DE-LINKING EPISTEMOLOGY FROM CAPITAL AND PLURI-VERSALITY – A CONVERSATION WITH WALTER MIGNOLO, part 3
Walter D. Mignolo (born in Argentina) is semiotician and professor at Duke University, USA, who has published extensively on semiotics and literary theory, and has worked on different aspects of the modern and colonial world, exploring concepts such as global coloniality, the geopolitics of knowledge, transmodernity and pluriversality (http://waltermignolo.com/).
Marina Gržinić: Žižek, Badiou, Laclau, Beck, etc., are those intellectuals that are part of your harsh criticism as they repeat and reproduce western rationality and the Europocentric institutions of knowledge. On what ground is based your criticism? What is with Agamben and Deleuze? How about the western feminist or lesbian or queer positions?
Walter Mignolo: Let me select three cases to address the complex set of issues prompted by your question. I will start with quoting a paragraph from one of my blog-postings, when the King of Spain and President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero reacted violently to remarks made by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. “A while ago, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek stated that when someone says Eurocentrism ‘every self-respecting postmodern leftist intellectual has as violent a reaction as Joseph Goebbels had to culture: to reach for a gun, hurling accusations of proto-fascist Eurocentrist cultural imperialism.’ However, he asked himself, ‘is it possible to imagine a leftist appropriation of the European political legacy.’ What for? A self-respecting de-colonial intellectual would ask. Would leftist European presidents (like José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero) instead of postmodern leftist intellectuals ask themselves if a leftist appropriation of the European political legacy is possible or desirable? And what about non-European leftist presidents (like Hugo Chávez) or non-postmodern leftist but de-colonial intellectuals? How relevant would be for self-respecting but not postmodern leftist intellectuals, to imagine a leftist appropriation of the European political legacy?” (http://waltermignolo.com/2007/11/29/eurocentrism-21st-century-the-king-and-the-serf/)
1) The paragraph, and what you call “harsh criticism” of European leftist intellectuals by myself as well as by others (Cf. Nelson Maldonado-Torres, “The Typology of Being and the Geopolitics of Knowledge,” in http://www.afyl.org/nelson.pdf ; William Hart, “Slavoj Žižek and the Imperial/Colonial Model of Religion,” in http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/nepantla/v003/3.3hart.html) intent to make clear that there are several games in the global town. “Post-modern intellectuals” is a regional brand of intellectuals that, of course, have branches around the world. For de-colonial Afro and Indigenous intellectuals – as well as for many intellectuals of European descent in the Americas and also for radical and progressive Muslim intellectuals (see for example, Alí Shariati, Marxism and Other Western Fallacies: An Islamic Critique, originally published in the early 70’s), Eurocentrism (or Westernism) is a necessary word. So, it depends on what sphere of the modern/colonial divide is your skin, and how your skin – and your heart – articulates conceptual and theoretical dissenting arguments.
2) My take on Giorgio Agamben has been two-fold. One is on his reflections on human rights where he takes as paradigmatic examples refugees after World War I, and I elaborated on that in my article on “The Zapatistas Theoretical Revolution.” The other, most recently, takes on his elaboration of “bare life” (bringing Hanna Arendt and Michel Foucault in conversation). Let’s think for a moment of “dispensable life.” Again, I have to indulge in an example. Ottobah Cugoano, whom I mentioned in the first part of this interview (published in Reartikulacija no. 4) wrote in his Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species (1787) several pages on the economic aspect of slavery and the dispensability of human lives. One among many observations is the vast carnage and murders committed by the British instigators of slavery; it is attended with a very shocking, peculiar, and almost unheard of conception, according to the notion of the perpetrators of it: they either consider them as their own property that they may do with as they please, in life or death; or that the taking away the life of a black man is of no more account than taking away the life of a beast.
A very melancholy instance of this happened about the year 1780 as recorded in the courts of law; a master of a vessel bound to the Western Colonies, selected 132 ofthe most sickly of the black slaves, and ordered them to be thrown overboard into the sea, in order to recover their value from the insurers, as he had perceived that he was too late to get a good market for them in the West Indies (italics mine, WM).
