The Aisthetic-Cosmological Dimension of María Lugone's Decolonial Feminism
In her work on decolonial feminism María Lugones expands and strengthens the task of decolonial thinking. On the one hand this occurs as gender becomes explicitly part of the very ways of being under modernity, and this means that gender, race, and labor are always entangled in the coloniality of power. As a result decolonial thought may only occur by the critique of one's concrete situation in the living intersectionality in which identities and power relations are founded. This turn to concrete intersectionality occurs as Lugones thinks in light of cosmological indigenous lineages in América,1 and with this turn engages not only the logical, epistemic, and conceptual levels of coloniality but, in a turn that makes possible the affirmation of subjugated knowledges, she turns to the aisthetic dimensions of the coloniality of power and knowledge: Most significantly, in this way, she is able to begin to think with the liberatory rhythms, movements, practices that are our lives as sites of resistance and contestation never subsumed (abarcadas) by the coloniality of power, modernity, and capitalism. [End Page 61]
aisthetic liberatory thinking, livingdying, indigenous feminism, decolonial feminism, Latin America, gerundive being, estar
In thinking of the methodology of decoloniality, I move to read the social from the cosmologies that inform it, rather than beginning with a gendered reading of cosmologies informing and constituting perception, motility, embodiment, and relation.—maría lugones
… and there is a journey, pending exquisitely on the tensile gesture of gerundive livingdying without redemption, and this is love, you, and sometimes when I hear you … me.—a. vallega
Coloniality of Time
Anibal Quijano develops his idea of a coloniality of power and knowledge at the end of the 1980s and with it introduces the issue of the need for a decolonial liberatory thought, or decolonial turn.2 As Quijano explains coloniality of power and knowledge refers to a hierarchical system of power at the heart of modernity and all of its self-critiques. According to Quijano's analysis the system has two fundamental axes that operate together to constitute the relations that open the modern space-time of power: The invention and naturalization of the concept of race, and the project of a single system of control, distribution and production world-wide, that which we know today as capitalism (in its many transfigurations). The system has at its origin and its heart a power differential repeated in different ways to date, that is, the power relation between the conqueror (in a most telling manner, always in the active sense) who stands over the conquered and the conquered (always in the past tense) subjugated, below. This system of power develops through the colonizing of América. Thus, modernity's origins or the birth of the system of power that constitutes modernity is not found with Descartes's ego cogito sum, out of pure rationality, but occurs through irrationality, violence, and lusting for imagined worlds and riches to conquer, through the period of colonization of América and [End Page 62] the trans-Atlantic trade. In short, one could say that modernity begins in 1492, with a process that happens in profound ambiguity between irrationality and violence, a "sanguinary frenzy" (to use Bolivar's words in his Jamaica Letter), and Descartes's and the Enlightenment's subjective rationalism, with its call for justice, equality, fraternity, political and existential representation, under the laws of universal rational principles.3 Under the power differential, later justified by rationalism and its claim to universality, appear two races, a binary world system, that will resituate all senses of existence in two racist poles: the European and thereafter North American westernize consciousness, and its other, the colored races. Two sides that in dialectical opposition operate under the power differential hierarchy as the natural separation between above, life and progress, and bellow, death and meaninglessness, ultimately non-being.
In his analysis of coloniality of power and knowledge Quijano points out that as a result of the invention of the supreme European ego conquirocogito, a new sense of historical temporality is invented.4 This is the time of our existence as modern westernizing thinking entities or bodies, on the one hand knowable, manipulated/controlled, and dominated, under sovereignty and law; on the other hand, rational subjects as dominators of the world outside us, mind over body, reason over "nature." Or as underdeveloped emerging peoples, waiting to arrive. … The new temporality that orients these ways of being refers us to a time-space that situates us either on top or below according to race, and this refers to two different time lines. One, the one of capital "H" History, the one christened by spirit in its way to westernized progress, order, domination of all ways of beings, absolute knowledge, even when infinitely critiqued or differed in contemporary westernized thought. This time line has westernizing rationalist utilitarianism, its world dominating vocation as the highest point of humanity. As a result, the present belongs to rationalism, technology, quantification, fact, presence, representation, law, rationalist ideas, values, concepts, and institutions. Following Rodolfo Kusch, this may also be articulated in terms of a modality of being in the world specific to rationalist capitalism and subjective rationalism, namely the relation of an interior rationality to an exterior world that must be dominated and shaped in order to provide for the rational subject's needs.5 As for the future? The future becomes something ahead of the westernizing rationalist present, and given the primacy of this kind of thinking, the future is "white-man's burden," as it also belongs to the present … hence the supposed uselessness of history for capitalist [End Page 63] rationalism and its practical utilitarianism. Thus, the past figures at best as what is useful to the present and may be appropriated for the sake of progress ahead. The rest is no longer valuable, useful, thus without its effect on the present project the past becomes non-being (including memorial knowledge outside History). The other version of History, the dark races, remain relegated to a second-time line, in which the other, the genitive other and negativity of westernizing rationalism, is as good as history. Therefore, one finds peoples, memories, histories, ways of being, traditions, modes of creating and expressing knowledge under a "misanthropic skeptic" gaze, and always put to the judgment of westernizing rationalism, to be appropriated in fragments and therefore undone, or directly dismissed as meaningless, nothing, non-being.6
The binary system inaugurated and sustained by this temporal schema is effectively present to our consciousness beyond rational decision. Using some of the binary terms Quijano highlights, I do not believe many of us could say that the following differentiations do not guide our desires and choices each day, professionally as well as personally: East-West, South-North, primitive-civilized, magic/mythic-scientific, irrational-rational, traditional-modern-Western-non-Western …
This new temporality born of the process of development of the coloniality of power, I call the coloniality of time, a time line towards progress that underlies the coloniality of power and knowledge, that is, the domination at economic, military, political, social, and cultural levels.7 This temporal orientation ultimately situates and guides at a pre-conceptual level all determinations of identities and senses of being. This occurs as desires, projections, horizons, archetypes, dreams and imagination's movement, all levels of existence are always already moved ecstatically ahead, toward progress, by a driving internal temporality. A movement instantiated at the heart of body and mind: this is one's situation, our "now," this is modern us. One may think of this temporality as the obsession with the "right now" that is inseparable from the concealed determination of the moment as the "white now."
