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The "coloniality of power" is an expression coined by Anibal Quijano to name the structures of power, control, and hegemony that have emerged during the modernist era, the era of colonialism, which stretches from the conquest of the Americas to the present. A vast movement of the world's people, in the aftermath of colonialism's demise, and fleeing the impoverishment, derailed development, and debt-servitude it left as its heritage, has accelerated toward the heartland of that colonialism: Europe and the US.
This diaspora a logical response to the EuroAmerican despoliation of the third world's resources and public assets. The people of post-colonial regions, divested of their economies, and thus of their ability to live, follow their pillaged wealth into the EuroAmerican economies that plundered them. In the US, they face a virulent anti-immigrant machine that combines a racist populism with arbitrary policing and a militarized border.
Yet, under the aegis of corporate globalization, the immigrant laborer should have no different status than the worker who moves to Chicago from a rust-belt city like Youngtown looking for employment. Both are engaged in the same endeavor. If the immigrant reveals the machinery of coloniality that still surrounds the US economy, a similar coloniality, interior to the US border, is reflected in the Youngstown worker's decision to cross state lines. Yet they stand on opposite sides of an ideological boundary, whose many names include "ethnicity" or "national identity.
We all live within a multiplicity of colonialities; subjected in both body and mind. It is not only our labor, or our sexualities and genders that mark colonial relations; it is not only the wars, the mass murder and death squads organized by imperialist classes, nor the subcolonies formed by women, African-American communities, or ethnic identities; it is also the hegemonic mind, the white, or masculinist, or heterosexist, or national chauvinist mind that constitutes and is constituted by coloniality.
We face a political situation in which an absence of ethics, a stench of death and corruption, surrounds us. Appearing in all domains of US governance and its institutional relations to people and to nations, this corruption presupposes an unspoken permissibility for itself -- for its wars, for mass murder, and for the torture that has appeared all too familiar to this society. We thus face the question of who we are in this mirror.
The power of coloniality, as a structure of control, is that it speaks for us so forcefully that we see no recourse but to represent it, to uphold its existence, to ratify its dispensing with ethics and with the sanctity of human life in everything we say and do as labor and resource.
It is not only the insufficiency of class struggles or revolutions that beset us, whose results have fallen into debt-servitude by falling for commodification and coloniality.
It is the acceptibility of that corruption to those who should most be in opposition to it that strikes hardest, and gives measure to the success of the coloniality of power.
The coloniality of power constitutes a matrix that operates through control or hegemony over authority, labor, sexuality, and subjectivity -- that is, the practical domains of political administration, production and exploitation, personal life and reproduction, and world-view and interpretive perspective. The forms these have taken are the nation-state, capitalism, the nuclear family, and eurocentrism.
Eurocentrism functions as the ideological valorization of EuroAmerican society as superior, progressive, and universal, though it really represents white supremacy, capitalist profitability, and EuroAmerican self-universalization. To throw off this post-colonial form of colonialism, to decolonize today, means throwing off this entire eurocentric system. To understand what this means we shall have to examine the history of its emergence. In the time prior to the conquest, Europe was a poor, rural penisula on the western edge of Asia, with little of value to offer the world economy.
Dussel At the center of the world economy, between India and Baghdad, Europeans found themselves hopelessly outcompeted, or ignored. The only means they were able to imagine to gain access to this world economy was conquest: the crusades of the middle ages, the 15th century slave trade from west Africa, the expulsion of the Moors and Jews from Spain, and the conquest of the Americas in the 16th.
The project to enslave the American peoples enters the thinking of Columbus on his first voyage among the islands of the Caribbean. The Spanish conquest of the Americas provided Europe with a means of entry into the world economy: money.
Ironically, the massive influx of gold and silver corrupted and depressed Spain itself. Its vitality fled to the Americas, while the ability to use Europe's new wealth moved north, to the shipping and banking companies of England and Holland.
In years, the indigenous population of the Caribbean region, and much of Mexico and Peru, had been decimated, and the slave trade that replenished it with Africans had become the most profitable industry in the entire Atlantic economy. The so-called age of enlightenment opened and flourished with the dark groans of dark men and women in the unlit holds of ships, carried to a darker destiny, while pouring untold wealth into the vaults of Europe. It shifted the center of the world economy to the Atlantic.
