Decolonize, a continent

What exactly does it mean decolonize knowledge? What is the difference between anticolonial, postcolonial and dcolonial? To put an end to the semantic vagueness reigning around the dcolonialLissell Quiroz and Philippe Colin offer us a genealogy of this current of thought that appeared in Latin America in the 1990s.

The term dcolonial remains, around ten years after its arrival in the French panorama, a term often misunderstood and used in a less than conscientious manner in the political and media field. With the work of P. Colin and L. Quiroz, the meaning of the term finally recovers a precise and rigorous meaning: THE Decolonial thoughts are a heterogeneous and multifaceted current, which appeared in Latin America in the 1990s and constitute the culmination of more than a century of Latin American critical tradition. This work provides essential keys to understanding, and clarifies the contours of these still poorly understood theories. Taking over the most common prejudice, according to which it is a unified and dogmatic school of thought, the main contribution of this work lies in its ability to deploy, in a reasonable number of pages and through fluid writing, an overview of the different currents. which animate. The plural of the title and subtitle thus allows us to emphasize the fact that it is indeed a current of interpretation, dispersed and plural (p.10), both from a disciplinary and geographical point of view.

To do this, the two authorsThey offer us a genealogy of its appearance and the theories that inspired it (chapter 1), then an analysis of the main figures of the first generation who structured the movement Modernity / Coloniality / Decoloniality and developed a now classic corpus (chapter 2), to finally show us its militant ramifications and the debates making the current news (chapter 3).

A current inscribed in the Latin American critical tradition

It must first of all be remembered that many guiding ideas of decolonial thought are already present in the tradition of Latin Americanism which, from the very beginning, XIXe, is characterized by the desire to develop a thought specific to the subcontinent. In the text of the famous Cuban poet Jos Marti New America of 1891, is already expressed the need for cultural emancipation from the European model as well as the denunciation of the artificial character of independence experienced by most Latin American countries in the 1820s. Indeed, these having been for the most part carried out by criollosdescendants of settlers born on the territory, the participation of indigenous and Afro-descendant populations in anti-colonial struggles has been made invisible, even though the modern and contemporary history of Latin America, L. Quiroz and P. Colin emphasize, is also that of its anti-colonial resistance.

The critical theory formulated in the following century was more focused on the interference and imperialist desires of the United States which helped maintain the state of economic dependence of Latin American countries. The Monroe Doctrine established in 1823 and extended by President Roosevelt, established US interventionist policy over time. It is also in the name of democracy and the fight against communism that the geopolitical project of exporting neoliberalism and shock therapy will be carried out in the 1970s and 1980s. In response, a social and political critique, carried by various actors claiming Marxist thoughts, emerged in Latin America during the XXe century. Thus, if the 1920s were those of the emergence of Third Worldism, through the organization of the first congress against colonialism and imperialism, they also saw the renewal of Latin American political theory inspired by a rereading of Marxism, notably the image of the Peruvian Juan C. Mariategui and his revolutionary indignism.

Although part of a long history of action and political reflection, the moment of gestation strictly speaking of the decolonial current can be fixed at the 1960s and 1970s. The theory of dependence, which gained a certain notoriety in the 1970s -beyond Latin America, constitutes one of the most influential theoretical frameworks with regard to the genesis of the decolonial current. It asserts that the capitalist system is organized around an autonomous center and a dependent periphery, and that one does not exist without the other, the formerly colonized countries are therefore placed in a situation of underdevelopment from which they have no intention of emerging. At the same time, another theory affirms the need for a break with Western models: Latin American liberationism (p. 78). This social movement, first driven by the Catholic Church and advocating the self-emancipation of the oppressed, is reformulated in a secularized theory by the philosopher E. Dussel, in a work which constitutes one of the cornerstones of the colonial movement, Philosophy of liberationpublished in 1977.

In common agreement with the already existing literature on the subject, L. Quiroz and P. Colin set the birth certificate of decolonial thoughts at the 1990 decade, and more particularly at the moment 1992. The year of the commemoration of 500 years of the conquest of America, it is also the year of counter-celebrations which allow critical voices to be heard: marches celebrating 500 years of indigenous and popular resistance thus undermine the official rhetoric and the desire for appeasement of the Spanish government. It was finally at the turn of the 2000s that the movement was structured and institutionalized around the group Modernity / Coloniality / Decolonialitywhose name is proposed by the anthropologist A. Escobar in an article serving as the collective's program.

