On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis

On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis

by Walter D. Mignolo, Catherine E. Walsh

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In On Decoloniality Walter D. Mignolo and Catherine E. Walsh explore the hidden forces of the colonial matrix of power, its origination, transformation, and current presence, while asking the crucial questions of decoloniality's how, what, why, with whom, and what for. Interweaving theory-praxis with local histories and perspectives of struggle, they illustrate the conceptual and analytic dynamism of decolonial ways of living and thinking, as well as the creative force of resistance and re-existence. This book speaks to the urgency of these times, encourages delinkings from the colonial matrix of power and its "universals" of Western modernity and global capitalism, and engages with arguments and struggles for dignity and life against death, destruction, and civilizational despair.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822370949
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 06/14/2018
Series: On Decoloniality Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Walter D. Mignolo is William H. Wannamaker Professor of Romance Studies in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Literature at Duke University and is the author and editor of several books, including The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options, also published by Duke University Press. 

Catherine E. Walsh is Senior Professor in the Area of Humanities and Cultural Studies at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar in Ecuador and the author and editor of numerous books, most recently, Pedagogías decoloniales: Prácticas insurgentes de resistir, (re)existir y (re)vivir, Tomo II.

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The Decolonial For

Resurgences, Shifts, and Movements

Did you hear? It is the sound of your world collapsing. It is the sound of our world resurging. The day that was day was night. And night will be the day that will be day.



Some say we are up against a civilizational crisis, a crisis in which the universalized model or paradigm of the West is crumbling before our very eyes. Others, such as the Zapatistas, speak in a related way of the Storm brewing, the Storm already upon us, the Storm whose force is rapidly growing. This Storm, say the Zapatistas, is the catastrophe that we all feel. It is the war against life in all of its practices, forms, and manifestations.

Many in the Souths of the world, including the Souths in the North, know it well. It is a war of violence, destruction, and elimination, a war that is epistemic and existence based, a war that is feminized, racialized, and territorialized. It is the war of global capital, of coloniality regenerating and reconstituting itself, a war — according to Nelson Maldonado-Torres — indicative of the increasingly violent tendencies of dominant Western ideals (including of the human), and of the constitutive dimensions of dominant conceptions and processes of civilization. It is a war that aims to break the social weave, and to engulf and destroy all — including beings, knowledges, lands, and ways of thought and existence — that obstruct and impede its path.

However, as coloniality-capitalism plot their advance, so too spread resurgences, shifts, and movements toward a decolonial otherwise, resurgences, shifts, and movements of decoloniality in/as praxis. This chapter opens reflections on decoloniality's otherwise and praxis. And it lays the ground for understanding the potential and prospect of the decolonial for.


Decoloniality has a history, herstory, and praxis of more than 500 years. From its beginnings in the Americas, decoloniality has been a component part of (trans)local struggles, movements, and actions to resist and refuse the legacies and ongoing relations and patterns of power established by external and internal colonialism — what Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui calls colonialism's long duration — and the global designs of the modern/colonial world.

Lest we forget the modes of power that began with the invasion of the Cross and Crown in the Caribbean and in the land and/as myth invented first as America, and later baptized Latin America. This is the land that gave initiation, substance, and form to the coloniality of power, its system of social classification based on the idea of race, of "conquerors" over "conquered," and its structural foundation tied to modernity and Eurocentered capitalism. The control of labor and subjectivity, the practices and policies of genocide and enslavement, the pillage of life and land, and the denials and destruction of knowledge, humanity, spirituality, and cosmo-existence became the modus operandi of this new model and pattern of power that later traveled the globe.

In the America of the North (now Canada and the United States), settler colonialism came later, exercising its system of violence and power to accomplish similar expansionist goals. "The form of colonialism that the Indigenous peoples of North America have experienced was modern from the beginning," says Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, precisely because it included the "expansion of European corporations, backed by government armies into foreign areas, with subsequent expropriation of lands and resources." In this sense, "settler colonialism is a genocidal policy." While settler colonialism is distinct from the coloniality of power established in the Americas of the South in the sixteenth century, its patterns of extermination, pillage, enslavement, racialization, dehumanization, and power are, without a doubt, related.

