Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Dispensable and Bare Lives Coloniality and the Hidden Political/economic Agenda of Modernity

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Dispensable and Bare Lives Coloniality and the Hidden Political/economic Agenda of Modernity

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION: BETWEEN DISCIPLINARY/EPISTEMIC AND RELIGIOUS/ETHNIC IDENTIFICATIONS

My participation in this conference-series (Islamophobia, Antisemitism, Anti-Black Racism and Anti-Indigenous Racism), as well as my own work on the subject, is and has been carried out by someone who is neither Islamic in any of its varied ethnic configurations (Arab, Iranian, Turkish, Indonesian, Central Asian, or Islamic population in Western Europe or the US), nor a Jew, a Black or an Indigenous person. My experiences and subjectivities are only indirectly related to religious, national and life experiences of people who have grown up and been educated in any, or various, historical and subjective configurations just mentioned. I learned to see the world first as a son of European immigrants in Argentina, more specifically from Northern Italy. Later on, when I went to the university and through my Ph.D. I became aware that at the university you learn to see the world through a discipline, whatever the discipline is. That is, you identify yourself with a discipline and people identify you with the discipline. You see yourself and they see you as a historian, biologist, lawyer, sociologist, and semiotician. Through a lengthy process I learned to identify myself by the seventies as a semiotician (for which Microsoft Office doesn't have a word in its Thesaurus) interested in discourse analysis and literary theory on the one hand, and the historical foundations of epistemology and hermeneutics (which later I realized were Western ways of framing certain operations and procedures of knowledge common to human beings--and perhaps living organisms) on the other hand.

It was at the junction of this personal turmoil that The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality and Colonization (1995) started as a process of understanding the opening up of the Atlantic in the sixteenth century, "modern" imperial colonialism (that is European: Spanish, Portuguese, French, British), in contradistinction to contemporary and similar organization (cfr. Ottoman Sultanate or Quechua Incanate). I became aware, in the process of writing and researching, that people in the Valley of Mexico living in the Aztec Tlatoanate, whether in conformity or dissenting (like the people in Tlaxcala, who supported Hernan Cortes), were compared--by the Spaniards--with the Jews. The comparison was twofold: on the one hand, Indians and Jews were dirty and distrustful people; on the other hand, "Indians" in the New World may have been a consequence of the Jewish diaspora. Jesuit Father Jose de Acosta collected, in his Historia Naturaly Moral de las Indias (1589) a legacy that goes back to the middle of the sixteenth century pondering whether "Indians" descended from Jews. Although he dismissed the possibility, he had nevertheless addressed an issue that was in everybody's mind. Acosta first dismissed the possibility of a connection between Jews and Indians because Jews had a sophisticated writing system from a long time ago while Indians were considered "illiterate" (in the Western sense of the word). Jews like money, Acosta points out, while Indians are indifferent to it; and while Jews take circumcision seriously, Indians have no idea of it. Last but not least, Acosta pointed that if Jews were indeed the Indies origin of Indians, they would not have forgotten the Messiah and their religion.

But then there was also the question of enslaved Africans. What to do with them? Early in the sixteenth century, Indians were considered vassals of the King and serfs of God. Consequently, they couldn't be enslaved--which legitimized the massive enslavement of Africans. Bartolome de Las Casas supported, first, the dictum about Indians and Africans, but then he corrected himself and condemned slavery. Africa and Africans were already classified in Christian cosmology as descendent of Ham, Noah's cursed son. And that was not good for one of the meanings of "Ham" was "Black. …

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