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Institute for Decolonization in Venezuela

During the Third Decolonial School held in October 2018 in Venezuela Enrique Dussel proposed the foundation of an institute for the decolonization of Venezuela. Soon afterward Ernesto Villega, a former minister in the cabinet of Hugo Chavez, got the responsibility to formally set up a National Institute for the Decolonization of Venezuela. In a conversation with several intellectuals and activists, among them DIN founder Ramon Grosfoguel, Houria Bouteldja and Sabelo Ndlovu, Maduro emphasized the need for such an institute.

Nicolas Maduro, Ramon Grosfoguel and Enrique Dussel

Third meeting of Franz Fanon Foundation at Rutgers University

For the last ten years, the Frantz Fanon Foundation has explored the connection between Fanon’s work and the unfinished project of decolonization in dialogue with a large number of scholars and activists across the global north and south. The Bandung Conference of 1955 has been an important reference in the Foundation’s path, and the Spirit of Bandung has remained a profound and compelling inspiration.

The Rutgers Advanced Institute of Critical Caribbean Studies, and, particularly, its Decoloniality Cluster will host an international encounter with Fanon’s work. The Institute has served as a link between the Frantz Fanon Foundation, which is an international organization, the Rutgers, New Brunswick campus, and regional and local spaces such as the Lazos Community Center in Downtown New Brunswick.

The Rencontres will count with the participation of scholars, artists, and organizers who will not only share their cutting-edge work with each other and all the attendees, but who will inform decolonization projects taking place locally. These projects advance the decolonization of knowledge, critical theory, the human sciences, civic engagement, medical practice, aesthetics, and other areas of knowledge production and creative activity.

For more information click here.

Declaration DIN on the case of Tariq Ramadan

In early 2018 the Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan was arrested in France on charges of rape and assault. Since then he has been kept in solitary confinement without adequate medical services that would enable him to be treated for the debilitating condition, multiple sclerosis, from which he suffers.

The case of Tariq Ramadan is typical of how the French justice systems treats Muslims with a record of combating Islamophobia and Zionism. Ramadan is being denied the right to bail and due process. He has been denied the right to presumption of innocence, a fair and equitable judicial procedure, and fair treatment by the French justice system which has dealt with others accused of near identical crimes very differently.

DIN acknowledges the rights of complainants, that their cause be heard without prejudice or injury to their honour, but also demands respect for the principles which guarantee the integrity of French justice.

 

The Decolonial University: One Step Closer towards Pluriversality

Dina El Odessy

Despite the new-fangled challenges and opportunities presented by the advent of the 21st century, the hegemonic and uniform nature of the postmodern colonial world order continues to inform educational, economic, social and cultural institutions all over the world.

Now more than ever, there arises the need to narrate the different and more diverse variations of the human story that were silenced for around five centuries.

In attempting to address this yawning need, both the Center of Study and Investigation for Decolonial Dialogues in Spain (Global Dialogue), headed by Dr Ramon Grosfoguel and the International Institute for Scientific Research (IISR) in Holland, headed by Sandew Hira, have come together to put decolonial thought and ideas into practice through annual summer schools and Decolonizing The Mind courses. These event, which have attracted a growing number of researchers and activists from different parts of the globe, have been the first sown seeds to developing the Decolonial University (DU) Global Dialogue and IISR are members of the Decolonial International Network.

In contrast to the traditional Eurocentric concept of university, with its characteristic emphasis on the concept of universality in all forms of knowledge, the DU is a higher education e-learning institution that does not pretend to adopt any sense of universality. On the contrary, it promotes “pluriversity”, acknowledging and respecting the historical fact that there are inclusive and distinctive ways and modes of producing knowledge.

The curriculum of the DU is focused upon the integrative relationship that binds human beings with nature and the cosmos from the diverse vantage points of world civilizations; and from a decolonial perspective that departs from the exploitative approach of “modernity”. In so doing, there will be a number of multifarious courses that attempt to revisit the economic, social, political, geographic, and cultural dimensions that define such a relationship. Essentially, the DU is led by three guiding concepts:  combating mental slavery through decolonizing the mind, acknowledging the contributions of different civilizations to human knowledge and promoting critical learning.

