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“Slavery remains as the most telling event and process in the formation of Western Civilization and the modern/colonial world in the Atlantic, from the XVI to early XIX centuries. An aberration upon which Western modernity built its economic foundations at the same time that managed to “normalize” the dispensability of human lives. Dispensable where lives of people considered lesser human and subjected to be enslaved and dispensed with when they were no longer necessary. Slavery was not only a set of processes and events. It was, above all, the consequence of a frame of knowledge that established a hierarchy of human beings. That frame of knowledge was and is what today we know as “racism.” Slavery was deeply rooted in epistemic un-justice.

The fourth edition of the Middelburg Decolonial Summer School focus on ” Slavery: The Past and Present of Social (Un) Justice.” It is designed to investigate the logic and presupposition of Global Un-justice in the modern/colonial world, from 1500 to 2000. The seminar takes place in Middelburg, a key city of the Dutch slave trade and it is set against the backdrop of the 150 anniversary of the abolition of slavery in The Netherlands.

The ‘Decolonial Option’ aims to open new perspectives for understanding global (un) justice as well as to overcome them in the process of imagining and building just and convivial futures. If coloniality, as unfolded in the collective project “modernity/coloniality”, is the logic behind social un-justices, it remains hidden under the rhetoric of modernity, Decoloniality shall be—therefore—the process of disclosing and undoing coloniality to promote and contribute to enact social justice. Global un-justices operates at all levels of the socio-economic and cultural spectrum, from economy to politics, from religion to aesthetics, from gender and sexuality to ethnicity and racism, and above all, in the control of knowledge.

The Decolonial Summer Seminar will take advantage of what Middleburg has to offer to understand the history of slavery and its connection to the formation of Western power. Building on the local history of Middelburg, we will theoretically explore the nature and consequences of slavery and we will draw the continuities between the colonial past and current forms of social un-justice around the world. We will pay special attention to emerging project, parallel to the project modernity/coloniality/decoloniality who are working toward overcoming the legacies of the South-North divide. If the colonial matrix of power encompasses several domains (economy, politics, gender, cosmology, aesthetics, racialization), the task of overcoming coloniality requires of many people in many areas of knowing and doing. Activists, artists, scholars, journalists will, among others, contribute to the goals of the 4th edition of the Decolonial Summer School at Middleburg.”




In recent years, many on the left, including those in global social movements, have looked towards the ‘pink tide’ in Latin America as a new bastion of hope. We are talking of that wave of countries from Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil, to Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, whose recently elected, left-leaning governments have broken with the neoliberal policies of the ‘Washington Consensus’. But is there really an affinity between Latin American indigenous revolutionary visions or projects and those of ‘the left’? Walter Mignolo suggests that while indigenous concepts like ‘the communal’ may, superficially, seem very similar to the leftist notion of the commons, they have important differences. By overlooking these differences, or reading them from within leftist and European logics, we perpetuate forms of violence and coloniality that indigenous movements have been fighting against.


The first civilisations to suffer the consequences of the formation and expansion of Western civilisation were the Inca, the Aztec and the Maya. One of these consequences was the dismantling of the communal system of social organisation that some indigenous nations in Bolivia and Ecuador today are working to reconstruct and reconfigure. From the European perspective, the communal may sound like socialism or communism. But it is not. Socialism and communism were born in Europe, as a response to liberalism and capitalism. Not so the communal system. The communal systems in Tawantinsuyu and Anahuac (Inca and Aztec territories, respectively), or societies in China before the Opium War, eventually had to deal with capitalist and (neo-)liberal intrusion, as well as European responses to such intrusions; but they themselves pre-existed the capitalist mode of production.


But what exactly, then, is the communal? Patzi Paco refers to collective rights to the use and management of resources, at the same time as he speaks of the rights of groups, families and individuals to share in the benefits of what is collectively produced. He makes clear that, while the communal has its ancestral foundation in agrarian societies in the Andes, these characteristics have survived and adapted well to contemporary conditions. The communal system is open to ‘persons’, indigenous or not, as well as to different types of ‘work’: in a communal system the distinction between owner and waged worker, as well as boss and employee in administrative organisations (banks, state organs, etc.), vanishes. To understand the scope of this proposal, it is necessary to clear our heads of the ‘indigenous = peasants’ equation that the coloniality of knowledge has imposed upon us, alongside the rhetoric of ‘salvation’. Moreover, the notion of ‘property’ is meaningless in a vision of society in which the goal is working to live and not living to work. It is in this context that Evo Morales has been promoting the concept of ‘the good living’ (sumaj kamaña in Quechua, sumak kawsay in Quichua, allin kausaw in Aymara or buen vivir in Spanish). ‘The good living’ – or ‘to live in harmony’ – is an alternative to ‘development’. While development puts life at the service of growth and accumulation, buen vivir places life first, with institutions at the service of life. That is what ‘living in harmony’ (and not in competition) means.


This idea of a communal system as an alternative to the (neo-)liberal system today, which emerged from the memories and lived experiences of Andean communities, has a global scope. This does not, however, mean that the ayllu system should be exported in a manner similar to other, previous models (Christian, liberal or Marxist). Rather, it is an invitation to organise and re-inscribe communal systems all over the world – systems that have been erased and dismantled by the increasing expansion of the capitalist economy, which the European left has been unable to halt. If ayllus and markas are the singular memory and organisation of communities in the Andes, then it is the other memories of communal organisation around the globe which predate and survived the advent of capitalism which make possible the idea of a communal system today – one not mapped out in advance by any ideology, or any simple return to the past. The Zapatista dictum of the need for ‘a world in which many worlds fit’ springs to mind as we try to imagine a planet of communal systems in a pluri-versal, not uni-versal, world order.


The progressive left’s ignoring of Patzi Paco’s proposal may end up as an excuse to prevent indigenous and peasant leaders and communities from intervening in de-colonising the current mono-cultural state – which the white (criolla/mestiza) right and left continue to fight over. A pluri-national state must be more than just the left in power, with the support of the indigenous, against the right, with its support from the international market.”

read the whole text on http://turbulence.org.uk/turbulence-5/decolonial/

Mignolo on Al-J.

February 21, 2013

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“Now, if we want to use the term “philosophy” to identify thinkers whether European and non-European, I would say that while Zizek may be the most important European philosopher today, his work is less relevant for many people than the work of Jamaican philosopher Lewis Ricardo Gordon; Iranian philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr; Chinese philosopher Wang Hui; Egyptian Nawal El Saadawi; and Latin American philosopher Enrique Dussel.
Relevance is not universal, but depends on the universe of meaning and the belief system under which relevance is determined. We have here a pluriversal world of thinkers and philosophers in the process of de-westernising and decolonising the imperial legacies of Western philosophy
The question of philosophy in the non-European world has been and is a vexing one. African and Latin American thinkers trained in philosophy debated, around the 1970s, this crucial question: “Is there an African/Latin American philosophy?” This question would have been unthinkable in Germany during the same years.

Robert Bernasconi, elaborating on African-American philosopher Lucius T Outlaw, summarised the dilemma as follows:

Western philosophy traps African philosophy in a double bind: either African philosophy is so similar to Western philosophy that it makes no distinctive contribution and effectively disappears; or it is so different that its credentials to be genuine philosophy will always be in doubt. (Bernasconi 1998, 188; Postcolonial African Philosophy: A Critical Reader).
There cannot be only one solution simply because there are many ways of being, which means of thinking and doing. Communism is an option and not an abstract universal.
In the non-European World, communism is part of the problem rather than the solution. Which doesn’t mean that if you are not communist, in the non-European world, you are capitalist.” (Mignolo).

to the article

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