In 1944 Eric Williams recast the making of enslaved Africans dispensable lives and re-framed the legacy of the racial/colonial wound in a context that was not visible at the time of Cugoano. For Cugoano, Christian ethics was the weapon available to him. And Christian ethics served him well to built two complementary arguments. One about the barbarian attitudes he found in colonizers from Spain and Portugal to Holland, France and Britain. The other was the Christian struggle against the growth of an economic horizon that transformed human subjectivities into predators who will go any length in order to obtain economic benefits. Williams, instead, had the Marxist analysis of capitalism to replace the ethical dimension that Christianity offered to Cugoano. However, both Cugoano and Williams introduced a dimension that was alien to both, Christianity and Marxism: they introduced the radical critic of racism which means the radical critique of the imperial/colonial foundation of capitalism.
A telling paragraph by Eric Williams brings together the bottom line of racism in the modern/colonial world and by the same token an opening to the de-colonial option that both critical Christianity and Marxism are missing. The de-colonial option has been opened by subjects who either suffered directly the consequences of racism (Cugoano) or its enduring legacy (Williams). One of the most important consequences of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the expulsion of the Stuarts was the impetus it gave to the principle of free trade. In 1698 the Royal African Company lost its monopoly and the rights of a free trade in slaves was recognized as a fundamental and natural right of Englishmen. In the same year the Merchant Adventurers of London were deprived of their monopoly of the Muscovy Company was abrogated and trade to Russia made free. One in particular did the freedom accorded in the slave trade differ from the freedom accorded in other trades – the commodity involved was man (Williams, Capitalism and Slavery).
Slavery, as a particular form of exploitation of labor, is consubstantial to capitalism. While slavery in the form it acquired in the economy of the Atlantic since the sixteenth centuries officially came to an end during the first half of the nineteenth century, it never ended in reality. Not only people from African descent continued to be enslaved; when they were not, they continued to be racialized and marginalized from society. On the other hand, new form of slavery developed until today. More so, what never ended was the commerce of human bodies and, today, the commerce of human organs. Dispensable lives are those that become dispensable when they become commodities.
In a nutshell: “bare life” is a category in the sphere of law, the state and human rights. “Bare life” that is consubstantial with capitalism is a category in the sphere of economy and, of course, human rights. The former affected European internal others, while the latter is consubstantial to the historical foundation of capitalism, and of European external others. The distinction is crucial. Aimé Césaire made a remark, in his Discourse on Colonialism(1955), that is today taken seriously by de-colonial intellectuals and post-colonial scholars. What “the very distinguished, very humanistic, very Christian bourgeois of the twentieth century […] cannot forgive Hitler for – said Césaire – is not the crime in itself, the crime against man, it is not the humiliation of man as such, it is the crime against the white man, the humiliation of the white man, and the fact that he applied to Europe colonialist procedures (italics mine, WM), which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the ‘coolies’ of India, and the ‘niggers’ of Africa.”
Once again, I am reversing the gaze, shifting the geography of reason, unveiling the geo-politics of knowledge.
3) Now the question on “Western feminists, lesbians and queer positions.” The same logic that I explained in 1) and 2), above, applies in current debates between white feminists and women of color and, by extension, to the debate between white queerness and queerness of color.
I have not addressed these issues personally. However, I have been following the debates and finding and capitalizing on those arguments that resonate with my own work, those which are framed in the colonial matrix of power (like the work of María Lugones, on heterosexualism and the colonial/modern gender system (http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/hypatia/v022/22.1lugones.html http://www.jhfc.duke.edu/wko/dossiers/1.3/contents.php; and her project on “Decolonial Thinking” http://cpic.binghamton.edu/decolonial.html).
I should add that although I did not addressed personally issues of gender, feminism and queer theory, I have been “framed” so to speak in the late 1980s by the ground-breaking book of Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderland/La Frontera. The New Mestiza (1987), as well as by other prominent Chicana writers, scholars and activists like Cherrie Moraga, Sandra Cisneros, Chela Sandoval, Sonia Saldívar-Hull. A land-mark book, The Bridge Called My Back. Writing by Radical Women of Color (published in 1992 and reprinted for its ten anniversary), co-edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa has been also very influential in my own thinking. There are two chapters in my book Local Histories/Global Designs (2000) where you can see the reflection of these debates in my own thinking, chiefly the chapter titled “Bi-languaging love,” which is set up at the intersection of Anzaldúa’ new mestiza, Abdelkebir Khatibi’s double critique and Humberto Maturana’s concept of languaging. Lately, I have been very interested in the theoretical potential of the concept of “intersectionality” introduced by Black legal theorist and feminist Kimberley Crenshaw. Just to put one more point of reference on the table, Latina philosopher and feminist Linda Martín Alcoff has addressed recently many of the issues concerning the debate between white feminism and feminism of color in her splendid Visible Identities. Race, Gender and the Self (2006).
