– Spring/Summer 2017

Coloniality is Far from Over, and So Must Be Decoloniality

Walter D. Mignolo

Pedro Lasch, The Indianization of Globalization, 2009. Courtesy the artist.


When I received the letter from Afterall inviting me to participate in this issue, the following paragraph both captured my attention and oriented what I wanted to write:

The impetus for this issue stems from two distinct, though not unrelated, contexts. On the one hand, the appalling rise of xenophobia and racism in Europe and the United States in the wake of divisive populist politics (read Trump, Brexit, etc.), which has exposed the colonial matrix as the untouched structure of power and knowledge – and the attendant nostalgia for empire. On the other, this issue has stemmed from conversations with Canadian Indigenous artists, curators and organisers and their insistence in emphasising indigeneity over decoloniality

  1. Email to the author, 21 July 2016.

  2. ‘Indigenous’, Online Etymology Dictionary [website], available at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=indigenous&allowed_in_frame=0 (last accessed on 23 January 2017)

  3. See Michel-Rolph Trouillt, ‘North Atlantic Universals: Analytical Fictions, 1492–1945’, South Atlantic Quarterly, vol.101, no.4, Fall 2002, pp.839–58.

  4. To open up the conversation, I recommend Mexika.org, which digs into the memories of ancient Mexican civilisation: ‘Next, let us look at “indigeneity.” If it sounds like an academic construction, that is because it is. In simple terms, “indigeneity” is the combination of the words indigenous and identity – hence, indigeneity. Seems obvious enough, what else is there to say about it? Well, what is indigenous identity? Who defines it; a government, a group of people, an authoritative individual? This term is a little harder to apply because of the long settler-colonial legacy of denying indigenous people their Native ethnicity in North America, particularly in the United States with its blood quantum policies. For our purposes here, we will say that “indigeneity” is an indigenous identity particular to an individual who sees him/herself as belonging to a specific group with roots dating prior to the so-called “great encounter” of 1492. That is an extremely wide net that encompasses a diverse array of peoples, cultures and societies stretching the northern and southern American continents.’ Tlakatekatl, ‘Towards a “Yankwik Mexikayotl”: A Definitional Essay; Part I’, Mexika.org [blog], available at https://mexika.org/2014/07/18/a-new-mexikayotl-its-time-to-purge-the-nonsense/ (last accessed on 23 January 2017).

  5. See Walter D. Mignolo, ‘Global Coloniality and the World Disorder’, World Public Forum, November 2015, available at http://wpfdc.org/images/2016_blog/W.Mignolo_Decoloniality_after_Decolonization_Dewesternization_after_the_Cold_War.pdf (last accessed on 23 January 2017).

  6. What was attempted in the Obama era was to re-bump westernisation. Obama’s foreign policy was marked by a consistent effort to re-westernise the planet. It has been stopped, but the US and the Pentagon, with the core of the EU, would persist in preserving their own values (which is fine, everybody has the right to do so) and in imposing their values all over the world (which is an aberration).

  7. Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (trans. Charles Lam Markmann), London: Pluto Books, 2008, p.181.

  8. See Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987.

  9. Google doesn’t recognise the term mestiza; it only recognises mestizo, which is masculine.

  10. In 1900, Belgium was also in the imperialist family, possessing the territory that would become the Belgian Congo.

  11. Frantz Fanon understood it clearly: he knew of course that he had black skin. He did not know he was a ‘Negro’. He learned he was a ‘Negro’ in France: walking along the street, a child pointed at him and told her mother, ‘Look, a Negro.’ Black skin is a matter of fact. Being a ‘Negro’ is a racial epistemic classification. That is racism. F. Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, op. cit., pp.111–12.

  12. Such as Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

  13. The denomination ‘Indian’ honoured Christopher Columbus’s mistake – he originally thought he was travelling to India. The denomination indigenous was created later on, when the word entered Western classifying vocabulary. Following their own definition, as I mentioned before, Europeans are also indigenous. However, the word was invented and used to classify the difference. If they recognised themselves as indigenous, then indigenous could not be different.

  14. As a Third World intellectual and immigrant in Argentina, France and the US, I have the immigrant consciousness in common with immigrants around the world – the experience of dwelling and thinking in the borderland/borderline.

  15. Notice that Alfred is indigenous himself, and he, like Fanon, uses the third person in talking about the first.

  16. Taiaiake Alfred, Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, pp.70–71. Emphasis mine. A similar argument in the South American Andes has been made, see Fernando Huanacuni Mamani, Vivir Bien/Buen Vivir: Filosofía, polítias, estrategias y experiencias de los pueblos ancestrales, La Paz: Instituto Internacional de Integración, 2015.