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The CLR James Journal

Volume 27, Issue 1/2, Fall 2021
Decolonizing Spiritualities

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editor's note
1. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 27 > Issue: 1/2
Paget Henry Editor’s Note
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tributes to charles w. mills
2. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 27 > Issue: 1/2
Rafael Vizcaíno Mentoring as Empowerment
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3. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 27 > Issue: 1/2
Paget Henry Ya Gone TINA: Remembering Charles W. Mills
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decolonizing spiritualities organized and edited by rafael vizcaíno
4. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 27 > Issue: 1/2
Rafael Vizcaíno Introduction to Special Issue: Decolonizing Spiritualities
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5. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 27 > Issue: 1/2
Drucilla Cornell, Stephen D. Seely Why Political? Why Spirituality? Why Now?
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In this essay, we revisit the concept of “political spirituality” that we developed in our book The Spirit of Revolution: Beyond the Dead Ends of Man (2016) in light of the profound political upheavals that have happened since its publication. We begin with theories about the breakdown of neoliberalism and the “return of politics” with the rise of so-called populist movements. We argue that notions of the “demos” and the “people” miss the dimension of transindividuality central to our thinking of political spirituality. The second aspect of political spirituality missing from current critical theory is transcendence, or the desire to go beyond the limits of who and what we are. We capture both these dimensions through a notion of “relational finitude,” demonstrating both the poverty of European philosophy in this respect, and celebrating the contribution of feminism, decolonial theory, and African philosophy toward a new praxis of being human.
6. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 27 > Issue: 1/2
Mark Lewis Taylor Earth Politics of the Spiritual Ground: Toward Decolonizing Imperio-Coloniality’s Torture State
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Amid the coloniality of power, earth politics is a political spirituality. It fosters decolonizing practices that create what Colombian anthropologist Albán Achinte terms “re-existence”—a “redefining and re-signifying of life in conditions of dignity.” Earth politics’ spirituality can be read across the writings of Gloria Anzaldúa, Drucilla Cornell/Stephen Seely, and Paget Henry. Earth politics, in Henry’s words, is a “drama of consciousness” with a “spiritual ground,” a consciousness that is both “vertical” and “horizontal”—better, a spherical and ambient consciousness “grounding” an earthy awareness that is historical and poetic, local and planetary. Earth politics infused with such consciousness can become a force against even imperio-colonial practices of torture against colonized peoples. U.S. activist Sister Dianna Ortiz, embodies this counter-force of earth politics in her “life after torture,” in her collective struggle against the neo-imperialist torture-state that is the United States.
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Sylvia Marcos Reshaping Spirituality: Indigenous Decolonial Struggles for Justice in Mexico
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Departing from Christian spiritualities, even those emerging from feminist theologians and Latin American eco feminist liberation theologies, the indigenous women´s movements started to propose their own “indigenous spirituality.” In some key meetings like the “First Summit of Indigenous Women of the Americas” and at other later meetings, their basic documents, final declarations, collective proposals have a spiritual component that departs from the influences of the largely Christian Catholic background of the country. Their discourses, demands, and live presentations have also expressed this religious background. Through several years of interactions and sharing with women in the indigenous worlds of Mexico, the author has systematized a series of characteristics that emanate from a particular cosmovision and cosmogony. These religious references to an indigenous spirituality are inspired on ancestral references re-created today as the women struggle for social justice. The inspiration for their social justice fight is often anchored in these beliefs and practices. It is a reference to worlds of ritual, liturgy, and collective worship that—although being often attired in Catholic and Christian imagery—reveal a deep disjuncture with Christianity and affirm their epistemic particularity. Working from these “cracks of epistemic differences” (Mignolo 2006) the author presents them as a de-colonial effort. Women are actively proposing to recapture ancestral spiritualities to decolonize both the religious universes they were forced to adopt during the historical colonial invasion as well as from the influences of a neo-colonial feminist frame for gender equality.