Furthermore, significant work is being done, that some times resonate and others are in direct dialogue with the thesis of the collective modernity/coloniality, in the arena of third-world women (cf. Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism, edited by Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Ann Russo and Lourdes Torres, 1991.) More recently, Dialogue and Difference, Feminisms Challenge Globalization (2005), edited by Marguerite Waller and Sylvia Marcos, the later one doing magnificent work with Zapatistas women. And she, Marcos, is also the author of a historical-ethnographic-political study Taken from the Lips: Gender and Eros in Mesoamerican Religions (2006). Madina Tlostanova has advanced similar arguments in the context of feminists responses in Central Asia and Caucasus (http://www.jhfc.duke.edu/wko/dossiers/1.3/documents/TlostanovaWKO2.2_000.pdf).
Well, now you know more or less where I am coming from, and how I understand your reference to “Western feminism” as equivalent to “White feminism” in the North Atlantic, from, say, Luce Irigaray to Judith Butler and Nancy Fraser. White (or Western Feminism) and Feminism of Color (or Third-World Feminism) differ in the way they situate themselves across the colonial difference divide. As I said above, the colonial difference is a construction of imperial epistemology at two interrelated levels: the epistemic colonial difference and the ontological colonial difference. Feminism of color and Third World Feminism dwell at the intersection of patriarchy and racism (see the diagram of the colonial matrix of power), while White feminism (or Western feminism) locate itself in confronting the dominance of patriarchy. The divide between the two strands of feminism parallels the divide, I attempted to illustrate in other spheres, between de-colonial thinkers and intellectuals, on the one hand, and Žižek and Agamben (in spite of the differences between the two of them), on the other.
As for Queer theory, the racial component is also a factor. Perhaps the distinction between Western Queers and Queers of Color is not as strongly manifested yet as is in the domain of feminism. However, the debate has been already put on the table. Beyond the intersection between feminism, queerness and racism in the work (literary, theoretical, activist) of Anzaldúa and Moraga, is present the idea of Queer communities that are manifestations of internal colonialism (cf. Maura Ryan, “Queer Internal Colonialism: Aiding Conquest Through Borderless Discourse”, 2007). Sociologist Maura Ryan engages the topic of racism in queer communities, arguing “that white gays and lesbians are active participants in a larger US internal colonialism of people of color with their denial of race differences along sexual orientation lines and by their use of racist political rhetoric to further sexual rights for their group. The raced dimensions of queer theory and of mainstream gay and lesbian politics are linked to the idea of internal colonialism, making the argument that sexual communities aid the US nationalist project of racism” (available in the web).
What I briefly depicted here refers to the US. Looking at the larger picture, parallel to Queers of color or Third World Queers, it had been argued in Postcolonial and Queer Theories. Intersections and Essays, edited by John Charles Hawley, that “Since the 1960s American and Western European gays have set the agenda for sexual liberation and defined its emergence. Western models of homosexuality often provide the only globally recognizable frameworks for discussing gay and lesbian cultures around the world, and thus Western interpretative schemes are imposed on non-Western societies. At the same time, gay and lesbian lifestyles in emerging countries do not always neatly fit Western paradigms, and data from those countries often clash with dominant Western models. So too, the literature of emerging countries often depicts homosexuality in ways which challenge the existing tools of Western literary critics.” As you see, epistemic and ontological differences, built in imperial epistemology, is being contested – racism, in the last analysis, and the racist colonial wound, is not felt by White feminists and queers while it is the ground in which women and queer of color built their theories.
