality. There’s a need for a greater representation of an increasingly diverse population at the level of thought, language, sensibility, looks. If a democracy, I suppose in any Western liberal democracy, using that type of nomenclature that identifies itself as such must open up and respond officially and recognize and admit to diversity. So, democracy echoes ideally an ecosystem, a majority/minority coexistence ideal, so diversity surplus or should be a plus, but a plus for whom and to do what? This is obviously easier said than done. As I said, decoloniality kicks in, to me attractively, but kicks in instantly, the moment we look at notions of “anti” or “dis” or “de.” So, whenever we’re dealing with the negative prefix to, critiques or interrogations of interrogation operations, or even evacuations of, let’s say, complex or painful processes.
Easy to see, also, very quickly, certainly in Britain at the moment, but not only in Britain official and establishment neutralization of decoloniality in the same name of somewhat partial acceptance of a need to recognize that previously mentioned diversity. The minority population in the UK is about 10% or so, so it’s very different from the majority/minority tendency in the U.S., but it’s also the diversity of thought and experience, and not just looks or even less skin.
And I’ll give you one great example of that type of control and neutralization mechanism about the recent report on race, the so-called Sewer Report that says officially there’s no structural or institutional racism in Britain. Of course, they have been criticized from an awful lot of corners because it was very shoddily done very regularly, but people are not dumb and they have populated the report with brown faces saying that to bridge this nation. So, don’t get too distracted with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry and Oprah Winfrey and the palace, pay attention to this type of report trying to say to Britain that there’s no such thing. Racism certainly exists, the people abuse each other through the digital media, but there’s no such thing as institutional racism in Britain at this moment.
So, there is, of course, denial of racism, there’s the equivocal patient, there is containment, there’s mitigation of decolonial impulses against such racism, and one success formula we can say that decoloniality will be some type of anti-racism. And as Catherine was saying before, decoloniality might be a protestation – protest – you protest against something that you consider to be harmful, deleterious, dangerous so the protestation kicks in. I will close down by saying that the protest is happening, the alternatives to the protest is what I think is a truly phenomenal, complex situation. We are dealing with neutralizations of the recognition of the vast social and political disparities among diverse groups.
In fact, these disparities are not decreasing, but growing exponentially. And not only in the U.S. And COVID exacerbates disparities. Theoretical and practical terms of decoloniality. The first is easy to say, and by theory we mean thought or intellectual life. There’s no need to even be humble or be shameful about it, the more of it the better, the more sophisticated, the better. And intellectual life or theoretical life is never enough. But it’s never enough and it’s not all there is. Less easy is to follow through. You were dealing with academic and scholarly life, and I do like that and I defend that, in my experience is not easy to follow through or combine. We are dealing with an unacknowledged, profound crisis of the university system or educational system that is now failing to acknowledge the vast transformations that are taking place, not only in Britain, but certainly in other parts of the world. I don’t think we should fetishize; I don’t think we should fall for the virtuous of the noun of decoloniality, which may behave like one academic brand name like any other, and we should not treat it like some kind of decided deity. But I suppose that it signals some of the things that I’ve tried to articulate but are not that easy to follow. Practical, I suppose local interventions. I suppose community building, if you know where your community is, and you want to protect it and let it thrive. I was in the previous session and I should say that I really enjoyed it. And Tink Tinker’s situation, I think, may or may not travel to other communities and perhaps there’s no need for it to travel. But I just suppose that individuals, subjectivities, school activities, will bring out an immense variety of situations and decision-making positions, and I suppose it’s up to them to see what best they can, in the conditions that they do inhabit.
So theoretical and practical do not have to happen simultaneously and thought may not find outlet or release in praxis. I want to prevent, by all means, some kind of anti-intellectual disposition that if you do not act on your thoughts, therefore, their thought gets annihilated. I think sometimes thought does what it can and praxis does what he can, and those things may not have to go at the same time. We’re not riding the same bicycle; those two tires may go in different directions. Still practical may mean something like collective, local, situated, demarcated. It may very well be an exercise in filial piety to watch previous generations, and they’re going, in some cases, in dramatic situations. Again, making a reference to the previous session, dramatic situations of marginalization, brutalization, annihilation, extermination, subordination processes of assimilation. Again, the previous panel was tremendously eloquent about that.
So, this is a tough situation. Why now? I think that we are witnessing vast changes and transformations are taking place in the Anglo-zone. I’m making my connection to the Anglo-zone, which is the area that I know the best, the US and the UK. In the 80s, Reagan and Thatcher, and the 90s, of course, we can see previous moments, but the immediate leaving precedent of, I suppose, everyone in this panel, even though we make references to, of course, the 1500s, I suppose the immediate present will be the 80s. We are the children of the 80s and the 90s. And such a hegemonic area of the world is undergoing a decline in power and influence at all levels, from geopolitics, to institutions, to demographic changes, and to the street – what we may call “the street,” how we live, their lifestyle. Such decline is combining, is not a direct cause or effect, but it’s clearly combining with the decolonial impulse or posture or position or attitude that Catherine was talking about and that we are trying to make sense of. And I will say a few more things about the “why now” a little bit later, thank you.
