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  • Decolonial Feminisms, Power and Place: Sentipensando with Rural Women in Colombia by Laura Rodríguez Castro
  • Elena Tjandra
Laura Rodríguez Castro
Decolonial Feminisms, Power and Place: Sentipensando with Rural Women in Colombia.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021. xiii + 208 pp. 83,19 € hardback (ISBN 978-3-030-59439-8); 67,40 € ebook (ISBN 978-3-030-59440-4).

Decolonial feminisms, power and place is a formidable illustration of Laura Rodríguez Castro’s commitment to decolonial praxis in research. “Feeling-thinking” alongside women in Colombia’s countryside, Castro charts rural territorial struggles and strategies of resistance in the context of on-going neoliberal and colonial violence. In this book, women’s voices are not included as supporting evidence to illustrate some broad theoretical claim; instead critique and decolonial praxis are articulated through the words and practices of rural women themselves. In dialogue with rural women, the book addresses two main projects: the coloniality of gender—as coined from María [End Page 205] Lugones’ extension of Aníbal Quijano and Walter Mignolo’s coloniality of power—and colonial, white feminisms.

Castro’s work draws upon ethnographic and participatory research primarily based in Toca, Boyacá, north of Bogotá, and Minca, in Magdalena, southeast of the Santa Marta coast. Her interlocutors include women who work in agro-tourism industries, rural social leaders, activists, and NGO staff. However, the book is organized less as a traditional ethnography than a carefully arranged set of themes in seven chapters. In Chapters 1 and 2, Castro provide an overview of women’s struggles in the context of Colombia’s recent and contested peace accords and agrarian reform, noting the institutionalized feminisms that exist within continuing, colonial matrices of power, and the decolonial feminisms that challenge them. The two chapters provide a clear overview of Lugones, Quijano, and Mignolo’s fundamental concepts of the colonial matrix of power and the coloniality of gender, as Castro explains the violence inherent within colonial and institutional feminisms such as that which arises from the cleaving of gender from race that positions Indigenous, Black and campesina women as both holders of ancient ancestral knowledge, and in need of saving. These chapters caution against the dissolving of difference in appeals to the universal, and views difference as a source of strength to work across in decolonial practice.

The concepts of sentipensar (feeling-thinking), veredear (walking through rural places) and territorio cuerpo-tierra (territory body-land) are also introduced at the beginning to serve as foundation for later chapters. With these concepts, Castro maintains a critical self-reflexivity that cuts across the volume, but is elaborated in Chapter 3, Sentipensando and Unlearning, where Castro details her own process of dismantling coloniality from within that unfolds into her epistemological and methodological approach of sentipensando. Enriched by insights from critical race scholars and Black and Indigenous feminists and geographers, Chapter 3 implicitly addresses feminist geography’s longstanding concerns around accounting for positionality. Considering that “mainstream feminist reflexivity and identity politics [that] have hyperfocused on the self ignore the structures and processes that sustain the coloniality of power” (p. 64), Castro states point-by-point four ways her “positionality is entangled within the coloniality of power” in the context of the Colombian countryside. Although she does not name classic geographic provocations from Audrey Kobayashi, Gillian Rose, Linda Peak and Kim England, her work speaks to their ideas by showing that decolonial feminism goes beyond “writing in” positionality or adopting a feminist methodological framework. Instead, Castro sets out to develop a decolonial feminist praxis, that begins with unlearning and moves toward sentipensando working with rural women. Through this commitment to work alongside, not on, Castro herself is present in the following chapters but rural women are at the center of the narrative. This unpacking of positionality is an important contribution to debates around reflexivity in feminist geography.

Chapter 4 offers a refreshing take on the geographies of place as it draws on [End Page 206] Doreen Massey’s theorization of place as multifaceted and relational, as an aperture to re-imagine place and place-making “as a process [that] allows for openness [and] provides an opportunity to dismantle the discourses of modernity as...