Geopolitics of Knowledge and Digital Humanities

Geopolítica del conocimiento y humanidades digitales

Original publication date: February 19, 2014

Paola Ricaurte. Tr. EN: Paola Ricaurte

Knowledge is not abstract and delocalized.
Walter Mignolo

Mignolo (2002, 2003, 2012, 2013) has repeatedly drawn attention to the need to locate academic knowledge in a position coherent with diversality. He insists on defending our own epistemic locus and developing the awareness of narrating ourselves from subalternity and not from the colonialism of power. I believe this discussion is crucial for knowledge production and digital humanities in our region.

Digital humanists in Latin America face the challenge posed by Mignolo. On the one hand, the need to abandon the universalist conception of knowledge, which also involves the challenge of narrating ourselves on our own terms: What are the dominant academic discourses in the field of digital humanities and where are we situated in them? What criteria define digital humanities in Mexico and Latin America? What are the mechanisms of legitimation of knowledge production in the field of digital humanities? Who defines and controls them and what is our position about it?

The practice of digital humanities in Latin America must begin with digital humanists not reproducing dominant epistemological frameworks, circuits of production and knowledge diffusion, institutions, referents, and objects of study. It’s not that we should necessarily part from the denial of origin, opposition or rupture, but any academic practice must defend basic conditions for autonomous thought, outside universality or single thought. Defining a locus of enunciation, as Mignolo insists, is a condition for a genuine intellectual exercise.

As a starting point, Mignolo (2003) raises a number of questions in this regard:

What are the problems and issues that require our attention?

What kind of knowledge/understanding is demanded by history, society and the intellectual genealogies we choose?

From what perspective (disciplinary, ethnic, generic, sexual , national , etc.) will we produce such knowledge or understanding? This question assumes, of course, that the disciplinary perspective is not neutral and is marked by color, gender, sexuality, nationality (i.e. the language in which you write and genealogies registered in that language).

For what purpose? Would we produce knowledge to “advance” or “reach the truth” or to influence social transformation and consequently, produced knowledge understanding will be related to problems and issues required by history, society and the intellectual genealogy we choose?

Therefore, it is essential for the digital humanities to ask the whats, the hows, and the whys of production, reproduction, conservation and circulation of knowledge. We urgently need, as Mignolo emphasized, “to invigorate critical reason in the Humanities”, especially in Latin America.

References

Mignolo, W. (2002). The geopolitics of knowledge and the colonial difference. The South Atlantic Quarterly, 101(1), 57-96.

Mignolo, W. (2003). Cultural Studies: Geopolitics of Knowledge and requirements / business needs. Revista Iberoamericana, Vol LXIX , No. 203 , 401-415 .

Mignolo, W. (2012). Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking. Princeton University Press.

Mignolo, W. (2013). Geopolitics of Sensitivity and Knowledge. On (De)coloniality, Border Thinking and Epistemic Disobedience. Journal of Philosophy, 74 (2) , 7-23 .

Walsh, C. (2003). The Geopolitics of Knowledge and Coloniality of power. Interview with Walter Mignolo. Polis. Online Journal of the Bolivarian University of Chile, Volume 1, Issue 4. http://www.digeibir.gob.pe/sites/default/files/publicaciones/Entrevista_a_Mignolo_de_Walsh.pdf