- Enrique Dussel’s Etica de la liberación, U.S. Women of Color Decolonizing Practices, and Coalitionary Politics amidst Difference
In its preliminary version this essay was written for a panel at the American Academy of Religion in honor of Enrique Dussel’s important and necessary work on the occasion of his seventieth birthday in 2004.1 Given that I am not a philosopher, theologian, or historian, all areas in which Dussel holds degrees and to which he has contributed prominently, and that I was then a newcomer to his work, I could only imagine that I was asked to join the panel of his specialists and collaborators in order to ensure that a U.S. feminist of color and queer-centered engagement with his work was represented. Various symposia and lectures by Enrique Dussel and Aníbal Quijano, organized by the Department of Ethnic Studies’ Chicana/o Latina/o Studies Program, had produced in me and another feminist colleague the impression that they knew little about the U.S. civil rights movements, and mainly about the African American struggles. They apparently knew nothing about the crucial feminist and queer contributions of U.S. women of color to the racial, gender, and sexual civil rights struggles. As these encounters were organized to explore intellectual bridge building in decolonial thought, as a woman of color, my own concern was not only to engage their thought as potentially useful to new transnational [End Page 121] resistance movements, but also to clarify what our movements had discovered, either in parallel fashion or differently than leftist intellectuals and popular movements from the 1960s to the present in Latin America. I was concerned that the transnational circulation of knowledges not be one-way, reproducing past disencounters between U.S. Latinas/os (Chicanas/os and Puerto Ricans) and Latin American intellectuals, where the latter were paternalistic, condescending, and ill-informed in adopting Eurocentric classist and racist stereotypes that assumed the poverty of U.S. people of color’s cultural, intellectual, and political work, and especially effacing women of color’s and queer work.
The rest of the all-male panel in fact did not integrate a Latin American, Third World, or U.S. Third World (also known as U.S. women of color) feminist and queer critique as a common basis for critique of Eurocentrism or as a part of any decolonial project of liberation. As I was the only panelist to engage a critique of patriarchy and heteronormativity, quite apart from centering this concern in feminist of color queer thought,2 I have here revisited the conference presentation and the longer version of the essay from which it was excerpted, revised in order to elucidate what it might mean to engage in coalitions that take feminist queer of color critical thought seriously as central to the work of decolonization. How do we move from agreement that patriarchy and heteronormativity are oppressive, beyond imagining that this democratizing aim is accomplished by identifying gender and sexuality in a laundry list of oppressions? Inviting representative speakers as the exception to disproportionately heteronormative male-centered spaces exercising their privileges in this regard, by refusing to seriously engage with racialized gender and sexuality themselves, unwittingly reproduces these inequities, in assigning feminist queer critique to the negatively gendered and sexed spaces of intellectual labor.
I have come to think that that labor belongs to us all, regardless of our own gender, sexuality, racialization, and other subject positionings or identifications. And from this perspective I want to argue that gender and sexuality critique is at the heart of decolonizing politics and that it is a labor that we must undertake collectively, in solidarity, and alongside the critique of our own subject formation. [End Page 122] I also want to propose that a decolonizing politics must produce new understandings from culturally and politically or ideologically different frameworks of what gets to count as knowledge, how being is understood, both individual and collective. Therefore a decolonizing politics must introduce, engage, and circulate previously unseen marginalized and stigmatized notions of “spirituality,” “philosophy,” “gender,” “sexuality,” “art,” or any other category of knowledge and existence. As it simultaneously advances political, economic, social...