Tag Archives: decoloniality

Decoloniality Workshop Series: “’What Is Past Is Prologue’: Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Empire Building(s) at the U.S. National Archives.

By Josué Rodriguez

On Wednesday, January 31, 2018, the Decoloniality Workshop Series continued with a discussion around Enmanuel Martinez’s dissertation chapter draft, “’What Is Past Is Prologue’: Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Empire Building(s) at the U.S. National Archives.” Enmanuel’s presentation examined the quote chiseled at the base of a statue named “Future” located at the entrance to the National Archives Building in Washington D.C., stating “WHAT IS PAST IS PROLOGUE.” In highlighting the archival space as a central node for concepts of empire, war, national identity, Cold War politics, and coloniality, Enmanuel’s paper asked us to consider several questions: “what is the context, [what] is the reason, for which Antonio’s fraught words are inscribed onto the physical surface of the National Archives Building; and conversely what content, which is to say resonance, does Antonio’s statement project onto our understanding of the history (and future) of the National Archives Building?”

As Enmanuel described effectively through the help of photos and videos, the enshrinement of the Charters of Freedom in the National Archives Building on December 15, 1952 through military escort exemplifies the crossing of colonial and archival powers in an expression of Cold War political theater. As he argues, “the space of the National Archives Building emerges as a national stage over which the U.S. American government rehearses and projects its global-imperial aspirations and anxieties, respectively. We must thus recognize the U.S. National Archives as a domestic archive whose arrangement is shaped no less by imperialism abroad than it is by nationalism at home.” Symbolic performativity and architectural place coalesce to reveal the archive as a key component in the construction of the same global project that allowed the US to solidify its continuing hold on several insular territories in the Pacific and Atlantic during 20th century, island territories such as the Philippines, Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Comparative Literature PhD candidate Annabel We served as respondent. She considered the temporal resonances of the US’s pre-1952 imperial history as further ways of thinking through the Shakespearean quote and noted the difficulty of historians relying on the very archives they critique and examine, such as that of the US National Archives and Record Administration (NARA). Other attendees offered helpful suggestions on the paper’s structure. For example, one student asked that Enmanuel to further develop his analysis of Antonio, the power-usurping villain of Shakespeare’s play, through Rutgers University Professor Nelson Maldonado-Torres’ work on the “paradigm of war.”

In his responses to questions from the group of attendees, Enmanuel reminded us of the need to distinguish carefully between archive studies and library and information science. Enmanuel also helped us understand his own plans for the dissertation chapter moving forward. As he continues to develop his comparative analysis of the inscription on the statue “Future” and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, he hopes to draw upon Edward Said’s work on misreading, as well as Walter Benjamin’s writing on quotations as interruptions.

The Decoloniality Worshop (organized by Rafael Vizcaíno [Comparative Literature, Rutgers University]) is a space for junior scholars at Rutgers University to receive constructive feedback  in an intimate community setting. This workshop series builds upon recent graduate student–organized events at Rutgers University and is focused on decolonial thought and criticism. Most recently, the inaugural Decoloniality Roundtable took place in May 2017. In March 2016, the Urban (De)Coloniality and Literature conference was held as the Program in Comparative Literature Biennial Graduate Student Conference.

The Decoloniality Workshop has a complete lineup for the Spring 2018 semester and is in the plan of continuing through the 2018-19 academic year. For more information, visit the workshop’s website at https://decolonialityworkshop.wordpress.com

Decoloniality Workshop Series: “Decolonizing Nation-State Narratives in Angola and Mozambique”

By: Jeong Eun Annabel We

On December 4th, 2017, the Decoloniality Workshop series kicked off with Dionisio da Silva Pimenta’s (Sociology, Federal University of São Carlos) work in progress. Entitled “Decolonizing Nation-State Narratives in Angola and Mozambique,” the paper engaged the concept of coloniality and works of Frantz Fanon to think through the post-independence nation-state building struggles of Mozambique and Angola.

Pimenta posed the question of how cold war geopolitics materially shaped the long civil wars of party oppositions in Angola and Mozambique, and what examples of decolonizing practices can be found in people’s cultural resistance to the party focused nation-state projects. During the workshop discussion, participants proposed different approaches to thinking about how temporality and spatiality were crucial features of coloniality and nation border-drawing in Angola and Mozambique. By connecting the scramble for Africa with the economic hegemony of Cold War interventions, the discussion took a turn to probe colonial spatialization and ethnicization of nation-state politics that is emphasized in Pimenta’s engagement with coloniality and geopolitics. 