Considering this pre-conceptual temporal system, one finds at least two major implications for liberatory and decolonial thought. Here we enter the aisthetic pre-conceptual dimension of coloniality. By making evident the coloniality of time, one is led to engage the aisthetic, by which I mean the affective, emotional, memorial, and concrete aspects of exist-ing, in light of which identities, ideologies, and conceptual/logical and discursive meanings arise. [End Page 64]
In the positive sense, this exposes us to new dimensions for liberatory and decolonial thought: To the aisthetic (from aísthesis) understood not as a theory of art, of the beautiful, or of the senses, but in the sense of a kind of understanding, a sensible-intelligence and intelligent sensibility that never separates reason and sensibility. This aisthetic turn is not merely a theoretical hypothesis but a requirement when one considers that the temporalizing-spacing movement of the coloniality of time underlies also any attempt to create alternative narratives, liberatory theories, concepts, and institutions. In short without an aisthetic transformation liberatory decolonial thought remains situated precisely by that which it aims to critique.
To this point I have followed Quijano, his binomial analysis, and I have drawn a further conclusion from it, the coloniality of time, which is a preconceptual aisthetic dimension that underlies almost invisibly the hierarchical power differential at the heart of rationalist westernizing modernity, that is, the coloniality of power and knowledge. Furthermore, the issue then is how one may begin to engage these dimensions. How to think beyond the dichotomous epistemology that separates mind-body, rationality-nature? How to engage the aisthetic delimitations of rationalist critiques, normative analysis, in short dialectical logic, things and facts, and History? These questions assume notable urgency by the claustrophobic sentiment one experiences in coming to Quijano's analysis. Although Quijano sees this aisthetic dimension, he cannot engage it. Indeed, he attributes it to literature and to a mythic time that is all times.8 This is because for Quijano the origin of all and any difference is the matrix or racist capitalist power differential, such that there is no possible decolonial thinking beyond the system or Being. In temporal terms, Quijano still thinks under the coloniality of time, by following a dialectical historical approach to existence, and making the present a function of this process. Thus, exteriority is itself configured by the movement of History, and the concrete living of the excluded becomes the result of History or otherwise a mythical time. In this sense these questions assume great urgency because they lead us to put into question decolonial theory based on rational historical and dialectical materialist critique. The point is not to dismiss the latter paths but to extend them to resituated thought through a decolonial aisthetic engagement of its almost invisible aisthetic temporal-spatial grounds.9 A turn that moves beyond dialectic dualism in engaging the pluriversal movement and density of lineages and ways of knowledge that configure identities and differences through simultaneous asymmetric temporalities rather than through a single line of History and a binary dichotomy of power.10 [End Page 65]
Gerundive Liv-ing: Standing with the Colonial Difference
The idea of a binomial colonial difference breaks down already when one considers modernity through the experiences of the coloniality of power and knowledge in its very gestations and configurations. Modernity results from the exclusion and appropriation of distinct ways of being, beginning from 1492 and through the trans-Atlantic trade. Modernity does not begin with Descartes. If this is the case one finds the inception of one hundred and fifty years of history to modernity causes a profound transformation in how one begins to find oneself in/with modernity. A kind of modernity at large opens. Whereas the myth of westernizing modernity begins with Descartes's meditations, at least as Hegel would have it, with the introduction of América and the trans-Atlantic trade, indigenous peoples, African peoples, Asia and Semitic traditions are found not as extant to modernity but at its wondering originary roots.11 Modernity thought in decolonial terms arises in the encounter of distinct gazes, bodies, ways of being with worlds, in distinct pluriversal movements. Thus, one finds modernity as a pluriversal movement of distinct simultaneous and asymmetrical times and spaces. In attentiveness to this fecund interpolation/interpellation, traditional westernizing philosophy finds its place in unfathomable concrete dynamics, cosmologies and ways of be-ing (active, gerundive12). At the heart of this transformations is the turn from a binomial thinking in terms of the mind-body split (including the latest obsessions with AI, and the exclusion of humanism in the name of technology), to engaging aisthetic experience as fundamental to the very configuration of concepts, language, identities, difference, institutions, and ideologies. This is a thinking between lineages, between traditions, situated not in either side of a binomial border but at the very occurring of border-ing. We come to this situated living aisthetic thought when we engage, when we think with María Lugones's decolonial feminist thought.
Lugones situates her thought not in the center or at the periphery of the coloniality of power but in what, following Walter Mignolo, she calls the colonial difference. I should note that Mignolo comes to this idea out of thinking the colonial difference as a fractured locus of enunciation.13 In taking up this term (colonial difference) Lugones situates her thought at the "crisis,"14 literally one stands in/with the very decisive movement that sustains and perpetuates the hierarchical separations that define race, gender, and class. One comes to stand in the drawing of the differential line, [End Page 66] staying with and through the concrete delimitation of the differences. This, both in undergoing the memorial, affective, and physical dimensions and lineages of violence as well as the releasing originary movement beyond it. Here appears a fundamental distinction in ways of engaging in decolonial liberatory thought. In general, this way of thinking comes from the work on dependency and later world-system theory developed by Raúl Prebisch in the 1950 and later by Emmanuel Wallerstein. The idea is that the world system is constituted by a center of power made up of the most powerful economic, military, and political nations or systems in the world. And, also by a periphery that is made up of poor exploited nations and peoples who depend and practically belong to the center of power. While the center ultimately accumulates capital, the periphery serves as raw material and labor mostly living in sub-human conditions. With this simple binary image one has the advantage of exposing the logic of exploitation at the world and at the local level and both in their inter-relation. This image or position is very helpful as a critical expository way of seeing the workings of capitalist modernity and globalization. At the same time the center periphery relation is ubiquitous in as much as both phenomena manifest at the center and at the periphery; a relationality that already displaces the supposed topological duality of power.