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Natalie Avalos The Metaphysics of Decolonization: Healing Historical Trauma and Indigenous Liberation
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Decolonization is synonymous with liberation. It is invoked in multiple overlapping geopolitical projects that demand both the undoing of imperial-colonial structures and the amelioration of their effects. In his essay “Decolonizing Western Epistemology/ Building Decolonial Options,” Walter Mignolo describes decoloniality as a double-faced concept. Decolonization is a geopolitical project while decoloniality is an epistemological, political, and ethical process that enables decolonial futures (Mignolo 2011, 20). In this way, decoloniality is an analytical that critiques coloniality but also a generative utopian project that relies on decolonial epistemologies to materialize these futures. Like settler colonialism, coloniality is a structure that exceeds colonization and capitalism, expressing itself as modernity. It is the epistemic and hermeneutical processes of decoloniality that reveal ways of living and being—what Mignolo calls “living in harmony and reciprocity”—that ultimately build a nonimperial, noncapitalist world (Mignolo 2011, 25). In this article I put decolonial theory in conversation with Indigenous articulations of decolonization and religious life to illustrate what Indigenous decolonial futures may look like. I argue that reclamations of Indigenous metaphysical life regenerate Indigenous ontologies (intersubjective personhood) in ways that not only secure decolonial futures but also heal historical trauma, which can be understood as ontological dispossession.
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Eduardo Mendieta Decolonizing Blackness, Decolonizing Theology: On James Cone’s Black Theology of Liberation
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James H. Cone is without question the most important Black Theologian of the last century in U.S. theology. This essay is an engagement with his work, focusing in particular on the shifts from European theology, in his Black Theology & Black Power, to Black Aesthetic Religious production, in The Spirituals & The Blues, to The Cross and the Lynching Tree. The core theme of this essay is the entanglement of spiritual/religious colonization with production/invention of racial hierarchies that then became the crucibles for the forging of racist imaginaries that entailed, authorized, enshrined, and sacralized white supremacy. The Janus face of this alchemy, however, was the production of a black religion of liberation that entailed decolonizing the “blackness” invented by the modern project of religious racist colonization. The essay considers how Cone’s works empowers us to think through the analogies between the process of the colonization of the indigenous peoples of the so-called “New World” and the “enslavement” of African peoples. The similarities have to do with the coupling of the colonization of imaginaries with the imposition of racial imaginaries, i.e. religious conquest is also a racial conquest, and conversely, racial conquest is also a religious conquest.
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Carlos Decena Kusch en el Trópico: Itinerant Fusions in the Obra of Irka Mateo
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This article stages the imaginary “travel” of the ideas of the Argentine philosopher/anthropologist Rodolfo Kusch (1922–1979) to the Caribbean, in the service of sketching the work of feminist cultural producers in generational knowledge transmission. The first part elaborates a dialogue between Kusch’s concept of “fagocitación” (phagocytosis) with “transculturación” (transculturation), developed by the Cuban Fernando Ortiz (1881–1969). The second part of the article focuses on how Dominican diasporic composer, singer, and healer Irka Mateo enters this itinerary as a field researcher, an intellectual and expressive cultural producer. I suggest that Mateo’s notion that the “field” might inhabit her music captures a key dimension of her work as expressive and embodied cultural praxis, and that this inhabitation subtends how the artist envisions the preservation of cultural memory and links her work to Kusch and Ortiz. The final section of the article looks at the implications of forgetting to the transmission of ancestral knowledges to illustrate how Mateo’s work offers some clues that can help us better discern what re-membering means, which might be distinct and enrich how we remember.
on french caribbean thought and poetry
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Paget Henry René Ménil’s Aesthetic Marxism and the Caribbean Philosophical Tradition
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This paper is an attempt to introduce the thought of the Martinican philosopher, René Ménil to the English-speaking world. It suggests that his philosophy can best be characterized as an aesthetic Marxism, which moved through three crucial phases: (1) a surrealist/French communist phase; (2) a Black poeticist/French communist phase; and (3) a critical poeticist/Martinican communist phase. The passage through these three phases was marked by an increasing and more fixed centering of the aesthetic that created very real tensions with its politico-economic base. The paper explores these tensions through a comparative analysis with other Caribbean aesthetic Marxists or aesthetic historicists such as CLR James, Nicolás Guillén, and Kamau Brathwaite.
