Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Epistemic Disobedience and Decolonial Healing in Norma Elia Cantu's Canicula

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Epistemic Disobedience and Decolonial Healing in Norma Elia Cantu's Canicula

Article excerpt

The transcendental subject--de-racialized, de-sexualized, and gender neutral was born after 1492, in the era of Europe's territorial expansion into the New World. The white European (later Euro-American) male was assumed to be the measure of humanity, from which other, non-Western peoples were excluded as inferior, underdeveloped, primitive, and therefore defined as obstacles to modernist progress and in need of conversion to the Christian religion and the capitalist economy of the "civilized" world. What legitimized the new colonial world order was the unexamined racial and patriarchal foundation of knowledge, assumed to be objective and universally valid although produced by one particular ethnic group in one particular geographical location. As argued by Walter D. Mignolo, the central figure in contemporary debates about decoloniality, "[t]he locus of enunciation from which inclusion is established is always a locus holding the control of knowledge and the power of decision across gender and racial lines, across political orientations and economic regulations" (Mignolo 2011: xv).

To shift the geography of knowledge from the mythical "zero point" of Western epistemology to the other side of the colonial difference, to admit that thinking does start with the body--racialized, geo-politically located, marked by a history of discrimination and oppression--is to question the very foundations of the colonial matrix of power. (1) This questioning would be impossible without epistemic de-linking, that is detachment from the logic of modernity, which allows for a critique of the naturalized assumptions about the world. (2) It is from a geo- and bio- politically marked site of enunciation that the ethnocentrism of modernity/coloniality becomes visible. Delinking (Spanish desprendimiento) from the "hubris of the zero point" (3) to unveil the rhetoric and promises of modernity/coloniality, reclaim suppressed epistemologies, and build pluriversal futures based not on individual success and abstract progress but on the fullness of life for all is what Mignolo terms decolonial thinking or epistemic disobedience.

Since the decolonial subject, located at the border of Western and non-Western knowledges, engages with the world from the places and historical experiences of her or his body (the Cartesian "I think therefore I am" is displaced by the formula "I am where I do and think" (4)), decolonial thinking is necessarily a form of border thinking. To think decolonially is to think from the borders of languages, religions, epistemologies; it is to think from what W.E.B. du Bois and Frantz Fanon theorized as double consciousness (5) and Chicana writer and activist Gloria Anzaldua called the consciousness of the mestiza. Anzaldua's semiautobiographical Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (first published in 1987) was an important inspiration for Mignolo's conceptualization of border thinking or border gnosis, which he defines as "knowledge from a subaltern perspective (...) conceived from the exterior borders of the modern/colonial world system" (...) (Mignolo 2000: 11-14). Placing herself at the intersection of the three traditions that shaped her: Anglo-American, Spanish-American and Nahuatl, Anzaldua articulated a political hermeneutic which incorporates the perspectives, memories and experiences of the subaltern subject who dwells in the colonial wound. Moreover, in contrast to discursive formations which assume masculinity as being constitutive of all cultural categories, Anzaldua highlights the potential of languages and sexualities, understood decolonially, to create a space in-between as a form of thinking otherwise. "La mestiza," writes Anzaldua, "constantly has to shift out of habitual formations; from convergent thinking, analytical reasoning that tends to use rationality to move toward a single goal (a Western mode), to divergent thinking, characterized by movement away from set patterns and goals and toward more whole perspective, one that includes rather than excludes" (Anzaldua 1999: 101). …

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