Indeed, when one moves to stand in the colonial difference, then the binary image of center-periphery is no longer sufficient, because one seeks to think with the very living movement in/with which the center periphery difference appears. We come to stand in/with an open temporalizing-spacing movement, at the limit-ing in which the colonial line is drawn and redrawn. This is a new kind of decolonial liberatory thinking because it does not aim to critique the system theoretically or structurally by putting concepts into question over against the concrete situation, or by remaining primarily occupied with the linguistic strategies and formulations that sustains the systems of power. Moreover, this is not a thinking in the name of an abstract "people" or folk (el pueblo), nor is it organized by a single caudillo figured, a liberatory leader that delivers the word and sense of liberation from above.15 Rather, this thinking occurs in engaging in/with the differenc-ing (gerundive) movements in their concrete undergoing, such that the racist/gender/class lines are transformed and undone from within their very embodied and living configurations. Here bodily and linguistic, memorial and affective modalities of being are the time-spaces of decision. We are speaking of a concrete modal dynamic thinking rather [End Page 67] than rational-critical analysis or a romanticizing ideological discourse. Therefore in "Toward a Decolonial Feminism," at the end of her discussion on the colonial difference, Lugones underscores: "Often in Mignolo's work the colonial difference is invoked at levels other than the subjective/inter-subjective. But when he is using it to characterize 'border thinking,' as he interprets Anzaldúa, he thinks of her as enacting it."16 (I should note that here that Anzaldúa's embodied thought is not centered or guided by her rational subjectivity or egological will, but found in understanding, going-under, withstanding the differencing and identity configurations and loss in ways primarily oriented by physicality, affectivity, memorial dimensions, community, and by cosmological sensibilities. As Lugones points out, liberation is never a matter of a single subject but of community.) To go back to the text under discussion, immediately after the cited words Lugones concludes, "In so doing he understands her locus as fractured. The reading I want to perform sees the coloniality of gender and rejection, resistance, and response. It adapts to its negotiation always concretely, from within, as it were."17
I have just introduced a thinking that engages the active site in which meanings and identities are renegotiated, not theoretically at a distance, but in getting into, inhabiting the broken locus of enunciation, that is, in thinking in/with the differenc-ing movements, encounters, dialogues, silences, miss-representations, fractures and transformations operative in processes of configuring, gathering, and letting go identities. However, without bodies this says nothing. Not because one must follow the westernizing utilitarian sense of things and must seek the embodiment of principles and concepts, or refer to bodies, people, experience "natural" or cultural to give substance and fact to reason. The turn here is to understanding bodies in their actively be-ing the enactments, gatherings and passing of identities, experience, sense, and out of these also principles and concepts. As Lugones's indication above, her thought is "always concrete."18 This last term, leads to the heart of Lugones's transposition of decolonial thought, from a thinking still attached to the coloniality of time, such as in dialectic historical materialism or caudillo visions, to a concrete living thinking in performative relation with cosmological movement. To begin to see this I turn to "concrete" in its literal sense, con-crescere, to grow-ing-with. [End Page 68]
In the sense of to-grow-with, concrete does not mean given things, facts, culture, nature, phenomena and events of fact, a world of subjective rational consciousness and its "other" (genitive), nor is it a matter of using language and thought as tools to measure and make the other produce value/capital. Concrete is not about given identities, presence and representation. Concrete indicates dynamic not static be-ing. Growing-with refers to the dynamic or gerundiveongoing coming to be in passing performed by identities, subjects, things, nature in their be-ing passages, accommodations, portals of sense (sentido).Here rhythms, emotion, memorial affect, and active temporalizing-spacing come to the fore as the aisthetic concrete dimensions of those processeswe identify as things, subjects, ideas, dreams. … Con-crescere marks movements through which differencing, the hierarchy of the modern racist sexist capitalist differential is being negotiated, transformed, disseminated. Body, gender, sex, race, class, are not ontological entities or substances, but sites, places of determinations, struggle, suffering, and originary transformation and letting go. This is why power is never autonomous. Given these dynamics, "body" may be best understood as body-ing in the active or gerundive sense of happenings through which bodies gather onto identities/determinations in disseminating movements; and, along the same lines, one may speak not of life as the process over against the negative finality of death. Rather, in the gerundive life may be understood as liv-ing, and such liv-ing always in tension in its being a livingdying, to use Charles Scott's and Nancy Tuana's most fitting and dynamic term.19 I follow here their use of livingdying in order to remain with living in its germinal or originary cycle, rather than thinking of existing as "life" juxtaposed over "death." The gerundive manner of taking up identities resonates directly with many forms of indigenous cosmological thought in América. Here one may think of Silvia Rivera Cusicánqui, Gloria Anzaldúa, Mariana Favela, the anthropological and literary work of Jose Maria Arguedas,20 as well as of Rodolfo Kusch's sense of estar, or dwell-ing (gerundive) as approaching the Andean indigenous sense of Utcatha: "But the term utcatha is much closer to the indigenous sensibility. Bertonio translates utcatha as 'estar. …' Finally, Bertonio mentions the form 'utcaña,' 'the seat or chair' and the mother or womb where woman conceives. In short, the meaning of utcatha reflects the concept of a mere givenness or, even better, of a mere estar, but linked to the concept of shelter and germination."21
Again, we speak of a dwelling in the gerundive which engages cosmological movements not proper to westernized rationalist utilitarian and [End Page 69] pragmatist thinking, not proper to the ideas and ways of being of rational subjects, natural law, or human appropriation and willful making, not proper to the single line of progress of History, mercantile rationalism, and capitalism. Living performs and resonates with cosmological movement beyond the grasp, comprehension, appropriation, control, and domination with which westernizing ways of being in the world situate their supposed absolute superiority and meaning, and their infinite versions of the "other."