The workshop’s soundtrack was set to the work of rappers that Pimenta examined, MCK (Angola) and Azagaia (Mozambique).

The Decoloniality Worshop (organized by Rafael Vizcaíno [Comparative Literature, Rutgers University]) is a space for junior scholars to receive constructive feedback in a relaxed community setting. It builds upon recent graduate-student-organized events at Rutgers University around the project of the critique of modernity/coloniality. Most recently, the inaugural Decoloniality Roundtable took place in May 2017. In March 2016, the Urban (De)Coloniality and Literature conference was held as the Program in Comparative Literature Biennial Graduate Student Conference.

 The workshop has a complete lineup for the Spring 2018 semester and is in the plan of continuing in 2018-19. For more information, visit the workshop’s website at https://decolonialityworkshop.wordpress.com 

Conversations on anti-colonialism

By Paulina M. Barrios

This past Monday, October 30th, Prof. Ania Loomba and Prof. Nelson Maldonado-Torres participated in a public conversation coordinated by Prof. Anjali Nerlekar with the support of the Comparative Literature and South Asian Studies Programs. The title of the conversation was Anti-colonialism and its trajectories: Postcolonial and decolonial thought, where both professors spoke of their professional trajectories and how they intersected with postcolonial studies and decolonial thought. Both had different ways of presenting their main arguments leading to a lively and dynamic conversation, provoking occasional laughter or thoughtful looks and speedy note-taking. The framework of the conversation was the course offered this semester by Prof. Nerlekar Introduction to Literary Theory, where graduate students discuss leading theorists and aim to establish a theoretical framework for their own projects.

With this in mind, Prof. Maldonado-Torres decided to move beyond the texts and trace his interactions with postcolonial studies. He began with an anecdote of how his anglo-American writing tutor in graduate school suggested that he must know postcolonial studies, leaving him feeling a bit perplexed about the assumption, and marking his first contact with its authors and theory. Moreover, he pointed out that postcolonial theory helped him frame a response to the provincialism of Western philosophy and a critique of the eurocentrism present in Puerto Rican nationalism. Similarly, Prof. Loomba was told to read postcolonial authors by a fellow academic, once her PhD studies had been completed in England. In speaking of her own trajectory she explained her parents were Marxists, described herself as a political child and a feminist from the second wave of feminism in India. It was in England that “I discovered race for the first time and realized how terribly colonialized I was, the peculiar thing in India is that you don’t see race, which now I would say is exactly the coloniality we were all taught”.

However, both argued that Postcolonial theory has limitations that may be pushed further. Prof. Maldonado-Torres focused his critique on four general limitations; it did not fully address eurocentrism, it was a theoretical movement that wasn’t grounded on current social movements, and it excluded lived experience. He tied his final critique with his own analysis of Puerto Rican nationalism, “I realized that the provincialism of Puerto Rican nationalism was matched by the complicity with colonialism of forms of knowledge that used criticism as refuge of the closed forms of repression”. Prof. Loomba responded first by emphasizing that she is not a postcolonial specialist, and that the work she has published on postcolonial studies has been as someone who uses this theory and engages with it in a critical way. She further pointed out that she would separate Edward Said from the other theorists, however, she used him to point out how postcolonial theory sometimes simplifies its analyses by not including the “traditions of patriarchy, race structures, and class structures that predated colonialism”.

Both professors closed their discussions by presenting their own proposals on how to engage with both the limitations and useful elements of Postcolonial Studies. Prof. Maldonado-Torres discussed his work in area studies, spoke against what he termed “the infantilization of area studies”, and supported the project of an academy linked to social movements. He then presented the background of the end of the Cold War and indigenous movements in the 90s as key for leading to Anibal Quijano’s term of coloniality and “to the notion that modernity and coloniality are a global system of power that orchestrates relations between different countries but also inside the different countries”. Prof. Loomba framed her response by pointing towards elements that should be rescued, such as the idea of multiple histories. However, she stated postcolonial studies were too presentist, and didn’t go sufficiently far back in their analyses. She also spoke against the American academy’s obsession with creating new fields and asked to move beyond the term ‘postcolonial studies’. She strongly urged for an inclusion of ideas that are emerging within the Third World and not use the same 4 or 5 authors, “that are taken up by American presses and canonized here”.

