The cultural hegemony of colonialism

The decolonial movement is diverse and often very fragmented. It nonetheless remains a major theoretical force, which tracks down all forms of Eurocentrism and explains that knowledge is always necessarily situated.

In a field where critics are quick to disqualify a field of study because of its supposed lack of rationality or to treat authors who claim to be imposters, few take the trouble to read the texts. The first virtue of Stphane Dufoix's book is his exceptional knowledge of the corpus he studies. This knowledge allows him to highlight the extreme diversity (even if most of the authors are from Latin America), first of all disciplinary (philosophy, sociology, history, semiotics, anthropology, pedagogy and even theology), but also of inspiration (philosophy of liberation, theory of dependence, postcolonialism). And thus to succeed, in a few pages, in drawing out its logic, while, most often, we are content to denounce its excesses.

First of all, it is necessary to clarify terminology. To name the current in question, some speak (we did) of decolonialism, while S. Dufoix, as evidenced by the title of the work, prefers dcolonial. Indeed, the first is a polemical construction, intended to disqualify those who are concerned about the persistence of systemic discrimination, and, above all, it assumes an undiscoverable homogeneity, while the second does not imply the affirmation of this homogeneity. Furthermore, the position of S. Dufoix has the merit of being consistent with the way in which the colonial authors, themselves, designate themselves. We therefore accept his choice: indeed, dcolonial invites what we enter further into its history (p. 23).

And this is what the author does by clarifying the nature and critical power of the questioning that authors claiming to be part of the colonial movement address to the West.

Defense and illustration of the dcolonial paradigm

The principle affirmation is the inseparability of coloniality and modernity, which explains why 1492 be systematically favored as the inaugural date, that of the establishment of a colonial order based on the emergence of triangular transatlantic trade. This thesis is anchored on a factual reality: it was during this period that a European identity was forged, that of us against the rest of the world, which justifies the enslavement of certain populations in the name of their supposed inferiority. There coloniality is therefore not a consequence of modernity, it is constitutive of it.

It is not a residue or an aftereffect of an original violence, colonialism. Decoloniality is therefore not synonymous with decolonization: coloniality surviving colonialism, decoloniality must complete the legal and political decolonization which was carried out in the XIXe And XXe centuries by focusing on the epistemic dimension (coloniality of knowledge for Edgardo Lander), or even ontological negation (coloniality of being, according to Walter Mignolo and Nelson Maldonado-Torres). As Enrique Dussel summarizes, the Indians see their own rights denied, as well as their civilization, their culture, their world, their gods in the name of a foreign god and modern reason.

This perspective profoundly modifies the analysis of modernity: the latter is no longer the product of processes internal to the development of Europe, it appears during its encounter with America, the moment when the notion of periphery is created, when Europe could define itself as an “ego” discoverer, conqueror, colonizer of the Otherness constituting its own Modernity. We understand that we cannot simply insist on the dispossession of land: there is also dispossession of cultural identities. S. Dufoix gives an account of these mechanisms with clarity and rudiment.

He also opportunely emphasizes the existence of real injustices pistmic, which are characterized by inequalities of access, according to racial (or gender), to academic positions of authority (p. 61-70). It may betestimonial injustice to discuss the mechanisms that invalidate any speech due to doubt about the credibility of the person speaking or evenhermneutical injustice when we lack interpretive resources to communicate our experience. We thus emphasize the dichotomy between, on the one hand, knowledge and theories produced by the West and, on the other hand, what the others would offer, either religions, folklore and myths. The decolonization of knowledge must go through a good knowledge of the mechanisms by which cultural hegemony was established and was able to perpetuate itself (p. 68), or, in the words of S. Dufoix, by a political (p. 70) including, among other things, the sociology of absences by the Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos indicates the orientation (p. 75-81).

The critique of eurocentrism, or the taking into account of local systems, makes it possible to establish an epistemic place which is not that produced by modernity. It is therefore not a question of a universalization of the European epistm, but of a process of pluriversalization of the world. THE pluriversalism, become for twenty years a key notion of the dcolonial lexicon (p. 45), therefore opposes eurocentrism or, if you prefer, monological universalism, and represents, in the minds of its promoters, true universalism. He therefore opposes his adulterated version which, according to S. Dufoix, proves to be the product not of any social contract or the truth of rational principles, but of a history of the domination of certain groups over others (p. 60).