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Anjuli I. Gunaratne Gregson Davis and the Katabasis of Translation: Returning to Aimé Césaire’s Journal of a Homecoming
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The focus of this paper are the themes and principles informing Gregson Davis’s innovative 2017 translation of Aimé Césaire’s, Cahier d’un retour au pays natal. For long, the poem’s title was translated as Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, but Davis renders it as Journal of a Homecoming. To understand this and other highly nuanced changes, I argue that it is necessary to keep in mind at least five crucial aspects that guide Davis’s translation. First is the open-ended nature of his approach to translating this particular poem. This approach is necessary because the poem is about the unfinished and still ongoing process of decolonization. Second, is the principle of committed listening, which is a mode of reading and translating that involves a complex series of returns, revisions, and re-evaluations. Third, is the motif of katabasis or the journey to the underworld, which for Davis is an important metaphorical frame operating in the poem. Fourth, is nostos or a homecoming, because the journey to the underworld requires a homecoming. These classic archetypal themes introduce a vertical dimension to the journey back from the underworld that makes a spiral out of the linearity of historical/postcolonial time. Fifth, is granularity. A granular translator must keep re-evaluating what to prioritize as a new translation of a word must open up spaces for new images to appear in the poem. This is indeed the granularity of Davis’ thought-provoking translation. Taken together, these aspects account for the excellence of Davis’s translation.
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Deivison Faustino Frantz Fanon and the Creolization of Hegel: Colonialism, the Interdiction of Dialectics and Emancipation in Debate
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In this article, I discuss Frantz Fanon’s position regarding Hegelian dialectics. Dialektik von Herr und Knecht (Master-Servant/Servitude Dialectic) is one of the most important analytical keys of Phänomenologie des Geistes (The Phenomenology of Spirit), published by G.W.F. Hegel in Jena in 1807. However, in his Peau Noire, Masque Blancs (Black Skins, White Masks), written when he was 25 years old and published in 1952, Fanon argues that under the colonial yoke, reciprocity, a fundamental characteristic of dialectics, is not effective. The question I seek to answer in this study is: does the argument presented by the author represent a rupture, reaffirmation or transfiguration of the Hegelian dialectic? Faced with this challenge, I place some excerpts from Phenomenology, and from Black Skins, White Masks, as well as other later writings by Fanon, in dialogue, to then problematize the closeness, tensions and ruptures between both. The argument I present here will revolve around Fanon’s defense of the existence of a transfigured (calibanized) appropriation of the dialectic, based on three interdependent elements: 1. Fanon shares the Hegelian assumption that identity is produced in the reciprocal relationship with its otherness. 2. Colonial estrangement interdicts this reciprocity by promoting a decay of political domination to the level of objectifying and bestialized denial; 3. Colonial negation is not ontological, but historical and, therefore, can be overcome by a practical-sensitive negation, carried out by the colonized themselves. Throughout this paper, I discuss some implications of the argument defended here in the context of the specialized literature on the thinking of both authors.
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Carol J. Gray Decolonialism’s Reframing of French Existentialism in Fanon’s The Drowning Eye: A Study of Racial Binaries and National Consciousness
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Frantz Fanon’s posthumously published one act play, The Drowning Eye (2018, 81–112), reframes French existentialism in a postcolonial context by examining both the absurd and racial identity. Divided into three parts, this article first discusses the many parallels between The Drowning Eye and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit (1989), both one act plays set in one room with the entire action of the play consisting of a dialogue among three individuals in a love triangle. The second part explores the role of the absurd in existentialism by looking at character and thematic similarities between The Drowning Eye and Albert Camus’s The Stranger (1982), both of which reject religion as a source of meaning in life and embrace acceptance of the absurd as a liberating force. Fanon’s echoes of French existentialist themes situated in the context of decolonialism are explored in the third part. Fanon diverges from the apolitical alienation of The Stranger by instead interrogating racial binaries of former colonial subjects who either embrace or reject black consciousness. The Drowning Eye foreshadows Fanon’s later work, Black Skin, White Masks (Fanon 2008) and lays the foundation for the analysis of decolonialism and national consciousness in The Wretched of the Earth (Fanon 2004).
race, music, immigration and gender
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Patrick D. Anderson The Modalities of American Whiteness
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Philosophers tend to conceive of whiteness as having only one modality, treating it as a single social, political, and historical phenomenon. Philosophers ought to abandon this habit and instead recognize that there are many whitenesses, that whiteness has a plurality of modalities. Drawing upon Charles Mills’ non-ideal theory, Michael James’s political ontology, and Matthew Frye Jacobson’s cultural history, this study develops a non-ideal political ontology of whiteness that demonstrates various modes of whiteness and the roles they play in the different political claims of various groups of Europeans-descended people in the United States. While an exhaustive account of whiteness’ various modalities is beyond the scope of one essay, this article presents a case study of multimodal whiteness the United States during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, tracing out four modalities of American whiteness: Anglo-Saxon whiteness, Plantation whiteness, Frontier whiteness, and Urban whiteness. By freeing philosophy of race from monolithic conceptions of whiteness, we can better understand and diagnose how reigns of white supremacy are passed from one group of whites to another, and we can see how prevailing political ontologies of whiteness at specific historical times and places shape the resulting white supremacist structures.
