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Interview with Walter Mignolo, part 2
by La Tronkal

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Walter Mignolo: Our longstanding connection with the Caribbean is not through cannibalism but through the entire Caribbean philosophy of thought, which includes both créolité and the whole issue of Anglo Caribbean thought. Two things are interesting to look at here; one is créolité, which is tied up with transculturation, but the other, in the Anglo Caribbean, is the issue of human beings, humanity, humanitas and anthropos, so obviously one of the central propositions of all Caribbean thought, even in literature, is the issue of humanity. In other words, we’re talking about anthropos and in terms of the social hierarchy blacks are at the bottom. So there certainly is a connection there, not with visuality as yet, but with all the philosophical thought, all the literature of the Caribbean, although curiously of the English and French Caribbean, not the Spanish Caribbean.

This is what’s at stake at the moment, if I may digress a little. The “Latin” America (i.e. the white America of the south) of the Bicentennial is a “Latin” America that is becoming watered down. For instance, Jamaica now plays against Ecuador in soccer championships, so it’s a bit strange that a redefinition has suddenly taken place, a reassessment of what Latin America used to be, which was basically Hispanic America and Brazil. Then there’s the emergence of all the indigenous nationalities, whose relation to Latinness is questionable — they have no interest in being Latin. As for the emergence of large Afro regions, what does Latinness mean to it? Or to Mexico, which forms part of North America more than South America. So, your question referred to how the imaginary left out certain areas that are now being reassessed, and in that sense I think we always pay attention to anthropophagy in esthetics, but now we’re taking a new approach to esthetics in a second period, in which it’s time to return to the issue of anthropophagy. Cannibalism I’m not sure about yet, it still doesn’t resonate with me, not because it shouldn’t, but because it doesn’t. What does have more resonance in the Caribbean is what I just told you. Some four years ago the Caribbean Philosophy Association was founded, and this is a very strong link; its purpose is to change the geography of reason, and we’re talking about the same language in different vital directions, because it’s one thing to have arrived here from Europe and another to have arrived from Africa, but we’re dealing with the same problem. They’re two different languages in vocabulary but are fully compatible in terms of they way they’re viewed. That’s where there have been very important developments.

Marí­a Fernanda Cartagena: When ways of representing difference are tackled in the audiovisual or performance fields, it seems we’re forever dealing with stereotypes, exoticism and subalternatization as legacies of Eurocentrism and ethnocentrism: do you think the modernity/coloniality project is revealing the colonial difference in this area?

WM: I don’t know if it is revealing it, but I think it could and it should. First I should say - not to defend, but to explain - how projects work. Projects don’t do everything that has to be done in a single day. Take an archaeological project: an archaeological project takes years and new discoveries are made along each step of the way. The same applies here. The modernity/coloniality project is not like an architectural plan that gives you a building the following year and once the building is there it’s difficult to add rooms. What I mean is that the modernity/coloniality project is more like an archaeological project than an architectural one.

I think we’d have to think along the lines of two spheres, one being performance itself, let’s say video, cinema, etc. I don’t know if any movies have been made along those lines, using a decolonial approach, but there are films that contain decolonial aspects, such as Bamako, the Mali film made by the director Abderrahmane Sissako in 2006. The question is how to create visualities in the awareness that it is a process of visualization that dismantles, questions colonial visuality and at the same time creates another register of visuality that gives shape to another kind of subjectivity. Coloniality through images, and not through images alone but also the visual through architecture, is another thing we should take into account. In other words, when one sees the historic center in Quito one sees churches, but what kind of paintings does one see, and when one comes to this part of Quito, the north, what does one see? The Radisson Hotel and the World Trade Center. So it’s about the kind of decolonial performativity we should focus on, and another thing that is also fundamental - and here we go back to words and images - is the decolonial theorizing of visuality.

There are two or three roads we can follow when analyzing coloniality, i.e., the way an analysis of coloniality leads us to carry out research to highlight how control of authority, economics, subjectivity, visuality, esthetics, etc. has been handled in different fields in order to control subjectivities. Conversely, what kind of decolonial prospects we can theorize, while simultaneously performing them, so that theory has a performative aspect. If on the one hand, we theorize what kind of visuality could contribute to decolonial projects, and on the other hand we not just conceptualize but perform them, then we have something. These are all things that we have to do, and I think this is one of the potentials of investigating the colonial power matrix. On the one hand it provides us with a dialectic, a set of issues, a performative potential, a theory, but always in the awareness that our places and our bodies are involved. It‘s not that we want to be postmodern or alter-modern and that we want to be intervisual and new places. The aim is not to create novelties, but to decolonize.

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