Accordingly, since the vision and curriculum of the DU is not one of docility but empowerment, the learners will be given the space and opportunity to develop critical knowledge and praxis through a number of student-centered pedagogies, which aim to present students with a transformative learning experience. For example, one of the early courses that will be presented in the DU e-learning platform is the “Decolonising Education” module, which aims to deconstruct how the machinations of colonialism employed education as a tool of subjugation, in order to perpetuate its supremacist fallacies and break the ontological and epistemological worldview of the subjugated nations. They will also research how the systematic institutionalization of learning and mass education, based on discipline, categorisation and market needs, is only a relatively nascent development that has been popularized and normalized as the one and only method of education.  

In this module, learners are expected to embark on a journey of discovery from the past to the present, back and forth, in order to discover how holistic pre-modern paradigms of learning in Africa, India, Asia and America provided alternative and, at many times, progressive education. They will also be introduced to contemporary innovative models of education throughout the world, particularly the ones that aim to focus on creativity, empowerment, critical thinking, spirituality, holistic education, and multiculturalism. By the end of the module, students will be able to transform the gained knowledge into action through designing an educational model that aims to escape the stamp of old and neo-colonialism, through reimaging alternative school designs, structures curricula, pedagogies and assessment methods.

By institutionalizing the DU, our attempt is not only to reclaim the past, but also to redesign the possibilities of the future in spite of the seemingly grim and bleak present status quo.  Our hope is to share and care for the whole planet we inhabit by crossing the fabricated dividing binary lines of the colonial experience that falsely separated a decentralized world into East/West, center/periphery and so forth.

The Decolonial University is going to early 2019 and, as a prominent expert in your field, we invite you to join us by providing your valuable feedback and suggestions on the nature of the courses that could be provided. We also welcome your suggestions on the content, pedagogy, and the educational material that could be used in the upcoming “Decolonising Education” module.

We invite you to embark upon our new and exciting journey as we work together to march towards a hopefully more accepting and diverse world.

 

 

Hatem Bazian: Islamophobia, “Clash of Civilizations”, and Forging a Post-Cold War Order!

In this article Hatem Bazian provides an in-depth analysis of the phenomenom of islamophobia. Bazian argues “that Islamophobia is an ideological construct that emerges in the post-Cold War era with the intent to rally the Western world and the American society at a moment of perceived fragmentation after the collapse of the Soviet Union in a vastly and rapidly changing world system. Islamophobia, or the threat of Islam, is the ingredient, as postulated in Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis that is needed to affirm the Western self-identify after the end of the Cold War and a lack of a singular threat or purpose through which to define, unify, and claim the future for the West. Thus, Islamophobia is the post-Cold War ideology to bring about a renewed purpose and crafting of the Western and American self.”.

Developments in DIN

DIN has embarked on a trajectory to use ICT-technology in organizing the network. A survey on about the viability of a Decolonial Academic Network (DAN) showed that there is a need for a digital infrastructure for the network. DIN has found an IT company to sponsor this infrastructure. Recently Amrit Applications has started building a database of past, current and future research and a database of vacancies for academic positions.

DIN has also found a project manager in Egypt who has volunteered to lead the decolonial university project, a Moodle based online university. She is currently working to set up a first course on decolonial pedagogy.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission, member of DIN, is launching a toolkit that provides an actionable Counter-Islamophobia Toolkit aimed at combatting the numerous facets of growing Islamophobia across the EU. The launch will be held on September 26th  in European Parliament in Brussel.

Israel denies visa for talk on decolonisation exposing Einstein

The Palestine Technical University, Kadourie, Palestine, is organizing the Sixth Palestinian Conference on Modern Trends in Mathematics and Physics PCMTMP-VI, 5th-8th August 2018.

Decolonial mathematician Prof. C.K. Raju was invited to give two plenary talks (scheduled on 7th and 8th Aug) on
Decolonising mathematics: how and why it makes science better (and enables students to solve harder problems).

Israel denied him a visa. Read more.

White feminisms, non-white feminisms: assessing the aftermath of the Tariq Ramadan affair

Houria Bouteldja

I would like to dedicate this talk to the African-American singer, Billie Holiday. I will explain why at the end.

