How is it possible to respect differences and at the same time ask to change and / or transform something? How is it possible to define “colonialism” and create a decolonial practice that also encompasses difference at the level of epistemic politics? The significance of this problem of difference lies in the possibility of knowing, being and staging a context-dependent variety of struggles, voices and projects at the same time. Furthermore, this question leads us to an investigation of what needs to change in order to understand, be and stage more diversity: What transformation does decoloniality require in order to create opportunities for co-being, co-knowledge and co-enacting? As I have shown elsewhere (Sc likewise 2021), these questions can be answered by successfully sustaining a dilemma or paradox that teaches us to develop a different decolonial approach that enables action while maintaining the reflexivity and circularity of a much more humble beginning appreciates point.
To enter this discussion, the article first outlines the dilemma that arises when approaches aim at multiplicity and action at the same time. Second, the article describes how Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui maintains this tension by discussing Andean cosmologies and constructing a different relational approach. Third, the article outlines some of the benefits of using a precarious and momentary avenue to resolve the dilemma in order to construct a decolonial and intersectional practice. Finally, the conclusion brings back the quizzical nature of the dilemma that is hereby perpetuated as an ever lurking source of reflexivity and democratic dialogue.
The problem of difference as a dilemma
On the one hand, essentialist and fundamentalist discourses, such as some forms of liberalism and Marxism, often solve the problem of difference by constructing ontological notions of “humanity” that define what is undeniably “real” and generally shared by all “people” (Foucault 1970). ; Wynter 1995; Mignolo 2000; Reinaga 2014). Based on these notions of a “human” commonality, these approaches determine what needs to be defended, protected or implemented; they validate a set of characteristics which then become the foundations of equality and foundations for entire justice systems. These foundations are often used to construct the linear temporalities that guide action towards a future of “justice”. Through epistemological notions of connections between these realities and certain identities, discourses also connect these notions of equality with those who seem to be closest to “humanity”.
In the validation of individual equality, the legitimation of certain projects and the authorization of certain identities, these epistemic assumptions create the conditions for the possibility of elevating types of knowledge, being and action, of organizing other forms of justice, identity and transformation as “wrong”, ” “Deviant”, “inferior”, “barbaric”, “traditional”, “uncivilized”, “threatened” etc. (Foucault 1970; George and Campbell 1990; Seth 2010). That is, this epistemic survey of specific ideas constructs conditions for possibilities for action, but also leads to the violence that arises when “other” types of knowledge, being and acting are annexed, assimilated, transformed, extinguished and / or killed. In a way, they solve the problem of difference by highlighting and generalizing some “human” characteristics that then allow them to incorporate guidelines for action, but this epistemic strategy also constructs the other tendencies that underpin the colonial legacy. As I analyze elsewhere, these epistemic assumptions are not intellectual productions forgotten on some dusty bookshelf; they appear in institutionalized and consistent constructions of state and civilization (Sc likewise 2021).
On the other side of the difference problem, the possibility of grasping more diversity and foregoing essentialist foundations has led to diverse approaches and difficulties. As other authors emphasize, the radical renunciation of foundations and moments of epistemic validation can deprive us of the possibility of assertions and actions (Habermas 1992, 2). Similarly, others claim that our liberation from the prisons of “humanity” leads to the destruction of the subject (Wynter 1995, 33). Instead, authors like Foucault have emphasized the possibility of “diversification” (1972, 175) or “desubjugation” (1997, 10). By renouncing foundations and discourse only at the moment of the break-in, interpreters can analyze the epistemic constructions within these formations (Foucault 1972, 127) and the variety of relationships between discourses (Foucault 1972, 160–61). . The practical implication of this study is the possibility of desubjugation, which entails the deconstruction of the universalizing tendency that emanates from the epistemic meanings of certain formations.
