Epistemic Disobedience

Walter Mignolo provides us with a lens on how decolonial methodologies, or Epistemic Disobedience has been practiced and is being practiced. Within his article, he points out how the long time stigma for knowledge and people of color has been that “white people have knowledge; brown people have culture.” There is a correlation of humanity and mastering Western ideals (such as language and history), where the more a person of color is assimilated into white culture, the more human this person is. With this mastery of history and language, Mignolo pointed out that language is a receiving space for coloniality. When a discovery or essay within science or the humanities is published, English and French are deemed to be more “well known” and “accessible” because both these languages are widely known because of colonization.
There is a certain way that knowledge is produced, and the pursuit of knowledge reflects the right to freedom of speech only for educated western people. In the movie Embrace of the Serpent, a tribe takes an ethnographer’s compass. The ethnographer does not want the tribe to keep his compass because he does not want them to lose their knowledge of finding direction. He makes an effort to take his compass back, however the protagonist, an indigenous man, points out how wrong it is for the ethnographer to keep knowledge from the tribe. He says, “You cannot forbid any way to learn.” It is then that the ethnographer begins to understand that the imposition of one knowledge pushes out the other. Having knowledge beginning with Greece philosophy disregards the fact that these Greek philosophers produced their knowledge from indigenous people residing in Africa (i.e. Egypt). 
There is another scene in the movie where the protagonist asks the ethnographer why he carries so many useless things. The ethnographer replies that without proof of his work and papers of his identity, no one would believe him. We live in a society where oral traditions and oral based knowledge and science is disregarded because there is no “research” in the forms of papers. Imposing one way of learning over another has taken a heavy toll on indigenous people. In the movie, an indigenous man weeps for his lost knowledge, the knowledge where he could understand the environment around him. Because his own system of knowledge was failing due to mass genocides of his community, he no longer can speak to the rocks, the skies, and his surroundings. He feels like an empty vessel, an image that is studied by white men and their books. Within the first episode of Juana Inés, we can see that knowledge is based off of libraries and forbidden books. These forbidden books are burned, however Inés uses memory to keep knowledge alive. She recites a poem that came from the tongue of the Nahuatl language, an indigenous tribe residing in South America. She also exhibits a refusal to subscribe to political powers within the church, because the only person Juana Inés should serve and follow is God. This act of resistance questions the authority and producers of knowledge and asks “who is it that decides what knowledge is?”

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