Because what I am talking about is the subject of an ongoing legal case, I wish to make it clear that I am not interested in the basis for this affair, but in its political effects.

In France since the beginning of the 2000s, we have witnessed the emergence of new feminist dynamics that aim to question hegemonic feminism, which as you know is white; “white” in the sense that, for the most part, it defends the interests of white women.

Following the hijab affair, we have seen the emergence of an Islamic feminism that has challenged the idea of the supposed incompatibility of Islam and feminism. Later on, with the appearance of the decolonial movement and of political antiracism, we have seen the arrival of intersectional feminism. There is a whole array of non-white feminisms today, including Islamic feminism and Afro-feminism. It is important to note that these very dynamic movements only represent a minority of women of postcolonial migrant origin because, in reality, the more women are crushed by their condition, the less politically active they are. The same can be said for the decolonial activism that I am a part of. We are but a vocal minority.

I would like to closely analyse the reactions of these different feminist groups to the imprisonment of Tariq Ramadan in order to test them against their politics and their stated objectives. Let me make it clear that non-white feminisms stand between two poles: white feminism, which belongs to what Sadri Khiari has theorized as the ‘white political field’, and the decolonial pole that represents Indigenous power as it is currently emerging and which is based on a political, theoretical and organizational break with the former. The hypothesis which I am going to try and defend here is that the majority of non-white feminisms struggle to keep their promise of effectively articulating gender oppression and oppression on the basis of race and defining a really emancipatory strategy for Indigenous women that resists being coopted by those in power.

Tariq Ramadan is an activist and a world-renowned Muslim intellectual who has been very active in France for twenty years. He is known for being a reformist Muslim thinker. He promotes the idea of adapting Islam for modernity while remaining loyal to the Quran and the prophetic tradition. We are rather sceptical of this approach, given that the decolonial project rejects the paradigm of modernity. Nonetheless, we should recognise the fact that he has been successful – while the French integrationist model is in crisis – in promoting the idea of a citizen Islam whose followers do not have to choose between their Muslim identity and their French citizenship. This challenged the project of pure assimilation (aka whitening).

Last October, he was accused of rape by two women, and then by a third. Since, February 2018, he has been in jail awaiting trial.

This affair has unleashed strong emotions, firstly because if his notoriety as an intellectual but also because these alleged rapes put his religiosity into question in the eyes of the Muslim community. Despite the Me Too campaign being at its peak, other political and media personalities accused of sexual harassment have not been not pursued by the legal system.  These powerful men are still free or awaiting trial despite being accused of similar crimes as Tariq Ramadan. Some even have the support of those in power, while the trial by media of Tariq Ramadan took place well before the legal process, so that he has already been presumed guilty. What has been the feminist reaction?

First, white feminists: I am not going to give a holistic overview of white feminisms and their various approaches. Suffice it to cite Simon de Beauvoir who declared in The Second Sex on the subject of white feminists: ‘Bourgeois as they are, they stand in solidarity with the bourgeois and non-proletarian women; white as they are, they stand with white men and not with black women.’

This quote is extraordinary for more than one reason. First, because it shows de Beauvoir’s extreme lucidity. She deserves out thanks because her words are surprisingly relevant to us today. The ‘Balance ton porc’ (‘Call out your pig’) campaign in France has allowed millions of women to raise their voices against the massive amount of sexual violence that they endure. At the same time, an article published in Le Monde and signed by famous bourgeois women, including the actress Catherine Deneuve, says that women should allow men to ‘hit on them’. In this way, they defended the men in their milieu who have come under attack by the ‘Balance ton porc’ campaign.

What of the supposedly universalist hegemonic feminism that says it defends all women? It mainly supported all the ‘Me Too’ and ‘Balance ton porc’ campaigns. Obviously. It squarely denounced the barefaced impunity of these powerful men. To this point, all is as it should be. But how has hegemonic feminism reacted to the fact that Tariq Ramadan was imprisoned while the other men were not? Let’s be honest and admit that they did not jump on the bandwagon and that they even tacitly refused to be instrumentalised in the service of racism, for which we should be grateful. I believe that, due to the progress made by the decolonial and non-white feminist movements, they have understood that they cannot play with fire. Nevertheless, most of them have not denounced the abusive incarceration of Tariq Ramadan or at the very least campaigned for the other men to be treated in the same manner, which in the end comes down to being complicit with state racism. The only exception I am aware of is a letter, entitled ‘Open letter of support: Tariq Ramadan Case – Calling on Impartial and Equal Justice’. The signatories include Joan Scott and Christine Delphy.

