A book by Margaret Kohn and Keally McBride titled Political Theories of Decolonization. Postcolonialism and the Problems of Foundations (Oxford University Press, 2011), was recommended to me. I began to read it with great interest, because of the topic, and soon realized that due attention has been given to recent theoretical unfolding in decolonial thinking in Latin America (i mean, theories by people like me, of European descent). I was pleasantly surprised for it is not a common practice among Northern scholars writing in English, to pay attention to theoretical thinking written in Spanish or by Latin American authors writing in English. Now, the good news shall not be celebrated without noticing what is missing. Aymaras and Quechuas and Quichuas, mainly in the Andes, of which a significant amount of thinking and writing exists. I mentioned this not as a critique, for it is difficult to cover all, but to inform the reader that there is also accessible bibliography in English to get that missing part of the story. And Afro-Caribbean thinkers have also a long lasting history of decolonial thinking and predates and questions the Eurocentered concept of “postcolonialism.”
The book is indeed useful in that it enlarges the scope of colonial legacies and global responses to it. It doesn’t distinguish properly, however, postcolonialism from decolonization, and this is indeed one serious charge we can make to the book.
However, what really caught my attention and made me doubt of its scholastic rigor (and even of Oxford University Press academic responsibilities), is how the authors messed up the part on Latin America. And I wonder now if the same did not happen in other chapters. To give you an idea: when you go to the bibliography, you will find out that many of my significant works on the topic has been attributed to Eduardo Mendieta!! Eduardo and I have indeed many common interests, we have collaborated in several projects, and he has written a wonderful blurb for The Idea of Latin America. The blurb is indeed so well crafted that the authors of Political Theories attributed the book to the author of the blurb. Now, how seriously can you take what they have written about “Latin” America’s decolonial thinking.
I suspect that the authors of this book would have never attributed a work by Gyan Prakash to, say, Partha Chaterjee; or a work by Michel Foucault to Jacques Derrida: these authors are serious matter; you have to pay attention to them. But authors writing in Spanish or writing in English but “thinking in Latin American” (and I mean what I wrote: I neither mean “thinking about Latin America,” nor I mean “thinking in Latin America”). What I suspect is that there is an unconscious epistemic racism (meaning that less serious attention is paid, less cash-value being attributed) in the authors of this book that disregard and devalue certain theoretical thinking in certain regions and in certain languages–in this case that written in Spanish by Latin American authors. Unacceptable errors have been committed and not corrected in the final proofs, or less value is attributed to theoretical contributions to people whose language is Spanish. However, this is not an isolated example. A similar case has been reported a couple of years ago.
My interest in calling attention to this issue is related to what I have been writing and talking about in several recent posting, in this blog, and in several interviews and op-eds published in the Advanced Institute of Cross Disciplinary Studies, World Public Forum and Critical Legal Thinking. It is related to the global shift in politics, economics, religions, aesthetics and epistemology. All of these combined are generating a radical shift in the geography if feeling, sensing, believing and thinking. The end of Western domination, from the right and the left, in economy and politics, in knowing (epistemology, hermeneutics) and sensing (aiesthesis, aesthetics), is under way. And in the process are indirectly making evident that the interest of major publishing houses, including university presses like Oxford, are more interesting in making profit than in the seriousness of ideas and arguments being packaged in their books.