Despite this methodological advantage of desubjugation, deconstruction is not innocent either. In so far as the universalization tendency of foundations seems to be the problem that leads to annexation and colonialism, the consequent implications of poststructuralism likewise demand the deconstruction of all universalizing positivities. Within this logic, the epistemic assumptions of institutionalized projects such as liberal civilization and the epistemic assumptions of the Indian criticism of the colonial heritage appear equally problematic (Scobald 2021, 166). The renunciation of foundations and the strict persistence in the discourse also means the rejection of any additional discursive power ideas that undermine any possibility of differentiating between more “institutionalized” or more powerful discourses and other projects (163). As several authors point out, this post-structuralism runs the risk of giving up the very voices it is trying to desubjugate (Viaña, Claros and Sarzuri-Lima 2010; Alcoreza 2014; Rivera 2015). Perhaps Foucault aimed to avoid these implications when he warned us against generalizing the deficit (1972, 118), but his approach to the problem of difference also does not provide a way of determining when deconstruction should stop (Sc likewise 2021, 167).
In order to avoid these tendencies, a number of decolonial authors tried to re-assign meaning to something other than themselves in order to enable a distinction between the levels of rule of different discourses. Walsh and Mignolo, for example, confirm that rule has an overarching structure of coloniality that explains and organizes other struggles and alternatives (2018, 23). In order to classify a certain form of rule as overarching, Mignolo and Walsh assign this structure to certain geopolitical contexts and regard them as a more objective structure of exploitation (2018, 146). The problem with anchoring discourses in certain geopolitical contexts is that they tie the diversity of the struggles in these “places” into a hierarchical and assimilating logic, which then determines what experience is most important and should be heard first (Scahm 2021, 220).
Many authors have analyzed this dilemma or from feminist (e.g. McCall 2005; Mann 2013), queer (e.g. Weber 2016), postcolonial (e.g. Inayatullah and Blaney 2004), poststructuralist (e.g. Butler 1990.)), Constructivist (e.g. Doty 1997) and relational lenses (e.g. Trownsell et al. 2019). To add to this discussion, I would like to learn from the work of Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui (1999; 2010b; 2010a; 2012; 2015; 2018) and add some of my own conclusions from previous research.
Rivera discusses a relational term in Andean cosmology. As Trownsell et al. confirm that cosmologies contain ontological assumptions about the nature of existence in conceptualizations of our relationships to the cosmos and our places in it (Trownsell et al. 2019, 1). However, instead of defining our place in the cosmos by drawing hierarchical notions of a subject standing above recognizable objects, Rivera develops her approach by understanding all those involved in relationships as equal subjects in a dialogue (Rivera 2018, 90). Through this notion, Rivera balances the various forms of Senti-Pensar, which enable all subjects to know, feel, be and shape relationships; it discusses a form of epistemological equality that undermines the notion of a subject separate from recognizable objects. This kind of Participation in relationships creates opportunities for knowledge (2015, 25), but the approach moves away from notions of essential objects such as liberal notions of “humanity” and focuses on relationships in order to think about the cosmos.
On the one hand, this notion enables the interpreter to understand the radical variety of relationships and experiences that are expressed in multiple ways. Rivera affirms that this should not only include rationalized, written and / or systematic forms of knowledge, but also more complex forms of experiencing worlds “con las entrañas” (2018, 121), which include feelings, intuitions, thoughts, arts, images, and other types of Senti-Pensar. Here Rivera is able to participate as another equal subject, to interpret a multitude of meanings, to weave multiple narratives and to construct complex and dynamic maps of relationships (2015, 126).
Within this possibility of understanding diversity, the approach allows us to go beyond the essentialist claims of objectivity and singularity, which often lead to otherness and violence in civilizing projects. In this sense, Rivera’s approach is a deep critique of the objectivity that emerges from fragmented social visions (Rivera 2015, 91). At the same time, however, Rivera recognizes the problem that arises when this logic is generalized as another foundation, reality, or perfect foundation. By assuming that co-participation is the essence of the cosmos itself, and by universalizing this epistemologically balancing understanding of relationality, the interpreter’s position as an equal subject would also be assimilated, his authority to demand any change or transformation, undermined and epistemic is extinguished. In addition, the generalized convergence of all relationships undermines the ability to judge even the “colonial” aspects of some relationships. This threat to action and categorization is discussed by Rivera in her definition of Khä Pacha (2015, 212). The re-essentialization of a further approach could thus lead to the universalization of a certain logic, the concept of epistemic equality and the understanding of relationality, which in this case could cause a paralyzing destruction of all action. Instead, Rivera urges us to use this dilemma and threatening tendency as another starting point.
