Opening Plenary: Postcolonial Worlds 1

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‘Bilingual Thoughts on Knowledge and Action’
Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui (Workshop on Andean Oral History, Bolivia)

The talk will concentrate on aymara concepts such as taypi, ch’ixi, pachakuti, tari and others, reflecting on the aymara modes of knowledge of the pacha (space/time) and on the collective and individual relations with the cosmos through action. A practical example of a localized yet transborderline thought, the presentation will use image, sound and a bilingual textuality to expose a series of “pictures” or representations of these knowledge/action practices through examples taken from Andean history.

I will also try to develop a practical critique of Aristotelian dualism and of the idea of a “strategic essentialism”. Instead, I will propose the concept of ch’ixi at the epistemological, perceptual and pragmatic levels. I will concentrate on exploring the decolonizing potentials of ch’ixi intellectual and corporal practices for the reconstitution of decolonized subjectivities. The power of the clash of contraries that this term implies will be proposed as a decolonizing tool for the reconstitution of a common moral ground in which both the individual and the community are radically coexistent, both free and voluntarily bonded.

‘On the Question of “Political Violence” Today’
Rosalind C. Morris (Anthropology, Columbia University)

Liberal concepts of the political depend on an anthropological axiomatic: that the institution of the political is established on the basis of a radical opposition between language and violence. A deconstructionist critique of that binarism must conclude that such an opposition is without ‘grounds’, in Kant’s sense, but an anthropological pragmatism responds by stating that its presumption nonetheless effectuates a category of the political on which basis social worlds are ordered and individuals subjectivated. What’s more, this logic subtends the entire project of humanitarian interventionism—whether in the form of imperial conquest or, today, wars to liberate people for the project of democracy. This talk explores what is necessary for this process to occur, and argues that it rests on the categorical exclusion of two kinds of violence from the realm of the political: on the one hand, all that which goes by the name of ‘domestic violence’; on the other, war. In this context, I examine the recent and continuing US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other places, while analyzing the relationship between this conception of the political and a different concept of democracy. Arguing against a culturalist response to the false universalism of liberal theory, I suggest that we take seriously the proposition (proffered by every religious conservatism in the world) that democracy is a threat, by recognizing its incompatibility with this conception of the political, and, moreover, with every discourse of culturalism.