It was not Europe that put America on the map. It was the Americas -- the land of the Americas, the seizure and transformation of that land into European property, the destruction of the societies that had lived on that land, and the seizure of African people to be enslaved on that land -- that put Europe on the map. Modernism wades up onto the shores of Europe drenched in American and African blood, and declares itself the most advanced, the most civilized of societies, a bastion against the barbarism of the rest of the world.
The incineration of whole Iraqi families in their cars at US checkpoints in Baghdad during the spring of is but a distant reflection of Virginia in , or the Spanish administration of Cuba a century earlier.
What consolidated the seizure of land, in areas in which indigenous people had no concept of property in land, was race. Mignolo When people have lived with the land as ecology and habitat, to separate and alienate them from it as their most intimate means of living, and then bring them back to work on that same land to which they could no longer lay claim, requires a great wrenching of consciousness, a massive indoctrination.
One cannot simply impose the name of "owner;" the invention of a discernible distinction, a process of self-superiorization through the inferiorization of others, is necessary. The origin of race is inseparable from land in seizure.
Race, slavery, the concept of property in human beings as wealth itself, are all tied together in the juridical commodification of the land.
The transformation of land into property was consolidated socially through the invention of racialization in the colonies. Racialization occurred in different terms in the Spanish colonies than it did in the English colonies, but the purpose and effect was the same.
Its purpose was to create a system of social categorization that differentiated between who could own land and who would be forced to work on it; a distiction in social category between who could define, and who was to be defined. Mere military superiority does not inferiorize; for the most part, it generates resistance. A more inclusive social process is required to consolidate conquest.
It involves defining juridical structures, forms of spirituality and religion, and the nature of personhood for others. It is the power to define that divests others of the power to define themselves, to lay claim to juridicality or a spirituality of their own, and eventually results in a concept of racial difference. This act of divestment, and the social inferiorization attendant upon its accompanying impoverishment, were the indispensible bases for the self-superiorization of those who had seized the land, and defined ownership on it.
Coloniality kills those who lead resistance or rebellion, and uses the subsequent leaderlessness to inferiorize those who would have followed. Operation Phoenix the Vietnam war name for this begins in the s. It is the source of the myth that Cuba would fall apart if Castro were to be killed. For the Spanish, racialization emerged as a structure attaching people of different origins to specific economic strata and modes of labor exploitation.
At first, the indigenous as such were enslaved. In the Caribbean region, they were quickly decimated by their separation from former means of physical and cultural survival. The starvation imposed on them by their conditions of labor brought them either death for rebellion or death from disease. When African labor was brought to the Spanish colonies to replenish the deficit, and some Franciscans particularly Bartolomeo de Las Casas convinced the king to ban further enslavement of the indigenous, a multi-stratified labor system emerged that became the organizing principle for defining race.
Africans were held as slaves, and sold as slaves. Indigenous people were held in encomiendas, then incorporated into a hacienda system, in a form of feudal serfdom. Mestizos, the product of the European seizure of indigenous and African women, filled the artisanal and urban clerical positions of colonial society, and formed an incipient middle class. The criollo, those of colonialist blood, yet born in the colonies, filled the administrative bureaucracies.
And the Spanish born, pure in Christian "blood" and ancestry, and granted land ownership by the distant monarchy, constituted the elite, the aristocracy of the colonies.
While the indigenous could be considered the first "race," that is, relationally racialized with respect to the Spanish as racializer, the complex economic system of colonial settlement produced a more complex hierarchy, organized according to ancestry, that equated raciality with class.
If one was a slave, then one was "black," etc. Because no juridical bans against mixed marriages were imposed, a modicum of class movement between slavery, the serfdom, and the artisanal classes was possible from generation to generation, as the colonial economy developed. A different mode of racialization occurred in the English colonies.
Those colonies were not administered by military conquest, nor by land tenure related to a monarchy. Colonial administration, and the apportionment of land, was done through a corporate structure whose goal was productive profitability rather than resource extraction. The land seized was turned into capitalist enterprise, rather than feudal community.
The plantations of Virginia were never as large as the Spanish land-grants, and concentrated on mass-production of agricultural commodities for an international market, rather than self-sufficiency as a land-grant complex of communities. The Colonial Council rather than a land grantee served as an on-site board of directors, responsible to a London board; and its function, as in all corporations, was to organize production, guarantee a labor supply, and facilitate marketing of the product.