At the end of both presentations, there was a short question and answer session. One example of a question that came up focused on how this discussion might translate into pedagogical tools or strategies to bring decoloniality into the classroom. Both professors answered by stating two options: the first focused on strategies in the classroom, such as, working with students on a more horizontal level and leading creative efforts within the classroom; the second focused more on content, bringing in authors that are not generally discussed in American academia or constantly integrating discussions surrounding race and/or gender into courses. Both professors  ended the conversation leaving the room buzzing and inspired to productively question our own colonialisms/colonialities.

Grad Student Summer: Barcelona Summer School

Decolonial Dialogues in Barcelona

by Rafael Vizcaino

From July 11 to July 21, 2016, I attended the Decolonizing Knowledge and Power: Postcolonial Studies, Decolonial Horizons Summer School, organized by the Center of Study and Investigation for Decolonial Dialogues in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. This is an intensive school organized by international faculty that attracts around 60-100 students from around the world each year, primarily doctoral and master students, young faculty, advanced undergraduates, and other professionals in related fields (particularly education and the arts). While attendees come from many different areas within the university and outside, and hail from all continents of the world, what we all share is a deep interest in processes and projects of decolonization (plurally construed). Because we shared the project of decoloniality, our interactions were an incredibly rich resource that allowed us to learn from and challenge one another in the spirit of solidarity. It is safe to say that there is no equivalent space of such strength, at least in the United States.

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The audience (picture by Nelson Maldonado-Torres).

The School consists of two or three intensive lectures a day, each lasting at least two hours. And between lectures was the time for general collective discussion, be it of the reading materials, the content of the lecture, or other concerns one may have. During spare time, people also organized into groups based on discipline or area of work/interest, and discussed in more detail how one’s area specifically relates to the decolonial project, or what kind of work one is doing to enact such relation. Days were very intense, as discussion tended to continue over lunch and dinner, and then lecturers unofficially held “office hours” in the buzzing Plaza del Sol in the neighborhood of Gracia. This was a great opportunity to interact with such thinkers on a one-on-one basis in a relaxed setting, as well as an ideal time to get to know one’s colleagues.

This year, Ramon Grosfoguel (UC Berkeley) opened the School with an introductory lecture in which he situated the historical context of the rise of coloniality as a pattern of power, going back well beyond the commonly held standard for such rise (the so-called “discovery” of the Americas in 1492) to the rise of Christendom in the Roman Empire during the 4th century of the Common Era.

barcelona-pablo-photo-1Ramon Grosfoguel (picture by Pablo Gonzalez).

During the first week, our very own Nelson Maldonado-Torres gave a series of lectures titled “10 Theses on Coloniality and Decoloniality,” where he outlined the analytics of coloniality and illuminated on three interrelated spheres where decoloniality takes place: theory, arts, and activism.

barcelona-zingisa-photo-2Nelson Maldonado- Torres (picture by Zingisa Mqalo Nkosinkulu).

Linda Alcoff (CUNY) also gave a series of lectures, titled “Decolonizing Epistemology.” Alcoff highlighted the importance of epistemology and normativity for the project of decoloniality, as the modern/colonial horizon relies on these elements for its own justification. Moreover, Stephen Small (UC Berkeley) gave a lecture on “Black Europe,” focusing on the politics of race in Great Britain, and Dew Baboeram (IISR) held two sessions on “Decolonizing the Mind,” where he put forward a critique of critical sociological theories from the perspective of epistemic decolonization.

barcelona-pablo-photo-3Linda Alcoff (picture by Pablo Gonzalez).

The second week saw new lecturers with Enrique Dussel (UNAM) who presented a series of talks on many of the themes of the Philosophy of Liberation: a new vision of world (political) history, an ethical critique of capitalism following a groundbreaking reading of Karl Marx, an alternative vision of politics and political philosophy, and an analysis of the notions of interculturality and transmodernity for the near future.

barcelona-pablo-photo-4Enrique Dussel (picture by Pablo Gonzalez).

Ruthie Gilmore (CUNY) too held a series of seminars, focusing on the recently deceased Cedric Robinson’s Black Marxism. Gilmore brought to the school a refreshed radical politics that is as relevant as ever, given the contemporary status of racial politics and their material ramifications in the United States, as well as the constant rise of neoliberalism in all corners of the world. Sabelo Ndlovu (UNISA) closed the School’s schedule with two lectures on “African Decolonial Thought,” in which he mainly looked at the pitfalls of postcolonialism as a lens through which to understand the reality of the continent of Africa.

barcelona-pablo-photo-5Ruth Gilmore (picture by Pablo Gonzalez).