Thinking in/with the colonial difference requires thinking with the configuration of identities and bodies, and this means explicitly, exquisitely, thinking from the very movements, Κρíσις, borderings, and portals that are not one's body or mind, but the temporalizing-spacing movement in which body-mind/heart-mind (Xin [心]) simultaneously keep coming to be in passing, never first as binary things, never primarily in a linear development but as process-ing, "place" or relation.22 This is a performative movement that cannot be grasped in terms of the mind-body separation or the inside-outside, space-time dichotomies. This is because bodying is a temporalizing-spacing movement through which space inside-outside are always being negotiated, i.e., re-configured. In this sense, as Omar Rivera shows in his work, bodies are best thought as dynamic portals.23 But all of this leads us back to the heart of María Lugones's transformation of decolonial ways of thinking.
Gerundive Livingdying in María Lugones's Decolonial Feminism
In "Toward a Decolonial Feminism" Lugones remarks about her thoughts on gender and coloniality of power: "One way of expressing this is that the coloniality of knowledge, for example, is gendered and that one has not understood the coloniality of knowledge without understanding its being gendered. But here I want to get ahead of myself in claiming that there is no de-coloniality without de-coloniality of gender."24 It is at this point that in my view María Lugones makes a profound turn that opens liberatory decolonial thought to its aisthetic-gerundive dimensions. To put it in my own language: I have been introducing a thinking in/with concrete (con-crescere) livingdying that cannot be reduced to the logic of rationalist utilitarianism. We are moving towards a process or dynamic that in its aisthetic temporalizing-spacings grounds conceptual thought [End Page 70] affectively, memorially, emotionally, through a process most of us lose as we turn to 'bodies," people, ideologies, concepts, nature, culture, and identity politics, institutions, and normativity. This is not to say that these turns are not necessary, but that there is more, more trouble, densities, porosities, trans-imaginative tanteos (tactility), temporalizing and spacing in existing being (gerundive), livingdying. But unless one thinks with body-ing, these terms are empty and always available to be coopted by the capitalist racist machinery of semiotic alternative re-production of meanings.25 This turn to bodying occurs in María Lugones's decolonial feminism, with the inceptive interpolation/interpellation of gendering/sexuality that operates as a kind of gerundive quickening of decolonial discourse.
In "Colonialidad y Genero," Lugones gathers the work of feminists of color in the United States, feminists of the Third world, and the work on jurisprudence in Latin American critique and critical race theory, together with Anibal Quijano's thought to introduce "the modern-colonial gender system."26 Here Lugones aims to make evident the intention and historical depth of its destructive reach, and this as the instrumentalized oppression at "every level of existence."27 This seemingly passing phrase points to the broadening and deepening of decolonial thought as Lugones reaches for the many levels of existing found with the living of the excluded, and does so in ways that take up the sensibility of a thought that is taken up and situated in terms of aisthetic pre-conceptual dimensions, thus moving beyond Quijano's materialist historical analysis of the production of a system of coloniality.
When Lugones introduces the centrality of the gender system, gender is another fundamental axis of the coloniality of power and knowledge that must be thought in intersection with race and capitalism. But the introduction of the gender system brings in a sensibility of thought that changes the very project of decoloniality. As Lugones points out in "Toward Decolonial Feminism" (2010), the global system Quijano introduces does not form over "a world to be formed, a world of empty minds and evolving animals."28 I should mention that this observation highlights for me a fundamental problem with Quijano's way of approaching coloniality. Following Quijano's narrative of modernity, from the modern historical perspective América seems empty upon the arrival of the conqueror. This is because ultimately for Quijano all identities are generated [End Page 71] from the historical material process that creates the coloniality of being, hence modernity does not have an exteriority to the historical dialectic movement. By contrast, for María Lugones coloniality will require that one thinks from the very movement of infinite transformations undergone by the colonized, and these are concrete transformations. América was fully living with a depth and trans-dimensional intensity unthinkable to the modern power differential, to the coloniality of power, and ultimately to the binary world so well underlined by Descartes ego cogito. While for the colonizer the movement of coloniality effects a single taking over of "the other," that is its genitive non-western other (sub-human sexes, animals, savages, sub-cultures, as well as nature). For the colonized the same movement is infinitely complex, since, as Lugones points out above, all levels of existence are touched by the colonial strike. To be more specific, considering Andean thought, colonizing violence reaches for the germinal, this is the deep pernicious sense of the gender system, with its judgment and destruction over sexuality and living, reaching for the cycles of the germinal, making impossible living in its gerundive sense, that is livingdying-living. Thus, in an Andean indigenous sense, with the gender system one finds the foreclosure of the pacha, of the cycle between sky hanan-pacha, earth kay-pacha and the deep underground uku-pacha. In short, the cosmological is at stake in the introduction of gender and with the introduction the possibility of being in/with such movement. This is clearly stated by Lugones herself in Toward decolonial Feminism": "In thinking of the methodology of decoloniality, I move to read the social from the cosmologies that inform it, rather than beginning with a gendered reading of cosmologies informing and constituting perception, motility, embodiment, and relation."29
María Lugones writes about the coloniality of gender,
The purported but never truly intended civilizing transformation justified, the colonization of memory, and thus of people's senses of self, of intersubjective relation, of their relation to the spirit world, to land, to the very fabric of their conception of reality, identity, and social, ecological, and cosmological organization. Thus, as Christianity became the most powerful instrument in the mission of transformation, the normativity that connected gender and civilization became intent on erasing community, ecological practices, knowledge of planting, of weaving, of the cosmos, and not only on changing and controlling reproductive and sexual practices.30 [End Page 72]
I find this passage changes the decolonial turn from the colonial wound. Not only by introducing gender, but because the introduction of gender turns thought away from rationalism, its many headed westernizing forms of critiquing and theorizing, and instead exposes one to the living understanding of coloniality, to the concrete undergoing and going under, the withstanding of the becoming of modernity. To speak of gender and a sexuality left to stand alone and be judged through westernizing gender systems, is to speak of the flesh of worlds, of rhythms, processes, and this means turning to the concrete gerundive livingdying, the bodying, to dimensions threatened, and yet not grasped by or graspable for rationalist utilitarian thinking, dialectical historical analysis, and normative critique. With the turn to gender and sexuality decoloniality opens to aisthetic cosmological dimensions of existing in livingdying. To say it in other terms, decoloniality must make an aisthetic liberatory decolonial turn, a turn that resonates, echoes and engages in the case of América the cosmological knowledges in indigenous and popular ways of being and thinking. (I should add that in thinking of living in such registers I use livingdying, to remain with living in its germinal or originary cycle, rather than thinking of existing as "life" juxtaposed over "death.") In what remains of the discussion I offer a minimal sense of this turn to aisthetic livingdying.
