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 An(other) Invitation to Epistemological Humility: Notes toward a Self-Critical Approach to Counter-Knowledges O T T O M A D U R O It is only when the dominated have the material and symbolic means of rejecting the definition of the real that is imposed on them . . . that the arbitrary principles of the prevailing classification can appear as such. —pierre bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice In this essay, written as a series of short (hypo)theses, I try to construct an invitation to rethink our understandings of knowledge and truth in a perspective that I would call ‘‘epistemological humility’’ (as opposed to the ‘‘epistemological arrogance’’ of thinking that we—whoever we are—already have the definitive true knowledge of anything). This effort is explicitly and constantly inspired by the works of Pierre Bourdieu.1 It is an effort animated by the idea that oppression, exclusion, domination, and exploitation often bring forth and stimulate, among many other consequences (most of these destructive), the production of ‘‘counter-knowledges’’ (knowledges and ways of knowing opposed to the dominant ones), while paradoxically often contributing to, and (only partially) benefiting from, certain new forms of ‘‘epistemological arrogance,’’ which, somewhat as a result of producing knowledge from within a subaltern position, might often turn out to function as a ‘‘self-defeating epistemology’’ rather than the opposite. Connections with ethics and politics, and particularly with democracy, justice, and peace, are at the heart of this effort. The predicament of Latinas/os in the United States—as agents of knowledge while objects of oppression, exclusion, domination, and PAGE 87 ................. 18125$ $CH4 09-19-11 07:52:08 PS 88 兩 o t to m a du r o exploitation—is what underlies and prompts this invitation. Placed, on the one hand, under the power of imperial policies toward Latin America, the greed of U.S. national elites, the racism of its ‘‘white’’ (dwindling) majority, and, on the other, the often contradictory urgencies of survival, solidarity, adjustment, and/or success, Latinas/os in the United States are often urged (by past experience, personal qualms, traditional wisdom, nontraditional approaches, etc.) to question, doubt, and challenge what they are concurrently pressured, expected, and/or taught by the dominant culture to accept as true. Such a predicament can at times result in the production of ‘‘counter-knowledges’’: alternative ideas, subversive discourses, dissident voices. However, one of the tragedies and tendencies of all knowledge produced within and under relations of oppression, exclusion, domination, and exploitation is that inadvertently , surreptitiously, at least part of the ruling patterns, relations, conceptions, and/or values permeating the larger society might be reintroduced . Thus, there is no guarantee that any counter-knowledge will forever and/or wholly avoid ending up reinforcing (rather than weakening) the prevailing ways of knowing against which it emerged (viz., hierarchical, binary, authoritarian, patriarchal, racist, elitist ways of knowing). There is, however, always chance, hope, and room for a constant self-critique—individual and collective—of our counter-knowledges , alongside the possibility that such collective self-critique helps weaken, rather than buttress, the unavoidable tendency of subaltern counter-knowledges to wind up co-opted by and/or confirming the leading ways of knowing. It is mainly to such constant self-critique of our counter-knowledges that I want to contribute the hypotheses below, especially as they might be useful for some Latina/o activists, leaders, and thinkers within the geographic, bodily, relational, institutional, mental, and spiritual territories currently occupied by the patriarchal, ‘‘white,’’ neoliberal, capitalist, imperial global expansion headed by the United States. (HYPO)THESES I Whatever we understand by knowledge, we always and only know in community, in a culture and a language shared by a community; a shared PAGE 88 ................. 18125$ $CH4 09-19-11 07:52:08 PS a n(o t h er ) i nv i t at i o n t o e pi s t em o l og i c al h u mi l i ty 兩 89 culture and language allow us to communicate what is understood, challenged , or probed as being—or not being—knowledge. In another culture or language we could easily be at a total loss, at least at first, to claim having, achieving, or conveying anything as knowledge. This is markedly important for Latin American immigrants, their U.S. Hispanic/Latin@ descendants, and their relatives gradually turned into aliens—by either xenophobia, racism, and/or the ever-moving western and southern frontiers (‘‘we didn’t cross the broder, the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780823249343
Related ISBN
9780823241361
MARC Record
OCLC
787845994
Pages
320
Launched on MUSE
2012-12-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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