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  • Against Discursive Colonialism:Intercultural Dialogues as a Path to Decolonizing Feminist Anthropology
  • R. Aída Hernández Castillo

this article is based on a paper that I presented during the annual meeting of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy (SAAP), as a keynote speaker in the Coss Dialogue sessions. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that most participants of SAAP use the term "American" in its continental, rather than in the US-centric sense. I am glad that many of the philosophers of this community of knowledge have opened their dialogues to the voices and experiences south of the Río Bravo. We are living during very difficult times in which cultures and practices of violence, as well as aggressive exclusion and intolerance, are affecting our communities on both sides of the border. In this context of multiple violences, it is urgent to open spaces of interdisciplinary dialogue, like the Coss Dialogue sessions and this special issue of The Pluralist, to build bridges between different disciplines in the effort of confronting the pedagogy of death that is navigating across our continent. Please consider this article as an invitation to continue building and promoting bridges of solidarity between our communities of knowledge.

In this essay, I would like to address two experiences of activist research that have taught me very important lessons about decolonizing my own feminism and rethinking my anthropological methodologies from a dialogical perspective. In order to effectively convey the evolution of my perspectives, I would like to share some of the genealogy of my life experiences with you.

Situating My Epistemological Dialogues

During the late 1980s, I lived in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the administrative capital of a predominantly marginal Maya-Tsotsil area. It was after many years of working with local feminist organizations in San Cristóbal, and also as a result of the work that many brilliant scholarly feminists have done on [End Page 58] discursive colonialism (Mohanty, "Under Western Eyes," "'Under Western Eyes' Revisted"), that I would begin to question the methodologies used by these organizations with which I had actively worked.

My time living in the rain forest of Chiapas exposed me to Indigenous organizations and their Mayan epistemologies and ontologies, all of which had a direct impact on the way I viewed and experienced the world at the time. It was not only my feminist perspectives that were evolving; I was also rethinking many of my positions on resistance and social struggle, which had been grossly shaped by Marxist ideals. It quickly became unquestionably evident that in order to analyze and understand political struggles in the Americas, it is fundamental to consider the role of racism and internal colonialism.

My changing positionalities would be further motivated by a series of unfortunate events that took place during my time in Chiapas. On multiple occasions, I experienced political violence by the state against social movements, during which friends of mine were physically oppressed and sexually assaulted by government officials. The indignity of these events compelled me to participate in the creation of a women's movement against state and gender violence. The movement evolved into the feminist organization COLEM (that means "free" in the Tsotsil language), in which I was an active member for ten years.

Since 1989, I have worked as a researcher and professor in a graduate program at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS), where I have focused a great deal of my work on the racism and internal colonialism suffered by Indigenous women. The accumulation of these experiences led me to discover the urgency for developing political alliances that function under the politics of solidarity.

It was around these times in 1994, that the Zapatista movement stood up in arms as the first military movement in Latin America to incorporate the feminist ideals into their political agenda. The Zapatista fight against neoliberalism, racism, and patriarchy have become an example for an entire school of feminists who work toward the decolonization of politics in both practice and theory (see Speed et al.).

Working with feminist organizations that fight against sexual and domestic violence, and that work with victims who are predominantly Indigenous women...


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