Exploring the multifaceted concept of colonialism

Professor Alejandro Campos-Garcia discusses the legacy of authoritative policy

“Is colonization a matter of the past?,” was the fundamental question posed by Alejandro Campos-Garcia, a professor of sociology who discussed the impact colonialism has had on a diverse group of people.

Faculty members and graduate students gathered in TRUSU’s Board Room on Jan. 17 to listen to Campos-Garcia present on the topic: Coloniality and Decoloniality: Beyond the Colonial & Decolonizing Project.

Campos-Garcia, who identifies as Cuban-Mexican-Canadian, started his presentation by acknowledging that his own name is evidence of colonialism.

“I have the name of somebody who basically owned somebody in my family,” Campos-Garcia said. “I don’t know who was owned, I don’t who was the owner. I only know that somebody in my family was owned by someone, somebody in my family was cattle.”

He also explained how, through a western lens, modernity is closely associated with colonialism.

In stating this, he pointed out the fact that he was presenting in a university setting and speaking English— a language that is nonnative to him.

“Modernity defines who I am. I’m using the language that was not the language of my parents— English, but even the language of my parents was a language that was enforced upon them,” he said.

Campos-Garcia added that people tend to assume they fully understand controversial subjects like colonialism and racism. Still, he insisted such concepts are elusive and not necessarily transparent.

This is because as soon as a new element is introduced to the equation, existing notions are subject to change dramatically.

He explained that this is one of the reasons attempting to define colonialism is a difficult process that can be very “slippery.”

“When we think of colonialism, we tend to think of something that is in the past,” he said “Something that happened, that had its time and was dismantled.”

He states the fact that people identify as white or European proves that colonial mindsets are still very much present in modern society.

He added, the belief that certain knowledge is superior to others and the notion that selling labour is the only way of having access to resources, are also signs of coloniality.

During the discussion segment of his presentation, Campos-Garcia encouraged students to share their perspectives on the topic.

Robline Forsythe, an education graduate student, said she found a lot of the points he made very interesting.

“I’m trying to make sure that I continue focusing on supporting our institutions to make it more friendly,” Forsythe said, referencing modern education’s relationship with colonialism.

She went on to explain that the deficit model currently in place can sometimes overlook people “who aren’t savvy with the academy or colonial institutions.”

Concluding his presentation, Campos-Garcia was careful to emphasize that he did not have all the answers to address colonialism, but insisted it that it is a concept that people should explore.

“Modernity in itself is colonial and we are still modern, we are still living the colonial way,” he said.