The “past” paradoxically exists in the “present

From: Mignolo’s Epistemology
of Coloniality by Linda Martín Alcoff, Syracuse University

I have gained some valuable insights from reading a little of the work of the Argentinian semiotician Walter D. Mignolo. Even if his work serves only as a sort of lens to self-reflect, and to examine the persistance of the colonial past in South Africa’s present. His thinking challenges the common  remonstrance “why dwell on the past? Why dwell on apartheid? Get over it and move on!”

“Like Foucault, Mignolo has also spent a considerable amount of time analyzing knowledge in its relationship to power and presenting case studies of hegemony-seeking power-knowledges that arose in the context of European colonialism. For Mignolo, the epistemic effects of colonialism are among its most damaging, far-reaching, and least understood. Also like Foucault, Mignolo’s critical project has produced new conceptual formulations in the attempt to explain and describe colonial knowledge practices and anti-colonial epistemic resistance.” – Linda Martín Alcoff

Even if Max du Preez’s observation about the conflict at our universities (see my previous post) – namely that the shifting goalposts reveals a more sinister, militant-fascist-revolutionary agenda, this does not negate the discourse of “anti-colonial epistemic resistance” which must take place. The past persists in the present especially where the beneficiary of the colonial system of power ‘chooses to ignore the damage’.

“… colonialism is not simply content to impose its rule upon the present and the future of a dominated country. Colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverse logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts it, disfigures and destroys it.”

(Franz Fanon, The Wretched, 1961)

The article cited above can be found at:

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