The Prospect of Harmony and the Decolonial View of the World: Weihua He Interviews Walter Mignolo

Hong Kong and Shanghai, January-June 2012.

Section Four

Liberation and the Prospect of “Harmony”

Question 1: During the 1980s and 1990s, various schools of poststructuralist and postmodern theories were introduced into China, which caused a thrill among Chinese intellectuals. To a certain extent, the ultimate goal of these theories is to fight for “the return of the repressed.” Can we say that this is also one of the agendas of decolonialism?

+ View Response

Walter Mignolo: The “repressed” are returning and they do not need the “theory of some schools.” Decolonial theories are not fighting for the return of the repressed but are the repressed returning in spite of who is fighting for they/our return. Notice that postmodern and poststructuralists were advanced mainly by white Euro/American intellectuals. In that sense, I am not surprised that Chinese intellectuals fell into that illusion. It happened in other parts of the world too. And I think it was the last moment in history in which the Western right (neoliberalism) and the Western left (Marxism and its postmodern and poststructuralist versions), were producing the illusion that Eurocentered critiques of Europe and Eurocentrism was valid for the non-European world.

Decolonial thinkers never swallow that pill. That is why Frantz Fanon, to name the better known, and for Latin Americans, Jose Carlos Mariategui, were the guiding lights. Both, in different ways, say the connections between racism, coloniality and capitalism. They did use the word coloniality but colonialism, but it was clear that they do not have yet a word to name what they were talking about.

In that regard, decoloniality is the thought of the repressed or of the barbarians themselves/ourselves, and not about the barbarians and the repressed, and not of some avant guard Euro-US intellectual or anthropologist, journalist or Hollywood actor, who is “saving the oppressed.” The barbarians and repressed are saving themselves: dewesternization and decoloniality are the ways they/we are doing it At that time, it was supposed that Third World intellectuals are not supposed to theorize by themselves: they/we are barbarians. That is why Chinese as well as other non-European intellectuals needed European theories to think. It was the same with the economy. Underdeveloped countries thought that the IMF and development theories of the West would save their life. In the same way, Third World progressive intellectuals were supposed (and they/we accepted to be epistemically and ontologically self-colonized) to comment and apply theories coming from the First world. Repressed and barbarians are scalars terms, not everyone repressed is in chains and not every barbarian is walking naked covered with animal furs.

Fanon was not just writing “about the wretched of the earth”, he was himself one of the “wretched,” and he was writing as a wretched not just about the wretched. His was theorizing as wretched, his was barbarian theorizing, that is why he received scant attention in the period of “high” postmodern and poststructuralist theories. His writing was already the unmistakable sign of the return of the repressed. In my writing I am trying to follow suit. I am not trying to theorize the subaltern, to save the repressed, but to fight the repressive logic of coloniality of which we are all victims, including the one who assumes themselves to be beyond the colonial matrix and leading the world toward peace and prosperity. So it is necessary to accept that being a scholar and an intellectual and being at Duke is not being out of the “epistemically wretched” unless you think that once you reached a certain institutional level you are no longer target of the wide range of racial prejudice and you also think that the damnes shall always be where they are, until postmodern and poststructuralist intellectuals come to save them. That is also the discourse of Christianity, of liberalism and of Marxism—the Salvationist rhetoric of modernity, from the right, the left and the center. If you reduce the wretched to a social class and to an extreme level of poverty, you will not understand that coloniality, or of what Fanon is talking about. Fanon offers us indeed both an analytic of coloniality as a grammar of decoloniality. He focused on racial coloniality of knowledge and of being, in racial discrimination at all levels of social formation and at all levels of the social ladder. He, as a Black Caribbean, makes me understand that I am not white because I have white skin and blue eyes, and I did not become “white” for being at Duke. In the US, I am “Hispanic” in the official classification (passport, state forms) a “Latino” in the civil society where “Hispanics” has been rejected, as it is a State classification. “Latinos/as” doesn’t have much to do with Spain to which “Hispanic” refers. There are Chicanos/as (of Mexican descent) and Latinos/as at Duke who are not becoming “white” either.