Victor Taylor: Excellent. Thank you, Professor Hererro, that was very informative. Walter, it’s a pleasure to see you tonight. Thank you for joining us, Professor Mignolo, would you like to continue this discussion with your response to this three-part question? What is decoloniality from your perspective? Perhaps similar/different from Professor Walsh. Then the theoretical and practical context and, finally, I think the pressing question that you and I have discussed before, it was the hot topic and Philadelphia: Why is it a timely issue now?
Walter Mignolo: Okay, thank you, Victor and thank you, Carl, and thank you, Roger for organizing this panel, this conference, and I am sorry I missed the previous panel, because I didn’t know. So, when I got here five minutes before I realized that there was another panel going on. I hope that there is a recording so I can, because what I heard was quite interesting. So, the three questions. First, I want to say that I subscribe to everything that Cathy said, and I was quite interested in what Fernando had to say from his experience living in London. So, I don’t disagree with Fernando, either. So, here are my responses to the three questions, but I will start by saying that something that Cathy said, I mean we don’t have the same exactly, but we come from Quijano, so for us a kind of anchor is the very concept of coloniality. I cannot think decoloniality without thinking coloniality because coloniality is already a decolonial concept.
And that decolonial concept was introduced in 1992 in the Third World and was a breakthrough because up to that point that big talk of the 80s was the nation, cosmopolitanism, and modernity. Globalization was starting but not quiet. And so Quijano comes and says, “well, listen guys” – well, he didn’t say like that – but you cannot think with anything without coloniality. There are kind of coloniality the darker side of modernity. Modernity is a kind of unfolding of – an ontological unfolding – of universal history. It’s a bunch of narratives, it’s a bunch of narratives that justify certain attitudes that justify the code, let’s put it on the way. Not to say the colonial matrix of power because it’s too long, but I say the colonial matrix of power is a code, is a code created, reproduced, and defended by modernity. So, what is decoloniality for me and for Cathy and for Quijano and for many other people who are working after Quijano?
It is other things, you know, now it is the constant analytics of how the colonial matrix power, the Code, was historically put in place in the 16th century. Don’t look for it in Greece or Rome, there was no such thing. There was, obviously, things that made that possible but coloniality and the colonial matrix of power fabrication of the 16th century, and as Cathy said, from there after the 18th century began to kind of expand all over the way. So, in that sense, I would say that coloniality, and also Cathy said it, colonialism is very different than coloniality because colonialism is over. But a student of mine said in a way that I cannot avoid remembering. She said coloniality is not over, it’s all over, and all over means everything that Cathy and Fernando were saying, I will not repeat that. So, it’s a third-world concept that was not a disciplinary concept, it was not born in the university.
Coloniality came out as a consequence of the debate of dependency theory, and by the end of the 80s Quijano began to realize that there were some problems on the one hand on dependency theory, and the other is what was happening already in the late 80s in Asia. And the problem was a state. So, we could no longer think of decolonization as we thought during the third world, because at that time decolonization meant to kick the settler from the region and create their own nation-state. And that was done and was a victory, but it also was a misery because political theory and political economy were not challenged, education was not challenged, so the only thing that happened there is that the local natives were doing exactly the same thing that they said that everybody. And that ended up as Fanon already was receiving in ‘61 in The Wretched of the Earth that the state will end up in the hands of a local minority we can continue to oppress, repress, this process. So, that’s more or less coloniality after Quijano.
I would say more about what does he mean and why now, but I want to also say that, since today everybody and their family is using decoloniality, I want to say also that decoloniality depend for whom. Because if take just the Americas, the Americas were founded in three diverse ethnographic populations: the indigenous people that were here for centuries, before Christ, so we call them now the Abya Yala, we call them now the First Nation, and then a bunch of people without passports and without invitation come in from Europe and kind of settled. And settled and began to kind of install all kinds of government, royalty, their own university, the University of Mexico, they dispossessed the land, and kind of in that process, they created a new kind of economy that consisted in reinvesting the surplus.
No economy at that point was reinvesting the surplus, I don’t have time to explain that. And that’s what we called capitalism today. Capitalism for us, it is not something that [not sure what was said] as a hasty recapitalism in three volumes published by Cambridge offers there. But what we call capitalism was the economic domain of the colonial matrix of power that were related to government, were related to control of knowledge, and related to the invention of the category of the human. So, the human with age allows kind of the classification, ratios classification to justify the rotation of labor and to justify this process here. But also, men kind of justifies gender or sexes, which one thing was in Europe other thing was what Indian women enter into the picture, and the third pillar was the invention of nature. Nature doesn’t exist. On the one hand, it’s life.
And on the other hand, it’s not an entity that can be named and can be represented, but the concept of nature, the concept of black, and the concept of Indians were three pillars of reducing the enormous diversity of life into categories that can be controlled. And the most devastating thing there was the kind of separation of the human from nature. So that is what the kind of non-invited people did, and they began to construct the Code, the colonial matrix of power. So, the third population was the kind of the forced migration of captive Africans that had been enslaved and kind of exploited in the plantation.
