Mignolo, Walter “Globalization, Civilization Processes, and the Relocation of Languages and Cultures”

In this article, Mignolo explores the complicities of languages, literatures, and the culture of scholarship in the civilizing process, modernity, and globalization, all of which have contributed to the expansion of the “Western world-system” in part by denying the denial of coevalness.  Mignolo reminds us that dominant languages and scholarship came from the same countries that produced and perpetuated the civilizing mission of “third world” countries and thus English is the colonial language in which the “domain of knowledge, intellectual production, and cultures of scholarship” arose.  In the current stage of globalization, however, “the ‘natural’ link between languages and nations, languages and national memories, languages and national literature…is creating the condition for and enacting the relocation of languages and the fracture of cultures” (43).  In addition, cultures of scholarship are being relocated and a “border gnoseology is emerging at the intersection of Western epistemology and non-Western knowledge, characterized as ‘wisdom’ by the former” (43).  In Latin American, for instance, the politics of language and education is being heavily influenced by a growing indigenous culture of scholarship made possible in part by both technological globalization and transnational alliances but mostly by a growing body of organic intellectuals who sparked a rise of Amerindian social movements by appropriating “theoretical practices and elaborated projects, engulfing and superseding the discourse of the civilizing mission and its theoretical foundations (44-5).   What has emerged in these borderlands, Mignolo points out, is a new consciousness, a” border gnosis,” that denies the denial of barbarism and coevalness. As he explains:

the forces of ’barbarian’ theorizing and rationality” integrat[es] and supersed[es] the restrictive logic behind the idea of ‘civilization’ by giving rise to what the civilizing mission suppressed:  the self-appropriation of all the good qualities that were denied the barbarians.  ‘Border gnoseology’ (rather than epistemology) in all its complexity (geocultural, sexual, racial, national, diasporic, exilic, etc.) is a new way of thinking that emerges from the sensibilities and conditions of everyday life created by colonial legacies and economic globalization” (46). 

In this sense, “barbarian theorizing” as it “redress[es] and implement[s] long-lasting forces, sensibilities, and rationalities repressed by the one-sided ideology of the civilizing mission/process” does not so much “oppose ’civilian’ (in the double meaning of civilization and citizenship) ‘theorizing’” but displace it and depart from it (49).


At the end of his article, Mignolo points out that theorizing from the border is made possible by being both trained in “civilizing theorizing” and living and experiencing in subaltern communities.  In addition, he emphasizes that “barbarian theorizing” ‘from/of the “third world” is for and benefits the whole world, not just the “third world” (51).


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