On the other hand, there are thousands of Latinos/as (the way we see ourselves) holding academic positions. They do not need poststructuralist and postmodern theories to work toward their own liberation. Even when they are utterly familiar with post-modern and post-structuralist theories, they twisted to the point in which decolonial thinking and Latino/as experiences overcome the Euro-American experiences that are at the bases of post-modern and post-colonial theories. 1Two examples of Latino/as decolonial theorizing are the classical book by Gloria Anzaldua, Borderland/La Frontera. The New Mestiza (1987) and Chela Sandoval, Methodology of the Oppressed (2000). Another example would be the influential book by Maori historian Linda T. Smith Decolonizing methodology. Research and Indigenous People (1999). Linda T. Smith lives in New Zealand. The books has been of enormous influence beyond Indigenous communities. For example, feminists in Thailand are following the lead and working on decolonizing feminist methodology. I can keep going and going but the point is that while the 1980s and a little into the 1980s postmodern and poststructuralist theories were attractive beyond Western Europe and the US, it is no longer the case. Even in former Eastern Europe they are turning into decolonial theorizing. 2See for instance the special issue of TRANSVERSAL, title Unsettling Knowledge, a web publication mainly from former Central and Eastern Europe,

Let’s go back to your question and your reference to what happened in China, on the one hand, and whether decolonial thinking is fighting for the return of the repressed. When I arrived to the US I became an Hispanic/Latino, and that means that I was degraded in my humanity. Before that, when I arrived to France to pursue my graduate studies, I became a “Sudaca”, a deceptive term for “Sud Americanos” Everything I wrote since 1987 was not to fight for the return of the repressed but with the anger of the repressed. With the anger of the epistemically wretched, I learned from Fanon and Anzaldua, realizing the inhumanity of the humanist who controlling knowledge allows them to classify, rank and degrade people. So, we are no longer talking about liberating the proletarians and saving the repressed, for the proletarians and the repressed are saving themselves and we are becoming aware that we are all embedded in the colonial matrix of power. How do you get out of the colonial matrix? Not with new technology, that is, with more sophisticated iPods or nuclear investigation. You need to think and conceptualize otherwise, to build decolonial horizons of life. That means, horizons of life that delink from coloniality, from the colonial matrix. I believe that many gays, lesbians, women of color who are scholars and intellectuals and that are fighting for their dignity are writing as wretched, as “repressed.” So we have to stop thinking that the wretched and the repressed are “those” over there, the “others;” (gay, lesbian, women and men of color—black, yellow, brown); people from the Third World, underdeveloped and emerging countries; “yellow” people like East Asian according to Linnaeus and Kant. Several of my Anglo colleagues and friends critiqued me directly or indirectly for “playing the victim.” I was not and I am not playing the victim. I am not hiding myself in a neutral epistemological zone to talk about “them, the Latino/as, the repressed”. Sure, I am in a better economic and social position that the Latinos/as crossing the border at night and working illegally. But it is precisely the situation I am in that demands and brings forward the ethics of scholarship and the politics of knowledge. How can I talk about “them and the other” if I know and feel that I am seen as “them and the other.” That is what Fanon defined as “sociogenetic principle.” In the modern/colonial world we are all classified, but not all of us are in a position to enact institutional classifications. Classifications are not created by the wretched and the barbarians. Classifications are created by He who controls knowledge.

This is the bottom line: there is a circle in the sphere of the social where you find the States, the corporations, the universities and higher education as well as professional schools and the main stream media. And then there is another circle where you find the political society, the politicized civil society, the self-managing media, faculty in universities and professional schools that that assume themselves as members of the politicized civil society and/or political society and not members of the first circle. Both circles are not separated, they are entangled and there are a lot of movements not only in the space where the circle intersects (in the Venn’s diagram image) but also up and down left and right of the circles. The kind of dialogue we are entertaining here and much of the works of our colleagues concerned with these issues, belong to the second circle. We are not going to be invited to Davos, we are not going to be invited to the Summit on Climate Control. If we want to go to those places, we have to go by ourselves and be part of the “protesters.” So, rewesternization and dewesternization is a struggle in the same circle, decoloniality in the second circle. Of course there are some points of encounters between dewesternization and decoloniality in that space where the two circles intersect but, in the long run, there is no possibility at this point of dewesternization and decoloniality merging in the same way that corporation merges. Once again, dewesternization and decoloniality, that forced rewesternization, are changing the ways in which we conceive ourselves, the world, and ourselves in the world order. 