A Turn to Concrete Living Dying
We are also other than the heg emon that makes us be.31
The epigraph above not only points to the challenge to distinct livingdying effected through the configuration and perpetuation of the coloniality of power, but it also introduces us to ways of livingdying not determined by the oppressive and violent system. The action against those under the threat of conquering force is not totalizing nor free of concrete resistance. As Lugones points out, in América the conqueror encounters, "complex cultural, political, economic, and religious beings: selves in complex relations to the cosmos, to other selves, to generation, to the earth, to living beings, to the inorganic, in production."32 These ways of being-in-distinct worlds are never met, engaged, understood by the colonizer. At the same time, they are not simply dismissed or destroyed. At this point Lugones turns to a path beyond Quijano's analysis. She writes, "I want to think of the colonized neither as simply imagined and constructed by the colonizer [End Page 73] and coloniality in accordance with the colonial imagination and the strictures of the capitalist colonial venture."33 Lugones sets off from that which is never met, the concrete living of the oppressed. She continues,
The process I want to follow is the oppressing ← → resisting process at the fractured locus of the colonial difference. That is, I want to follow subjects in intersubjective collaboration and conflict, fully informed as members of Native American or African societies, as they take up, respond, resist, and accommodate to hostile invaders who mean to dispossess and dehumanize them. The invasive presence engages them brutally, in a prepossessing, arrogant, incommunicative and powerful way, leaving little room for adjustments that preserve their own senses of self in community and in the world. But, instead of thinking of the global, capitalist, colonial system as in every way successful in its destruction of peoples, knowledges, relations, and economies, I want to think of the process as continually resisted, and being resisted today.34
Here one finds in the very living ways of the oppressed responses, accommodations, and resistances unmet by the invader. In other terms, not only was América not empty upon the arrival of the conquering forces but the living ways of existing in the Américas do not merely disappear. These resistances have a specific character that puts them beyond the range, grasp and understanding of the coloniality of power. The two arrows that mark, without words, the oppressing ← → resisting situation, do not face each other. This is because this is not a process of reaction against an action, as if the resistances were always initiated and caused by the actions of the oppressor. To say it in Nietzsche's terms, at issue is not reactive but active living. Indigenous, and later popular living in América is beyond and remains ungraspable to the utilitarian rationalism of the coloniality of power. While those conquering exercises his/her/their violence, the Americas go on living, living in/through their gerundive livingdying. The destruction and the coloniality of power that seeks to exclude those being colonized is challenged, resisted, and transformed from the outset by the living ways of those being under siege, persecuted, oppressed. Here resistances occur at the pluriversal level of micro-existential temporalizing-spacing, and not in terms of the single movement of colonization imagined by the colonizer. In her work Lugones engages concrete livingdying movements of the oppressed, dynamics of gerundive dwelling-be-ing (estar) that are not subsumed or even comprehended by rationalist [End Page 74] utilitarian and calculative thought, by its logic of appropriation and creation and consumption of all that is said to be. Lugones speaks of "'estar' over enterprise, being in relation rather than dichotomously split over and over in hierarchically and violently ordered fragments."35 And such path to estar-siendo gerundive dwelling is found in "concrete, lived resistances to the coloniality of gender."36
As Lugones explains in her essay,
As the coloniality infiltrates every aspect of living through the circulation of power at the levels of the body, labor, law, imposition of tribute, and the introduction of property and land dispossession, its logic and efficacy are met by different concrete people whose bodies, selves in relation, and relations to the spirit world do not follow the logic of capital.37
At the level of the concrete consciousness of indigenous and popular living in América, at the level of physicality, selves in relation, and the spirit world, distinct ways of being-in-worlds encounter and go on their way as they are not met by the blind and deaf fury of the conquering. These other paths that resist are not at the rationalist practical level, but at the level of intelligent-sensibility or sensible-intelligence. In short, an understanding that requires an aisthetic turn in thinking. Resistance is performative, it is the concrete undergoing of livingdying, in practice that is always understood in/with affective, memorial, and bodying spirituality that does not refer or is graspable by the logic of capital.38 This is a movement of a nonwesternized consciousness. The originary liberatory decolonial turn happens in engaging indigenous and popular gerundive livingdying, germinal thought in América. The decolonial turn begins to take flight as one turns to one's concrete situation, to what is already there in one's dwelling-be-ing with the cosmological movement of existing. As Lugones points out normativity that connected gender and civilization became intent on erasing the very living, germinal, cosmological ways of concrete gerundive be-ing in América. But this never happened in a totalizing manner. Hence the Américan sense of the baroque, the radical syncretism in colonial Peru, i.e., the past-present visual syncretic understanding in its distinct Américan configurations: neither movement fully graspable in terms of westernizing thought/vision. There was never a total destruction of Américan consciousness as there was never a conquista of all of América. And, as Rodolfo Kusch points out throughout his work, Américan indigenous and popular thinking and spirituality are still there in the open dynamic and irredeemable [End Page 75] América, en el hedor de América (in the stink of the im-mundus, the world/s beyond the coloniality of power's totalizing intent that is América),39 in the very ways of being-in-dwelling or estar that challenge and displace the attempts to turn gerundive-livingdying into utility, rational calculative thinking, institutional identities, discrete rational subjectivity without community, under the exterior reach of an isolated interior subject, under the logic of capital and globalization.
