- Local Histories and Global Designs:An Interview with Walter Mignolo
This interview with Walter Mignolo expands on the issues of modernities, border thinking, geopolitics of knowledge, subalternity and post-Occidentalism presented in Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking (Princeton UP 2000). Since the mid eighties, Mignolo has worked on what he calls "the colonial question." This interest led to the publication of The Darker Side of the Renaissance (1995), (unanimously praised in literary, social and historical journals) one of the most influential and widely discussed assessments of the European colonial expansion in the Americas. Local Histories takes up and expands on the notions of colonial and imperial difference and the coloniality of power, crucial questions raised in Darker Side. Local Histories also connects critical discourses of Eurocentrism and globalization from different parts of the world to different critical traditions (Latin American, U.S. Latina/o, North African, Indian and South European) in order to makes us think "with, against and beyond the legacy of Western epistemology." However, for all its academic erudition, Local Histories can be understood as a political and ethical manifesto that forces us to think about the ethics and politics of teaching and research, the institutional production of knowledge, and our own investment (as academics) in perpetuating both colonial differences and social injustices. [End Page 7]
Delgado and Romero: What do you consider the dialectical relationship between local histories and global designs? Is it not true that in a sense the questions posed by local histories have acquired new relevance given the globalization of culture?
Mignolo: Let me first address the question of the "dialectical relationship between local histories and global designs." I said some place in the book that local histories are everywhere but that only some local histories are in a position of imagining and implementing global designs. What I call the "modern/colonial world" is in itself a world that came out of certain kinds of local histories: imperial local histories. Imperial Spain became an instrumental agent and made possible the implementation of Christian designs for conversion to a global one. It was imperial England in complicity with French enlightenment that displaced (but not replaced) Christian global designs into Secular civilizing ones. It was imperial U.S. that displaced (but not replaced) the global design of the civilizing mission by a global design of development and modernization. And it is the market that is becoming the global design of a new form of colonialism, a global coloniality, that is being analyzed as "the network society" (Castells), "globalcentrism" (Coronil), and "Empire" (Hardt and Negri). Thus, the globalization of "culture" was always there, since "culture" (in whatever technology of the time was available) is the material aspect in which the history of capitalism and of global designs (Christianity, Civilizing Mission, Development and Modernization, Marketization) evolved. Technology today allows "culture," and financial markets, to move faster. However, I would not say that there is a globalization of culture. I would rather say that planetary communication and the coloniality of power move faster and, like in the sixteenth century, in one direction. The force with which Inca's and Aymara's "cultures" entered and modified Castilian's was less significant than the reverse. That is, Castilian knowledge and attitude toward life did not change as much as knowledge and attitude toward life among Aymara and Inca people. The same today: Bolivia's music players and restaurants in the U.S. or Europe are less relevant (aren't they?), than European television and popular music in Bolivia. In La Paz, for example, there is a "German Channel" that provides the state of the weather in Germany and in Europe for the Bolivian audience. I am not aware of a "Bolivian Channel" in Germany that does the same.
Delgado and Romero: The border, especially the border between the United States and Mexico, as a source of localized knowledge in the work of Gloria Anzaldúa and Alfred Arteaga, informs your thinking. And yet, the usage of your term "border thinking" which ties the border more to epistemology ("do we need a kind of [End Page 8] thinking...