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Decolonial studies

From theory to practice
Abya Yala/Caribbean/Africa/Europe/Asia

The arrival and emergence of studies, research or reflections claiming to be “decolonial” in Europe or in formerly colonised societies (particularly in Africa) should not be reduced to another anachronistic or nativist intellectual mode seeking to simplify or replay colonial encounters as certain authors or journalists (especially in France) think. If these studies seem recent to the French-speaking reader, and more particularly to the French reader, it should be pointed out that they stem from a Latin-American intellectual critical tradition (dialoguing with several intellectual streams such as the theory of dependence, liberation theology, studies on the world-system) and that several publications by Latin-American or Latin-American researchers have been describing them for several decades. These decolonial studies and research propose to shed light on the complexity of the relations between Modernity (and its narratives and ideologies) and its colonial exteriority. According to several authors, they can be considered as an “option” (Mignolo, 2001), “turning point” (Santiago Castro-Gómez and Ramón Grosfoguel, 2007), or even an “inflection” (Restrepo, 2010) in the human sciences from Latin America and now in several regions of the world. They are characterised by a heterogeneity of postures and axes of reflection. Despite this plurality, it is possible to note, following the example of Restrepo (2010), a “collectivity of argumentation” about problematisations of Modernity based on the experiences and cultures of subalternized groups. Thus, it can be noted that decolonial studies consider that the colonial is embedded in the present through a long historical process and that it was formed in a model of power that naturalises cultural and epistemic hierarchies. This “coloniality” constitutes an exteriority of Eurocentric Modernity which has imposed an epistemic order and a vision of human life from its own perspective on other non-European human societies since the “discovery/eclipse” (descubrimiento/encubrimiento) (Dussel, 1992) of the original populations in 1492 and the beginning of the World-System through the enslavement of African populations. Therefore “coloniality” insidiously cuts across several fields of human life and constitutes a key notion in decolonial critical literature with the emergence of the group Modernity/Coloniality/Decoloniality (Escobar, 2005).

However, one of the theoretical proposals of decolonial studies is to account for the “pluriversality” of knowledge and know-how, i.e. to take the hypothesis that Modernity is plural by relying on a geopolitical reading of epistemological production, by analysing the long processes of subalternization, by highlighting the innumerable local knowledges, by describing the cultural and intellectual reformulations and negotiations between the West and former colonised societies. As a result, decolonial studies tend to have a very theoretical orientation that seems to be very abstract and difficult to apply empirically. In this issue of RED, we seek to account for and explain the different decolonial practices in relation to cultural, political, environmental, racial, gendered, artistic, pedagogical and medical phenomena around the world. It is therefore relevant to receive contributions relating empirical research based on a decolonial perspective, accounts of experiences or case studies on social, cultural and political practices with the aim of reflecting the stakes and challenges of pluralism.

Thus, for this issue, we are expecting proposals showing how the decolonial perspective in all its forms – artistic, culinary, ethnobotanical, social, pedagogical, etc. – is concretely implemented. While it is true that several decolonial works provide a reading of certain social movements, this approach lacks empirical elements that would allow us to identify a decolonial praxis. On the other hand, the aim of this issue is to account for the diversity of practical applications of the decolonial perspective in several societies. Proposals that describe African, European, Asian, Caribbean or Abya Yala contexts in various formats (interviews, classic articles, videos, etc.) are welcome.

Proposals can be sent in French, Spanish, Portuguese and English before 30 May 2021 to the following address: reseau.etudes.decoloniales@gmail.com.

Sébastien Lefèvre, Université Gaston Berger, Ndar, Senegal.
Paul Raoul Mvengou Cruzmerino, Université Omar Bongo, Gabon.
Lenita Perrier, Docteure en anthropologie sociale de l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), France.
Tamara Sánchez Albarracín, Masterante en études féministes, Université de Paris, France.
Sonia Tarby, Doctorante en littérature comparée et géographie, UFR Lettres, Besançon, France.