Let me add one more point. Queer was a term originally used to refer to gays and lesbians. Although still holds this meaning, it has been extended to situations of queerness beyond sexuality. Black philosopher David Ross Fryer put it this way: “The term queer needs to be broken down in two categories: (1) Queer as an anti-normative thought; (2) Queer as post-normative thinking. The desire to fight the norm manifest itself in both of these” (Cf. Fryer, “On the possibilities of Post-humanism or How to Think Queerly in an Anti-Black World,” in Not Only the Master’s Tools. African-American Studies in Theory and Practice, edited by Lewis R. Gordon and Jane Anna Gordon, 2006). Once again, we encounter the above mentioned racial divide when Fryer confronts Judith Butler inadequacies, in his words. Although Fryer acknowledges Butler’s subversive contributions, he found her post-structuralist account of performativity inadequate “for the lack of thinking gender beyond a binary construction.” When thinking queerly in an anti-black world, Fryer also criticizes Butler on her reliance on “an appeal to natural sciences” and as such “her project fails to go beyond the positivist assumptions that inform the positions that she is herself opposing.” In a nutshell, for Fryer, Butler accepts scientific discourse and contests it in its finding, while Fryer questions the very assumptions upon which scientific discourse is founded. Such question, in Fryer, comes from the crucial concern of Black philosophers and intellectuals (common among Afro-Caribbean like C. R. L. James, Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter) with the concept of “human” that scientific (biological, biotechnological) arguments are reifying. In other words, sciences start from a metaphysical concept of “human” which is basically an Eurocentered construction (modeled on the white male), and attempt to describe and explain its features. While Black intellectuals, particularly Sylvia Wynter, built her argument as “After Man, Toward the Human”, from the experience of a Black Caribbean women. Fryer “thinking queerly” attacks the normative of scientific thinking and critiques Butler for falling into the trap of scientific discourse, contesting its content but not its ideological foundation.
M. G.: You especially emphasize the moment of race; the racial is to be taken along the class struggle as only in such a way it is possible to connect class struggle with the de-colonial moment and therefore to empower them both. What is so blatantly named primitive accumulation is in fact the process of obscene expropriation realized through brutal colonialism, but not analyzed as such, not even by Marx. Your criticism turns against Marx, who was not capable of reflecting on surplus value based directly on colonization. Can you elaborate further on this point?
W. M.: Lewis Gordon (a leading Afro-Caribbean philosopher) noticed a while ago that Europe smells like class while the Americas smells like race. What did he mean? That from the very historical foundation of the Atlantic commercial circuits, mainly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, social classification grounded in Christian theology, was a racial one. Allow me to explain this with another diagram:
Christian Theology is in the upper angle of the first triangle and at its base you see Islamic Theology/Muslims or Moors on one end and the Jewish Theology/Jews on the other. On the other triangle “Moriscos” and “Conversos” designate the “religious mestizaje,” the mixing of Christian and Moorish blood on the one hand and Christian and Jewish blood on the other. That was clear in the Iberian Peninsula, or, if you wish, in the heart of the emerging empire.
In the colonies, the situation was different since there was no religious thought and therefore no theological-based knowledge. Christian Theology became more and more displaced by Spaniards or Castilians. On the lower base of the second triangle we have then Indians and Blacks/Africans. Religious blood mixtures that engendered non-existing categories until then as Moriscos and Conversos, in the Iberian Peninsula, were replaced by Mestizos/as and Mulatos/as in the New World. But while in the Iberian Peninsula the blood mixture between Moors and Jews was not accounted for (and probably physically not very common), in the New World the mixture of Mulatos and Mestizas or vice-versa engendered a new racial category, Zambos and Zambas. From here on, classification multiplied but all of them were displayed under the “purity” of Spanish/Castilian blood (Cf. the text by Cástro-Gómez in the special edition of Cultural Studies 21/2-3, 2007 with the title “Globalization and the Decolonial Option”). “Racism” is a theological invention in the framing of the modern/colonial world. Today when trying to count genes to find out the mistery of “race,” we forget that “race” is a “racist” theological invention. Isn’t that interesting?
Theologians and men of letters were not of course supporting conquistadores, encomenderos and plantation owners to exploit and enslave Indians and Africans and, as we know, the Church was against greediness for material wealth. However, the social classification of Indigenous and African population in Indias Occidentales (or New World, and later America) enacted by Theological thinking, played in the hands of the agents in the construction of capitalist economy. The panorama was clearly in the heads and writing hands of British colonial administrators and plantation owners. Sir Dalby Thomas was one of them and belonged to a significant number of influential officers, at the end of the seventeenth century, supporting mercantilism (or mercantile capitalism). An economic structure that later on Adam Smith will attack in defense of free-trade, particularly in the superb section “On colonialism” that is the less read section of Smith’s book. Sir Dalby Thomas was plantation owner, historian, and governor of Jamaica in 1690. He left a monograph titled An historical account of the rise and growth of the West-India colonies. And of the great advantages they are to England, in respect to trade (1690). There you can see free-trade capitalism in full blown. The history was told in detail by the classic book, Capitalism and Slavery (1944), by Eric Williams, scholar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and an influential public figure. You can see in Williams’ work, as well as in the work of his mentor, C. L. R. James, the tension between Marxism and de-colonial thinking, a tension that has been very well analyzed lately by de-colonial historians and philosophers who have been following Frantz Fanon’s dictum: “You are rich because you are white, you are white because you are rich. This is why Marxist analysis should always be slightly stretched when it comes to address the colonial issue. It is not just the concept of precapitalist society, so effectively studied by Marx, which needs to be reexamined here. […] It is not the factories, the estates, or the bank account which primarily characterizes the ‘ruling class.’ The ruling species is first and foremost the outsider from elsewhere, different from the indigenous population, ‘the others’” (The Wretched of the Earth).