With colonialism and coloniality came resistance and refusal. Decoloniality necessarily follows, derives from, and responds to coloniality and the ongoing colonial process and condition. It is a form of struggle and survival, an epistemic and existence-based response and practice — most especially by colonized and racialized subjects — against the colonial matrix of power in all of its dimensions, and for the possibilities of an otherwise.

Decoloniality denotes ways of thinking, knowing, being, and doing that began with, but also precede, the colonial enterprise and invasion. It implies the recognition and undoing of the hierarchical structures of race, gender, heteropatriarchy, and class that continue to control life, knowledge, spirituality, and thought, structures that are clearly intertwined with and constitutive of global capitalism and Western modernity. Moreover, it is indicative of the ongoing nature of struggles, constructions, and creations that continue to work within coloniality's margins and fissures to affirm that which coloniality has attempted to negate.

Decoloniality, in this sense, is not a static condition, an individual attribute, or a lineal point of arrival or enlightenment. Instead, decoloniality seeks to make visible, open up, and advance radically distinct perspectives and positionalities that displace Western rationality as the only framework and possibility of existence, analysis, and thought. Such perspectives and positionalities evoke and convoke what Maldonado-Torres refers to as a decolonial attitude. For Maldonado-Torres, this attitude recalls that advanced at the beginning of the twentieth century by W. E. B. Du Bois, that which "demands responsibility and the willingness to take many perspectives, particularly the perspectives and points of view of those whose very existence is questioned and produced as indispensable and insignificant." Such attitude requires attention to what decolonial feminist thinkers such as Sylvia Wynter, Audre Lorde, and Yuderkys Espinosa have referred to as relational ways of seeing the world, including the relation between privilege and oppression.

The interest of this part I is, in a broad sense, with encouraging this relational way of seeing. It challenges the reader to think with (and not simply about) the peoples, subjects, struggles, knowledges, and thought present here. In so doing, it urges the reader to give attention to her or his own inner eyes, what Wynter called the classificatory lens and logic that put limits on how we can see, know, and act on and with respect to the local, national, global order.

More specifically, the interest here is with praxis: the affirmative and prospective thought-actions-reflections-actions that give shape, movement, meaning, and form to decoloniality. The interest is with the praxis that walks decoloniality and, as we will see in the section that follows, with the praxis that gives substance to and elucidates resurgence and the decolonial for.

Resurgence and the Decolonial For

Since the Spanish invasion of the "Americas" — what some fallaciously term the Conquest — the struggles, movements, and actions of peoples native to these lands and those brought here from Africa by force, have been and still are against what the Kichwa intellectual and historical leader Luis Macas calls the colonial yoke or tare. However, they have also importantly been — and continue to be — for the creation, and cultivation of modes of life, existence, being, and thought otherwise; that is, modes that confront, transgress, and undo modernity/coloniality's hold. It is the for that fosters, signals, and sketches pro-positions of affirmation and reaffirmation that disrupt and unsettle coloniality's negations. It is the for that takes us beyond an anti stance. Moreover, it is the for that signifies, sows, and grows the otherwise of decoloniality and/as praxis.

Central here is that which Adolfo Albán names as reexistence, understood as "The mechanisms that human groups implement as a strategy of questioning and making visible the practices of racialization, exclusion and marginalization, procuring the redefining and re-signifying of life in conditions of dignity and self-determination, while at the same time confronting the biopolitic that controls, dominates, and commodifies subjects and nature."

This is the resurgence of "our world" to which the beginning epigraph of the now defunct SupMarcos refers. It is a world radically distinct from that of savage capitalism, imposed Western modernity, domination, and oppression. The reference here is to a collective resurgence — understood as renewal, restoration, revival or a continuing after interruption — of knowledges, life practices, and re-existences that are not only Zapatista but also present and growing in territories throughout Abya Yala and the Souths of the world. For the First Nation activist-thinker Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, the real work of resurgence — and of movement- and nation-building — generates new knowledge on how to resurge from within: "We cannot just think, write or imagine our way to a decolonized future. Answers on how to re-build and how to resurge are therefore derived from a web of consensual relationships that is infused with movement through lived experience and embodiment. Intellectual knowledge is not enough on its own. ... All kinds of knowledge are important and necessary in a communal and emergent balance."