It is this living movement that does not fit and is ungraspable for westernizing utilitarianism and the coloniality of power and knowledge. As Lugones explains,
The logic [the living movement] they follow is not countenanced by the logic of power. The movement of these bodies and relations does not repeat itself. It does not become static and ossified. Everything and everyone continues to respond to power and responds much of the time resistantly—which is not to say in open defiance, though some of the time there is open defiance—in ways that may or may not be beneficial to capital, but that are not part of its logic.40
Concrete gerundive-livingdying does not resist against anything, in the sense of mere opposition, but livingdying figures originary movements that rather than instituting identities play out the temporalizing-spacing of germinal gerundive dwelling in/with dynamic transformations, in concrete bodying, in originary birthing (estar). "Subject, relations, ground, and possibilities are continually transformed, incarnating a weave from the fractured locus that constitutes a creative, peopled re-creation."41 This recreation does not belong nor is it graspable for the coloniality of power and its temporal historical, rationalist, dialectical logic.
Germinal Birthing-Pairing Openings
In "Toward Decolonial Feminism," Lugones takes up Filomena Miranda's distinct sense of "living well" (suma qamaña) by being chachawarmi.42 The story bears layers of complex relational inter-weavings of understanding, but the point I want to underline here is that ultimately the story shows that if forced to adopt the gender separations and language of Westernized thought, Filomena Miranda could never live a fulfilled life in terms of her [End Page 76] distinct existing, and moreover, that she does live beyond this pernicious requirement. Lugones begins with Miranda's explanation about the meaning of the words qamaña and utjaña, which are usually translated as "living."43 Miranda's explication makes clear that utjaña refers to the uta, that is, to dwell in the community and the communal land. It is worthwhile to recall at this point that in Popular and Indigenous Thinking in Latin America, Kusch distinguishes Utcatha as the term for indigenous existing in gerundive livingdying, a term that has the tones of being cited in the way of being at home and also giving birth, the germinal.44 For Filomena Miranda, living in the sense of qamaña is impossible without living in the sense of dwelling within the community on the communal lands (utjaña). Miranda keeps her utjaña, and therefore, although she lives in La Paz, she returns to her community when her turn to participate in the governing of her people requires it. In other words, Miranda's existence is always one inbetween.This living inbetween bears a further germinal gerundive dimension. For Miranda to participate in dwelling with her community she would rule together with her sister, thereby taking the place of father and mother, chachawarmi. The crucial point is that in ruling in this manner Miranda participates in/with utjaña, being with the community in communal lands by being chachawarmi. The issue is that this term cannot be translated simply as the oppositional identities of man and woman, in the way father and mother would be traditionally distinguished in modern/colonial gendered terms. Moreover, to translate them in this way would disrupt the very way Miranda—and also the Bolivian government of Evo Morales, together with the indigenous movement of indigenous feminism gathered from the living voices of women through América, Abya Yala—understand "living well" (suma qamaña).45 Not only is living (qamaña) impossible without utjaña, without dwelling with one's community in communal lands, but in this case utjaña is only understandable in terms of chachawarmi, in terms of the concrete participating in the germinal movement-tension of a one that is always not one only but also, not two discrete identities. Chachawarmi does not fit westernizing utilitarian rationalist subjectivism. The undoing or "translation" of chachawarmi in the end would disrupt not only the community but also the ultimate function of the community, which is to sustain cosmic balance. Lugones's example shows how Miranda's living performs a free disruption of the colonial difference, and moreover she is a site of constant resistance by virtue of how living is interpreted through specific germinal gerundive living and linguistic practices. As Lugones [End Page 77] puts it, "her resistance to the coloniality of gender is also lived linguistically in the tension of the colonial wound."46 This story does not aim to produce a witness for a theory but shows the performed articulation of the colonial difference in living rupturing and transformative movement. The insurrection of subjugated forms of knowledge is already happening outside of the academy and its theorizing. It happens in how those inhabiting the colonial difference undergo the oppressing ← → resisting situation.47
The story of Filomena Miranda bears deeper implications that lead to the heart of indigenous Américan thought, to what the Mexican feminist thinker, activist, member of the Decolonial Feminist Network, Mariana Favela has beautifully articulated as an "Ontología de la diversidad." In what remains I will discuss this article, published in 2014, as part of the Networks collection of articles title, Mas alla del feminismo: caminos para andar.48
As Favela makes clear in her "Postdata" to the article, and as her title indicates with the term "ontology," her essay attempts to enter into dialogue with the western tradition. More importantly, she indicates that she writes from a place inbetween traditions, from the colonial difference, a situated thought not grounded in one identity or tradition as if already given, but from the temporalizing-spacing negotiating of identities. In coming to the end of my discussion, I would like to stay for a moment with this essay by Favela, to highlight the modality and disposition from which I find Lugones's thought and my thought touch in and beyond this paper.
Marina Favela's essay articulates the dual character of the very movement of existing distinct to indigenous thought in América. As she explains, "Principally among indigenous peoples in América persists and re-actualizes the perception according to which we inhabit a cosmos born through birthing and rhythmically paired (pareado y parido), [a cosmos] that is a weaving in movement (una urdimbre en movimiento). Pareado, paired, because everything that exists has and is simultaneously its complementary pair, that is its co-part (comparte). Parido, born in birthing, because it is the result of the doubling originary principle, that with which existence has been born. Diversity besides being inherent is necessary, because it includes the primordial forces of change; change that tends toward the ideal proportionalization between co-parts, oscillating sometimes near and sometimes far from equilibrium."49 Principle, "principio," as the text itself indicates, refers here not to an eidetic or conceptual principle, but to the movement of originary beginnings The last words in the quote refer to the equilibrium of the Pacha between the auspicious and inauspicious movement [End Page 78] of livingdying in gerundive being-dwelling, or estar, approximations of utcatha, as I already indicated above.