The main conceptual contributions and the Dussel-Quijano-Mignolo triad

In touches throughout the work, we are offered a clarification allowing us to effectively situate the dcolonial turn in relation to the two other major critical thoughts of colonialism from the second half of the XXe: subaltern studies and postcolonial studies. The distinction between the postcolonial and decolonial currents constitutes a particular issue in the French context where the two tend to be lumped together. The first difference is a difference of object and therefore of historical period: if postcolonial studies are interested in the British Empire (XIXeXXe), decolonial studies seek to grasp the characteristics and modalities specific to the Spanish and Portuguese colonial enterprise, which took place between the XVIe and the XIXe century. The second difference concerns the epistemic approach: reflections on eurocentrism and the contributions of postcolonial And junior studies permeate colonial thoughts, but they seek to distinguish themselves from them by proposing, in particular, a radicalization of their criticism of Western modernity, of their reading of history and by distancing themselves from European authors.

The main contribution of the decolonial movement is undoubtedly the notion of coloniality, the authorship of which is attributed to the Peruvian sociologist Anibal Quijano. Fruit of a close collaboration with the sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein New York and a dialogue with his concept of world-systemQuijano came to formulate in a historical article published in 1992 the idea of ​​a coloniality of power. According to him, the ethnicization of work and the social order produced by racism are not only elements allowing historical capitalism to function, they constitute its very principle. It therefore affirms, at the same time, the inseparable character of capitalism, racism, modernity and coloniality.

The concept of coloniality is therefore intended to identify a systemic phenomenon, which imposes itself on all levels of society: coloniality must not be understood only through the economy and politics as the theory of dependency did, but must also reveal the way in which it informs cognitive, symbolic and cultural structures. Above all, this concept aims to express the survival of colonialism. If it is possible to locate the beginning and end of the colonial era in time, colonialism understood as a socio-political organization continues: conquest is not an event, it is a structure (p. 8).

The theoretical consequence of this hypothesis is what the Argentine-Mexican philosopher E. Dussel calls the myth of modernity. In his work 1492, the occultation of the Other, one of the texts which inaugurates the field of colonial studies strictly speaking, it criticizes the idea that modernity would have emerged in Europe due to its cultural exceptionality, while ignoring the accumulation of wealth permitted by colonization which is the condition of possibility of its emergence. E. Dussel therefore calls into question a diffusionist vision according to which modernity, born in Europe, spread thanks to the civilizing crusades and then, more recently, development aid. Thus, modernity no longer appears as a universal historical process but as an apologetic narrative aimed at justifying colonization.

The two authorsHowever, they wish to remind us that the decolonial trend does not only consist of formulating negative critiques, but also strives to think of another possible organization of knowledge. The desire to bring cultures and ontologies into dialogue on a global scale is expressed in particular through the utopia of transmodernity and pluriversalism for E. Dussel, the call to assert the legitimacy of pedagogical practices others and intercultural at C. Walsh, or even propose a anthropology of the multiple with the anthropologist A. Escobar. The last part of the work is precisely devoted to these various theoretical and militant broadenings which make colonial thought current and in particular to these two most promising projects: political ecology (around the contributions of F. Coronil, A. Escobar and H. Alimonda) and theories of gender, the image of the criticism that the Argentine philosopher Maria Lugones addresses to Anibal Quijano. From the 2010s onwards, a critique emerged from feminism, addressing new questions to the pioneers of the movement.

Towards better consideration of internal dissensions?

If the work keeps its initial promise, providing an introduction to Latin American critical theories whose lack was felt in the French panorama, a more in-depth consideration of the internal disagreements which work the colonial current would, in our opinion, have made it possible to outline a even more realistic portrait.

For example, it would have been interesting to inform the readership of the criticism of S. Rivera Cusicanqui in his 2010 work, Ch'ixinakax utxiwa: a reflex in sobre prcticas and discourses descolonizadores. In the eyes of the Bolivian sociologist, Quijano does not recognize the true value of the long Latin American and Caribbean anti-colonial tradition in which he is nevertheless fully part. She also affirms that the authors of the decolonial movement are themselves the heirs of the modern/colonial system, in that they embody a cultural elite of European ancestry who do not hesitate to take advantage of the symbolic and financial capital offered to them by prestigious American universities.

For S. Rivera Cusicanqui, we must therefore construct another critical thought of colonialism, anchored in practice descolonial. The addition of -s aims here to reestablish the correct form of the privative prefix in Spanish but also allows us to distance the first generation of theorists from the decolonial movement, considered to be disconnected from social and political realities.

this opposes a position claiming the anti-colonialist heritage of Frantz Fanon, based on an activist practice and close to the struggles of indigenous populations. Likewise, the implosion of the collective Modernity / Coloniality The aftermath of the political crisis in Venezuela constituted a high point in the intellectual history of the colonial movement, to the point of being considered as marking a halt if not to the paradigm, at least to the collective. These critical voices, which rise from both sides of Latin America, constitute a significant part of current Latin American decolonial thoughts.