Walter D. Mignolo


18 November 2020

In this Theory from the Margins event, we discuss two works (published and forthcoming) by philosopher and semiotician Walter D. Mignolo, one of the world’s foremost thinkers on epistemic decolonization, and one of the founders of the modernity/coloniality school of thought.

In On Decoloniality, Walter D. Mignolo and Catherine E. Walsh explore the hidden forces of the colonial matrix of power, its origination, transformation, and current presence, while asking the crucial questions of decoloniality’s how, what, why, with whom, and what for. Interweaving theory-praxis with local histories and perspectives of struggle, they illustrate the conceptual and analytic dynamism of decolonial ways of living and thinking, as well as the creative force of resistance and re-existence. This book speaks to the urgency of these times, encourages delinkings from the colonial matrix of power and its “universals” of Western modernity and global capitalism, and engages with arguments and struggles for dignity and life against death, destruction, and civilizational despair.

In The Politics of Decolonial Investigations, Walter D. Mignolo provides a sweeping examination of how coloniality has operated around the world in its myriad forms between the sixteenth and twenty-first centuries. Decolonial border thinking allows Mignolo to outline how the combination of the self-fashioned narratives of Western Civilization and the hegemony of Eurocentric thought served to eradicate all knowledges in non-European languages and praxis of living and being. Mignolo also traces the geopolitical origins of racialized and gendered classifications, modernity, globalization, cosmopolitanism, placing them all within the framework of coloniality. Drawing on the work of theorists and decolonial practitioners from the global South and the global East, Mignolo shows how coloniality has provoked the emergence of decolonial politics initiated by delinking from all forms of Western knowledge and subjectivities. The urgent task Mignolo stresses, is the epistemic reconstitution of categories of thoughts and praxis of living destituted in the very process of building Western Civilization and the idea of modernity. Overcoming the long-lasting hegemony of the West and its distorted legacies is already under way in all areas of human existence. Mignolo underscores the relevance of the politics of decolonial investigations, in and out the academy, to liberate ourselves from canonized knowledge, ways of knowing and praxis of living.

Walter D. Mignolo is William H. Wannamaker Professor and Director of the Center for Global Studies and the Humanities at Duke University. He was associated researcher at Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Quito, 2002-2018) and an Honorary Research Associate for CISA (Center for Indian Studies in South Africa), Wits University at Johannesburg (2015-2019). He is a Senior Advisor of DOC (Dialogue of Civilizations) Research Institute, based in Berlin and received a Doctor Honoris Causa Degree from the University National of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Among his books related to the topic are: The Darker Side of the Renaissance. Literacy, Territoriality and Colonization (1995, Chinese and Spanish translation 2015); Delinking: The Rhetoric of Modernity, the Logic of Coloniality and the Grammar of Decoloniality (2007, translated into German, French, Swedish, Rumanian and Spanish), Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking (2000, translated into Spanish, Portuguese and Korean); and The Idea of Latin America (2006, translated into Spanish, Korean and Italian, On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analysis, Praxis, co-authored with Catherine Walsh, 2018; and, The Politics of Decolonial Investigations (Duke University Press, 2021).

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