“Decolonizing Knowledge” (Jan. 30–31)

Published: January 17th, 2020

Category: Featured, News

In the last decade indigenous studies have emerged as a crucial theoretical site for understanding and critiquing the settler colonial present…

Decolonizing Knowledge: Indigenous Theories in Latin American and U.S. Empire Studies

January 30–31, 2020

Dauer Hall 215

In the last decade indigenous studies have emerged as a crucial theoretical site for understanding and critiquing the settler colonial present and for decolonial thinking. This symposium will address national and hemispheric conversations on indigenous theories as they shape thinking and writing outside the dominant epistemological frameworks of modernity/coloniality. By connecting notions such as “epistemic delinking” from the discourses of modernity/coloniality devised by theorists like Walter Mignolo and the kind of “border thinking” practiced by writers such as Gloria Anzaldúa, indigenous critics simultaneously demonstrate the ongoing material project of settler colonialism and the different ways in which indigenous theories delink themselves from the web of imperial knowledges. This symposium is interdisciplinary in regard to area studies, addressing concerns of scholars who study the Americas and the postcolony (including Africa, Asia, and the Pacific), and in regard to discipline as its consideration of the role history, power, knowledge, and communication addresses questions posed by scholars of literature, language, rhetoric, history, anthropology, religion, philosophy, and sociology. A central aim is to bring to light intersections between the often separate fields of Latin American, postcolonial, and U.S. Empire studies.

This event is free and open to the public. No advance registration is required.

Tuesday, January 21 (Pugh Hall 160)

3 PM – Pre-Symposium Workshop & Discussion of Recent Work by the Keynote Speakers

Contact Leah Rosenberg, rosenberg@ufl.edu, for access to workshop materials.

Thursday, January 30 (Dauer Hall 215)

10 – 11:30 AM – Abraham I. Acosta, “The Coloniality of Power, Settler Colonialism, and the Critique of Imperialism in Contemporary Times”

For more than twenty years now, the concepts of coloniality of power and settler colonialism have been pivotal in the formation and development of decolonial critiques of power. Understood as names for a cultural-political modality for establishing and sustaining geopolitical subordination, the concept has become conventionalized and routinely deployed in order to assert that the epistemological and political terms of dominance over the Americas has a specific, exclusively European, provenance. A closer look at the theoretical writing on these concepts, however, reveals a more ambivalent reading. Challenging the ways in which these concepts have been fashioned together as a critical foothold for decolonial thought, this talk will suggest that coloniality of power and settler colonialism are actually quite divergent theoretical propositions that have been hastily aligned, and which may instead effectively render into crisis the entire decolonial project itself.

12 – 1 PM – Lunch for Keynote Speakers and UF Graduate Students. RSVP to Leah Rosenberg, rosenberg@ufl.edu.

1:30 – 3 PM – Macarena Gómez-Barris, “Archival Disappearances and Southern Submerged Perspectives of Resurgence”

In this talk, I address how to think about the colonial archive in relation to disappearance and Indigenous resurgence in the Américas, specifically focused on the legacy of Darwin and in relation to the category “los desaparecidos” that is often used to describe modern state violence, but extends back to the colonial era of discovery, scientific exploration, and monocultural occupation. Given recent approaches in decolonial and Indigenous studies, is there a way to include Southern, Indigenous, and counter-archival perspectives that give texture to the colonial Anthropocene? I discuss Tierra del Fuego and the visual archive on the Selk’nam peoples as an important touchstone for addressing these questions.

3:30 – 5 PM – Christa J. Olson, “Nuestras Reliquías Históricas” and the Rhetorical Work of Ancestors at Machu Picchu”

Between 1911 and 1915, Yale University Professor Hiram Bingham III and his Yale Peruvian Expedition illegally carried thousands of objects out of Peru, adding them to the collections of the Yale Peabody Museum. Analyses of the Yale Peruvian Expedition’s work and the international arbitration that finally established Peru’s claim to the objects in 2011 has tended to frame the conflict in terms of U.S. neo-colonial scientific imperialism and Peruvian national history. Either the objects ought to be understood as scientific evidence of a past culture – in which case they have universal import – or as historical relics – in which case they tell a particular story about Peruvian national identity. Interesting as those debates are, however, they are limited. They obscure the processes by which the objects because national patrimony or scientific evidence in the first place. In this talk, therefore, I focus on the object-making processes that make the same “things” into evidence, patrimony, or – a point that has often been absent from the debate – the sacred bodies of ancestors. Taking up work on repatriation, Indigenous sovereignty, and rhetorical studies, this talk explores the different objects that conflicting arguments produce. These objects, I argue, remind us that the task of decolonizing knowledge requires attending not only to Indigenous and de-colonial epistemologies but also to the differing material worlds they bring into being. It is not merely that different perspectives lead to different interpretations of “our historical relics” but that meaningful relics which belong to one group or another are made by some epistemologies and not others. It matters, immensely, which sorts of matter come into being.