While all sessions were beneficial to my intellectual interests, I am very satisfied to have discussed the work of Enrique Dussel with other voracious readers (and critics) of him, as well as to have had the privilege to have many one-on-one conversations with Dussel himself. These discussions were a continuation of an exchange started here at Rutgers University when he visited the Latino Caribbean Studies Department in April of 2015, that then continued at a philosophy conference at Villanova University in April of 2016. These have re-energized me to continue doing the work that I am doing, as well as given me many lines of thought to explore this year and beyond as I prepare to put together my doctoral dissertation. Yet, besides holding these theoretical concerns, in Barcelona I also managed to connect with local activists who are in one way or another realizing, on the ground, some of the aspects of the discourse and practice of decoloniality at many levels: Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, Europe. They are anti-gentrification activists, activists in defense of migrant rights or minorities within Europe (such as the Romani people), as well as those interested in the independence of Catalonia from Spain. Of particular importance to my own developing interests in discourses of citizenship, migration, racialization, and coloniality, was meeting some of the actors involved with the Espacio del Immigrante, a health/socio-cultural center in an occupied flat in the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood of El Raval. This is a center that for approximately two years has been providing free healthcare to undocumented migrants to counteract the actions of the Spanish government that has made it illegal for undocumented migrants to receive basic care at public hospitals (language classes and seminars on critical thought are also held among other events). While I was in Barcelona the local police force had orders to evict those inside the Espacio (an extension of 45 days was granted at the time of this writing). This event made me grasp the complicated socio-political atmosphere currently in Barcelona, beneath the city’s public appearance as the most progressive city in Europe open to refugees. Put simply, these interactions with local activists were as important and thought-provoking as were the series of lectures I attended at the School. They were another decolonial dialogue, not unrelated to those I had at the Summer School.

Overall, the Decolonizing Knowledge and Power: Postcolonial Studies, Decolonial Horizons Summer School is a crucial space in the development of the decolonial project. The project is a plural endeavor, not without its internal critiques, that seeks to challenge the abundant colonial legacies across all levels of experience in our shared world. I am grateful to both the Program in Comparative Literature and the Graduate School at Rutgers University that supported my trip. I definitely encourage anyone interested in processes and projects of decolonization to attend this School. The best time to apply is during the fall semester, as it increases one’s chances of receiving travel support from the university and/or external sources. The deadline for applications is usually early in the following year. For more information, this is the School’s website.

Urban (De)Coloniality and Literature: A Retrospective

By: Rafael Vizcaíno and Jeong Eun Annabel We

On March 3, 2016, the graduate students of the Rutgers University Program in Comparative Literature held their biennial conference. This year’s conference, titled “Urban (De)Coloniality and Literature,” sought to push back against what we (the co-chairs) thought was a limited reception of the project of decoloniality within literary studies (e.g. that the project is geographically restricted to the Americas, temporally restricted to the 15th and 16th centuries, and heavily dependent on Hispanophone contexts). We also wanted to uphold comparative literature as an institutional space within the U.S. university where divergent forms of knowledge production can meet to analyze a specific issue of social relevance. The conference participants brought together ethnic studies, women and gender studies, area studies, philosophy, history, anthropology, religious studies, indigenous studies, as well as literary and cultural studies. They were invited to focus on an aspect of coloniality that in our view remains understudied: the coloniality of the city, as reflected in patterns of gentrification, mass surveillance, and the criminalization of racialized populations.

The first panel, “Remapping the Urban and Reclaiming Lives,” examined different decolonial imaginaries emerging from urban settings, ranging from San Francisco’s Mission district’s Chicanx public art, French-colonial plantation cities and Maroon utopianism, and Canada’s settler-colonial urban space unsettled by the Idle No More movement of First Nations peoples. Cynthia García (Stanford), Fadila Habchi (Yale), and Allyse Knox (Stony Brook) challenged the colonial intensifications of these urban spaces and offered for our analysis the multiple media through which a decolonial reclamation of the city might take place. As the panel’s discussant Professor Dinzey-Flores (Rutgers) highlighted, the physicality and materiality of space serves as a necessary context to analyze this endeavor.

