July 26, 2023

short note on the 'coloniality of power' thesis

The scholar Anibal Quijano defined "coloniality of power" as a new way of organizing reality produced by European colonial expansion from the late 1400s.

 I understand the impulse behind it, it is a potent metaphor, and it does offer a few useful insights, but I differ from the decolonial theorists in that I do not consider 'coloniality of power' to have much coherence as a concept, much less to be the sin qua non of 'modernity'. The way it is phrased and used, it is as if violent coercion was invented in 1492, as if before that time, humans were acting and being in ways that eschewed civilizing projects, violent conquest, and permanent antagonism. You have to ignore large swaths of earlier history in order to sustain this idealistic view. Moreover it would seem to also commit one to the view that this mode of power has not fundamentally changed since that time, and that we are still living in it. I find that view a-historical. 

In the end, I find the idea of coloniality of power extremely Eurocentric, as if somehow Europe invented a new way to be powerful in the colonial Americas that was distinct from the absolute mess humans had been making of that endeavor since the dawn of complex societies.


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