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2014 Decolonial Summer School Middelburg

In 2010 the Decolonial Summer School Middelburg was hosted for the first time at the University College Roosevelt (University of Utrecht) in cooperation with the Centre for Global Studies and the Humanities (Duke University). Opening the university to life’s diversity and other knowledges, Walter Mignolo and Rolando Vázquez have been bringing together students, activists, scholars and artists in the academic setting. Addressing the danger of the single story in the Modern/Colonial world order, the course invites to learn about the decolonial option. Participants and lecturers collectively explore creative alternatives to global (un)justice by critically engaging local histories to challenge global designs.

Situating ourselves in the town of Middelburg, we begin a dialogue that addresses global social justice, connecting at the same time the legacy of European slave trade and the jewish holocaust. The question then becomes how to make visible the pluriversality of experiences subsumed under the hegemonic design of the modern/colonial world order? We speak of ethics and tolerance while learning to listen and engage with one another with respect.



Democratic and Decolonial Futures

Middelburg Decolonial Summer Course
University College Roosevelt
16-June to 1st of July 2014

Today, the idea of “democracy” that was globalized through European imperial expansions is no longer the only way to conceive and organize harmonic and convivial societies. The crisis of “western democracy” demands closer examination and invites us to seriously consider other conceptions to achieve peaceful futures. On the one hand, the seminar will show the connections between “civilization and unjustness” between “modernity and coloniality” in different domains of life. On the other, we will take seriously the movements of decolonial re-existence that are appearing across the planet.

We will show the historical connections between the transatlantic slavery and current neoliberal forms of the devaluation of life. From the start of Atlantic Slavery in the sixteen Century and the birth of a world capitalist economy centered in the West, we have witnessed the continuous growth of social unjustness. The racialization of non-European populations and its repercussion on current racism, the imposition of a colonial gender system, the increasing economic inequalities, the commodification and destruction of nature and the corporate control over water and food are tokens of the coloniality that keeps on characterizing global (un)justness.

We will pay special attention to the democratic disconnect that we are witnessing in the European “indignado/as” (Spain, Greece), North Africa and Middle Eastern “intifadas,” US and Europe “occupy,” Turkey and Brazilian “manifestations”, the uprisings in Eastern Europe, feminist and indigenous social movements in Latin America.

Sumak Kawsay and the birth of plurinational states in Latin America, Ubuntu in Africa, Confucian Constitutionalism in China, Shar’ia and Umma in the Islamic world are all co-existing options aiming at building harmonic social futures. They present alternatives to the democratic lag that characterizes the hegemonic conception of development and the neoliberal forms of governance.

Designed for advanced undergraduate and graduate students (Phd and Ma) from all disciplinary backgrounds, we will encourage participants interested in creating “working groups” that will continue decolonial research agendas after the end of the seminar. The working groups would develop “reports” and “activities” that may take the form of traditional paper, video-documentary, web-page, artistic creation, museum exhibitions, community work or other initiatives connected to the participant’s interests.


Slavery: The Past and Present of Social (Un)Justice. Introducing the Decolonial Option

Slavery remains as the most telling event and process in the formation of Western Civilization and the modern/colonial world in the Atlantic, from the XVI to early XIX centuries. An aberration upon which Western modernity built its economic foundations at the same time that managed to “normalize” the dispensability of human lives. Dispensable where lives of people considered lesser human and subjected to be enslaved and dispensed with when they were no longer necessary. Slavery was not only a set of processes and events. It was, above all, the consequence of a frame of knowledge that established a hierarchy of human beings. That frame of knowledge was and is what today we know as “racism.” Slavery was deeply rooted in epistemic un-justice.

The fourth edition of the Middelburg Decolonial Summer School focused on ” Slavery: The Past and Present of Social (Un) Justice.” It was designed to investigate the logic and presupposition of Global Un-justice in the modern/colonial world, from 1500 to 2000. The seminar took place in Middelburg, a key city of the Dutch slave trade and it is set against the backdrop of the 150 anniversary of the abolition of slavery in The Netherlands.

The ‘Decolonial Option’ aims to open new perspectives for understanding global (un) justice as well as to overcome them in the process of imagining and building just and convivial futures. If coloniality, as unfolded in the collective project “modernity/coloniality”, is the logic behind social un-justices, it remains hidden under the rhetoric of modernity, Decoloniality shall be—therefore—the process of disclosing and undoing coloniality to promote and contribute to enact social justice. Global un-justices operates at all levels of the socio-economic and cultural spectrum, from economy to politics, from religion to aesthetics, from gender and sexuality to ethnicity and racism, and above all, in the control of knowledge.

The Decolonial Summer Seminar took advantage of what Middleburg has to offer to understand the history of slavery and its connection to the formation of Western power. Building on the local history of Middelburg, we theoretically explored the nature and consequences of slavery and drew the continuities between the colonial past and current forms of social un-justice around the world. We paid special attention to emerging project, parallel to the project modernity/coloniality/decoloniality who are working toward overcoming the legacies of the South-North divide. If the colonial matrix of power encompasses several domains (economy, politics, gender, cosmology, aesthetics, racialization), the task of overcoming coloniality requires of many people in many areas of knowing and doing. Activists, artists, scholars, journalists, among others, contributed to the goals of the 4th edition of the Decolonial Summer School at Middleburg.


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