Is epistemology necessarily located?

However, it is important to know whether we are not thus moving from the need to get rid of the imperial character of the universal, in other words to decolonize it, to the sacrifice of it. S. Dufoix is ​​aware of this risk, but perhaps he accepts it, despite the arguments he uses to persuade us otherwise.

If decolonial criticism invites us to take into consideration the emancipatory potential of traditions of thought considered as peripheral and, therefore, to accept a critical point of view on the way in which we describe and analyze the world, which is obviously to register its credit, achieves -she avoids the trap of relativism? For S. Dufoix, this question is unfounded. It would be because most decolonial authors do not explicitly claim relativism (p. 81). The argument is hardly convincing. Many authors, particularly in the philosophy of science, are considered relativists even though they deny it (Kuhn, to take just this example, did not assume a relativist position). Now, it would seem that we are here in the same situation: is it relativist to question, as S. Dufoix does, the ideal of objectivity of investigation or to express doubts about the plausibility of scientific universalism (p. 81)? His answer is, of course, negative. But then how can we name skepticism about the possibility of a point of view from nowhere (according to the expression of Thomas Nagel) and how to interpret the following statement: Backed by the universalism of reason and rights, the universalism of science thus presumes the legal applicability of concepts to all situations and all regions of the world. (p.73)? And, he adds, the weight of the “true” not situated, detached and objective, ignores or crushes the differences which do not fit into the norm (p. 74).

This insistence on the situated character of all enunciation makes, in our eyes, the desire to escape relativism perfectly vain and the hypothesis of the necessary construction of scientific universalism on the basis of the plurality of situations and ways of knowing (p. 82) is an oxymoron. A pistmology which would have, according to Santiago Castro-Gomez, a color and a sexualityis it really a pistmology? What value then should be given to knowledge?? By nature, epistemic principles are intended to apply independently of any cultural context. In the opposite hypothesis, the question of the truth value of propositions loses all legitimacy. If any descriptive proposition is considered as a performative statement, the objective guarantee of assertability is denied. However, the hypothesis according to which language does not cling to an extrinsic world is profoundly relativistic. It would force us, like Rorty, to define truth as that which conforms to our cultural models. It could not, therefore, avoid disqualifying the notions of knowof do and of reasonreduced to simple cultural products.

These consequences are not assumed by S. Dufoix. And if we believe his position to be unstable, it is because it seems to us that there is a strong tension between, on the one hand, his defense of a lateral universalism (according to the expression of Merleau-Ponty, which Souleymane Bachir Diagne uses), which opportunely indicates that universalism is always rebuilding, and, on the other hand, its choice in favor of universalitydesigned as an intermediate route between universalism from nowhere and the autochthony of an endemic thought (p. 83) against universalism, understood as intrinsically hegemonic.

Is this not a way of dismissing the latter, of sending him back to his origins, in other words of invalidating his project??

However, as Francis Wolff points out in his beautiful Plea for the universal, universalism does not belong to Europe, but to humanity, and first of all to the oppressed, deprived of rights and freedom to act and think, the immense majority of whom live outside Europe. During his inaugural lecture at the College de France, Antoine Lilti, from the same perspective, emphasized that the Enlightenment was never an exclusively European heritage: The South American revolutionaries, at the turn of the XVIIIe And XIXe centuries, translated and read the Social contract which was one of the main sources of republicanism, from Ro de la Plata to Venezuela. The attempt to liquidate emancipatory narratives: the republican narrative and the narrative of class struggle, both from the Enlightenment, appears to be the consequence of the reduction of modernity to coloniality. It does not seem to us that the author's will, which we share, to go towards the decolony (p. 84), requires such a reduction.

The fact remains that, as it is, the work of S. Dufoix fulfills the objective he set for himself: to make known an important current of thought and to release all of its critical power. That we do not share all of his analyzes is, in this light, perfectly anecdotal.