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  • Citizenship, Knowledge, and the Limits of Humanity
  • Walter D. Mignolo (bio)

When the idea of "citizenship" came into view—and was linked to the materialization and formation of the nation-state in secular north Europe—it enforced the formation of communities of birth instead of communities of faith. But at that time, the imperial and colonial differences were already in place, and both were recast in the new face of Western empires. The figure of the "citizen" presupposed an idea of the "human" that had already been formed during the Renaissance and was one of the constitutive elements of the colonial matrix of power. Henceforth, there was a close link between the concept of Man (standing for Human Being) and the idea of "humanities" as the major branch of higher learning both in European universities and in their branches in the colonies (the universities of Mexico and Peru were founded in the 1550s, Harvard in 1636).1 If man stood for human being (at the expense of women, non-Christians, people of color, and homosexuals), the humanities as high branch of learning was modeled on the concept and assumptions of the humanity which, at its turn, was modeled on the example of man. My goal in this article is, therefore, to explore the hidden connections between the figure of the citizen, the coloniality of being, and the coloniality of knowledge. I will describe the veiled connections as the logic of coloniality, and the surface that covers it I will describe as the rhetoric of modernity. The rhetoric of modernity is that of salvation, whereas the logic of coloniality is a logic of imperial oppression. They go hand in hand, and you cannot have modernity without coloniality; the unfinished project of modernity carries over its shoulders the unfinished project of coloniality. I will conclude by suggesting the need to decolonize "knowledge" and "being" and advocating that the (decolonial) "humanities" shall have a fundamental role to play in this process. Truly, "global citizenship" implies overcoming the imperial and colonial differences that have mapped and continue to map global racism and global patriarchy. Changing the law and public policies won't be of much help in this process. What is needed is that those who change the law and public policy themselves. [End Page 312] The problem is how that may take place if we would like to avoid the missionary zeal for conversion; the liberal and neoliberal belief in the triumphal march of Western civilization and of market democracy; and the moral imperatives and forced behavior imposed by socialism. As I do not believe in a new abstract universal that will be good for the entire world, the question is how people can change their belief that the world today is like it is and that it will be only through the "honest" projects of Christians, liberals, and Marxist-socialists that the world could be better for all, and citizenship will be a benediction for all.

The changes I am thinking about are radical transformations in the naturalized assumptions of the world order. The naturalized assumptions I am thinking about are imperial–colonial, and they have shaped the world in which we live in the past five hundred years when Christianity and capitalism came together and created the conditions for the self-fashioned narrative of "modernity." Hence, the transformations I am thinking about require an epistemic decolonial shift. Not a "new," a "post," or a "neo," which are all changes within the same modern colonial epistemology, but a decolonial (and not either a "deconstruction"), which means a delinking from the rules of the game (e.g., the decolonization of the mind, in Ngugi Wa Th'iongo's vocabulary) in which deconstruction itself and all the "posts-" for sure are caught. Delinking doesn't mean to be "outside" of either modernity or Christian, Liberal, Capitalist, and Marxist hegemony but to disengage from the naturalized assumptions that make of these four macronarratives "une pensee unique," to use Ignacio Ramonet's expression.2 The decolonial shift begins by unveiling the imperial presuppositions that maintain a universal idea of humanity and of human being that serves as a model and point of arrival and by constantly...


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pp. 312-331
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