“When I think about binaries, I think of how much the West loves systems of codes and categories. Everything must fit into neat little discrete boxes and there is no room for play or fluidity. I think about the violence that goes into producing, perpetuating and rendering those boxes unquestionable, be that violence of the obstetrician’s knife, the violence of the prison industrial complex, or the violence of colonization. It is difficult to think of colonization without these boundaries, binaries, and systems of coding. Colonization at its essence seems to be about the coding of indigenous bodies and knowledges into Western systems of classification through material and epistemological violence.”
When I posted this on the discussion board, it was in the context of the Healthy Planet exhibit, the narrative of which created boundaries between the Global North and Global South and between nation-states and cultures– to make a point about health, development, culture and food. Lacking from the exhibit, beyond it’s absence of any kind of critical analysis, was any sense of movement– everything was very fixed into these boundaries and if there was movement, it was things being exported from the West to the rest of the world: brands, foods, etc: globalization, McDonaldization: economic neo-colonialism.
How DO we think about decolonization in this context: the context of boundary production and systems of classification on a global level? I catch myself thinking in binaries constantly. Things are. Or they are not. Certain things are good; others are shit. It is difficult to think about colonization and globalization without having this very visceral reaction to the violence in both. And to see one’s self implicated in this is troublesome, to put it extraordinarily mildly. It is one thing to think we are all indigenous to somewhere and quite another to think about my ancestors coming over on the Mayflower. To locate one’s self at this nexus of privilege on a global scale…
Is decolonization the removal of boundaries? The dismemberment of systems of classification? No. When I think about decolonization’s resonances, I think about environmental pastoral rhetoric– the return to this bucolic time before industrialization, before people, before colonization. And I feel like within the context of environmentalism, it rings especially bullshit– there never was a mythical past pre-people pre-degradation that we can return to, especially since this particular narrative has a tendency to erase indigenous peoples when told by white enviros. we don’t have access to that past and every attempt to tell it is steeped in nostalgia and politics. To return to decolonization, I feel like there is something similar but not analagous– we don’t have access to a pre-colonial time, we can’t rebuild the Americas circa 1491 and indeed that desire can lead us to some genocidal places. Instead when I think seriously about decolonization, I think about a third syncretic option: the disruption of binaries in a much more subtle way.
I think revolutionary rhetoric is shit on a certain level. There will be no revolution. There will be no liberation as this telelogical end point; the end of history, the grand sweeping violent ushering in of a thousand year reign of social justice. The revolution, the liberation is a process, is the struggle itself, is you and me talking, is tiny acts of resistance now and forever. This is not to say that capitalism wont crumble at some point nor that we aren’t living in interesting times, nor to disregard revolutionary struggle here and abroad. But I think its very much a similar thing with decolonization. Decolonization is a process. Decolonization is not something static. It exists within these Western boundary/binary/classification systems and yet at the same time apart, resistant. To build resistance within the belly of the beast, that is perhaps the truly radical move. But at the same time, that is such an ambivalent position and so much tension to hold within one’s self. I think that is what I was trying to get at in my paper for Fem Search Meth.
I also think about the ways that boundaries play out on a very micro scale, separating people from one another through these reified, “self-evident” boundaries. Reaching across institutionalized hierarchies is a truly human gesture but its also incredibly difficult. But that is part of decolonization, perhaps. Thank you so much for an excellent quarter.