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 Decolonizing Religion: Pragmatism and Latina/o Religious Experience C H R I S T O P H E R T I R R E S Perhaps in the near future, as a new generation of scholars and philosophers begins to develop, mature, and conceive of a greater America that includes all of its subcontinents, we will begin to think of a larger geo-political and worldhistorical school of American philosophy from this hemisphere. This younger generation will read Emerson along with Rúben Darı́o, Peirce with Ingenieros, Dewey with Vasconcelos, Zea with Wilson, Rorty with Dussel, as they become so many canonical figures in one larger continental tradition. —eduardo mendieta, Latin American Philosophy: Currents, Issues, Debates The colonization of indigenous peoples in the Americas relied not only on harsh forms of physical subjugation—such as rape, torture, and death—but also on various forms of ideological control. U.S. Latino theologian Virgilio Elizondo describes this ideological control in terms of a violent attempt ‘‘to destroy the conquered’s inner worldvision, which gives cohesion and meaning to existence.’’1 Central to this world vision, Elizondo notes, are religious sensibilities and symbols. When these are destroyed, one moves from significant order into meaningless chaos, or from ‘‘nomos’’ to ‘‘anomie,’’ as the sociologist Peter Berger would say. Indeed, the colonial encounter in the Americas could well be described as a situation in which ‘‘reality and identity [were] malignantly transformed into meaningless figures of horror.’’2 Various attempts to colonize indigenous worldviews were no doubt aided by the introduction of Western, dualistic epistemologies. These PAGE 226 ................. 18125$ CH11 09-19-11 07:52:52 PS d e col o ni z i ng r e li g i on 兩 227 epistemologies often separated body and mind, flesh and spirit, life and death, and the sacred and the secular. In doing so, they ruptured indigenous cosmologies that integrated these pairings in a seamless way. Indigenous modes of knowing had their own dualities: Indigenous gods such as Ometeotl, for example, were both female and male, and single poetic ideas were often expressed by the conjunction of two words (difrasismos). However, these indigenous ‘‘dualities’’ were not ‘‘dualisms’’ in the Western sense. They did not constitute separate or autonomous ‘‘parts’’ of reality. Rather, indigenous dualities were porous and fluid realities that interpenetrated each other. Sylvia Marcos, a scholar of religion and gender, has shown, for instance, that Nahua epistemologies concerning the body evade the modern, master narrative of spirit over flesh through their stress on concepts such as equilibrium and fluidity. As Marcos explains, maintaining equilibrium meant constantly combining and recombining opposites. In the Nahua realm of thought, ‘‘opposites are integrated: cold and hot, night and day, sun and moon, sacred and profane, feminine and masculine.’’3 Western dualisms, in contrast, tend to maintain oppositions, thereby reinforcing a hierarchical logic that often pits one end of the polarity against the other. Most disastrously, perhaps, this is seen in the hierarchies of masculine over feminine and the sacred over the profane. In myriad ways, U.S. Latina/o theologians and scholars of religion have contributed to efforts that attempt to overcome dominant Western epistemological dualisms. This work has been aided by a number of methodologies, including feminist critical theory, postcolonial theory, and deconstructionism. Indeed, the range of methodological orientations in this very volume is a testament to the many ways in which scholars may undertake the task of decolonizing epistemology. In what follows, I explore how a native American philosophy, U.S. pragmatism, may further help in this task. As I suggest, pragmatism may be a useful ally in helping us theorize the religious dimension of human experience in a way that avoids problematic dualisms. In this essay, I focus on how pragmatism helps us integrate the aesthetic and ethical dimensions of religious faith, which—in the modern, colonial mythos— are often considered to be two different ‘‘types’’ of religious experience. As I demonstrate, pragmatism avoids a sharp separation between these two dimensions in two ways. First, it espouses a metaphysics in which PAGE 227 ................. 18125$ CH11 09-19-11 07:52:52 PS 228 兩 c h ri s t op h e r t i r re s these two dimensions are qualities of experience rather than as sui generis types of experience. Experience, for the pragmatist, is not so much made up of discrete units of experience as it is an emerging process that is teeming with qualities that are always changing. Second, pragmatism ties this...


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