Secondly, non-white (Muslim or intersectional) feminists. There have been two types of reaction: either silence or all-out support for the plaintiffs. Let me point out that all of these feminisms are intersectional in their approach, that is they refuse both the racist instrumentalization of sexism and the sexist instrumentalization of racism. In other words, they seek freedom both from state racism and from the sexism of their communities.

The first, those who remained silent, are those who did not want to go along with the racist instrumentalization of the case but who were still trapped in their feminist identity. How to defend Ramadan’s presumption of innocence and remain a credible feminist, especially when you are an Indigenous woman suspect of being a ‘communitarian’? How to defend the plaintiffs when the dogs have been let loose on an Indigenous man? Silence was the only way out. Say nothing so as not to lose the trust of Indigenous people on the one hand, and that of feminists on the other and, I should add, of all the other important milieu (the university, the Left, the media). This approach is even more of a feat given that Muslim feminists, for example, spend their entire time having to prove that Islam is not incompatible with feminism. If they were to support Tariq Ramadan’s presumption of innocence they would endanger their entire strategy, which is to make themselves respectable in the eyes of progressive whites. But by taking a stance in favour of the women, they put in danger an entire feminist rhetoric whose aim is to convince the Muslim masses that feminism is not a Western invention, but actually inherent in Islam. These strategies do not really convince anyone… The association Lallab paid the costs for this recently. Its activists regret not having been consulted ‘about the other sexual violence cases that appeared at the outset of the “Balance ton porc” movement.’ ‘As though we were Muslims above being women,’ the Mediapart website reported. Ismahane Chouder, a Muslim and an avowed feminist, recounts a similar experience that, from memory, goes: ‘Despite many years of feminist activism, the media never considered me as such because of my hijab and so it’s surprising that the Ramadan affair suddenly made of me a “great feminist” for obvious reasons.’ The only thing they wanted is to hear me rubbish Tariq Ramadan’s presumption of innocence.’ This sums up those who kept their silence.

The second group, starting from the principal that a patriarchal society always sides with men, gave their unconditional support to the plaintiffs and some even went so far as to reject the burden of proof, proclaiming ‘believe women’, the slogan of many white feminists. As we can see here, feminism is seen as superior to antiracism which in fact goes against the aims of intersectionality.

Opposing both the white and the non-white poles of feminism, there is the decolonial position which I identify with. Our position was as follows: Because the law is racist and sexist, we must firstly treat the affair in a dispassionate manner and analyse it from a dialectical point of view. We know that 80% of allegations of rape are well-founded and that the grand majority of women do not lie when they report a rape. The statistics are undeniable. But we also know that impunity in rape cases essentially benefits powerful men and that, in contrast, the law has no compassion for marginalised men, especially when they are Black or Arab. We also know that racism and the prison system produce ultra-toxic masculinities and that these masculinities, which we could also call ‘non-hegemonic masculinities’, are as damaging for men themselves as they are for women and those around them because they lead to all kinds of pathologies including violence which is most often turned against women and children within the family.

We should re-read Rita Segato who explains that predatory capitalism turns women’s bodies into battlefields. In her view, within a context of general precarity, the position of men is weakened: ‘He cannot achieve, he cannot have, he cannot be.’ But at the same time, he has to prove that he is a man. In this way, men are submitted to a ‘masculinity mandate’ that, in order to exist, obliges them to demonstrate strength and power: physical, intellectual, economic, moral, military, etc. For Indigenous men who live a precarious existence, the masculinity mandate often translates into a mandate of violence which is exactly what Indigenous women observe in their every day.