My interest in this first part of the book is with the knowledges resurging and insurging from below (that is, from the ground up) within and through embodied struggle and practice, struggles and practices that, in turn, continually generate and regenerate knowledge and theory. I find accordance here with Simpson's contention that theory is not just an intellectual pursuit; "it is woven within kinetics, spiritual presence and emotion, it is contextual and relational." I also agree with Sylvia Marcos that to theorize is to live; that is, and following the words of the defunct SupMarcos, "a theory so other that it is practice."

Decoloniality, without a doubt, is also contextual, relational, practice based, and lived. In addition, it is intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and existentially entangled and interwoven. The concern of this part I then is with the ongoing processes and practices, pedagogies and paths, projects and propositions that build, cultivate, enable, and engender decoloniality, this understood as a praxis — as a walking, asking, reflecting, analyzing, theorizing, and actioning — in continuous movement, contention, relation, and formation.

"Without praxis," Enrique Dussel says, "no pathway is made." It is praxis that makes the path. Yet as Dussel cautions, "the path cannot be made without points of reference that permit one to traverse topographies and labyrinths unknown. One needs a compass and to know in which direction to walk," he says. The compass gives general orientation. However, the "direction is discovered only in concrete application, with the material of day-to-day, militant, and solidarity-based praxis."

It is this praxis, the making of decolonial paths, that is of interest here. While part II will focus on the conceptual frameworks, reflections, and discussions of (de)coloniality's what and why, the focus in this first part is on praxistical questions of the for, the how, and the with whom, and what for. With this beginning, I intend to disturb the notion that theoretical and conceptual frameworks must necessarily precede praxis, as well as the idea that meaning is only conceptually derived. To begin with praxis and the praxistical activity of thinking-doing, is to turn academia and Western modern thought upside down.

Here I ask: How is decoloniality signified and constructed in and through praxis? How — through what actions, processes, practice-based struggles, theory, theorizing, and thought — is praxis enacted, engaged, created, and defined? How, and in what ways, do these actions, processes, practice-based struggles, and thought point to and work toward projects of social, political, epistemic, and (re)existence-based transformation? And, how do they push, provoke, and advance other ways of being, thinking, knowing, feeling, and living? That is, other ways that interrupt, transgress, and fissure or crack modernity/coloniality's matrices of power, and make evident concrete instances and possibilities of the otherwise?

Who are the individual and collective subjects involved? With whom and for what are their propositions, processes, practices, struggles, and projects? What are the aims, intentions, hopes, visions, and horizons? Moreover, how together do the peoples, struggles, propositions, processes, practices, and actions give decoloniality a lived significance and make decoloniality a lived project of/in praxis?

Such questions necessarily make present and bring to the fore voices, bodies, minds, spirits, and thought other than just my own. Here the reader will encounter voices, bodies, minds, spirits, and thought that speak from and to individual and collective standpoints, struggles, projects, propositions, and practices — voices, bodies, minds, spirits, and thought that work to loosen and undo modernity/coloniality's hold; transverse time, place, and space; and put forward an otherwise of being, feeling, thinking, knowing, doing, and living that craft hope and possibility in these increasingly desperate and violent times of global coloniality/global capitalism taken to the extreme.