The English plantations were really the first form of large agro-business, and in their accounting, as businesses, the labor they indentured was accounted for as wealth. Though at first English bond-labor was used on the plantations, the colony shifted to African bond-labor after the s for a number of reasons. As the colonies grew, it became easier for English labor to escape, and blend in elsewhere, which was not the case for the Africans.
English labor, though chattel because held by indenture contract, lost its estate value as the laborer's contractual release date approached. The Africans were given no contracts because they were not English, and thus had no protection against arbitrary extension of their term of servitude. Though originally held for customary terms, African servitude was slowly extended by various means, since it represented an immediate enhancement of plantation wealth.
The value of the African bond-laborer was assessed through auction markets that developed for the Africans since, in the absence of a contract, transfer required a market place. The auction price became the on-going determination of the laborer's "value," like stock prices in the stock market.
In sum, there was economic pressure to codify African labor as slavery which occurred in and , and to render the African person wealth as such.
But this did not yet express a racialization. When the English first arrived, they did not see themselves as white, and the terms they used for themselves, for the Africans and for the indigenous, referred to geographical origin "Negro" referred to Africa rather than "race," for instance.
The concept of racialization did not take hold until the s. The English defined a white racialized identity for themselves by racializing the African labor force as slave, other, and finally as black.
Racialization occurred through a transformation of color terms from descriptive to racializing, referring to social category rather than bodily characteristic. In terms of social categorization, race must be understood as essentially relational, a social relationality, and not something inherent in the people so racialized.
The contemporary concept of race derives from the English version. It was in the English colonies that the concept of "whiteness," and a notion of "white supremacy" even a concept of "white nation" as theorized by Ben Franklin, and other independence luminaries were developed. Its extension to all EuroAmerican thinking as a "natural" division of the human species by a variety of European theorists, such as Linneaus, Buffon, Gobineau, etc. Whites did not simply gain racial supremacy within a field in which a number of races already existed; they invented race as a system in which they were already supreme, a field of definition in which other races already inferior.
Though "racism" is alleged to exist between other races than the white, all racialization has occurred with respect to white supremacy itself, as the inventor and generator of the concept of race, and thus all racism makes essential reference to "white racism.
But social categorization occurs within a social framework and boundary. The indigenous peoples of Virginia were excluded from the colony from the beginning because they successfully resisted enslavement. As a result, they were criminalized as savage, denigrated as "heathen," and eventually denied even the subhuman status accorded slaves.
Private dealings with them of any kind without Council license was banned and punished. But in great part, the indigenous were excluded from the colony in order to maintain the sanctity of commodity production, to keep it from being corrupted by the more communal form of production of those indigenous societies. Indeed, English settlers who escaped to the indigenous were recaptured and often killed. The English colonies also banned mixed marriages, and eventually all sexual relations, between themselves and the Africans, whereas the Spanish did not.
In a long series of ever more severe criminalizations of such intimacy, the colony adjudicated a binary categorization for itself, upon which Europe derived a concept of race whose defining characteristic was a "purity" for whiteness.
Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America
The "coloniality of power" is an expression coined by Anibal Quijano to name the structures of power, control, and hegemony that have emerged during the modernist era, the era of colonialism, which stretches from the conquest of the Americas to the present. A vast movement of the world's people, in the aftermath of colonialism's demise, and fleeing the impoverishment, derailed development, and debt-servitude it left as its heritage, has accelerated toward the heartland of that colonialism: Europe and the US. This diaspora a logical response to the EuroAmerican despoliation of the third world's resources and public assets. The people of post-colonial regions, divested of their economies, and thus of their ability to live, follow their pillaged wealth into the EuroAmerican economies that plundered them.
Coloniality of power
The coloniality of power is a concept interrelating the practices and legacies of European colonialism in social orders and forms of knowledge, advanced in postcolonial studies , decoloniality , and Latin American subaltern studies , most prominently by Anibal Quijano. It identifies and describes the living legacy of colonialism in contemporary societies in the form of social discrimination that outlived formal colonialism and became integrated in succeeding social orders. Quijano argues that the colonial structure of power resulted in a caste system, where Spaniards were ranked at the top and those that they conquered at the bottom due to their different phenotypic traits and a culture presumed to be inferior. Maria Lugones expands the definition of coloniality of power by noting that it imposes values and expectations on gender as well,  in particular related to the European ranking of women as inferior to men. Coloniality of power takes three forms: systems of hierarchies , systems of knowledge , and cultural systems. The important distinction in the concept of coloniality of power is the ways that this heterogeneous structural process shaped the modern world.