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Seminar 7: The Question of Decoloniality

Primarily Synchronous (May 24-May 28)

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Seminar Leaders:

José Manuel Cortez, University of Oregon:
Romeo García, University of Utah:
Jenna N. Hanchey, University of Nevada, Reno:

A common expression within the decolonial research paradigm is global modernities, global colonialities. A central thesis of decoloniality is that a colonial matrix of power (a logic of management and control of land, resources, and people), cloaked by a rhetoric of modernity (geographic racism and epistemic racism), continues to be transformed and disputed. The edifice of a decolonial project, hence, centers on a relentless task of (1) revealing the inner workings of coloniality, (2) affirming modes and principles of thought and feeling denied by the pretended universality of a common place (the West), community (whiteness), belief (to promote the “common good”), and praxis (to leave behind that which the other does not have), and (3) working towards re-existing and re-building otherwise (Mignolo, 2007; 2011). A decolonial option—a vision of learning how to re-exist and re-build—opens up the possibility for an-other logic and paradigm (Calafell, 2014; Hanchey, 2018; Na’puti, 2019; Ngũgĩ, 2012; Wanzer-Serrano, 2015; Weheliye, 2014). We are presented with an impasse, though, given the axiomatic assumptions of a proper place and subject: one must know of “decolonial subjects, decolonial knowledges, and decolonial institutions” (Mignolo 2011, p. 9) in advance to conceive of something like a decolonial option, which is currently premised on relaying an-other option to Western epistemological practices (Garcia & Cortez, 2020). We are encouraged, thus, to always already ask: a decolonial option?

“The Question of Decoloniality” not only asks what must be done to decolonize the theory, study, and enactment of rhetoric, but also works to put words into action to imagine and create pluriversal futures: global communal futures in which differences are not “cast in terms of values of plus and minus degree of humanity” (Mignolo, 2007, p. 499). In this seminar, we propose to examine the long-standing multidisciplinary debates surrounding the question of decolonization as they set the stage for contemporary studies of (neo)colonialism, sovereignty, politics, indigeneity, global capitalist imperialism, and neoliberalization across rhetorical studies. Our questioning of decoloniality recognizes that “decolonial” and “decolonizing” are often used in ways evacuated of substance or meaning, reinforcing rather than deconstructing colonial systems through surface-level invocations of decolonization. “The Question of Decoloniality” thus asks participants to struggle with difficult questions: Can rhetoric be decolonized at all (García & Cortez, 2020)? What makes decoloniality (im)possible? What forms may epistemic delinking take in different geopolitical contexts? How sustainable is (epistemic) de-linking? When/where is re-linking required, and what does it look like? Given the limits of our ability to conceptualize decolonization, how can we imagine and create decolonial futures?

“The Question of Decoloniality” has a three-part agenda in considering and investigating a decolonial option for rhetorical studies: (1) Provide an interdisciplinary overview of the latest iteration of a decolonial option based on selected readings; (2) Facilitate critical discussions on the central premises of the project and its potential limitations; and (3) Foster a critical imaginarium where we learn together how to re-exist and re-build otherwise. Prospective participants should describe their current program of research and how it relates to (de)coloniality, identify two to three goals for what they would like to learn from/achieve in/investigate throughout the seminar, and a specific research project that they would like to develop through the seminar. We look forward to thinking, questioning, debating, and dreaming with you, in order to “tak[e] flight beyond what is presently imaginable,” “where ‘life’ perhaps can be perceived, even (re)conceived, as existence beyond measure” (Keeling, 2019, p. xiv).

Jos Manuel Cortez José Manuel Cortez (PhD, Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English, University of Arizona) is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Oregon. His research on critical theory, comparative rhetoric, and cultural studies appears in Philosophy & Rhetoric, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Rhetorics of Democracy in the Americas, and Decolonizing Rhetoric and Composition Studies: New Latinx Keywords for Theory and Pedagogy and is forthcoming in College Composition and Communication.

Romeo Garca Romeo García (PhD, Composition and Cultural Rhetoric, Syracuse University)is Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric Studies at the University of Utah. His research on local histories of settler colonialism and settler archives, community praxis, and decolonial critique appears in College Composition and Communication, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, The Writing Center Journal, Community Literacy Journal, and constellations. García is co-editor (with Damián Baca) of Rhetorics Elsewhere and Otherwise, winner of the 2020 Conference on College Composition & Communication Outstanding Book Award (Edited Collection). His current interests include the impact of the decolonial research paradigm on composition and rhetorical studies; archival research; the cultural imaginary of border(ed)landers of South Texas; and community building in and outside of academia.

Jenna N. Hanchey Jenna N. Hanchey (PhD, Communication Studies, The University of Texas at Austin) is Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Affiliate Faculty of the Gender, Race, and Identity Program and the Ozmen Institute for Global Studies. Her research is premised on a politics of decolonization, and attends to the intersections of rhetoric, African studies, women of color feminisms, and critical development studies. She is the recipient of multiple awards, including the 2019 Feminist Scholar of the Year Award from ORWAC, the 2017 Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Critical and Cultural Studies Division of NCA, and the 2014 Gerard A. Hauser Research Award from RSA. Her work critiquing development in the present has drawn her toward an interest in anticolonial futures. She is currently delving into Africanfuturism and the radical imaginings that pull liberation from the realm of the impossible to the possible.

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