I take the opportunity at the this point to return to a passage in my book that caused a stir. I related the experience of a Black women from the United States and who explained that she wouldn’t press charges because she couldn’t stand for a Black man to be thrown in jail. My detractors turned my description into prescription which, by the way, says a lot about their deep mediocrity (except in this case maybe it was a signal of their panic?) and that of a certain readership that laps it up. This example, which can be extended to a non-negligible number of non-white women, shows that moralizing standpoints on what is good and what is bad won’t change anything. One thing is clear: taking action against the specific oppression of Indigenous men will lead to dismantling the mechanisms that thwart women’s agency, deepen men’s oppression and we will only make matters worse for women. In contrast to what a certain branch of (white or Indigenous) feminism says, I am firmly on the side of Indigenous women. But it is true that I don’t speak their language, I invent my own.

That is why when the charges against Tariq Ramadan were made public and then he was jailed, I made three statements on my Facebook page.

These rigorous and balanced public statements were fraudulently misinterpreted as benefiting ‘the porcs’ by some in the media and by certain progressive websites in the name of ‘believing women’ above all else.

In fact, faced by this case as decolonial actors, we say the following: In a racist and sexist society and taking into account 1) the personality and unsettling significance of Tariq Ramadan in the struggle against Islamophobia and for Palestine, 2) the nature of his enemies: the French political establishment, 3) the massive reality of sexual abuse, it should be non-negotiable both to respect the word of the plaintiffs, who are the presumed victims, and that of the accused, who is presumed innocent. So, the Tariq Ramadan affair should not be subject to any kind of political or media instrumentalization. In addition, it is untrue to say that the French legal system remains a patriarchal one when the accused is Black or Arab.  It is patriarchal when the white patriarchal order is put under the spotlight but, with Tariq Ramadan, on the contrary, those in power had nothing to fear. As the Fanonian philosopher, Norman Ajari has correctly analysed, the Me Too campaign created a divide among whites, while the Campaign against Tariq Ramadan has tendentially reintroduced unity among them.

Consequently, despite a marked hostility, we have insisted on remaining true to what we have theorized as the basic principles – the spine – of a decolonial, materialist feminism. Our starting position is that feminism is a political phenomenon born in a ‘West’ which was under construction, part of the dialectical moment of the formation of European nation-states and the conquering of the world by colonialism. So, feminism appears to us to be a major political event within modernity whose prime objective is to resolve the contradictions between white men and women, all citizens of imperialist democracies and complicit with their elites in the exploitation of the South countries. White women, oppressed by their local patriarchy, nonetheless benefit from North-South relations and they were integrated into the Nation on the basis of being white.

To understand decolonial feminism I would like to share five important orientations:

  1. Domenico Losurdo: ‘The history of the West is faced with a paradox. The clear line of demarcation between whites on the one hand and Blacks and “Redskins” on the other, benefits the development of equal relations within the white community.’
  2. Sadri Khiari: ‘The principle of capitalist democracy is individual freedom and political equality. The races are the negation of this. They are also indissociable from it. Bourgeois modernity, becoming established between the 18th and the 19th centuries, develops via the crossing of two contradictory but complementary movements, the freeing of individuals from the straitjacket of indispensable statutory hierarchies to the affirmation of the modern state and the spread of capitalism, as well as the expansion of imperialism which is necessary for both.’
  3. Simone de Beauvoir: ‘‘Bourgeois as they are, they stand in solidarity with the bourgeois and non-proletarian women; white as they are, they stand with white men and not with black women.’
  4. Chester Himes: ‘As I am not considered a man in the factories, I should at least be one in bed. Everything I can’t be in the factories I will be in bed.’
  5. James Baldwin on the violence of Black men towards women and on the necessity of their transformation: ‘It will require redefining the terms of the West.’

These points form a sort of plumb-line that begins with the birth of capitalist-imperialist democracies and the emergence of the idea of equality (a concept that should be challenged by decolonial thought), and the consequences it has for relations between white men and women, between whites and Indigenous people and between Indigenous men and women.

