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Decolonization & Ways of Knowing

As part of its Dialogues Series, LARC hosted Brian Calliou (The Banff Centre), Larissa Lai (University of Calgary), and Walter Mignolo (Duke University) to explore the challenges of decolonization and reconciliation through a broad-ranging discussion of different ways of knowing. This dialogue was moderated by LARC Director Pablo Policzer, and was hosted in partnership with the Calgary Institute for the Humanities, the Department of Political Science, and the Calgary Public Library.

Following an opening prayer and Territorial Acknowledgment by Traditional Knowledge Keeper Anita Eagle Bear, the dialogue started with introductions and opening remarks by each of the panelists.

Brian Calliou is a First Nations thought leader and the Director of Indigenous Leadership and Management at The Banff Centre. He is Cree from northwestern Alberta and a lawyer by training. He writes about Indigenous community economic development from a strength-based approach, that is, from a basis of stories of indigenous organizational success. Brian spoke about how colonization worked to erase indigenous people from the Canadian landscape, how colonial laws were imposed, and how as the notion of indigenous people as uncivilized spread, their knowledge was not recognized for its value. For him, decolonization is a project through which indigenous people can assert their cultural autonomy, and bring indigenous knowledge to everyday practices. Moving forward, the partnership with indigenous people should be strengthened.

Larissa Lai is a poet, novelist, critic, and Associate Professor at the University of Calgary. She is the author of two novels, When Fox Is a Thousand and Salt Fish Girl; two books of poetry, sybil unrest (with Rita Wong) and Automaton Biographies, among others. Larissa emphasized how her multicultural background put her in a position of both opposition to forms of domination and oppression but also in a position to form alliances with others. For her, the indigenous resurgence offers a tremendous hope but she acknowledged that there is work to be done. For her, decolonization means active relationship-building with people whose land she inhabits as an uninvited guest, as well as reckoning with Chinese-Canadian history, which is also a history of indentured labour. She believes that we should go beyond decolonizing minds and institutions.

Walter Mignolo is the William H. Wannamaker Professor of Romance Studies in the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences at Duke University. Mignolo’s research and teaching have been devoted to understanding and unraveling the historical foundation of the modern/colonial world system and imaginary since 1500. In the dialogue, he mentioned how his career was embedded in a colonial structure by growing up in Latin America and feeling the need to go to Europe to be educated. That is when he started to realize differences in power, how America was colonized, and how the indigenous presence in the territory was erased. He explained how coloniality is the underlying logic of North Atlantic colonization, and how universities and museums are the main institutions of coloniality of knowledge. Decoloniality goes beyond resisting the state, but rather to re-exist, to build and rebuild indigenous culture and new social structures.

You can watch the complete dialogue in this video:


Decolonization and Ways of Knowing from Latin American Research Centre on Vimeo.


The next day, Dr. Walter Mignolo offered a talk at the University of Calgary where he went deeper into some of the notions around decolonization and decoloniality. The Language Research Centre and the Calgary Institute for the Humanities co-hosted this presentation as well.


Decoloniality and Western Modernity - A talk by Walter Mignolo from Latin American Research Centre on Vimeo.

Monday, April 9, 2018
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LARC Dialogues