A Postcolonial Aesthesis

I refer to “Decolonial Aesthesis: From Singapore, To Cambridge, To Duke University” by Walter D. Mignolo and Michelle K., dated June 27, 2013, and since then having had quite the readership. 

OFTENTIMES it seems rather difficult to securely affix contemporary discourse or thoughts of postcolonialism against a modern, prevailing and realistic manner without the inevitable perceived loss of some tact, more so due to its highly subjective nature. Talking about ethnicity and racial background must not be, under any circumstances, incorrectly misconstrued for blatant racism (It is not), but rather a necessary access to engaging conversation on broader and far more universal struggles between Self and Other – a tributary, of sorts. Similarly, equally trying is to discuss postcolonialism within its expected and considerably restrictive linguistic boundaries, as it is many a times incorrectly assumed to be: “post-colonialism” – a temporal circumstance or set of conditions upon which the chronological, systemic and ordered collapse of empire is couched. Assuming which, rapid decolonization subsequent to the Second World War would have already significantly reduced colonial establishments, and therefore by extension, the immediate and instantaneous response is a diminishing spirit of colonialism, not coloniality. With the physical and worldly manifestations of Colony almost entirely disassociated from a position of social dominance as well, why then the need for decolonial aesthetics? It is no more susceptible than the undesirable alternative of “claiming equality”: assertions that attempt to equivocate cultures and traditions of the Occident and Orient. It is not a concerted outcry that exposes “its injustices and contradictions, or simple disobedience towards the rules of art and polite society” – it is an insinuative concession that coloniality exists and in a continued position of global domination.

AND still the greatest perpetuation of coloniality is a postcolonial aesthesis: language.

The colonial consciousness is a complex system of collective values and beliefs that govern the relationship between “master” and “subject”, which possesses an insatiable desire for perpetuation. It is fearful of and persistently forced to resist the unceasing possibility of being relegated into isolation. At heart, the spontaneous and self-preserving response of coloniality is transcendental to the passing of time, and more importantly, transcendental to material developments. And incidentally, the most pervasive and significant demonstration of the colonial system is language as well as the ostensibly irrational and fastidious value we ascribe to language, which eventually become normalized as being justly commensurate:

“You never learn Latin, but you learn to fake it well enough to give the prayer before the Fellows in the dining hall. It’s an honor, you’re told.” (Decolonial Aesthesis: From Singapore, To Cambridge, To Duke University)

TO question the spirit of coloniality necessitates first an understanding of language – not literature – as an inextricable and influential component that is largely fundamental to the basis of history. Arguably, almost the entire historical methodology of documentation is contingent upon the solvency of language as an effective communicative medium in speech and thought. Only then are we able to accurately convey the stories of history. But the vast subjectivity of perceiving and operating in different languages confines histories to its inherent and very precise ideological parameters. Consequently, history is at best merely an indicative process of the creation of meaningful narratives from a seemingly meaningless series of past events, since we attribute, in a very arbitrary manner, semantic value to specific morphemes. Over time, this linguistic pliancy of conversation thus allows society to place a constructed premium of cultural and social desirability on particular languages as opposed to others.

ABOVE all, most striking is the meta-connotative implications of entire systems of language themselves – that the instantaneous response of the average individual to, say, Greek and Latin texts is surprisingly dense with the baggage of coloniality: graceful, intellectual, scholarly in nature, and supported by the struts of ancient knowledge. Or the “plebeian” gift of English: refined, elegant, stately and noble. It is the distinctive sense of an alluring prominence grounded in historical European ascendancy, but anchored firmly to the both needs and desires of current times. That the common tongues of the Occident far dominate the lingua franca of societies, pervading to near saturation even in the geographical Orient, and against the diversity of alternative languages present. The most visceral and resonant reflections of colonial perennialism is neither architecture nor education nor political institutions, but the language of Empire. It is a frequently unrecognized edification of coloniality, one that immortalizes the colonial spirit in the regularities of social interactions and totemic records of history.

TRULY, “coloniality is far from over: it is all over”, even as we speak – especially when we speak.

Sources

Mignolo, W., & Michelle, K. (2013, June 27). Decolonial aesthesis: From singapore, to cambridge, to duke university. Retrieved from http://waltermignolo.com/decolonial-aesthesis-from-singapore-to-cambridge-to-duke-university/

– Of noteworthy things (particularly significant to local readers) – a friend, on “brothers”: “Why ‘adelphos’, not ‘abang’?”

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