I would like to conclude by reflecting on what I call the reign of sacred political ideas. Activism often gives birth to ideas that we are often not allowed to question. So imagine when these ideas have been produced by white progressives! Feminism is not left out of this picture and one of the sacred ideas it has produced is ‘My body is my own’. There is a lot to say about this highly liberal, and almost dogmatic, idea. Another example: during the Me Too campaign, women’s words were taken as gospel. Most feminists considered a woman’s word to be sacred and that she should never be seen as suspect. When women declare they have been raped, we need to believe them.

This position is indeed justified in most cases. As I said before, 80% of reports of rape are well founded which supports feminist claims.

But, there is a but. I find the way in which we treat this question in a racist context damaging, even among those who claim to link different forms of oppression to each other. I find this theoretical weakness of applying equivalent positions to white and non-white contexts damaging.

Let’s take the example of the lynching of Black people during segregation in the United States. Are we aware that many Black men were lynched after being denounced by a white woman? It was often sufficient for a white woman to declare that a certain man had looked at her lustily to unleash white men’s rage, leading to him being found hanging from a tree. The famous song by Billie Holdiay, ‘Strange Fruit’ delicately and poetically immortalizes the memory of these men, who were the victims of another, crueler, implacable and superior patriarchy.

The parallels with today are striking: the word of women who speak out against members of the dominant patriarchy is immediately disqualified. When they denounce the Indigenous patriarchy they are lauded, whether they be white or non-white women.

So, decolonial feminism is an equalizing feminism. And, above all it is the only one that really articulates. Because, as Malik Tahar-Chaouch makes clear, ‘the decolonial approach enables us to think about the concrete conditions for common struggles within the world system, made in the image of colonial modernity, against the abstract and paradoxical symmetries of the progressive dogma of the White Left.’

I will end with another snapshot of colonial history. You all are aware of the story of American Wasp immigrants who, in order to tame native tribes and to get them to prove their loyalty, made them deliver one of their own people’s scalps. A handful of them did it. A sizeable number of them, who refused to betray their people, remained silent. Another sizeable number (probably the majority) defended the accused by decrying the conspiracy and destroying the credibility of the presumed victims.

Decolonial feminism has taken the riskiest route: refusing both to deliver the scalp of an Indigenous man to white power and attempting to protect the word of the majority of women (of all ‘races’) who do not lie and who effectively become the collateral damage of the racist instrumentalisation of the Ramadan affair because it sustains the much more powerful, more embedded and more definitive patriarchal system: that of white power.

Taking all this into account, we call for the liberation and fair trial of Tariq Ramadan.

 

Results of the survey on the Decolonial Academic Network

DIN has conducted an online survey among the reader of its newsletter to get an idea about the viability of a Decolonial Academic Network (DAN). The survey was put online on February 7 2018; 111 respondent who filled in the survey. This number is enough for DIN to base a policy for DAN.

On the basis of this survey the Decolonial International Network has decided to set up the Decolonial Academic Network (DAN). The practical implications of this decision are:

  1. DIN is going to invest in a digital infrastructure for DAN. This infrastructure will consist of the following parts:
    1. A digital academic journal.
    2. A database of past, current and future research.
    3. A database of vacancies for academic positions.
    4. Digital meeting rooms for different commissions of DAN.

In the coming months DIN will draw up proposals for the functionalities of the digital infrastructure and will engage the respondents of the survey who expressed their willingness to get involved, to develop these functionalities.

  1. A research program for social movements. DIN will engage with social movements to link DAN with activism by setting up relevant research projects that activists can use in their daily struggle.

The first priority will be to set up a steering committee of DAN who can take the responsibility to develop DAN in close cooperation with DIN. They can be the counterpart for setting up the digital infrastructure and the research projects.

Read the report here.

Houria Bouteldja: White progressivism or Indigenous « fertile regression »? Get your hands dirty and go beyond the dilemma

In het speech at the Bandung of the North conference in Paris Houria Bouetldja from the Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR) tackled the question: Are we the progressives they dream of us to be, those presented to us as our natural allies, the Left? Are we anti-capitalists, feminists, ecologists? Are we for gay rights? Welcoming of migrants? In brief, are we good people according to the Left’s criteria? Instinctively, I would answer that we are not. This isn’t a timeless or definitive « not ». It is a temporary « not ». In other words, a complex « not ».

Read the whole speeach here.