– Hide Response

Question 2: Interestingly, many of the theories we talked about in the above conversation are mainly introduced into China by literary scholars at the very beginning. Then they are used in literary criticism. Very soon the kind of literary criticism which is dense in philosophical theorizing and political overtones was criticized by some more traditional scholars. These literary scholars think that literature is different from disciplines like politics, sociology and philosophy, etc. For example, the English critic F. R. Leavis strongly maintains the distinction between literature and philosophy. According to him, literature is concrete and is the dramatization of sensitivity, while disciplines like philosophy are only a kind of boring reductionism. During some historical moments here in China, the political approaches towards literature are also severely criticized by some Chinese scholars. How would you respond to such accusations? And what’s the case in the US?

+ View Response

Walter Mignolo: I would say “enormously” but I have to explain in what sense I mean it. 3See the Decolonial Aesthetics Manifesto, There are several publications in Spanish, in the journal Calle 14. Revista de Investigacion en el campo del arte, that you can find in the web. Issues 4,5,6 contains several articles on decolonial aesthetics. There are already dissertations exploring the issue. And I would suggest to read and listen one speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The danger of a single story,” She is not mention decoloniality, but her discourse is a powerful decolonial statement by a literary person from Nigeria. First of all, decolonial thinking always starts by calling into question existing structures and asking how they came to be. So if you ask how literary studies can benefit, it is not by taking decoloniality as a “new method” to analyze literary texts (a trap that postcolonial studies fell into), but by calling into question the very “raison d’etre” of literary studies. Since when did literary studies acquire the status of a literary formation? Where did that that happen, in Zimbabwe, in Bolivia, in China, in Uzbekistan or in Western Europe? In Western Europe, is the trivia answer. Now, why in Europe and not in Zimbabwe or Bolivia? And when? So there you have a set of questions for a couple of dissertations. And this is the first tip as to why decolonial thinking could be enormously helpful in literary studies: to start by decolonizing them.

Secondly, and in relation to the previous question, the concept of “literature” in the sense it is understood today (fiction, aesthetics) is an invention of the eighteenth century. In the Middle Ages “literature” meant everything written in Latin alphabetic writing. I mean, Latin alphabet. So, “literature” derives from “letter.” In the Middle Ages and through the Renaissance, “Poetry” and “Poetics” were the terms to refer to doing (poiesis) and analyzing a piece according to the rules (poetics). Lessing’s treatise Laocoon (1767) is an essay on poetry and painting. “Literature” is not in sight. Briefly “literature,” that in the sense of fiction, system of genre, aesthetics qualities, etc., doesn’t exist before the end of eighteenth century neither in any part of the world nor in Europe itself. When “literature” emerges, contemporary of the imperial leadership of England and France, it expands all over the globe. And now we talk about “literature” as it were a universal practice. This is another example where decolonial thinking could be useful: to decolonize the concept of literature and literary studies.

Third, and this is the most important, once literature reached colonized areas and became “written genres” local narrators and writers appropriate it and began to narrate in-fusing in the narrative the legacies of oral narratives, beliefs, non-European languages, etc. You can see this in any Chinese, African, and Latin America novel of the twentieth century on. At the same time, literary criticism and theory emerging from the experience, sensibilities and interests of ex-colonies or countries that were never colonized but that did not escape coloniality (like the case of China), began also to theorize decolonially. Traces can be found in the general decolonial thoughts of Presence Africaine, in Paris, since 1948. But most recently, the example of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Decolonizing the Mind. The Politics of Language in African Literature (1986) is a case in point. Today, there are legions of articles, books, seminars, on decolonizing literary studies andLiterature.

