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Slavoj Žižek. Object a and The Function of Ideology. 2012

Unlike the predominately white academic audiences in the North Eastern United States where I typically present my work, nearly all of the attendees not only knew of this legend but had grown up hearing stories about the wailing woman who killed her own children. Excited to discuss the legend in an academic space, many students offered their reflections on accounts of the legend passed on to them during the question and answer period of the talk. One student recalled that her mother had told a much more sympathetic version of the La Llorona story that was sensitive to intersectional issues such as class while another worked through complex issues of violence and culpability that arise from longstanding histories of colonial, racist, and sexist oppression.

Women in Philosophy: Why the Decolonial Imaginary Matters for Women in Philosophy

I can say with utter sincerity that the questions these students asked were more insightful and philosophically reflective than the majority that I have received from trained philosophers. For several young Latina students who came up to me after the talk, seeing someone do philosophy in this way opened up new possibilities for them and allowed them to make sense of their experiences navigating the white and colonial space of the academy.


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They asked tough questions and through our conversations were better able to articulate feelings of exclusion and gained skills for thinking critically about why they did not feel scholarly when writing from their own lived experiences. While this may be an old or stale insight for those of us who are familiar with the writings of feminist epistemologists, these Latina students were having an experience that philosophy could be about them for the first time. I want to suggest that this is the power and the importance of philosophizing from decolonial feminist imaginaries. As Ana M. We come without mirrors, for in the eyes of a world in which we do not yet exist, we have not yet been born.

1. Varieties of Anarchism

As we walk, we must at every turn choose our own birthing, we must choose that first breath. To birth ourselves. And again.

And to find joy in that birthing. To come together as water does on a smooth surface, and in doing so become mirrors for each other. In addition to our sheer presence as women of color in these space, philosophizing from decolonial imaginaries opens up further possibilities for students of color to catch a glimpse of themselves in mirrors that have more often worked to distort their images. Because our imaginaries and the images that surround us shape our concepts and desires, they play a constitutive role in forming not only our social realities but also our Selves.

Many mainstream feminist philosophers emphasize the importance of the philosophical imaginary for the possibility of liberatory thinking outside of patriarchal structures that have systematically and constitutively excluded women from the production of History, knowledge, and the symbolic order. Despite the myriad critical feminist appropriations and retellings of Hipparchia , Hypatia , and Antigone , I do not see myself reflected in these figures in the same way that I do with those from the Latinx imaginary, such as Las Tres Madres.

It is by rooting my philosophical work in these figures that intersectional concerns that reflect my multiplicitous self—such as race, class, sexuality, and coloniality—come into focus. If it is true that as feminist philosophers we seek to do the work of making philosophy more diverse and inclusive—dare I say that if we are interested in decolonizing the discipline of philosophy if such a task is even possible —then it is imperative that we begin to philosophize from decolonial imaginaries.

Her research areas are social and political philosophy, feminist philosophy esp. Utilizing the work of U. Latina thinkers, her research aims to show the contributions that decolonial feminisms make to re-thinking questions of identity, cross-cultural communication, and ethicopolitical strategies for decolonization. For additional information please see her website, emmadvelez. What an interesting blog post, thanks, Emma Velez!

It sounds like your visit was transformative for the students. As you point out, your participants in your talk were familiar with the myth of La Llorona or at least impressions of her. Thanks for sharing your insights and experiences with us. Thank you for your piece, Emma. It suggests to me that there are multiple sources of philosophical insight and questioning multiple imaginaries in classrooms with students from a variety of cultural backgrounds. One task you point to is to allow them to surface — to recognize them as philosophically rich — so they may enrich our discussion.

To my idiosyncratic mind, your post makes, indirectly, a decolonial case for why the relation-to-life, the personal relation, is central to the actual pursuit of wisdom and the actual practice of critical thinking. Thank you for sharing your own story. But thank you also for sharing tools and for modeling how this work can be done in a way that acknowledges that it matters…that it can be transformative and also risky.

Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. Currently you have JavaScript disabled. This includes in particular on how to realize being involved in relationships to others when seeing them eat, dance, work or even doing nothing. Indeed, the difficulties of finding distance to the others while remaining close enough to see what is going on, that too circumscribes the special tension which not every author can hold out to in the language he decides to use when naming reality. The degree of differentiation is here decisive. Once but a fake language covers up the loss of exactness, then the novel looses interest precisely because a lack of attention to this crucial difference makes the writing become flat or even worse a mere symbolic gesture.


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  7. It is like a person standing outside a shop and waving a big white handkerchief to people sitting inside as if that is a sufficient form of communication or even more so an adequate expression of knowing what the others are doing inside that room! Literary and poetic models seem to relate intricately to that wish of living in a truthful reality, one in which the senses are not deceived and the mind called upon to describe reality in beautiful terms even if it is not that beautiful at all.

