A panel of experts from the Five College Consortium held a discussion at the Integrative Learning Center Wednesday evening titled “Embodying Coalitions Across the Worlds of Postcolonial and Decolonial Scholarship and Practice.”
Over the course of the two hour discussion, topics varied from 20th century feminist movements in Latin America, to the current political situation in the United States and India, and the engagement of social movements within the United States today. The event was sponsored by the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies.
With backgrounds in women and gender studies, English, literature and anthropology, the discussion drew a crowd largely consisting of graduate students and professors, with some undergraduate students and Amherst community members attending as well.
The panel was held to “urge to get us to think in more complicated ways,” said Kiran Asher, an event organizer and women, gender, sexuality studies professor at the University of Massachusetts.
“[We have] to be more self-reflective, more critical of ourselves in the world. Not ‘ourselves’ as being the center of the world, but as being a part of it,” she said.
Asher and several other panelists nodded in agreement when one audience member posited that many of the struggles for American social movements are buried in an inability to form cohesive collaboration among activists and protestors.
Concepts of post-colonialism and de-colonialization drove much of the conversation throughout the evening. The two terms, often used to describe the political and cultural conditions of former colonies in an increasingly globalized world, were described as “ways of thinking” by Asher, a type of perspective-based lens people see the world through.
One of those ways of thinking, according to panelist Claudia de Lima Costa of Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Brazil, is understanding differences between similar social movements in different regions of the world.
“Colonial feminists are fighting with what they see as ‘hegemonic’ colonizing feminists,” asserted Costa on the topic of global feminist movements throughout history.
Panelist Jennifer Hamilton, assistant professor of legal studies and anthropology at Hampshire College, built on Costa’s thought, speaking on “proliferations of difference” as defining characteristics in today’s political climate.
Both Costa and Hamilton warned against society’s inclination to focus on differences rather than unifying concepts.
“They had tremendous diversity,” said Rachel Haley, sophomore BDIC and Spanish major, of the panelists. “I really enjoyed the transition from the theoretical perspectives people were sharing in their research, to the practical application.”
The panel turned to discussing President Donald Trump and the world’s political climate in the second half of the event.
“We have to think differently, act differently,” Hamilton said.
Kimberlee Pérez, assistant professor of communication at UMass, added that time and space should be made for grieving because while in historical moments such as in the 1980s AIDS context, there may not have been “time for grief” in this moment; grieving might give way to consider what has actually been and might be lost as a result of the current administration. Grief may in this moment be highly productive.
The overall theme of the talk then transitioned to protest movements in Amherst and throughout the country in the coming weeks.
“It’s important to make resistance accessible to people who aren’t so privileged,” said Haley of modern political protesting. “An interesting part [of the panel discussion] was watching them transition [from scholarly debate to casual discussion],” she continued, emphasizing that she believes protests are most successful when people of various backgrounds can become involved.
Both the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies and the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center have upcoming events in both February and March and more information can be found on their websites.
Editor’s Note: A quote from Kimberlee Pérez has been edited for context.
Will Soltero can be reached at [email protected]