Fourth, the recent unfolding of “decolonial aesthetics” that touches on all the arts as well as literature ( We had an exhibit cum workshop at Duke in May of 2011. In relation to the previous comments, “decolonial aesthetics” began by pointing out that “aesthesis” is a Greek world meaning “sensing, affects, sensibilities.” Once again, in the eighteenth century, and in Germany mainly, the concept of “aesthetic” mutates and means sensing and sensibilities but related to “taste.” In that context, you have Kant’s Observations on the Beautiful and the Sublime (1767) that remains one of the canonical texts in aesthetic as a branch of philosophy. Now, interestingly enough, even if aiesthesis is a Greek concept, Aristotle did not pay to much attention to it in his Poetics. The key terms are poiesis, mimesis and catharsis. So that when in the eighteenth century aesthetics codified aiesthesis and restrict it to “taste” what aesthetics did was to colonize aiesthesis in such a way that aesthetics philosophy become also the regulator of good and bad taste and to decide what is literature and what is not, what is art and what is not. The rest of the world began to be subjected to the Western criteria of aesthetics. “Literature” was part of that movement.

Last but not least, literature itself is a powerful medium of decolonial thinking and for decolonizing aesthetics. While literature, as we know, had an significant role in “colonizing the mind” it is also invaluable to “decolonize the mind.” 4See the classical book by Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’ o Decolonizing the mind (1987)

It would be a matter of thinking about literature of the past decades in China and other countries of East and South East Asia, which I’m not familiar with. But I am persuaded that literary reflections on the effects of coloniality is under way, particularly in local histories that endured crossing imperial interventions (from Japan, China and the West), as well as writers in China and Japan who are aware of both the colonial and imperial past of these two countries. Which of course, bring us to another general issue: coloniality and imperial differences in relation to the West, and coloniality and colonial differences when countries like Russia, Japan or China are on the one hand under the effects of Western coloniality and at the same time projecting it on their own regions. That is once again, dewesternization is no doubt an important move in the global order but at the same time is not exempt of reproducing coloniality.

Well, going back to literature, you can see, the enormous contribution that decolonial thinking can do to literature and literary studies, as well and to aesthetics, is to unveil the conditions and consequences of their formation and transformations. That means, to look at literature and literary studies from the imperial and colonial epistemic and aesthetics differences upon which European literary practices and literary studies built its “imperio.”

Decolonially, you start by delinking. If you enter the game that has been set up for you, you are lost for the simple reason that the rules have been made by those who are in control of the game. That is, if you accept that “literature” and “philosophy” are what Leavis assume they are in his own world, well, you are lost. The miseries of decolonial thinking is that it cannot avoid coloniality—philosophy and literature are colonial concepts, they belong to epistemic coloniality. The splendor is that you are not bound to it as if there were no other game in town. Decolonially, the first move it to take a step back and ask: what kind of game is that, that Leavis is playing forcing us to think about the distinction of two concepts, philosophy and literature, that belong to the Western tradition but are peripheral to mine, in South America, where for example, in Aymara or Quechua or Nahuatl philosophy, neither of those concepts obtain; or to yours, both in written and spoken Mandarin? Philosophy and literature are Western concepts, let’s repeat, not universal ones. So, on the one hand as South American I am in between the legacies of the Greek and Roman, through Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe and, on the other, the deep seated legacies of Andean and Mesoamerican civilization. As Chinese, you are in between a language and the conceptualization in those languages, as well as the subject formation in those languages, and what you had to learn is not inscribed in your body, but it is in Leavis’s body. I do not have to go here into details; I devoted some time to these issues in The Darker Side of the Renaissance (that is being translated into Mandarin at this moment) and in several other articles. In Nahuatl, for example, there are two expressions, in xochitl, in cuicatl and in tilli, in tlapalli. The first could be translated as “the flowers, the songs.” Notice also the duplex in the expression. “In tilli, in tlapalli” could be translated as “the red ink, the black ink.” The first expression refers to music and songs and verse, and sometimes performance. The second refers to “painting the codices”, that is, Aztec ways of writing. You should understand this because it is very similar to the concept of writing in Chinese: the brush, the ink, the colors. Now, if you reduce all that to “literature” you perform a gigantic imperialist appropriation and flattening to the difference and reduce it to the Western concept of “literature” so you can control it. Furthermore, the Aztecs inherited the Maya calendric knowledge. Now calendric knowledge in Maya Civilization was not to keep track of the debts of your debtors, but it was related to understanding the cosmos (seasons, movements of the stars, Sun and Moon, interconnection between the body, our bodies, and the cosmos, etc.). It was also a way to organize the past and predict the future. It was knowledge at its best. Greeks called a similar experience, philosophy, and because Western Civilization is grounded in Greek Civilization (and not in Persian, Egyptian or Chinese), “philosophy” acquired a universal value. Not because philosophy is a universal concept but because it piggy-backs on Western imperialism. What one can assume is that everybody thinks, whether one civilization conceived its way of thinking as “philosophy” is interesting but quite irrelevant. The same happens with “literature.” That is the shortcoming and the blind spot of Leavis’s tribulations.

