Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking

Walter Mignolo

The book is an extended argument on the "coloniality" of power. In a shrinking world where sharp dichotomies, such as East/West and developing/developed, blur and shift, 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 and traces the emergence of new forms of knowledge, which he calls "border thinking."

Expanding the horizons of those debates already under way in postcolonial studies of Asia and Africa and employing the terms and concerns of New World scholarship, the author’s 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.

Mignolo divides the book into three parts: the first discusses epistemology and postcoloniality; the second deals with the geopolitics of knowledge; and the third addresses with the languages and cultures of scholarship. Here he 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 mundializacion, he shows the locations of emerging border epistemologies, and of post-occidental reason.