Decolonial Futures

As scholars, activists, and artists, how can we address spaces of ruinous capitalism to raise the possibility of decolonial futures? This Periscope issue is a collaborative effort to think about and provide responses to this complex question from a number of disciplinary, epistemic, political, and an-aesthetic vantage points. In this dossier, the individual pieces form a composite means by which to name and move beyond the extractive view, or forms of visuality, perceptions, and knowledge production that exceed mere capitalist valuation to offer other ways of organizing social life.

Since 1492, different phases of primitive accumulation within colonial capitalism have done irreparable damage. In my book The Extractive Zone: Social Ecologies and Decolonial Perspectives, I show how the last forty years represent a period of planetary extractive intensification with new technologies, such as digital mapping, facilitating corporate, militarized, and state and legal control over the Earth’s eco-pools. Under these conditions, Indigenous and multi-species autonomy are increasingly in peril. For instance, we have witnessed the plundering of the Arctic North, the struggles over water in Standing Rock, battles to open up the Yasuní in eastern Ecuador, and the militarization of Mapuche territories in the Bío-Bío region of southern Chile. Indeed, the turn during the past decade to mega-mining and mega-dam construction throughout the Américas, especially within Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Bolivia, extend the territorial battles of the Cold War for increased possession over Indigenous resources. Though the anglocentric and universalizing logic of the anthropocene presumes full colonization and extinction in such spaces, we might instead foreground how the histories of extractive geographies have always been organized through modes of being, doing, thinking, and living that refuse the gendered/sexed and racial order of colonial capitalism.

In my own work, environmental testimonials, transversal activisms, anarcho-feminisms, decolonial cuir methods, Indigenous critique and movements, minor viewpoints, and writing against the binary of the human and non-human offer new/old strategies for staging how the politics within ruined territories perceive beyond the extractive zone. For instance, the submerged perspectives of Mapuche multimedia artist Francisco Huichaqueo not only make visible the violent confusion of ongoing colonial occupation, but also provide routes out of the normative assumptions that Indigenous territories are there for the taking—in this case by multinational pine plantations. Challenging and subverting the extractive logics that circulate through a sensorium that has been capitalized, as much as it is continually decolonized, recenters critical hope for local and planetary futures.

Therefore, seeing “beyond the extractive view” motivates this Periscope dossier. Each author explicitly addresses how artistic, filmic, activist, and experimental approaches render multiple catastrophes upon our perception of social life. What forms of writing, activity, and making art in the interstices of life/death worlds allow us to differently inhabit viewpoints beyond the extractive view? The essays and representations that follow engage the apocalyptic force of racial and extractive capitalism, but also see beyond the finite condition of its destruction.

I am honored to be in dialogue with the activists, scholars, and artists whose essays appear in this dossier. Each finds ways to refuse, subvert, narrate, and remake spaces of acute extractivism.

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Macarena Gómez-Barris

Macarena Gómez-Barris is chairperson of the Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies and the Global South Center at Pratt Institute. She is author of The Extractive Zone: Social Ecologies and Decolonial Perspectives, which theorizes social life through five extractive scenes of ruinous capitalism upon Indigenous territories (2017). She is also author of the forthcoming Beyond the Pink Tide: Art and Political Undercurrents in the Américas (August 2018), Where Memory Dwells: Culture and State Violence in Chile (2009), and co-editor, with Herman Gray, of Towards a Sociology of a Trace (2010). She is the author of numerous articles and essays in art catalogues as well as peer reviewed journals, including writing on the work of Julie Mehretu, Laura Aguilar, Carolina Caycedo, Regina José Galindo, Cecilia Vicuña, Francisco Huichaqueo, and Patricio Guzmán. Macarena was a Fulbright fellow at the Sociology and Gender Department in FLACSO Ecuador, Quito.