“Beyond Dichotomies” Walter Mignolo and Freya Schiwy

Concerned with reshaping the hierchical and contradictory dichotomies that permeate the modern/colonial world, in “Beyond Dichotomies,” Walter Mignolo and Freya Schiwy explain and demonstrate how “translation” has the possibility to imagine new futures, beyond dichotomies, in which the colonial world’s epistemic potential is valued and recognized.  Translation, according to M and S, is more than just translating one language into another.  It is a geopolitical configuration that both embodies history and the subjectivity of its speakers, and for this reason, is simultaneously an act of transculturation.    Transculturation, rather than simply being a centrepital force that unites national identity, is also centrifugal force that creates colonial difference and heirchical dichotomies.  M and S advocate for a ‘change in directionality in the work of translation and transculturation that could help in thinking and moving beyond dichotomies, ethically and politically” (252).


            M and S explain that after 1500, with emergence of moden/colonial world, translation contributed to the construction of hierarchical dichotomies imposing certain rules and directionalities of transculturalation.  Translation contributed to building of colonial difference between Western European languages (languages of science and knowledge and the locus of enunciation) and the rest of the language on the planet (languages of culture, religion, and locus of enunciated).  Western logic conceives of differences in terms of hierarchical dichotomies that began in Renaissance and continue today.  “Translation was indeed the place where the coloniality of power articulated the colonial difference in the modern/colonial world” (254). 


COLONIALITY OF POWER–kind of power exercised in the classification of people and cultures and in the historical and colonial dichotomies implied in such classifications” (255).


            The Zapatistas, according to M and S, changed directionality of transculturation and offered a new theory of translation/transculturation at end of 20th c.  Rather than translate local language into colonist’s language and both construct and erase colonial difference at the same time, the Zapatistas emphasized colonial difference and employed gender as a means of “epistemic and political intervention” (256).  The Zapatistas enacted a double move of translation/transculturation of Marxism into Ameri-Indian cosmology and vice versa in response to hegemonic neoliberalist discourse.  As an example, M and S show how members of the Zapatistas’ (EZLN) intentionally create fractures in translations from local to colonist’s language in order to highlight dimensions of colonial difference.  M and S also demonstrate how intentionally intertwined grammar, cosmology, and language are, which keeps it from being able to be mastered and controlled by “one type of correlation between language, worldviews, knowledge, and wisdom” (257).   M and S “locate translation and transculturation within the overall frame of the colonial difference in the modern/colonial world system, as a process grounded in an ethno-racial, gendered, and epistemological foundation” (255).


            M and S remind us that “colonial difference articulates the external borders of the modern/colonial world system, not its internal-imperial conflicts” (258).  “We are no longer facing the question of ‘the West and the rest,’ but ‘the rest in the West” –a reinscription of colonial difference  (258). Intervention of colonial difference from subaltern perspective helps to dissolve dichotomies “because multiple others challenge the center and critically engage with each other on its interior and exterior borders” (258). Legitimizing cosmologies, language, and knowledges of “non-western” cultures reinstates the logic of dichotomies in the act of criticizing their content” (260). 


“DIVERSALITY–“the conscious harmonization of preserved diversities.


            Example of transculturation:  EZLN’s appropriaton of “democracy,” which in their language means “ruling at the same time as obeying,” into Amerindian languages/cosmologies yet is expressed in Spanish.  This doublemove is an act of political intervention because Z. “are no longer translating Ameriindian languages to Spanish concepts and systems of understanding.  Rather, an Amerindian understanding is rendered in Spanish syntax, becoming transformed in the process and not entirely losing its difference from Western understanding.  In the other direction, from the Spanish/Western language to Amerindian languages, Spanish/Western thinking is transformed, its words inserted and interpreted on the grounds of Amerindian cosmologies” (263).


“Choque” or clash –when two cultures come together in and produce a space of contact and conflict where translation takes place (263).


Translation becomes re-education. The result is an epistemological revolution. rhetoricians need to be re-educated, re-modeled…re-configured… “in the modern world, grammatical treatisies based on alphabetic literary and the expansion of Western Christianity… proliferate.  As self-contained entities, they are placed in dichotomous relations that are not equal or even complementary to each other but defined heirchichally by the geopolitical location of the language as nation” (267).


Spanish language from end of 18th century on was language of consumption of knowledge rather than for knowledge production sustained transnationally. 


Transculturation is at work in the social life of things, and it works in both directions.  It trans-lates objects that transform modes of being and thinking, which at the same time transform the “original” uses and life of the object (268).


Zapatista’s theoretical revolution stems from a colonial difference emerging as the locus of epistemological border thinking, which demands the remapping of translation/transculturation (270). 


Border thinking is “double consciousness from a subaltern perspective in confrontation with hegemony” (272).   Ambiguity develops in what Anzaludua calls a mestizaconsciousness, which needs to and can “‘reinterpret’ history, using new symbols to…call on traditions to and other ways of knowing in order to inscribe them in the present and thus transform and the dominant and hegemonic epistemic space (272).


By “translating/transculturating Western language into Amerindian knowledge and enunciating it back in Spanish to a global audience,  [t]hey are profoundly undoing the binaries at the base of their subalternity, creating border-spaces for translation/transculturation from the epistemic potential of the colonial difference” (274).


Translation is “trans-languaging”–a form of border thinking, opening up new epistemic avenues beyond the complicity between national languages and cultures of scholarship established in the modern/colonial world system and in which the “modern” concept of translation was articulated (277). Beyond dichotomies is an-other logic, not only a reconfiguration of the content” (279).


Tansculturation can best be described as a social conflict between languages and cosmologies in geemonic and subaltern positions, respectively” (266).


1 Comment

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

One response to ““Beyond Dichotomies” Walter Mignolo and Freya Schiwy

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