Clearly these few words introduce distinct worlds founded on a double gendered cosmological movement, with relations that do not fit the universal binary utilitarian rationalism of the coloniality of power and knowledge, nor its single temporality. The co-pairs are one and distinct, irreducible to a single identity and always their opposite, therefore beyond the logical rule of identity that serves as foundation for the pragmatic world of the coloniality of power and knowledge. Moreover, in the case of indigenous thought, as Favela points out, temporality is always simultaneous, not in terms of two temporalities of separate things that are brought together, but in the sense of a temporalizing-spacing movement that in its coming to be in livingdying performs the dual cosmological movement as portal, passage in gerundive in-between. As Favela points out, thinking back to Leon Portillo, "Even time is alive, which is not surprising if one accepts that time and space are not separable."50 She indicates concerning simultaneity: "Existence is time, a time that is in everything, and that is impossible to expand or appropriate; but which one may carry. A time that has no limits but reoccurrence, in the encounter of cycles that combine in such way that the possibilities are inexhaustible, inconceivable … That which we call existence is only a 'moment' of that heterogeneous concatenation of cycles. In her [existence], very little of what matters is visible."51
It is out of this germinal movement, and in remaining with the fecund emptiness and silence of indigenous and popular thinking in América, that I find and hear the work and thought of María Lugones, a thought that opens us, exposes us in/with the originary, birthing movement of livingdying in gerundive dwelling, in/with community and the improper im-mundus that is gerundive concrete América. [End Page 79]
alejandro arturo vallega is Wulf Professor of Humanities and Associate Professor of Philosophy at University of Oregon. His work focuses on the aisthetic dimensions of thought in Latin American thought, philosophy of liberation, and decolonial philosophy, as well as in Continental philosophy and Ancient Greek philosophy. Among his monographs appear, Latin American Philosophy from Identity to Radical Exteriority (Indiana University Press, 2014) and Heidegger and the Issue of Space, Thinking on Exilic Grounds (Penn State Press, 1999). He is president of the North American Society for Philosophical Hermeneutics, faculty of the Decolonizing Knowledge and Power School, Barcelona, and faculty and ex-director of the Collegium Phaenomenologicum, Italy.
To my mother, Patricia Angelica Arredondo Allan, que me enseño a luchar con dignidad y generosidad.
To my mother, Patricia Angelica Arredondo Allan, que me enseño a luchar con dignidad y generosidad.
1. I use the term "América" to indicate the Americas beyond the continental divide instituted by the coloniality of power as a result of North America's rise to power as the center of capitalism that occurs after World War two. I should also note that América does not exclude the decolonial lives and visions "north of the wall." westernizing thought happens ubiquitously, as do liberatory resistances.
2. The question of coloniality is already being discussed in Colombia by the group formed by activists and thinkers such as Oscar Guardiola-Rivera and Santiago Castro-Gomez. This issue is also already being discussed at least since 1927 by Andean thinkers; see José Carlos Mariátegui, "El Problema del Indio," in Textos Básicos, ed. Aníbal Quijano (México: Fondo de Cultura Económico, 1995). That is to say, decolonial thought does not have one origin or creator any more than it makes any sense to think of it as a matter of a method or ideology, since coloniality takes as many forms in distinct living situations as do the resistances that always already occur from/with the living of the colonized, who, as is clear today, have the flexibility and sense (sentido) that allows them to go on living (not merely surviving) even when constantly exploited, subjugated, and systematically and continuously threatened with the annihilation (not of individual subjects) but of the communities and with them the ways of being that give sense and place to subjectivity.
3. Simón Bolívar, "Carta de Jamaica," in Doctrina del Libertador, ed. Manuel Pérez Vila (República Bolivariana de Venezuela: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 2009); "Jamaica Letter: Reply of a South American to a Gentleman of this Island (Jamaica)," in Latin American Philosophy for the Twenty-First Century, ed. Jorge J. E. Gracia and Elizabeth Millán-Zaibert (New York: Prometheus Books, 2004).
4. Anibal Quijano, "Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism and Latin America," Nepantla: Views from South 1, no. 3 (2000): 533–80, 541.
5. These are the modalities of rationality, the rationalist elements, that reduce rationality to what Heidegger called "Machenschaft," what Marx saw as the alienation of living activity by production value, etc. …
6. I take this term from Maldonado-Torres, Nelson. "On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to the Development of a Concept," Cultural Studies 21, nos. 2–3 (March–May 2007): 240–70.
7. See my discussion of the coloniality of time in Alejandro Vallega, Latin American Philosophy from Identity to Radical Alterity (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014), chapters 5 and 7.
8. Anibal Quijano, "Modernity, Identity, and Utopia in Latin America," in "The Postmodern Debate in Latin America," special issue, Boundary 2 20 (Autumn 1993): 150.
9. Aisthetic here refers to the Ancient Greek αíςθησισ, and not to the modern versions of esthetics, beginning from Baumgarten and German romanticism. The point is that I consider Ancient Greek thought not continuous with westernized thought; as I have indicated elsewhere, I find that the Greeks were also colonized by modernity, as they become the chosen past of westernized History.
10. See Vallega, Latin American Philosophy from Identity to Radical Alterity, part 2, chapters 5 and 6.
11. I take this sense of wondering from Edouard Glissant's term errance, i.e., the wondering that underlies rooted identities, and that remains beyond them. I have called this exilic thought in other works. See Edouard Glissant, Poetique de la Relation (Paris: Gallimard, 1990), 23–34.
12. I use the term "gerundive" following Marcia Cavalcante Schuback's work on the gerundive as developed at the Collegium Phaenomenologicum in 2016.
13. Walter Mignolo, De la hermenéutica y la semiosis colonial al pensar descolonial (Quito, Ecuador: Abya-yala, Universidad Politécnica Salesiana, 2011).
14. Κρíσις in Ancient Greek indicates decision, literally a drawing of a delimitation, a cut … in Latin de (off)-caedere (cut). In using Greek and Latin terms I take both languages to not be continuous with modern European and English languages, and also I take the terms to be areas of contention in as much as they have been used to justify modernity/coloniality in ways that ignore the etymological and memorial sedimentation these languages carry.
