ALLYING WITH DECOLONIALITY
in a Difficult Climate
WORKSHOP + CONVERSATION
with TEJU COLE
…colonialism is not simply content to impose its rule upon the present and the future of a dominated country. Colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverse logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts it, disfigures and destroys it
-Franz Fanon, The Wretched…1961 (as quoted in Walter Mignolo's Delinking)
What is termed globalization is the culmination of a process that began with the constitution of America and colonial/modern Eurocentered capitalism as a new global power. One of the fundamental axes of this model of power is the social classification of the world’s population around the idea of race, a mental construction that expresses the basic experience of colonial domination and pervades the more important dimensions of global power, including its specific rationality: Eurocentrism. The racial axis has a colonial origin and character, but it has proven to be more durable and stable than the colonialism in whose matrix it was established. Therefore, the model of power that is globally hegemonic today presupposes an element of coloniality.
-Anibal Quijano, Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America
...the fact that certain members of the oppressor class join the oppressed in their struggle for liberation, thus moving from one pole of the contradiction to the other... Theirs is a fundamental role, and has been throughout the history of this struggle. It happens, however, that as they cease to be exploiters or indifferent spectators or simply the heirs of exploitation and move to the side of the exploited, they almost always bring with them the marks of their origin: their prejudices and their deformations, which include a lack of confidence in the people's ability to think, to want, and to know. Accordingly, these adherents to the people's cause constantly run the risk of falling into a type of generosity as malefic as that of the oppressors. The generosity of the oppressors is nourished by an unjust order, which must be maintained in order to justify that generosity. Our converts, on the other hand, truly desire to transform the unjust order; but because of their background they believe that they must be the executors of the transformation. They talk about the people, but they do not trust them; and trusting the people is the indispensable precondition for revolutionary change. A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust.
-Paolo Friere, Pedagogy of the oppressed
there is no modernity without coloniality…coloniality is constitutive, and not derivative, of modernity
-Walter D Mignolo
This workshop explores allyship with regards to race and culture in contemporary society, particularly in a climate of social unrest. While working to become aware of the politics of their privilege, participants will engage in alternative frameworks and will identify scenarios relating to actions, speech and practice that address the social and cultural implications of allyship in times of social unrest. It begins and ends with a conversation with Teju Cole, author of Known and Strange Things, and Open City.
The workshop is a part of the exhibition Climactic: Post Normal Design co-organized by the CMU School of Design from November 4th to December 11th 2016. The event focuses on design and political activism surrounding issues of coloniality, crises of culture and race, and climate change in both the Global South and North. The curatorial premise of the exhibition is to engage audiences in thinking about the ongoing moment of perpetual contingency and precarity that characterize contemporary life challenges and changes the design disciplines.
TEJU COLE is a writer, art historian, and photographer. He is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College and photography critic of the New York Times Magazine.
He was born in the US in 1975 to Nigerian parents, and raised in Nigeria. He currently lives in Brooklyn. He is the author of two books, a novella, Every Day is for the Thief, named a book of the year by the New York Times, the Globe and Mail, NPR, and the Telegraph, and shortlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award, and a novel, Open City, which also featured on numerous book of the year lists, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the New York City Book Award for Fiction, the Rosenthal Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Internationaler Literaturpreis, and was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and the Ondaatje Prize of the Royal Society of Literature. His photography column at the New York Times Magazine was a finalist for a 2016 National Magazine Award.
Teju Cole has contributed to the New Yorker, Granta, Brick, and several other magazines. His forthcoming, Known and Strange Things, is a collection of essays on literature, art, travel, and politics. His photography has been exhibited in India, Iceland, and the US, published in a number of journals, and was the subject of a solo exhibition in Italy in the spring of 2016. He has lectured widely, from the Harvard Graduate School of Design to Twitter Headquarters, and gave the 2014 Kenan Distinguished Lecture in Ethics at Duke University. He was awarded the 2015 Windham Campbell Prize for Fiction as well as a US Artists award.
Dimeji Onafuwa is a design consultant, researcher and PHD candidate with 15 years experience in professional practice. His research in the field of social design focuses on design’s impact on the costs of contributing to a commons. His most recent consulting work is with a Fortune 500 company on Open Data and the commons.
Jabe is an award-winning international speaker. He is frequently invited to be a keynote speaker and track chair at international conferences, addressing such topics as Failing Well, Management as Design, Learn Like a Scientist and Flow Thinking. His deep practical experience, constant experimentation, and extensive theoretical investigations and readings inform his public speaking and provide a foundational praxis for his active mentorship to a diverse group of colleagues, clients and entrepreneurs.
Jabe is currently pursuing a PhD at Carnegie Mellon University. He lives in Pittsburgh with his partner Molly, their daughter and son; and an lovely grumpy old Jack Russel Terrier.
People of color, women, and gays -- who now have greater access to the centers of influence that ever before -- are under pressure to be well-behaved when talking about their struggles. There is an expectation that we can talk about sins but no one must be identified as a sinner: newspapers love to describe words or deeds as "racially charged" even in those cases when it would be more honest to say "racist"; we agree that there is rampant misogyny, but misogynists are nowhere to be found; homophobia is a problem but no one is homophobic. One cumulative effect of this policed language is that when someone dares to point out something as obvious as white privilege, it is seen as unduly provocative. Marginalized voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely from the discourse.
I negotiate my way through this by reminding myself that specific hurts are related to more general hurts. I might specifically be a black man in America, but when I sit down to work I also have to keep in mind what is endured by women, or gay people, or political dissidents. I don’t do it to draw a facile link between sufferings, but to insist that we all begin from the same ground: that of being human. We all have feelings, and we all have a longing to make sense of the things we feel. As a writer, I seek to articulate that common pain. That’s not pessimist, it’s realist. But of course, that’s what every pessimist says.
Portions of text dervied from http://citizencodeofconduct.org/
There’s a whole fucking world out there where women and gay men and trans wo/men and racial minorities and the disabled and the overweight and people who are intrinsically and inescapably “different” for any reason are made fun of, marginalized, turned into punchlines. There’s a whole fucking world out there which expects us all to be perfect according to some arbitrary definition and seeks to punish us if we’re not. There’s a whole fucking world out there where people who don’t conform to that standard are not only ridiculed and made to feel not good enough, but can also find themselves at real risk of physical harm. Where they’re denied rights, job opportunities, friendships, votes, equality. If you want to use “politically incorrect” humor that targets those people, you have the entire rest of the bloody world to do it, but you can’t do it here.