The other aspect is how Leavis’s tribulation is not only limited to Western Civilization, but it is a concern of post-Enlightenment Western Civilization when “literature” emerged and “philosophy” gained independence from “theology (Christian)).” Leavis’s discussion is limited to the secular moment in which literature and philosophy have mutated, the first from poetry the second from theology. In that context, the Cartesian context, “literature” belongs to aesthetics, aesthetics to feelings and sensing while “philosophy” to reason. That self-constructed context valued more reason than sensing. So, Leavis’ is reproducing a canonical secular distinction in Western history of ideas since the eighteenth century. And that is a problem of European and Europeamerican philosophy that has been expanded to other parts of the world because of imperial expansion. So you can in China engage with it or disengage. I myself disengage. I have other issues and problems to deal with and so the distinction between philosophy and literature is quite irrelevant. But, decolonially, I will say this: Western Civilization that privileged reason over sensing is in the situation it is today: the instrumental reason carries with it the irrational belief that progress and development is rational and is preferable. Sensing, literature, emotion are an encumbrance to the march of civilization that is progress and development. I am not surprised that in China there will be followers of Leavis. But I hope that in China will also emerge a strong decolonial vision that will complement and extend the orientation toward dewesternization: that is, to appropriate and no longer imitate what can be learned from Western modernity and Western Civilization, at the same time as preventing Western Civilization to continue with its imperial dreams of controlling the planet.

I am not familiar with the critiques in China to the political dimension of literature. But I would say that “decolonial aesthetics” addresses the issues of the Western separation of art, aesthetics, politics, sciences and philosophy. Decolonial aesthetics disobeys, delinks from those regulations who served the members of one civilization, Western civilization, but not to the people in the colonies and ex-colonies. Perhaps in China there is still some residue of “realistic aesthetics” that came from Marxist philosophy. That is not the case for decolonial aesthetics. Colonial subjects dwell in a different sensibility and a world in which to obey Western distinction between arts and sciences, etc., means to colonize yourself, to do what you are told to do not what you feel. When you read Chamamanda Adichie (that I mentioned above), from Nigeria or Jose Maria Arguedas, from Peru, for example, all these divisions that Western scholars built become irrelevant. Decolonizing sciences, politics, art, etc. means to engage in a different game in which decolonial knowledge, decolonial social organization and decolonial aiesthesis (feeling, sensing, etc) began to be re-articulated. As we delink, we stop obeying what God, Reason, the Academy, the Expert expect us to do.

– Hide Response

Question 3: In your theoretical formation, you advocate the politics of life and take a civilization of life as the ultimate goal of the decolonial project. To quote another way of putting this from your works, that’s to say, different nations can adopt different ways to realize the “liberation” of their own people. According to my understanding, this insight solves the contradiction between universalism and particularism. On one hand, there is an ultimate horizon which can be employed to judge different social systems; on the other hand, no one is allowed to dictate its own way of living upon other countries.

