Arturo Escobar: Territories of Difference: Place, Movements, Life, Redes (2008)

19 April 2020, dusan

“In Territories of Difference, Arturo Escobar, author of the widely debated book Encountering Development, analyzes the politics of difference enacted by specific place-based ethnic and environmental movements in the context of neoliberal globalization. His analysis is based on his many years of engagement with a group of Afro-Colombian activists of Colombia’s Pacific rainforest region, the Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN). Escobar offers a detailed ethnographic account of PCN’s visions, strategies, and practices, and he chronicles and analyzes the movement’s struggles for autonomy, territory, justice, and cultural recognition. Yet he also does much more. Consistently emphasizing the value of local activist knowledge for both understanding and social action and drawing on multiple strands of critical scholarship, Escobar proposes new ways for scholars and activists to examine and apprehend the momentous, complex processes engulfing regions such as the Colombian Pacific today.

Escobar illuminates many interrelated dynamics, including the Colombian government’s policies of development and pluralism that created conditions for the emergence of black and indigenous social movements and those movements’ efforts to steer the region in particular directions. He examines attempts by capitalists to appropriate the rainforest and extract resources, by developers to set the region on the path of modernist progress, and by biologists and others to defend this incredibly rich biodiversity “hot-spot” from the most predatory activities of capitalists and developers. He also looks at the attempts of academics, activists, and intellectuals to understand all of these complicated processes. Territories of Difference is Escobar’s effort to think with Afro-Colombian intellectual-activists who aim to move beyond the limits of Eurocentric paradigms as they confront the ravages of neoliberal globalization and seek to defend their place-based cultures and territories.”

Publisher Duke University Press, 2008
New Ecologies for the Twenty-first Century series, 1
ISBN 9780822343271, 0822343274
xvi+435 pages

Reviews: Laura Fano Morrissey (Development, 2009), Christopher L. Chiappari (Latin American Politics & Society, 2010), Pierre Hamel (American Journal of Sociology, 2010), Lilly U. Nguyen (Interactions, 2010), Rodrigo A. Lima de Medeiros & Guilherme F. W. Radomsky (Sociedade e Estado, 2010, BR-PT), Manuel J. Prieto (Revista de geografía Norte Grande, 2010, ES), Jeffrey S. Juris (American Anthropologist, 2011), Cornelia Butler Flora (J Agric Environ Ethics, 2011), Claudia Steiner (Americas, 2011), Paul Routledge, Juanita Sundberg, Marcus Power, & Arturo Escobar (Progress in Human Geography, 2012).


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D. Fox Harrell: Phantasmal Media: An Approach to Imagination, Computation, and Expression (2013)

13 May 2018, dusan

“An argument that great expressive power of computational media arises from the construction of phantasms—blends of cultural ideas and sensory imagination.

In Phantasmal Media, D. Fox Harrell considers the expressive power of computational media. He argues, forcefully and persuasively, that the great expressive potential of computational media comes from the ability to construct and reveal phantasms—blends of cultural ideas and sensory imagination. These ubiquitous and often-unseen phantasms—cognitive phenomena that include sense of self, metaphors, social categories, narrative, and poetic thinking—influence almost all our everyday experiences. Harrell offers an approach for understanding and designing computational systems that have the power to evoke these phantasms, paying special attention to the exposure of oppressive phantasms and the creation of empowering ones. He argues for the importance of cultural content, diverse worldviews, and social values in computing. The expressive power of phantasms is not purely aesthetic, he contends; phantasmal media can express and construct the types of meaning central to the human condition.

Harrell discusses, among other topics, the phantasm as an orienting perspective for developers; expressive epistemologies, or data structures based on subjective human worldviews; morphic semiotics (building on the computer scientist Joseph Goguen’s theory of algebraic semiotics); cultural phantasms that influence consensus and reveal other perspectives; computing systems based on cultural models; interaction and expression; and the ways that real-world information is mapped onto, and instantiated by, computational data structures.

The concept of phantasmal media, Harrell argues, offers new possibilities for using the computer to understand and improve the human condition through the human capacity to imagine.”

Publisher MIT Press, 2013
ISBN 9780262019330, 0262019337
xix+420 pages

Reviews: John Harwood (Artforum, 2014), Brian Reffin Smith (Leonardo, 2015).



Walter D. Mignolo: Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking (1999)

30 September 2016, dusan

“This book is an extended argument on the “coloniality” of power by one of the most innovative scholars of Latin American studies. In a shrinking world where sharp dichotomies, such as East/West and developing/developed, blur and shift, Walter Mignolo points to the inadequacy of current practice in the social sciences and area studies. He introduces the crucial notion of “colonial difference” into study of the modern colonial world. He also traces the emergence of new forms of knowledge, which he calls “border thinking.”

Further, he expands the horizons of those debates already under way in postcolonial studies of Asia and Africa by employing the terms and concerns of New World scholarship. His concept of “border gnosis,” or what is known from the perspective of an empire’s borderlands, counters the tendency of occidentalist perspectives to dominate, and thus limit, understanding.

The book is divided into three parts: the first chapter deals with epistemology and postcoloniality; the next three chapters deal with the geopolitics of knowledge; the last three deal with the languages and cultures of scholarship. Here the author reintroduces the analysis of civilization from the perspective of globalization and argues that, rather than one “civilizing” process dominated by the West, the continually emerging subaltern voices break down the dichotomies characteristic of any cultural imperialism. By underscoring the fractures between globalization and mundialización, Mignolo shows the locations of emerging border epistemologies, and of post-occidental reason.”

Publisher Princeton University Press, 1999
Princeton Studies in Culture/Power/History series
ISBN 0691001405, 9780691001401
xix+371 pages

Interview with author (L. Elena Delgado and Rolando J. Romero, Discourse, 2000)
Author on pluriversality (2013)
Review: Serge Gruzinski (Annales, 2002, FR).
Commentary: Linda Martín Alcoff (CR, 2007).


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