Decolonial Action in Precarity: Creeds and Epistemic Moments
Instead of reaching for the “master tools” (Lorde 2018), Rivera seems to maintain tension on a cosmological level. The epistemic elevation of a “humanity” or even broader logic of equality make it possible to act, but often at the expense of “others”. or towards indiscriminate notions of deconstruction. Rather than looking for the perfect and universal answer to this dilemma by building another essentialist epistemic platform like the notion of geopolitics, Rivera’s approach teaches us to perpetuate this dilemma as a constantly lurking and unsolvable question. In a sense, it avoids the destruction of all action and aims to create a possibility of decoloniality, but it also teaches us that this practice emerges from the emptiness of Kha Pacha, abandons consolidated foundations and adopts completely innocent or perfect solutions.
To achieve this goal, Rivera constructs her moment of epistemic elevation and action separate from the cosmos and reality ‘out there’. It teaches us to construct actions without the arrogance that comes from taking them as indisputable foundations. Rivera explains that she “… makes a creed based on the idea that decolonization can only be realized in practice. However, this would be a reflexive and communicative practice based on the desire to regain a memory and our own physicality ”(2015, 28). This creed enables the epistemic elevation of a limited definition of relationality and equality, which includes a consistent form of decolonial action, but at the same time action is detached from the essence of the cosmos and only made possible by a multiple, more precarious epistemic validation platform, which is ultimately based on the political “energy des Desire ”(2015, 302).
This cosmologically precarious epistemic moment of the survey focuses on the “fact of colonialism” (Rivera 2015, 28), which validates voices denouncing different types of otherness, violence, exploitation, marginalization and / or death. Rivera epistemically emphasizes the “convergence” of meanings. Her research field includes the possibility of depicting meaningful “convergences” and / or “discursive atmospheres” that arise from the synthesis of texts, voices and images (2015, 23–24). This ability to find and interpret convergences assumes that meanings contain common elements that could belong to voices outside the interpreter himself. The fact of their convergence presupposes a social moment of common meanings that goes beyond the interpreter herself. Therefore the possibility of convergence gives the depicted and interpreted meanings an epistemic status of non-arbitrariness and validity. Furthermore, this epistemic form of non-arbitrariness equally affirms the different voices that weave different ways of being, knowing, and acting. That is, the epistemic assumption of convergence acts as an epistemic moment of validation and equality; it establishes the relativity of the universalized difference and creates a moment of action.
This possibility of action arises insofar as we assume that convergences make different types of knowing, being and acting equally valid. Then their incorporation or articulation into the logic of dominant discourses, which locate “them” as inferior, less “real”, more “traditional” or “uncivilized”, becomes unjustified and epistemically problematized. Their extinction is also classified as a moment of illegitimate violence. The equality of converging meanings invalidates otherness, which also denounces the way in which “others” are often viewed as inferior to justify exploitation, violence and / or death.
One of the fruitful aspects of this epistemic moment of elevation and definition is that it enables us to avoid what Cho, Crenshaw, and McCall have termed “single-axis thinking” (2013, 787). By following the multiple paths in which converging voices confront and break annexation, we can discuss how dominant discourses aim to drive others through different axes of power such as race, gender, class, sexuality, etc. Furthermore, the possibility of converging voices leads us listening, including mapping the ways in which these axes might converge or intersect. In this sense, this form of decoloniality can be viewed as “intersectional” (Crenshaw 1991; Cho, Crenshaw and McCall 2013; Collins 2015). Whenever a common and converging voice reveals a moment of annexation, either of highly institutionalized civilization projects or of anti-colonial moments of struggle, it breaks this assimilating tendency and creates more possibilities for difference. Therefore Rivera discusses the importance of indigenous and ethnic struggles in Bolivia against colonial legacies that still force experiences of exploitation, marginalization and violence, but she also limits the scope of these movements when gender-specific experiences (Rivera 2010a, 179) and ecological issues ( 2015.), 219) across these projects.