15. Caudillo from the Latin capitellus ("little head"), from where English gets captain and Italian capo. Santiago Castro-Gomez offers a clear analysis of these aspects of Latin American philosophy in Santiago Castro-Gomez, Crítica de la razón latinoamericana (Barcelona: Puvill Libros, 1996).
16. María Lugones, "Toward a Decolonial Feminism," Hypatia 25, no. 4 (Fall 2010): 753.
19. See Charles Scott, "livingdying," in "A Matter of lifedeath," special issue, Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal 48, no. 2 (June 2015): 211–17. Also see his Beyond Philosophy: Nietzsche, Foucault, Anzaldua (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, forthcoming), chapter 8.
20. Jose Maria Arguedas, Senores e Indios: Acerca de la cultura Quechua (Buenos Aires: Editorial Calicanto, 1976).
21. Rodolfo Kusch, Indigenous and Popular Thinking in América, trans. María Lugones and Joshua M. Price (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 5.
22. Ed Casey's "sense of place."
23. A clear example the living-thought of Gloria Anzaldúa, who thinks with the reconfiguring movement of her body in bodying, a movement that continuously resituates her with community and cosmological movement beyond rational utilitarian subjective rationalism, and the dichotomous economy and geography of given essential identities.
24. Lugones, "Toward a Decolonial Feminism," 758n8.
25. This is Mignolo's weak side, he does not ground his work on concrete distinct livingdying.
26. María Lugones, "Colonialidad y Género," Tabula Rasa 9 (July–December 2008): 77.
27. "en todos lo ámbitos de la existencia." Ibid.
28. "The global, capitalist, colonial, modern system of power that Anibal Quijano characterizes as beginning in the sixteenth century in the Americas and enduring until today met not a world to be formed, a world of empty minds and evolving animals." Lugones, "Toward a Decolonial Feminism," 747.
29. Ibid., 749.
30. Ibid., 744.
31. Ibid., 746.
32. Ibid., 746.
33. Ibid., 747.
35. Ibid., 754.
36. Ibid., 747.
37. Ibid., 754.
38. At the same time, the system of capital can clearly be critiqued through questions of affectivity, emotion, and belief. See the work of Franz J. Hinkelammert.
39. Rodolfo Kusch, "El hedor de America," in El Hedor de America: Reflexiones interdisciplinarias a 50 anos de la America Profunda de Rodolfo Kusch, ed. Jose Alejandro Tasat (Buenos Aires: Ediciones del CCC, Centro Cultural de la Cooperacion Floreal Gorini, 2013), 31–38. Essay originally published in 1961 and then revised and published as the introduction to America Profunda in 1962.
40. Lugones, "Toward a Decolonial Feminism," 754.
42. Ibid., 750.
43. The discussion I trace in this paragraph occurs in ibid.
44. Rodolfo Kusch, Popular and Indigenous Thinking in Latin America, trans. María Lugones and Joshua M. Price (Durham, NC: Duke University press, 2010), 5.
45. "[T]he feminist philosopher and historian of ideas Francesca Gargallo Celentani seeks to explore the epistemologies, saberes (knowledges), and thoughts of the Indigenous women of the Pueblos originarios (First Nations) in Nuestra América (a concept that embraces the cultural diversity of America, since the Latin term leaves out the Indigenous populations; it is a decolonizing and not hegemonic concept that refers to an America independent from occidental power and domination, referencing José Marti's 1891 essay). It is a philosophical text that was born in the context of her fieldwork that spans from Mexico to the tip of Chile with the aim to examine and understand feminisms and ideas that are emerging from the different women's knowledge in Abya Yala (https://muse.jhu.edu/article/635795#f01), which are not connected with the occidental and academic feminism ideology. Far from following a classical philosophical methodology—which appears as a backdrop and as a theoretical framework—Gargallo Celentani analyzes these epistemologies directly from the voices of the Indigenous women. This procedure requires a participatory and horizontal approach to research, which is more closely aligned to anthropological methodologies rather than purely philosophical ones. The result is a 'collection of dialogues and ideas' based on many conversations that took place, including through the exchange of letters, between women from different communities along Abya Yala. The outcome is an interwoven book that tries to reflect the ideas and realities from these different voices, which are a product of their own epistemologies and different belongings." M. Aránzazu Robles Santana, review of "Feminisms from Abya Yala: Women's Ideas and Propositions of 607 Peoples in Our America," by Francesca Gargallo Celentani, Native American and Indigenous Studies 2, no. 2 (2015): 168.
46. Lugones, "Toward a Decolonial Feminism," 750.
47. "In a conversation with Filomena Miranda, I asked her about the relation between the Aymara qamaña and utjaña, both often translated as "living.'' Her complex answer related utjaña to uta, dwelling in community in the communal land. She told me that one cannot have qamaña without utjaña. In her understanding, those who do not have utjaña are waccha and many become misti. Though she lives much of the time in La Paz, away from her communal lands, she maintains utjaña , which is now calling her to share in governing. Next year she will govern with her sister. Filomena's sister will replace her father, and thus she will be chacha twice, since her community is chacha as well as her father . Filomena herself will be chacha and warmi, as she will govern in her mother's stead in a chacha community. My contention is that to translate chacha and warmi as man and woman does violence to the communal relation expressed through utjaña. Filomena translated chachawarmi into Spanish as complementary opposites. The new Bolivian constitution, the Morales government, and the indigenous movements of Abya Yala express a commitment to the philosophy of suma qamaña (often translated as 'living well'). The relation between qamaña and utjaña indicates the importance of complementarity and its inseparability from communal flourishing in the constant production of cosmic balance. Chachawarmi is not separable in meaning and practice from utjaña; it is rather of a piece with it. Thus the destruction of chachawarmi is not compatible with suma qamaña." Ibid., 749.
48. Mariana Favela, "Ontología de la diversidad," in Mas alla del feminismo: caminos para andar, ed. Márgara Millán (México, D.F.: Red de Feminismos Descoloniales, 2014), 35–60.
49. Ibid., 35.
50. Ibid., 52.
51. Ibid., 52–53.