Briefly, a new type of economy emerged in world history in the Atlantic, in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Two features, mainly, characterized this economy: 1) extraction (gold, silver) and production (sugar, cotton, tobacco, coffee) of commodities for a global market (Quijano); and 2) a technology of investment of capital that made possible to reproduce resources for the foreseeable future that allowed Western Atlantic European emerging empires to end the constraints of agrarian civilizations, economically based on land and taxation. None of the emerging socio-economic formations of the time (Ottoman Sultanate, Mughal Sultanate, and Russian Tsarate) and the long lasting existing ones (e.g., China during the Ming Dynasty) initiated such kind of economy. The type of economy today we call capitalist economy. Exploitation of labor and appropriation of land, in the New World, went hand in hand with racial classification. In Europe, racial classification legitimized the expulsion of Moors and Jews. In the New World, racial classification legitimized expropriation of land from Indians, the massive trade of enslaved Africans, and the brutal exploitation of labor. This new type of economy went also hand in hand with the transformation of other spheres of the colonial matrix of power. From then on, it was capitalism (hand in hand with racism) all the way down.
M. G.: Coloniality and modernity are working together; they cannot be understood separately, as one is dependent upon the other. You connect the logic of coloniality and the rhetoric of modernity, and show that they are co-substantial in reproducing coloniality. How would you define the function of rhetoric and of grammar in such a relation?
W. M.: In the monographic article titled “The Rhetoric of Modernity, the Logic of Coloniality and the Grammar of Decoloniality,” I opted for the metaphorical use of three disciplines of the Trivium, in the Renaissance University. The title is in dialogue with my previous book, The Darker Side of the Renaissance. “Modernity” is not an historical period but a discursive rhetoric, that is, a persuasive discourse promising progress, civilization and happiness. Or, if you wish, is the historical period as defined by those inhabiting and benefiting from it. “Coloniality” is invisible (like Freud’s unconscious or Marx plusvalue) and hides the carnage implied in the “advances” of modernity. De-coloniality as I said before, have been one type of responses to the imperial expansion of the colonial matrix of power, responses of resistance as well as of re-existence (a concept introduced by Colombian painter, cultural critique and activist, Adolfo Albán in his understanding of the survival and creativity of Black communities in Colombia from the eighteenth century to today). It is a “grammar in the making” both in its local particularities as well as in global connections that are at work (for example, this very interview is a modest example of the grammar of global de-coloniality). Modernity/coloniality describes the double side and double density of imperial expansion. De-coloniality refers to the global historical diversity of responses to the monotopic diversity (Spain, England, France, Germany and the US, diverse in their sameness) of Western imperialism. Today it is necessary to analyze the radical transformations the colonial matrix of power is going through in a world order of pluri-centric capitalism. But this would be for another conversation.
M. G.: You are professor in one of those imperial academic structures in the USA that systematically reproduces and sustains rational western epistemology as a colonizing system. How do you de-link your work from such an institution? Moreover, is it not true that the American corporative educational system (that basis its work on efficiency, competition and fake struggles) wants from their professors to (re)produce instead of a critical discourse, a theater of it, that is an assurance to the system that nothing will really change?