+ View Response

Walter Mignolo: Your summary goes indeed in the direction that not only my work and other members of the project, but also in the direction that is now very much discussed in South America around concepts such as “sumak kawsay” (Quichua, one of the indigenous languages of Ecuador) or “sumaq qamaña” in Aymara, one of the indigenous languages of Bolivia. What this expression means is “to live in harmony”, “to live in plenitude.” But before going into that direction, there is an important conceptual clarification to be made. To say “different nations can adopt different ways to realize the “liberation” of their own people” needs to be qualified. First of all, by “nation” I think you refer to “states” or “nation-states.” That the State would warranty Freedom to people, is a Hegelian thesis that was possible to dream at his time, but it became a nightmare in the twentieth century and continues to be. What were are witnessing now is that States are more and more in complicity with the corporations who are not working toward the liberation but the exploitation of many people. On the other hand, States like China and Brazil whose economic growth is visible and undeniable, has not “liberated” their people but “lifted many out of poverty.” And at the same time, have built confidence among the political, economic and intellectual elites to make them feel that there are “liberating” from the dictates of developed countries and theories (even postmodern theories), generated to deal with issues of developed countries. So the problem here is twofold: first, in the international arena, that is correct, no one State would be able in the future to be credited with its superiority to rule by itself the world. On the other hand, there are issues (injustices, inequalities, violences) within each State that could not, not be allowed to happen in the name of sovereignty. So, what is the solution? Well, trans-state institutions. You can say that we have them now: UN, World Bank, International Criminal Courts, etc. But such Institutions are of limited role in a world order driven by the colonial matrix of power and a vision of society that consists in predicating peace by making war; talking about the need to create job conditions and reduce unemployment, without questioning that there is something wrong in the very structure in which millions of human beings shall depend on those who created for themselves the conditions of creating and giving jobs to others, who will work to maintain the positions of those who are generous enough to create jobs.

So there are previous considerations to make before looking at the potentialities of “sumak kawsay” and equivalent concepts, I am sure in every non-Western civilization. These ideas were introduced by indigenous intellectuals, activists and scholars during the process of re-writing the Constitution of Ecuador and Bolivia. Now it is common currency among white and mestizo intellectuals who have been unfolding strong arguments to counter the idea of “development and progress.” The defenders of development argued that“to live in harmony” mean stagnation and the end of creativity, incentive, recognition and compensation for your merits. These ideas of meritocracy, and success, and to make it, and to be based in personal success as we have seen have encourage legal and illegal delinquency in the corporations and government, legal and illegal accumulation of wealth, and the increasing march of a civilization of death. To live in harmony doesn’t mean we have to stop “technological innovations” one of the mantras in the rhetoric of modernity. It means that we have to change the orientation of technological innovation: innovation but not for a consumerist capitalist market, but for an economy (and please let’s distinguish economy from capitalism, capitalism is one form, undesirable, of economic organization that has become hegemonic to the point that economy and capitalism means the same for a lot of people). And that orientation is the orientation toward life, of the planet and of the human species that is a “natural” element of the planet.

Now what is important here is to distinguish the arguments that promote the reproduction of life and to live in harmony, from the question of life and abortion. Life and abortion is a problem of the modern, capitalist and Christian society. In a society in which the horizon is the reproduction of life and to live in harmony, the right to abortion or the right to life will not be formulated as such, because it will be part of the general philosophy of living in harmony and the reproduction of life. In such society it will not be a problem of single mothers without work, and the danger of the new born of being left without care. Today, even in this capitalist society, in indigenous communities in Bolivia, the newborn is a member of the extended family and he or she is taken care of accordingly. In those communities, the Christian morality is not regulating human relations and they have managed to co-exist with a capitalist society (e.g., practicing informal economy) without being caught into the ideals of progress, development, consumerism and the like. But basically, changing the horizon of life from “progress and development” to “living in harmony and caring for the reproduction of life, not just human, but of the natural world, for we human are part of the natural world” is what many people around the world are realizing.