Another advantage of this approach is that it involves a continuous invitation to listen (Rivera 2015, 270). The interpreter can analyze various narratives from the convergence of certain voices and create a map of struggles, voices and projects, but this map can be challenged by other converging voices that may have been ignored, assimilated or previously erased by the universalization of tendencies of other struggles . That is, the approach creates a much more circular and bottom-up way of mapping, which leads to a more reflective and context-dependent “moral compass” (Rivera 2018, 80). Because of the epistemic status of convergences, the interpreter must remain open to other types of knowledge, being, and action that could again counter the universalizing tendencies of mapped struggles, agents, and projects.
Finally, the epistemic notion of convergence and its consistent notion of equality provide a way of determining how much deconstruction is required in a given context to construct more decoloniality and difference. That is, the epistemic status of converging voices requires the de-universalization of the dominant discourses that annex “others” in certain contexts, but once these ways of knowing, being and acting lose their privilege, the approach no longer requires further deconstruction. Thus, this type of decoloniality tries to create a “planetarity” that depends on the micropolitics of the confrontations (Rivera 2018, 57). Here Rivera specifically seeks to oppose the universality of liberal ideas of “globalization” that homogenize and assimilate worlds, but she seeks to achieve this goal by creating a possibility of heterogeneity and difference for multiple worlds, including provincialized Western ideas. She consistently tries to construct a possibility of “self-poiesis” (Rivera 2018, 84); a way to be. In this sense, Rivera teaches us to go beyond the logic of the self and the other and only ask about the possibility of a contextualized de-universalization and desubjugation.
Due to the polysemic meanings, our position differences and many other factors, I do not claim to “translate” Rivera’s work. At the same time, I do not want to commit symbolic extractivism and claim my own ideas, which are only possible thanks to your writings. My work is only possible as a provincial interpretation of Rivera’s writings, embedded in a genealogy of Bolivian intellectual productions, in conversation with ideas of intersectionality and often influenced by concerns that arise from a particular experience of colonialism. Apart from some of the fruitful implications that result from the kind of decolonial practice outlined above, I analyze this approach because it also has a deeper ramification in that it creates a moment of epistemic positing and condition for the possibility of action.
In abandoning the essentialist understanding of cosmology, this approach teaches us to start from a dilemma that cannot be resolved by assumptions of correspondence, reality, certainty and perfection. Instead, it is an ever-present question that requires action, but keeps reminding us of the inevitable limits of our provincial epistemic constructions. Consequently, the commitment to the equality of meaningful convergences avoids the threat of a pure deconstruction or “essence” of a cosmos.
This questioning and balancing concept of cosmology fruitfully carries the dilemma of difference and practice and calls on us to act with humility and reflexivity. Furthermore, the cosmological equivalence of epistemic platforms democratizes the discussions between different approaches, as they are asked to abandon the isolated thrones that often support them behind the claim of a perfect and singular “reality” in a more transparent way. For example, the idea of intersectional decoloniality is fruitful because it aims to expand the possibility of difference, to listen to multiple struggles at the same time, and to create more open ways of living together. At the same time, the approach teaches us to stop deconstruction at the contextual point where dominant discourses internalize and annex “others”.
On the other hand, the Kha Pacha and the ongoing dilemma remind us that this is just a creed among other things; it is a moment of epistemic settlement in the threatening emptiness of the Khä Pacha. Hence, this cosmology challenges us to think about the limits of our approaches. This particular understanding of relationality could, for example, differ from other approaches, which could have fruitful insights and more comprehensive practical concepts (Trownsell et al. 2019; Kurki 2021). The Khä Pacha therefore calls for a moment of democratic dialogue between different approaches that can create deeper learning opportunities and more honest opportunities for solidarity.
Alcoreza, Raul Prada. 2014. “Epistemologia Pluralista”. in the Pluralismo Epistemológico, edited by Amílcar B. Zambrana, 13–55. Cochabamba, Bolivia: FUNPROEIB Andes. https://es.scribd.com/doc/296610165/Pluralismo-Epistemologico.
Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge.
Cho, Sumi, Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, and Leslie McCall. 2013. “Towards a Field of Intersectionality Studies, Applications, and Practice.” character 38 (4): 785-810.
Collins, Patricia Hill. 2015. “Definitive dilemmas of intersectionality.” Annual review of sociology 41: 1-20.