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The second panel, “Genealogy and Decolonial Epistemology,” brought together different trajectories that have inspired decolonial work: Native kinship and intimacy, the moment of Pachakuti (rupture), and Black women’s creative (“demonic”) possession of space. Invigorating and also challenging other genealogies of decoloniality, Nicole Eitzen Delgado (NYU), Gabe Sanchez (Albany), and Alexandria Smith (Rutgers) demonstrated the contribution of wide ranging theoretical and practical sources to decolonial thought. Comp Lit’s very own Professor Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel (Rutgers) was this panel’s discussant. Raising the methodological question of comparison vs. relationality, she urged us to attend to the fundamental opacity in this epistemic endeavor.

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The third panel, “The Anthropological of the Inter-Space” further reflected on interdisciplinarity as the discussion focused on how anthropological subjects get created in in-between-spaces. Spaces considered were the New World, Okinawa’s military bases, and taxi dance halls in the 1920’s U.S.A. Dana Francisco Miranda (Connecticut), Ariko Shari Ikehara (Berkeley), and Monica Stanton (Princeton), pushed one another to address different time periods and modalities of control and invention in inter-spatial contexts. Professor Carter Mathes (Rutgers) traced “Man as the glue to anthropological normativity” in all three papers and offered additional contexts to consider, such as the (super/sub)human otherness of racialized subjects, as seen recently in Darren Wilson’s description of Michael Brown.

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The last panel, “(De)Colonial (Ab)use of the Theological and the Spiritual,” both credited and challenged secular and non-secular foundations of decoloniality. Lucas de Lima (UPenn), Foster J. Pinkney (UChicago), and Daniel José Camacho (Duke), traced queer, anti-violent, and indigenous deployments of liberation theology and spiritual practices. Their papers illustrated the importance of furthering a critique of both secularism and of theology’s complicity with coloniality in a global and comparative/relational perspective. Professor Carlos Decena (Rutgers) offered an intense and provocative discussion on the limits of theologies of liberation and the need to further look at their often covered over queer underside.

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Professor José David Saldívar (Stanford) was the conference’s keynote speaker. His talk, “Negative Aesthetics and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” proposed that a negative aesthetic found in Díaz’s work helps explain the global presence of U.S. ethnic literature. Professor Saldívar began by sharing his on-site research in New Jersey since Díaz himself lived in Parlin, NJ, and attended Rutgers College as an undergraduate. Rutgers Comp Lit graduate students Carolyn Ureña and Enmanuel Martinez offered responses to Professor Saldivar’s talk. The ensuing discussion touched on Dominican Republic’s place within the modern/colonial world as well as the relation between the concepts of americanity and coloniality.

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The critically interdisciplinary exchange the conference generated reflexively encourages us to expand the theoretical frameworks of comparative literature as a discipline. Moreover, it urges us to expand the scope of decoloniality as a critical-intellectual project connected to social movements throughout the world. As Rutgers celebrates its 250th year anniversary, the themes of this conference also speak to Rutgers’ own colonial history and the ongoing gentrification of New Brunswick. Committed to various communities and projects, the conference presenters and participants were able to use this conference as an occasion to share research and insights across disciplinary boundaries and physical distance. The conference gave all of us a glimpse of the exciting work of emerging scholars, work that speaks to many of our current predicaments and signals a new generation of researchers who seek to challenge existing modes of thought and stimulate new conceptual frameworks and social movements.

We would like to once again express our deepest gratitude to all presenters, organizers, discussants, administrators, and university staff, without whom the conference could not have materialized. The same goes for our sponsors: The Rutgers Graduate Student Association, The Centers for Global Advancement and International Affairs, The Program in Comparative Literature, The Department of Latino and Caribbean Studies, The Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, The Advanced Institute for Critical Caribbean Studies, and The Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures.

 

 

 

 

 

Graduate Student Conference: Urban (De)Coloniality and Literature

The Rutgers University Program in Comparative Literature invites you to its 2016 graduate student conference:

URBAN (DE)COLONIALITY AND LITERATURE

March 3, 2016

With a Keynote Address by JOSÉ DAVID SALDÍVAR (Stanford University): “Negative Aesthetics and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”

The Conference will feature graduate student presentations on the following panels:

– Remapping the Urban and Reclaiming Lives.
– Genealogy and Decolonial Epistemology.
– The Anthropological of the Inter-Space.
– (De)Colonial (Ab)Use of the Theological and the Spiritual.

If you are planning to attend, please formally RSVP here.