And you are right in your last sentence: a common horizon and many non-competing ways of marching toward it. That eliminates the dangers of abstract universal, of singles stories, of one way to go and moves from universality to pluriversality. And again you are right, there is no longer need to suffer to solve the problem of universal-particular once we get rid of abstract universal. It is only if you believe in universal that the problem of particulars appears. And that we owe to the legacy of Medieval Christian theologians and philosophers that mutated into secular universalism in the eighteenth century, and coincide with France and England become the imperial countries of the second modernity. The debates of politico-economic (in China and Singapore for example) and politico-religious (in Malaysia and Indonesia, for example) dewesternization (going on today in East Asia,) and decoloniality (in South America, Africa, some of Eastern countries like Taiwan), are all movements in this direction.

– Hide Response

Question 4: Now let’s come to my last question. For scholars like Raymond Williams, they think that communication and some other forms of popular culture can play a vital role in social progress. However, it seems that the predication of him has been proven wrong, because new forms of communication have also been mobilized to promote the interest of capital. What about decolonialism? What “resources of hope” or resources of strength can be mobilized for social progress?

+ View Response

Walter Mignolo: Your example shall remind us, and everybody, that there is no safe place. Each place (in this case communication, in the previous case sumac kaway) is a place of struggles between the struggle for the control of the colonial matrix or for delinking from it. Remember, however, that I have eliminated the word “progress” of my vocabulary, and therefore, of the decolonial vocabulary. So we have two problems here: the role of popular culture and what do they contribute to if they do not contribute to “progress”? I would say that popular culture is perhaps now more than ever contributing enormously to the process of decolonization, not of progress. And if you translated decolonization as progress, you colonize decolonization as you reduce it to the imperial ideology to which “progress”belong and that decolonial thinking is moving away from. Decoloniality, then, is one of the key concepts to delink from the rhetoric of modernity (liberal and Marxist) for which “progress” is still important, as we see in the case of Williams. Perhaps for him, as British and European, “progress” was a usual concept. I do not know what he would think today. It is not a dear concept for decolonial intellectuals. Decolonial call for other another concept, “liberation.” Think of Bob Marley, a decolonial philosopher from Jamaica; think of Baaba Maal, from Senegal, another decolonial philosopher. But popular music can be also an instrument for reproducing coloniality, the popular culture that entertain and narcotize you. Think of Shakira, for example and many others and here you will have popular culture to narcotize the viewer. There are of course more complex cases like “lady Gaga” which is more in the line of the “demodern” than the “decolonial” (Marley and Maal). One could say that “lady Gaga” contributes to “demodernize” rather than to “progress.” I say “demodern” because “postmodern” is still caught into the web of “progress and development”, that is, in that ideology of time that in the case of progress is societal, in the case of development is economic, and in the case of the postmodern is philosophical and cultural. But the bottom line is that popular culture could be either way, to regulate and maintain colonial subjects or to decolonize and liberate. There is no safe place. It depends on your project or your awareness that you are contributing to this or that project.

Thanks for the interview.

– Hide Response

Walter Mignolo

Walter D. Mignolo is William H. Wannamaker Professor and Director of the Center for Global Studies and the Humanities at Duke University. He is associated researcher at Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Quito, and an Honorary Research Associate for CISA (Center for Indian Studies in South Africa), Wits University at Johannesburg. His books include Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking (2000) and Delinking: The Rhetoric of Modernity, the Logic of Coloniality and the Grammar of Decoloniality (2007). 

Pages: 1 2 3 4


  3 comments for “The Prospect of Harmony and the Decolonial View of the World: Weihua He Interviews Walter Mignolo

  1. Elizabeth Leung
    22 January 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Will this entry be re-posted again?

    • Admin
      30 January 2016 at 8:36 pm

      It should be back up now. Our database couldn’t cope with the amount of words on one page so please click on the respective pages at the end to see further sections 2, 3, and 4 of this interview.

  2. blank
    Mau Perez
    2 October 2018 at 4:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing your interview to Mrs. Mignolo. I am looking to read more about Decolonial Thinking by Chinese authors, we could I find anything ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.