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Lawrence Bamikole Bob Marley and Frantz Fanon: Two Perspectives on Liberation
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As individuals and social activists, Bob Marley and Frantz Fanon appear to stand in paradoxical relations with one another. In some ways, they were kindred, coming from the same physical and social spaces—Marley from Jamaica and Fanon from Martinique. As social activists, they spoke the same language of liberation that transcends their local and regional realities—specifically; both were globalists as the theory of liberation is concerned. However, Marley and Fanon, to certain extents, differed in relation to the means of liberation. While Marley sometimes vacillated on the use of violence for liberation, Fanon was emphatic that violence is a veritable means of liberation. While Marley looked back for the ingredients of the liberation process, Fanon believed that moving forward to the future is the tool kit of liberation. The paper places Marley’s and Fanon’s notions of liberation within the context of the existential issues raised by the twin phenomena of slavery and colonialism. The paper situates Marley and Fanon along the poeticist and historicist analytical framework enunciated by Paget Henry (2000). While Marley could be identified with the poeticist school which advocates for a reconstruction of the past as a means of liberation, Fanon’s historicism projects an alternative reality to replace the past in order to liberate the oppressed. The paper argues that both positions can be reconciled to achieve a coherent theory of liberation, which is the mitigation of the situation of the oppressed and the powerless in Caribbean society and the world in general.
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Anique John On Our Own Terms: Recalibrating Black Diasporic Womanisms and Justice Considerations in Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other: A Novel
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18. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 27 > Issue: 1/2
Ashmita Khasnabish Tagore’s “Kabuliwallah”: Is It a Story of Real or Virtual Diaspora or Both?
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This paper explores the concept of virtual diaspora, a concept through which I hope to establish another bridge between East and West. Virtual diaspora is a distinct and fluid location somewhere between postcoloniality and globalization, which allows the immigrant to address the pain of leaving home by moving back and forth mentally and thus being at home and abroad at the same time. I illustrate this subjective location with the aid of Rabindranath Tagore’s short story, “Kabuliwallah.” The state of mind of virtual diaspora I link systematically to Gilles Deleuze’s concept of immanence as a transcendental field that is without subject or object. As such it is without the material constraints of objects or the identity-based constraints of subjects, such as national and cultural boundaries. Living from this plane of pure immanence opens up the possibilities for the immigrant to move mentally back and forth, thus virtualizing his/her diaspora. I also link this concept of virtual diaspora to the concept of “the religion of man” in Tagore, and also to that of “the religion of humanity” in the Indian philosopher, Sri Aurobindo. In these ways, I hope to establish the concept of a virtual diaspora and at the same time a bridge between East and West.
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Daniel McNeil What Do They Know of Canada Who Only Canada Know? An Immigrant’s Guide to Multiculturalism and Shy Elitism
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This article examines how multiculturalism has overflowed from its governmental and policy articulations into Canadian society and culture more broadly. In doing so, it brings together three fields of research that are often separated and disarticulated from each other. Firstly, it draws on oft-overlooked archival material from agencies, departments and ministries of anti-racism, heritage, human rights, immigration, labour, multiculturalism, race relations, settlement and the status of women between 1971 and 2001. Secondly, it engages with the political and academic careers of “immigrant women” who navigated the credentialism, anti-intellectualism and “shy elitism” that courses through official and corporate forms of multiculturalism, and were recognized by prize-giving institutions for their contributions to Canadian society. Finally, it thinks with and through Black Atlantic intellectuals and an “anti-hierarchical tradition of thought that probably culminates in C.L.R. James’s idea that ordinary people do not need an intellectual vanguard to help them to speak or to tell them what to say” (Gilroy 1993, 79).
a reply
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Teodros Kiros A Reply to Paget Henry’s Self, Language and Metaphysics: A Review of Teodros Kiros's 2020 Self-Definition: A Philosophical Inquiry from the Global South and The Global North
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