Decolonizing our Mind with the Wisdom of the Global South

Silvia Austerlic
Posted September 4, 2016 from United States

Hi all, sharing notes from a recent presentation I made at a local Showing Up for Racial Justice meeting. My words, view and perspective as a global south Argentinian-American woman living in global urban modern translational Santa Cruz, California :-)

DECOLONIZING OUR MINDS WITH THE WISDOM OF THE SOUTH - SURJ 6/9/16

Start by arriving … connecting with your breath… breathing in and out… noticing our mind (thinking), heart (emotions) and body (physical sensations)… letting go of what just happened and what will happen… becoming present here and now.

Read quote: "Why does one write, if not to put one’s pieces together? From the moment we enter school or church, education chops us into pieces: it teaches us to divorce soul from body, and mind from heart. The fishermen of the Colombian coast must be learned doctors of ethics and morality, for they invented the word, senti-pensante, feeling-thinking, to define a language that speaks the truth." -- Eduardo Galeano, The Book of Embraces

Epistemologies of the South (EOTS) is a framework that speaks of different ways of constructing knowledge, different from the dominant culture = Global North = EuroAmerican centric

Senti-pensamiento is part of the EOTS, different type of knowledge that integrates mind and heart, and speaks of the truth of the Global South/Global Majority/people of color/non-white….

Purpose of my presentation:

Coloniality: “the dream of the Global North, “the dream of progress”

A diagnosis, how the Global South sees what is going on

Senti-pensamiento: a different way of seeing and being in the world. Knowledge built from lived experiences, connecting body-soul & mind-heart

Self: becoming aware of how coloniality works within ourselves

Entering a relationship with “the other”(competence, humility, dignity)

Plan of action: Decolonize Santa Cruz!

Building community

Where are we: be aware of the urgency and scope of the current environmental, social and spiritual crises that we face (Pachamama Alliance)

“Dream of the North” ~ “Western Modernity” ~ trance-like reality, what we think “is good for us” is really killing us all!

“Global North” mindset: “Dream of Progress”

Illusion of linear time like a straight line forward from “primitive” to “civilized” Race of “Development”: man/human labour is replaced by technology; using (destroying) natural resources and human capital for the sake of the growth of GNP i.e. “building prisons and weapons is good for the economy”; consumer mentality; more and faster are better.

Not about community & people (human connection) but “markets” and “consumers” (relationships mediated by consumerism & roles)

“Axiology (value system) of progress”: Management perspective concerned with the source of control for resources and access to positions or authority.

VALUES TYPICAL OF THE MANAGEMENT PERSPECTIVE ARE: Achievement, Authority, Charity, Competence, Competition, Decisiveness, Efficiency, Financial Success, Hierarchal Ability, Informing, Managing, Order, Patriotism, Predictability, Problem Solving, Productivity, Quality, Recreation, Responsibility, Rule of Law, and Self-Confidence.

How we got here: distinguish and free ourselves from unconscious unexamined assumptions that make up the “trance” characteristic of the dream of the modern world, and that have brought us to where we are today.

Dark side of Western Modernity: COLONIALITY (mindset)

Refers to racial, social, economic, cultural and cognitive hierarchies attributing value to certain groups while devaluing others.

It helped in the making of Europe and in making & managing the non-European world.

Long-standing structures of power and control that emerged with the conquest of the Americas.Stretch from 1492 to the presentDid not end with the formal end of colonialism (1823) but continue to prevail.

Coloniality survives colonialism

RATIAL AND SPACIAL SEGREGATION WHERE DIFFERENT GROUPS DO NOT CONNECT (visibility & invisibility)

COLONIALITY AS A MATRIX OF POWER

Of Power

White supremacy and patriarchy as foundations of Western modernity Racialized system of labour control producing for world market

Of Knowledge

Epistemological colonization: European knowledge, idea, religion, philosophy, morals are “universal” and hallmark of civilization. Superiority of rationality/scientific thinking

Of Being

Effects of coloniality/white supremacy/patriarchy on lived experiences at the level of emotions, notions of self-worth, identity. White supremacist ideology: white identity constructed as intellectually, morally, and aesthetically superior. Internalized notions of superiority/European Ego and inferiority Internalized oppression.

