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Decoronalisation / Decolonisation: An Afterall Reading List

Image: Lee Wen, The Land of Oblivion, 1987, sketchbook. Courtesy the artist
Our new Managing Editor, Adeena Mey, has selected three essays previously published in the Afterall Journal which we have made available to read on our website for free. These engage with decoloniality and have been aligned by Mey with recent thinking raised by the Covid-19 pandemic.  
Image: Lee Wen, The Land of Oblivion, 1987, sketchbook. Courtesy the artist

Decoronalisation and Decolonisation. The former is a neologism (which I borrow from the philosopher Jérôme Lèbre) coined to produce a resonance – an equivocal homophony – with the latter and its aesthetic-political horizon.01Potentially affecting each of us in our last defence, it seems that we have all become passengers in the Covid-19 runaway train. On a medical and scientific level the virus spreads. Behind us, nations have closed their borders one by one. Living in confinement has become the new normal, and state-reason is being enacted in ways rarely seen before. Entire populations find themselves in a situation reminiscent of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (2013) in which each train carriage becomes a space of struggle for protagonists to protect themselves in order to make it to the end of the journey. As in Bong’s socio-political fiction, everyone today is compartmentalised. And these compartments are not only nationalist, but also based on class and race. With the coronavirus, old and new forms of colonialism might indeed (re)surface. For those of us in the artistic field, working towards the end of the pandemic, with our own specific means, the task of Decoronalising might indeed rhyme with that of Decolonising.

Gleaned from Afterall journal’s archive, we present here a selection of recent essays engaging with decoloniality. Our choice of texts starts with a conversation between decolonial theorist Walter D. Mignolo and curator Wanda Nanibush. Emphasising decoloniality as ‘an epistemic and ontological endeavour for everyone to “unwind ourselves from the white words we have become”’, the authors address possibilities of ‘delinking’ from the fabric of Modernity as a process essentially shaped by various colonial enterprises. The text thus offers the reader a panorama of decolonial thinking.

The Covid-19 pandemic also unfolds as a big geopolitical clash, paralleled by virulent forms of xenophobia: first towards the Chinese and other Asian people, then the Italians, etc. In this regard, Alice Ming Wai Jim’s discussion of Lee Wen’s performing of ‘yellowness’ and Nora Taylor’s reading of Tha̓o Nguyên Phan’s Voyage de Rhodes (2014–17) offer responses – as excursive as they may be – to the current fear of Asia, by complicating, respectively, questions of Asian identity and of their colonial histories.

Adeena Mey, Afterall journal Managing Editor


  • Jérôme Lèbre, ‘Pour une décoronalisation’, Philosopher en temps d’épidémie [Youtube Channel] 19 March 2020, available at (last accessed on 7 April 2020). Lèbre coined ‘Decoronalisation’ after poet and philosopher Michel Deguy’s poem Coronation published in Po&sie [online], 13 March 2020, available at (last accessed on 7 April 2020).