Saturday, 23 July 2011

On the Coloniality of Being

 by Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Cultural Studies, 2007

The concept of coloniality of Being emerged in discussions of a diverse group of scholars doing work on coloniality and decolonization. More particularly, we owe the idea to Walter D. Mignolo, who reflected on it in writing as early as 1995. I do not remember exactly when it was that I heard or read the term for the first time. I believe that it was in 2000 in a talk given by Mignolo at Boston College but I do know that since I heard it, it caught my attention in an unusual way. The reason was that when I heard it I had already spent some time working on the thought of Martin Heidegger and some of his critics who engaged his work from the perspective of questions related to race and the colonial experience. Heidegger, who is considered by many one of the two most original European philosophers of the twentieth century (the other being
Ludwig Wittgenstein), left an indelible mark in European philosophy by continuing Nietzsche’s frontal attack of modernity and epistemologically centered philosophy with an elaboration of what he referred to as fundamental ontology. Heidegger’s formulation of a new starting point for philosophy consisted in a rearticulation of the question of Being, which influenced many other intellectuals thereafter, the most notable perhaps being the French-Algerian philosopher Jacques Derrida.

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