TRAITS OF EURO-US CENTERED KNOWLEDGE (EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE NORTH)

From a European perspective The only valid knowledge comes from the Academia, in particular “science” Universalist pretension = European/US experience is produced as “universal” This “universality” hides time and place from where knowledge has been constructed & the characteristics of the person & the body European/US as “apex of civilization” Rationality: separation of mind/body & reason/feeling Fear of difference/abyssal thinking

ABYSSAL THINKING

“Modern Western thinking is an abyssal thinking. It consists of a system of visible and invisible distinctions, the invisible ones being the foundation of the visible ones”

“The invisible distinctions are established through radical lines that divide social reality into two realms: the realm of “this side of the line” (I, me, mine) and the realm of “the other side of the line” (not me). The division is such that “the other side of the line” vanishes as reality becomes non-existent, and is indeed produced as non-existent.” (Santos 2014)

Five dominant logics = Sociology of Absences

Knowledge to produce sameness, erase difference.

Monocultures

1 of knowledge: science as sole truth criteria à “the ignorant”

2 of linear time à “the backward”

3 of classification (naturalization of hierarchies) à “the inferior”

4 of dominant scale (the global) à “the local”

5 of productivity à “lazy, discardable, the non-productive”

SUPRESSING DIFFERENCES HAS MEANT SILENCING OF “THE OTHER,” OTHER VOICES, KNOWLEDGE AND WORLDVIEWS (XVI century: women/witches; Jews and Arabs; African slaves; indigenous/Native American)

COLONIALITY IN SANTA CRUZ

Ohlones “deleted” from history Hanging of Mexicans Farmworkers’ children exposed to pesticides Cutting bus lines between North and South County

DECOLONIZING OUR MINDS

Senti-pensamiento “The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us –the poet- whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free” (Audre Lorde)

Embodied knowledge, valuing our lived experience!!

DECOLONIZING implies:

Re: SELF

Becoming aware of how we have internalized the coloniality mindset (superiority or inferiority; axiology of progress) Unlearning/unhooking ourselves Examine assumptions Examine our relationship with CULTURAL DIFFERENCES”

Entering into a relationship with “THE OTHER”

This is different than “diversity and inclusion” … more like “difference, equity and justice”

Cultural competence is important but not enough To SEE THE OTHER we need cultural humility To BUILD COMMUNITY, cultural humility is not enough, cultural dignity is needed.

Re: LISTENING TO “THE OTHER” in ourselves (parts of ourselves that have been silenced/suppressed) and in the world (groups or communities we tend to ignore) and others based on recognizing “the inexhaustible diversity of human experience” and the “multiple ways of knowing human experience.”

Effort to go out and look for “the other” to break through special & sociogeographical segregation! Entering the NOT KNOWING together because solutions to modern problems won’t come from “modern paradigm” ~ “dream of progress” Axiology of care: The Relational perspective deals with a viewpoint that emphasizes degrees or levels of awareness of one ‘s self and one’s relationships with others. This viewpoint leads to the development of values directed toward describing and developing self-potential (through values like Balance, Courage, Reflection, Creativity, Personal Growth and Search-For-Meaning), and for forming and maintaining relationships (through values like Empathy, Diversity, Listening, Openness, Intimacy, Risk and Trust).

Decolonizing Practices

Of the tears: honouring the pain

Healing collective trauma; restorative justice; re-evaluation counseling

Of the resistances: saying NO & STOP!; in defence of dignity (struggle as ontological condition) Beach Flats; Occupy movement; USCS students fighting against tuition hikes; Ferguson

Of the rebellions: walk-outs, alternative visions/proposals, seeds Zapatistas, Community gardens, Coops

Of the NOT YET: the promise, the hope, the co-creation of a collective future calling us to make space in our minds and hearts, realistic utopia. It is the future that doesn’t exist but which we know is possible, we long for it… “the most beautiful world our heart knows is possible”

Comments 2

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leigh_2
Dec 24, 2017
Dec 24, 2017

Thank you for writing this!  Yes, I agree we need to find comfort being present, and in the place in between, the not-knowing placeZ. That is where our best creative solutions will rise.  And yes, I agree we are better, healthier, more fully ourselves if we greet each situation as fully ourselves- mind, body, heart connected.  That is who I want to meet, and who I want to be!  So, where are you at now in your work? 

silvia austerlic
Dec 24, 2017
Dec 24, 2017

Thank you for asking Leigh, where I am now in my work is, in the process of launching Senti-Pensante Connections www.senti-pensante.com and giving shape to a “Building an Inner Sanctuary” course (self-care, resilience, community), which I just taught at UCSC in the Fall 2017-and look forward to extending to the fields of other educators, service providers and activists. Hope you find this useful in your world/work!