W. M.: Yes indeed, I am. And the scenario you depict is a viable one. The other scenario would be to just leave the university and to go fight an epistemic struggle in the forest. Sub-comandante Marcos did it. Or, to put it upside down, leave the university to those who want to promote “la pensée unique.” In the middle, would be the illusion of being an independent intellectual or scholar, who is immune to the corporate educational system, here in the US, in Europe (Western and Central/Eastern, China, India or Argentina). It is a matter of choice, after all, among the possibilities that are open to you. Fred(ric) Jameson is a professor in the same imperial academic structure of Duke University. And there are many other professors at Duke and elsewhere, of Marxist persuasion or de-colonial conviction (e.g., University of California at Berkeley). Thanks to the Civil Right movement, the academic structure of the US changed radically. While geo-politics of knowledge was articulated in the Third World (e.g., Enrique Dussel’s first chapter in his book Philosophy of Liberation, 1977 is titled “Geopolitics and Philosophy”), body-politics of knowledge had a strong hold in the US after the Civil Rights Movement. A shift from disciplinary knowledge to knowledge helping the liberation of women, queers, gay and lesbians, Native and Afro-Americans, Latinas and Latinos is at stake; we witness, more general, the proliferation of Ethnic Studies that present the transformation of disciplinary into de-colonial knowledge(s). It is truth that the de-colonial turn contributed to identity politics. However, two disclaimers: 1) there is an identity politics in the discipline hidden under the pretense of objective knowledge and 2) identity politics shall be distinguished from identity IN politics. The MAS (Marcha hacia el socialismo) in Bolivia and Hammas in Palestine are not political party formed in the frame of Western political theory. In Western political theory it is as if Republican and Democrats in the US are except from identity politics while the truth is that political party are belle et bien grounded in identity politics. However, the public façade is that they are not. Therefore it was necessary to create socio-political organizations like MAS and Hamas to occupy official positions in the government through democratic and clean elections. Without MAS and Hamas it would have been necessary to joint the already existing parties to whose identity politics did not belong all of those who created MAS (Marcha hacia el socialismo) and Hamas (Harakat al-Muqāwama al-Islāmiyya) and all those who voted for them. My point here is that in many US universities it has been possible, and beneficial, to create spaces of knowledge not directed toward Washington and the Corporations but to contribute to decolonization of knowledge and being (e.g., decolonization of the mind as Ngugi wa Thiong’o has it). Now, a large proportion of scholars and intellectuals involved in generating this kind of knowledge, decolonial knowledge, are in several ways involved in some sort of activism outside of the University; activism which is entangled with the kind of knowledge being produced and disseminated at the University.
So, that is one way of proceeding. The other is the work myself and others (South American based in the US, Afro-Caribbean, Latinas and Latinos) do in collaboration with de-colonial oriented institutions in South America. For example, the work many of us (Ramon Grosfóguel, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Catherine Walsh) and others from the Caribbean Philosophical Association (Lewis Gordon) do with Fabrica des ideais (http://www.fabricadeideias.ufba.br/apresentacao.php), in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, where the Afro-Brazilian movement has its hub. Many of us, based in the US, collaborate with a PhD at the Univesidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Quito, Ecuador, where most of the students (if not all) are scholars, intellectuals and activists; pretty much like those who attend the seminars in Fabrica des ideais. In the US, around 150 scholars and intellectuals, in major imperial academic structures, began already the creation of a Latina/o Academy of Arts and Sciences (which I already mentioned), a supra-structural institution, with many nodes of a net, all over the US. The goal of the Academy is to create an institution, lead by Latinas and Latinos but open to all (like the Democratic or Republican party, you know, they are open to all who want to join and vote; they are not exclusivist) to intervene in the public sphere as well as in the academic realm. By calling it Latina/o Academy of Arts and Sciences we are already unveiling the fact that the “American Academy of Arts and Sciences” is simply White without saying it. On the other hand, our aim is to dispute the control of knowledge and its imperial consequences.
And you are right; those are the values of the corporate university. The question is, and this is one of the principles of the Latina/o Academy, to educate students from undergraduate on to “succeed” (since you do not want failed revolutionaries, right?) at the same time that questioning and philosophy behind the idea of success. In other words, being in the institution doesn’t mean that you go literally with the institutional goals – border thinking one of the strategies to be inside and against, to be inside and moving in a different direction. Institutions like Duke and Berkeley, Michigan and North Carolina, etc., are complex institutions. While they have to compete and endorse corporate values, they also value the Humanities and “free thinking.” The President of Duke and of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (one private the other state university), 10 miles from each other and collaborating in many fields, stood up in defense of professors who were accused by right-wing extremist, after 9/11 2001 of being pro-Islam. So, as people like to say, things “are more complex than that.” There is no ideal place to struggle. On the other hand, imagine that Fredric Jameson was not at Duke all this year. Some one else would have occupied his place. And that some one else could have been a disciple of Samuel Huntington instead of Karl Marx.
M. G.: Prof Mignolo, thank you very much indeed for your answers!
Marina Gržinić, philosopher and artist. She is researcher at the Institute of Philosophy at SRC of SASA in Ljubljana and professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.