Crenshaw, Kimberlé W. 1991. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence Against Colored Women.” Stanford Law Review 43: 1241-99.
Doty, Roxanne Lynn. 1997. “Aporia: A Critical Examination of the Agent Structure Problem in International Relations Theory.” European journal for international relations 3: 365-92.
Foucault, Michel. 1970. The order of things, an archeology of the human sciences. New York: Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
———. 1972. The archeology of knowledge and language discourse. New York: Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
———. 1997. Society Must Be Defended, Lectures at College De France, 1975-1976. New York: Picador.
George, Jim and David Campbell. 1990. “Patterns of Dissent and the Celebration of Difference: Critical Social Theory and International Relations.” International studies quarterly 34 (3): 269-93.
Habermas, Jürgen. 1992. Post-Metaphysical Thinking: Philosophical Essays. Boston: Beacon Press.
Inayatullah, Naeem, and David L. Blaney. 2004. International Relations and the Problem of Difference. New York: Routledge.
Kurki, Milja. 2021. “Relational Revolution and Relationality in IR: New Conversations.” Review of international studies, 1-16.
Lord, Audre. 2018. Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house. N / A: penguin.
Man, Susan Archer. 2013. “The unhappy marriage of post-structuralism and the intersectionality theory of third wave feminism.” Journal for Feminist Scholarship 4: 54-73.
McCall, Leslie. 2005. “The Complexity of Intersectionality.” character 30 (3): 1771-1800.
Mignolo, Walter. 2000. Local Stories / Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledge and Frontier Thinking. Princeton Studies in Culture / Power / History. Princeton, N.J .: Princeton University Press.
Mignolo, Walter, and Catherine E. Walsh. 2018. On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, and Practice. About decoloniality. Durham: Duke University Press.
Reinaga, Fausto. 2014. Fausto Reinaga: Obras Completas. 10 vol. La Paz: Vice-Presidency of the Estado Plurinacional.
Rivera, Silvia Cusicanqui. 1999. “Sendas y Senderos de La Ciencia Social Andina.” Dispositio, Critica Cultural En Latinoamérica: Paradigmas Globales y Enunciaciones Locales 24: 149-69.
———. 2010a. Violencias (Re) Encubiertas En Bolivia. La Paz: La Mirada Salvaje.
———. 2010b. “The term ‘rights’ and the paradoxes of post-colonial modernity: Indigenous peoples and women in Bolivia.” Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences 18 (2): 29-54. https://doi.org/10.5250/quiparle.18.2.29.
———. 2012. “Ch’ixinakax Utxiwa: A reflection on the practices and discourses of decolonization.” South Atlantic Quarterly 111 (1): 95-109. https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-1472612.
———. 2015. Sociología de La Imagen. Miradas Ch’ixi Desde La Historia Andina. Buenos Aires: Tinta Limón.
———. 2018. El Mundo Ch’ixi Es Posible: Ensayos Desde Un Presente En Crisis. Buenos Aires: Tinta Limón.
Likewise, Marcos. 2021. Intersectional decoloniality: Rethinking IR and the problem of difference. Worlds beyond the west. New York: Routledge.
Seth, Vanita. 2010. Europe’s Indians: Racial Differences, 1500-1900. Durham: Duke University Press.
Trownsell, Tamara, Amaya Querejazu Escobari, Giorgio Shani, Navnita Chadha Behera, Jarrad Reddekop and Arlene B. Tickner. 2019. “Redesigning international relations through relationality.” E-International Relations (Blog). January 8, 2019. https://www.e-ir.info/2019/01/08/recrafting-international-relations-through-relationality/.
Viaña, Jorge, Luis Claros and Marcelo Sarzuri-Lima. 2010. “La Condición Colonial y Los Laberintos de La Descolonización.” Revista Integra Educativa 3 (1): 13-36.
Weber, Cynthia. 2016. Queer international relations: sovereignty, sexuality and the will to know. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wynter, Sylvia. 1995. “The Pope must have been drunk, the King of Castile a madman: culture as reality and the Caribbean rethinking modernity.” in the Culture reorganization: Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada in the hood, by Alvina Ruprecht, 17–42. Ottawa: Carleton University Press.
Further reading on e-international relations