Friday, January 31 (Dauer Hall 215)

8 – 10 AM – Graduate Student Roundtable

Ivette Rodriguez, “Anzaldúa Pedagogies: Decolonizing Academia from the Inside”

Dan Shurley, “Philadelphia’s Forgotten Forebears: How Pennsylvania Erased The Lenape From Local History”

Deepthi Siriwardena, “Towards a Sri Lankan Feminism: Reading Sunethra Rajakarunanayke’s Metta

Alexander Slotkin, “Along the Cow Path: Technical Communication Within a Jewish Cemetery”

Martina Laura Speranza, “Problematizing the Gender Gap: Feminist, Queer and Postcolonial Approaches to Inequalities in the Rural Global South.”

About the Invited Speakers

Abraham Acosta is Associate Professor of Latin American Cultural Studies at the University of Arizona. He specializes in literary and cultural analysis, focusing on questions of subalternity, postcoloniality, biopolitics, and posthegemonic in the Americas. His research traverses the critical realities of contemporary multilingual contexts, where assumptions of power, knowledge, and capital crosshatch with historical translations of cultural difference. Acosta’s work has been published in such journals as Dispositio/n, the Journal of Latin American Cultural StudiesSocial Text, and Critical Multilingualism Studies. His book, Thresholds of Illiteracy: Theory, Latin America, and the Crisis of Resistance (2014) is published by Fordham University Press.

Macarena Gómez-Barris is founder and Director of the Global South Center, a transdisciplinary space for experimental research, artistic, and activist praxis, and Chairperson of the Department of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. She publishes on decolonial praxis, space and memory, and submerged perspectives. She is author of Where Memory Dwells: Culture and State Violence in Chile (UC Press 2010), The Extractive Zone: Social Ecologies and Decolonial Perspectives (Duke University Press 2017), and Beyond the Pink Tide: Artistic and Political Undercurrents in the Americas (UC Press 2018). She is co-editor with Herman Gray of Towards A Sociology of a Trace (University of Minnesota Press 2010) and co-editor with Licia Fiol-Matta of Las Américas Quarterly, a special issue of American Quarterly (Fall 2014). Her new book project is At the Sea’s Edge. Her essays have appeared in Antipode, Social Text, GLQ, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies as well as numerous other venues and art catalogues. She has been a Visiting Professor at New York University and a Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Professor at FLACSO-Quito.

Christa Olson is Associate Professor and Director of English 201-Intermediate Composition, Department of English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a rhetorical historian focusing on trans-American visual cultures. In her research, she returns repeatedly to the rhetorical sources and consequences of nationalism. She is the author of Constitutive Visions: Indigeneity and Commonplaces of National Identity in Republican Ecuador and has published articles on visual culture, historiography, Américan rhetoric in Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Advances in the History of Rhetoric, and Literacy in Composition Studies. Olson’s current research examines the visual history of U.S.–Latin American relations in order to understand how U.S. publics came to see themselves as particularly American among Americans. She is a regular contributor to Reading the Pictures, an online venue dedicated to public-facing analysis of photojournalism.

About the Roundtable Speakers

Ivette Rodríguez is a PhD student in the UF Department of English, with a focus on Postcolonial Literature and Cultural Studies, particularly in the Caribbean region. Most recently, she has been engaged with the question of knowledge and knowledge creation in Latin America and the Caribbean in relation to modernity.

Dan Shurley is an MFA candidate in the UF Department of English, and the author of Collective Regeneration and Universal Love, a chapbook of short prose pieces. He has written on place, history, education, and the arts for local news outlets in Philadelphia and San Francisco. His literary criticism has appeared or is forthcoming in BOMB, 3AMCollagist, and Fiction Advocate.

Deepthi Siriwardena is a PhD student in the UF Department of English, specializing in American literature with a emphasis on postcolonial studies, women’s writing, and gender and sexuality studies. Her dissertation focuses on Asian American refugee narratives. Her research has focused on a wide array of subjects including the study of the utopian imagination in Hawaiian literature, archival research on Zora Neale Hurston, and framing an interdisciplinary approach to understand indigenous psychology based on Asian American psychoanalytical insights.

Alexander Slotkin is a PhD student in the UF Department of English, with a focus on rhetoric and writing studies. Before coming to the University of Florida, Slotkin earned a Master’s degree in English from Northeastern University. His research interests are at the intersections of cultural rhetorics, critical theory, and technical writing.

Martina Laura Speranza is a PhD student in the UF Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law specializing in gender, development, and the environment, with a special focus on Queer Theory and the State. Originally from Buenos Aires, she worked in rural development and other public sector organizations in Argentina for nearly ten years. Her current research builds upon her Masters degree from The New School for Social Research in New York and her studies at the Universidad de San Andrés.

“Decolonizing Knowledge” is sponsored by the UF Center for Latin American Studies, the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, the Department of English, the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program, the Department of History, Imagining Climate Change, and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies. “Decolonizing Knowledge” poster by Terry Harpold.


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