The intention here, and to paraphrase Gloria Anzaldúa, is to not just tell but also show how decoloniality happens. The intention is not to write about, nor is it to develop a narrative by simply citing a plethora of authors, contexts, and texts. Rather, it is to think from and with standpoints, struggles, and practices, from and with praxical theorizings, conceptual theorizings, theoretical conceptualizings, and theory-building actionings. It is to think from and with struggles that think and thought that struggles. "Thought that does not struggle is nothing more than noise, and struggles that do not think, repeat the same errors and do not get up after falling," say the Zapatistas. Moreover, it is to think from and with subjects, actors, thinkers, collectives, and movements that are signifying, sowing, and growing decoloniality in/as praxis. This thinking from and with — and especially from and with modernity/coloniality's underside, margins, and cracks — constructs, shapes, and fashions what I understand as, and what I endeavor to assume in my own practice, as a decolonial and decolonizing methodological-pedagogical-praxistical stance.

Such a stance, of course, maintains as constant the dilemma that Anzaldúa so poignantly described: "how to write (produce) without being inscribed (reproduced) in the dominant white structure and how to write without reinscribing and reproducing what we rebel against." Recognizing this dilemma and continually struggling with it (not expecting that I will ever be able to totally surmount it) are central not only to my pedagogy-method, but also to the ways I conceive, consciously address, and give praxis to my locus or place of enunciation.

As a woman perceived as white, an immigrant (from the America of the North to the America of the South, that is, from the so-called First to the so-called Third World), and an intellectual associated with the university (although my militancy and engagement are most often against the institution, in its margins, borders, and cracks), I carry a privilege that I cannot negate. How to write, think, and act in ways that work to dismantle the structures of privilege and the modern/colonial matrices of power (of which privilege is part), how to assume decolonial praxis (including decolonial feminism) in practice, and how to help walk a decolonial for (i.e., a decolonial otherwise), are questions that underscore my decolonial and decolonizing intention and methodological-pedagogical-praxistical stance, not only here but in all aspects of my relational being-becoming.

By mentioning this intention and stance, I hope to challenge the reader to shift her or his posture and gaze. The challenge is to not look for theory first. It is also to move beyond a simple reading of and about, toward a thinking from and with, a thinking-doing that requires contemplation of one's own place of enunciation and relation (or not) with the so-called universality of Western thought. I am referring to a thinking-doing that delinks, that undoes the unified — and universalizing — centrality of the West as the world and that begins to push other questions, other reflections, other considerations, and other understandings.


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction  1
I. Decoloniality In/As Praxis / Catherine E. Walsh
1. The Decolonial For: Resurgences, Shifts, and Movements  15
2. Insurgency and Decolonial Prospect, Praxis, and Project  33
3. Interculturality and Decoloniality  57
4. On Decolonial Dangers, Decolonial Cracks, and Decolonial Pedagogies Rising  81
Conclusion: Sowing and Growing Decoloniality in/as Praxis: Some Final Thoughts  99
II. The Decolonial Option / Walter D. Mignolo
5. What Does It Mean to Decolonize?  105
6. The Conceptual Triad: Modernity/Coloniality/Decoloniality  135
7. The Invention of the Human and the Three Pillars of the Colonial Matrix of Power (Racism, Sexism, and Nature)  153
8. Colonial/Imperial Differences: Classifying and Inventing Global Orders of Lands, Seas, and Living Organisms  177
9. Eurocentrism and Coloniality: The Question of the Totality of Knowledge  194
10. Decoloniality Is an Option, Not a Mission  211
Concluding Remarks: Colonial Wounds, Decolonial Healings, Re-existences, Resurgences  227
After-Word(s)  245
Bibliography  259
Index  279

What People are Saying About This

Maps for a Fiesta: A Latina/o Perspective on Knowledge and the Global Crisis - Eduardo Mendieta

“By virtue of its synoptic character, uniqueness, and the authors' extensive discussion of praxis and movements, On Decoloniality stands out as a benchmark text.”

White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race - Gloria Wekker

“Highlighting the decolonial option as the ‘interrelated processes of healing colonial wounds that originate in all of us,’ Walter D. Mignolo and Catherine E. Walsh are at the height of their exploratory and explanatory powers in convincing all of us to engage with pluriversal decoloniality. Sweeping in its geopolitical reach, evacuating the theory-practice hierarchy in favor of thinking-doing and doing-thinking, On Decoloniality productively and imaginatively focuses on the what, why, with whom, and how of decoloniality.”

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