The European origins of cultural coloniality

The Daily Guardian

In his essay titled “Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality”, Anibal Quijano, a renowned Peruvian sociologist, examined the continuing impact of Western/European conquest on the societies and cultures of what is known as Latin America today. In particular, the subject of his attention was the “relationship of direct, political, social and cultural domination” that was established between the Western/European conquerors/colonizers (Quijano used Western and European interchangeably) and the colonized societies of Latin America, which he termed as Eurocentered colonialism. He observed that the colonial power structure in Latin America had created specific forms of discrimination to classify the societies on racial, ethnic and national lines, which remained in such societies even after political decolonization. This situation was exacerbated by the assumption that such discrimination was “objective” or “scientific”. Therefore, what was clearly the product of the colonial power structure was assumed to be based on natural phenomena and criteria, thereby lending it the façade of an unquestionable fact of nature. This brings out another layer, namely the use of sciencism by the colonizer to perpetuate, normalize and legitimize stereotypes about the colonized.

Critically, according to Quijano, while political colonialism had long been done away with, it had been replaced with Western/European imperialism, whose relationship with other cultures was the same as that of the erstwhile colonizers, namely “colonization of the imagination of the dominated”. To use a pop culture reference, a form of inception was performed on the minds of the hitherto colonized so that colonialism and colonization were no more external to their consciousness, but had become a part of it.

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