Modernity and Decoloniality

Walter D. Mignolo

in Latin American Studies

ISBN: 9780199766581
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
Modernity and Decoloniality

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  • Regional and Area Studies
  • History of the Americas


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The epistemic and political project known as modernity/(de)coloniality originated in South America, more specifically in the Andean region. To say “modernity and decoloniality” is to name in a colonial way the project that is being decolonized. Modernity/(de)coloniality are complex, heterogeneous, and historical structural concepts. They are entangled in ways shown by the work of groups introduced in this article. The key concept, however, is coloniality. Like many other similar and parallel projects (see the article on the Caribbean Philosophical Association), the key concept of coloniality calls into question the idea that knowledge is disembodied and independent of any specific geohistorical locations. The members involved in the project argue that such belief has been created and implanted by dominant principles of knowledge that originated in Europe since the Renaissance. In order to build a universal conception of knowledge, Western epistemology (from Christian theology to secular philosophy and science) has pretended that knowledge is independent of the geohistorical (Christian Europe) and biographical conditions (Christian white men living in Christian Europe) in which it is produced. As a result, Europe became the locus of epistemic enunciation, and the rest of the world became the object to be described and studied from the European (and, later on, the United States), perspective. This article concentrates on the overall profile of the project and on those members of the collective that, in the first stage, provided the foundational concepts and, in the second stage, expanded the base toward new horizons. We have entered a period in which universal assumptions about knowledge production are being displaced. In other words, knowledge, like capitalism, no longer comes from one center; rather, it is geopolitically distributed. That global distribution demanded a concept to account for it. Geopolitics of knowledge is a key concept in modernity, coloniality, and decoloniality.

Article.  13180 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies ; History of the Americas

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