Monday, March 25, 2013

Ramon Grosfoguel Lecture- Democracy in the Modern/Colonial World System

A Lecture by Professor Ramon Grosfoguel (UC Berkeley) gave at Humboldt University in Berlin on Oct 2011.

This lecture discusses several critical points for "decolonial theory". Immediately, Grosfoguel discusses the year '1492' which is a critical year to understanding much of decolonial thought. Several articles by decolonial scholars will discuss at length the significance of this year beyond what Grosfoguel mentions in this short video. (Articles/books to look at for more info on this Walter Mignolo "Islamophobia/Hispanophobia" Ramon Grosfoguel's article "The Multiple Faces of Islamophobia" and "the Long-Duree Entanglement between Islamophobia and Racism").

the significance of 1492 is two points:

1) (Christian) European 'imperial' expansion into the South of Spain- Al-Andalus/ Islamic Europe. Here we have the final conquest of Islamic Europe by the Spanish Catholic Monarchy and subsequently the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from the region.

2) European 'colonial' expansion into the Americas by Christopher Columbus.

It is very important to keep in mind that these two events were not coincidences but rather strategically planned out. Columbus went to the King Ferndando and the Queen Isabel of Spain to discuss a trip to "India" in which they told him that they first wanted to unify all of Spain including Al-Andalus- the Islamic part- before they let him take the voyage.

It is here that we have the formation of a new 'international division of labor' at the world scale with center countries and periphery regions. This is the current world-system that we are living in today (for more on world system analysis look at the literature of  Immanuel Wallerstein).

Furthermore there comes about in 1492, a new system of social classification is a racial system of classification of the population of the world:

Western/European vs non-Western/ non-European distinction (this will be discussed in more detail later in this post and in future post):

  • Western/European- 'fully human', superior to non-European people
  • non-Western/non-European- 'sub-human' or 'non-human', inferior to European
The question of 'humanity' or 'who is fully human' was the core question of the 16th century when the Europeans arrived in the Americas and saw the indigenous population. 
  • the recognition of their humanity took the form of "having a soul"which equated to having a religion but not any religion only the Semitic religions (Islam, Christianity/Catholicism, and Judaism). 

In the meantime watch the lecture, take notes, and ask questions!

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