What I want to say here is that for three diverse groups, decoloniality means something else. For the indigenous people is the question of land. For non-indigenous people, like Cathy and myself, Creole and Mestizos, immigrants, I mean it’s interesting that we cross paths of life. Cathy wanted to leave to Ecuador and I came to live in the United States, but we are neither indigenous nor Afro. So, decoloniality began to mean for us, for me, what I began to understand through Quijano. I mean, the day that I read the concepts of coloniality, everything that I was looking for, searching, trying to make sense kind of came all together. And then for Afros, the center the African diaspora, what I would like to say is that what I see that what decoloniality means is to kind of disclose the fiction of human and humanity.
So, the question is to wrestle with your humaneness that the human has been destitute. So that is one of the one of the main things that I see in the long Caribbean, Afro-Caribbean tradition. So that’s a little bit to make you think that decoloniality is not the kind of universal code, but it’s pluriversal and it depends on the lived experience and how coloniality, which is all over, touches different people. So, for me, when people ask “what is coloniality” I said, well, where do you feel coloniality? Where do you sense it? Where does coloniality touch us? And then, what do you perceive it? Because colonialism is something that you can’t understand rationally, it’s not a concept in the kind of model for some other ecological cultural house, that kind of decolonial house. And then we have colonizing sexuality. After Quijano came Maria Lugones, and then she kind of put the second stone, building stone of decoloniality because, while Quijano was kind of coming from Marxist he was talking about domination, exploitation, conflict and decoloniality was one of the manifestations of the conflict.
But then came Lugones, as we say in United States, lazy and a woman of color, she says “I’m starting from Quijano” kind of respectfully critiquing his limitations when he was talking about sexuality. She said domination, multiple operation, and conflict. So, the question is not just exploitation of labor, I mean that was Quijano’s main archive. Maria said no way, wait a second, I agree with you, but there are other ways of doing it. So, then you see, modernity, coloniality, decoloniality are three aspects of the same bottle it’s trying to control and trying to kind of run away from this control.
So, sexuality, decoloniality, and decolonizing sexuality, or decoloiality and sexuality have a different configuration, but also kind of LGBT, two-spirits people have a different kind of configuration and needs to approach coloniality. And there is also a lot of spheres that now is picking up like, for example, coloniality and tourism or colonizing tourism. But people who are kind of affected because they are local. So, tourism is kind of taking them as a kind of exotic to be enjoyed like observing the dance and the flowers. So, we have coloniality or decoloniality of design, decoloniality of fashion, so colonialism is all over and means many things for different people. Some are fashion, but that’s okay, I we cannot prohibit that. But the question is that takes me into what does it mean, theoretical and practical.
I will say that the Code, the colonial matrix of power is controlling our praxis of living. So, beyond everything that has been said about the kind of the practical, I would say that there is no distinction between theoretical and practical for me, because decoding, breaking the code of coloniality is a praxis. And we have to invent, we have to create a different code. And a different code will kind of take us into a different kind of praxis of living. Today is very difficult because the banks and the interstate system and the media, on the internet, but beyond that there is a lot of places where the code, the decolonial code can be built, and if it’s being built. So, for me the question of the theoretical is practical because if we don’t break the code and invent another code we just change the content but not the theme of the conversation.
So, for me, what does it mean is to live in such a way that it’s a practice of living, but the praxis of living is a praxis of thinking. It’s a praxis of deciding how you want to live your life in the context of the colonial matrix of power. So, why is it important today? Well, I would say that many things have been said, but I will just say one or two. Number one is that it’s a different option, because all of the existing options, ideological belief systems or what we call religion, disciplinary, they run out, they have been exhausted. People began to realize that there is no other option and then began to realize that there is something that all these options, I mean liberalism, Marxism, and Catholicism, and human science, and the humanities, and natural science, they are all part of the colonial matrix of power. So, you cannot as Einstein said, you cannot change anything with the same mindset that all those things have been created.
But beyond I said was still within the Code, I think that decoloniality is kind of running away, no longer thinking. We think that code, but in the exterior if you have a code. So, that is one for me why it’s important today. The second is because our life and the life of the planet is in danger, and one of the main dangers among all that Cathy and Javier have been saying is food. Because if we don’t eat properly our organs cannot think and the best way to control people is to deprive. I mean, we know that there is a lot of humanity that has food scarcity, but if the danger beyond scarcity is food poison. And food poison is related to climate change and climate change and food poison is related, as we saw by COVID, with the people who control that and do not care about anything else than having more means of control. They don’t need more money, but they need money to control, to create curtains to stop the lights of the sun, as Bill Gates is trying to do now. So, that’s the second thing. And the third thing is we have to recall, and we have to recall, because we are living now in the planet, in a change of era, and no longer in arrows change.
You cannot understand what is going on today, I think, in a new “post,” a “post-post.” And so, decoloniality here, if coloniality is over, it’s all over, decoloniality is all over but in different ways. So there is no longer the possibility of thinking of decoloniality universally. We don’t need another universe, and nobody needs to control, so that is why we talk about pluriversality. Pluriversality hears the multiple responses to the fact that the code of coloniality is all over.