    Kafka thought of himself as being unable to be present once his beloved Felice would mingle in the crowd of businessmen in Frankfurt a. Main; their sense for reality would more than overshadow his ability to exist in such a world. In a letter Kafka confessed that he could only exist between the lines he was writing to her. The small- or greatness of a place to exist in depends not upon the physical limitations but upon the imagination it allows.

    The very presence of the imagination makes the size of space become irrelevant.

    Beuys’ Chair

    It is important to note that in cases like Kafka there are people who think that they cannot exist in the so-called real world. Rather they are in need of spaces that they can create for themselves and in doing so find it possible to reach out to others, in order to communicate through them to other people. Such an attempt is based on the acknowledgement of failure. Kierkegaard described as the most existentialist moment when love is possible but also a failure to reach the other and thereby miss out on happiness.

    But there may other reasons for such failure. This includes the testing of gas as weapon, as described by Andre Malraux. Those scientists had stopped working within human knowledge and trespassed all ethics by treating people as objects of experiments. Gone was since then in science the thoughtfulness needed to respect others as subjects of human self-consciousness; rather their experiments were designed to test as to what technical knowledge could do to other people.

    For Vincent Van Gogh it became important to focus as much on hands and faces because a key to all of his experiences was the realization that they were eating with the same hands that had picked those potatoes. By doing something that connects in reality the subject with the action undertaken, the imagined subject of being is brought out and related to the self in reality.

    It brings about such consciousness as the tension is retained now not merely in thoughts, but in the forms of expression allowing the subject to articulate itself throughout the work.

    Ann V. Murphy, Violence and the Philosophical Imaginary - PhilPapers

    Authentic remains the entire movement as long as the thoughts expressed through words adapted to social forms of communication stay in true relation to the self. If it gives the freedom to the imagination, then every expression thereof goes beyond mere words and allows the flow of associations as follow-up to any action. In that way the self indicates that it is present as subject even when expressing itself merely by gestures Bart Verschaffel.

    There is, however, this terrible situation when people feel themselves left alone or completely abandoned as did many Jewish people during the Second World War. Their plight seems to have been that they were unable to speak up for themselves. They may express only indirectly their political weakness as a wish that there would be at least someone who would speak out on their behalf. Indeed, when a Jewish person faced all the atrocities of the concentration camp, he or she was then not merely a victim, but equally a lone witness as to what was happening not only to him or her, but to humanity that let this happen.

    Immediately that changes not only interpretations of reality. In an effort to overcome the situation of isolation of those having been left alone in history that is without any outside help it alters also the philosophical attempt to understand their traumatic experience. The transformation of caution into precaution as a result of historical events leading up to Auschwitz and not ending there, reflects more than disappointment the failure of humanity when it comes to prevent abuse of power in the past, present and future. That happens once human beings turn against one another and do something beyond all reason and understanding.

    It severs all human relationships and thereby damages the ability to still recognize the other as a human being. Rather the failure to perceive the other s as human beings comes about due to the loss of the imagination.

    How Castoriadis read Weber

    People can then be easily cut off from one another. They will cease to speak to one another. In their hostility they will erect such high, equally invisible walls because of the wish to no longer see the other that they cut themselves off from the world. Adorno and Horkheimer point out that the modern world with its emphasis upon communication, including individual transportation by car, leads only to isolation. Once the imagination is destroyed or not experienced any more, then the pattern of behaviour shall change into a negative, equally destructive, indeed violent reaction against any form of human bondage.

    The reactionary tendencies setting in as a result will deny the fact that there is really nothing that could separate human beings from one another. In other words, the world will give then way to a mistaken identity trying to assert itself by claiming absolute difference from the others. Such absolutism can lead to war, but also to other conflicts underlined by different forms of violence. These ethnic assertions are really expressions of false disputes. Truth is then recognizable and understandable for others, not a threat.

    In terms of human relationships, the experiences made then form a human entity of which one is a part. It means that there is something that all human beings have in common, including a love for life.

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    However, it is very difficult to convince especially those who are mono-cultural and mono-ethnic orientated that there is such a truth that nothing is as great as it could be used to distinguish and to set apart people from one another. Needless to say all categories used for articulating and developing knowledge about the world are derived from something which is universal. In real terms it means everyone is at the same time unique, different and something other than ever imagined while being an intricate part of humanity.

    Subsequently every self develops over time special features so that all belong sooner or later to regrouped forms of understanding in terms of languages and cultural identities. The scope of such a process has a clear delineation. It is drawn by the need to retain a liveable tension, in order to be able to use language. Such use becomes dead the moment the tension is gone or in the process of being lost.

    Use of language is, therefore, a critical tension within consciousness. As such it expresses and follows the need to be reflected upon constantly at the level of the imagination. Without it the self consciousness of being human would not be possible.