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Learning to Unlearn

Decolonial Reflections from Eurasia and the Americas

Madina V. Tlostanova, Walter D. Mignolo

Publication Year: 2012

Learning to Unlearn: Decolonial Reflections from Eurasia and the Americas is a complex, multisided rethinking of the epistemic matrix of Western modernity and coloniality from the position of border epistemology. Colonial and imperial differences are the two key concepts to understanding how the logic of coloniality creates ontological and epistemic exteriorities. Being at once an enactment of decolonial thinking and an attempt to define its main grounds, mechanisms, and concepts, the book shifts the politics of knowledge from “studying the other” (culture, society, economy, politics) toward “the thinking other” (the authors). Addressing areas as diverse as the philosophy of higher education, gender, citizenship, human rights, and indigenous agency, and providing fascinating and little-known examples of decolonial thinking, education, and art, Madina V. Tlostanova and Walter D. Mignolo deconstruct the modern architecture of knowledge—its production and distribution as manifested in the corporate university. In addition, the authors dwell on and define the echoing global decolonial sensibilities as expressed in the Americas and in peripheral Eurasia. The book is an important addition to the emerging transoceanic inquiries that introduce decolonial thought and non-Western border epistemologies not only to update or transform disciplines but also to act and think decolonially in the global futures to come.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

Series: Transoceanic Studies


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

We warmly thank Luis Fernando Sarango—rector of Amawtay Wasi—The Intercultural University of the Indigenous Nationalities and People of Ecuador— for granting us permission to reproduce the diagrams and for providing the updated versions. ...

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Introduction: Learning to Unlearn: Thinking Decolonially

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pp. 1-28

“Learning to unlearn” grew out of ten years of conversations and collaborations on issues of common interest. As an Uzbek-Cherkess living in Moscow and of an ethnically Muslim family, Madina was concerned with colonial questions in Central Asia and the Caucasus. As a son of Italian immigrants to Argentina and living in the U.S., ...

Part I

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Chapter 1. The Logic of Coloniality and the Limits of Postcoloniality: Colonial Studies, Postcoloniality, and Decoloniality

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pp. 31-59

In July 2001, we were teaching a summer seminar, sponsored by Open Society Institute at the European Humanities University, in Minsk, Belarus. During a lunch conversation in which we were talking about “postcoloniality,” one of the participants in the seminar asked: “What exactly is coloniality? When you talk about postmodernity,” ...

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Chapter 2. Theorizing from the Borders; Shifting to the Geo- and Body Politics of Knowledge

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pp. 60-80

Border thinking and theorizing emerged from and as a response to the violence (frontiers) of imperial/territorial epistemology and the rhetoric of salvation that continues to be implemented on the assumption of the inferiority or devilish intentions of the other and, therefore, continues to justify oppression and exploitation as well as eradication of difference. ...

Part II

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Chapter 3. Transcultural Tricksters in between Empires: “Suspended” Indigenous Agency in the Non-European Russian/Soviet (Ex-)Colonies and the Decolonial Option

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pp. 83-121

Non-European Russian/Soviet (ex-)colonies such as the Caucasus and Central Asia are one of the typical subjects of area studies research—the proverbial subalterns who were taught to speak in the language of the Soviet modernity but presumably retained a number of unchangeable characteristics pointed toward a negatively marked “tradition.” ...

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Chapter 4. Non-European Soviet Ex-Colonies and the Coloniality of Gender, or How to Unlearn Western Feminism in Eurasian Borderlands

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pp. 122-150

In the title of this chapter, I intentionally juxtapose María Lugones’s concept of coloniality of gender, formulated mostly in relation to the colonial world and mainly to South America though obviously having a global reach, and the local history and epistemic and ontological conditions of the Caucasus and Central Asia, ...

Part III

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Chapter 5. Who Speaks for the “Human” in Human Rights? Dispensable and Bare Lives

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pp. 153-174

Chapter 4 raised the issues of gender in non-European ex-colonies. When the gender issues are debated by mainstream feminists in Europe or the U.S., it is de facto assumed that race is not constitutive of gender. However, outside Europe and the U.S., racism and gender are mutually constitutive. ...

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Chapter 6. Thinking Decolonially: Citizenship, Knowledge, and the Limits of Humanity

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pp. 175-195

To further explore the relevance of the trickster, it would be useful to revisit the concept of citizenship in a decolonial frame and in Western political culture. In this chapter, we expand on several issues touched upon in the previous one. ...

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Chapter 7. Globalization and the Geopolitics of Knowledge: The Role of the Humanities in the Corporate University

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pp. 196-216

In chapters 3 to 6, we explored different aspects of the modern/ colonial world order, focusing on the coloniality of knowledge and being and, simultaneously, the attempts and decolonial possibilities in which the formation of global political societies and scholarship are engaged. ...

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pp. 217-224

It is time to return to our main line of argument: learning to unlearn in order to relearn, the decoloniality of knowledge and of being, and the decolonial option. How are these three concepts related and how do we relate to them? ...


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pp. 225-236


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pp. 237-252


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pp. 253-267


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pp. 268-282

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270530
E-ISBN-10: 0814270530
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211885
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211887

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 7 illustrations
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Transoceanic Studies