Decolonizing Post-Colonial Studies and Paradigms of Political Economy: Transmodernity, DecolonialThinking, and Global Coloniality

RAMÓN GROSFOGUEL, TRANSMODERNITY: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World, 1(1), 2011

Can we produce a radical anti-systemic politics beyond identity politics?1 Is it possible to articulate a critical cosmopolitanism beyond nationalism and colonialism? Can we produce knowledges beyond Third World and Eurocentric fundamentalisms? Can we overcome the traditional dichotomy between political-economy and cultural studies? Can we move beyond economic reductionism and culturalism? How can we overcome the Eurocentric modernity without throwing away the best of modernity as many Third World fundamentalists do? In this paper, I propose that an epistemic perspective from the subaltern side of the colonial difference has a lot to contribute to this debate. It can contribute to a critical perspective beyond the outlined dichotomies and to a redefinition of capitalism as a world-system.

In October 1998, there was a conference/dialogue at Duke University between the South Asian Subaltern Studies Group and the Latin American Subaltern Studies Group. The dialogue initiated at this conference eventually resulted in the publication of several issues of the journal NEPANTLA. However, this conference was the last time the Latin American Subaltern Studies Group met before their split. Among the many reasons and debates that produced this split, there are two that I would like to stress. The members of the Latin American Subaltern Studies Group were primarily Latinamericanist scholars in the USA. Despite their attempt at producing a radical and alternative knowledge, they reproduced the epistemic schema of Area Studies in the United States. With a few exceptions, they produced studies about the subaltern rather than studies with and from a subaltern perspective. Like the imperial epistemology of Area Studies, theory was still located in the North while the subjects to be studied are located in the South. This colonial epistemology was crucial to my dissatisfaction with the project. As a Latino in the United States, I was dissatisfied with the epistemic consequences of the knowledge produced by this Latinamericanist group. They underestimated in their work ethnic/racial perspectives coming from the region, while giving privilege predominantly to Western thinkers. This is related to my second point: they gave epistemic privilege to what they called the “four horses of the apocalypse” (Mallon 1994; Rodríguez 2001), that is, Foucault, Derrida, Gramsci and Guha. Among the four main thinkers they privilege, three are Eurocentric thinkers while two of them (Derrida and Foucault) form part of the poststructuralist/postmodern Western canon. Only one, Rinajit Guha, is a thinker thinking from the South. By privileging Western thinkers as their central theoretical apparatus, they betrayed their goal to produce subaltern studies.

Read more here


Leave a Reply