15 decolonizing books

I made a Top 15 of my favourite books and explained why. They are listed as they came to my mind. (Version française en cours de traduction)

  1. Dancing on our Turtle’s Back (Leanne Simpson, 2011)

With this book (available hereLeanne Simpson shows a path towards an Indigenous resurgence. She does it by exploring the philosophical thoughts and sociopolitical theories of her people, for instance, through the study of the etymology and epistemology behind words, intergenerational meanings associated with Creation stories and systems of governance such as breastfeeding as a treaty that I quoted in my earlier post Allaiter, un acte de résurgenceThis book got me into thinking about how can we (e.g. Les Québécois) resurge. How are we infected by colonialism? How do we clean ourselves from it? How do we update and live our ancestors’ ways of seeing and being in the world? This is the reason why I started to focus more on my positionality and on my own family story. It’s something I’ve been reflecting on after reading the impacting article Decolonization is not a metaphor and Vine Deloria Jr’s Custer Died for your sins.

  1. A People’s History of the United States[Une Histoire Populaire des États-Unis] (Howard Zinn, 1980)

It’s inspiring as it exposes the development of settler colonialism and imperialism in the US. I simultaneously read Zinn’s short autobiography You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our TimesHe is such an inspiration for me as a person, as an engaged researcher, an organic professor, and a militant.

  1. Les Damnés de la Terre[The Wretched of the EarthLos condenados de la tierra] (Frantz Fanon, 1961)

I highly recommend this book to activists and engaged researchers. He’s the heart of national liberation or decolonizing thinking. Frantz Fanon is a psychiatrist from Martinique who participated in the National Liberation Front of Algeria at the of the 1950′s. He died from leukemia in 1961. He left a great legacy as an analyst of the pervasive grips of colonialism on our minds and of its traps as it intertwines with nationalism (fabricated by the national bourgeoisie). He also exposes results from his work with patients whose colonial violence experiences are reflected in their tensed and muscular dreams. If there is something i always recall from that book is that according to Fanon, you see people’s decolonization as they recreate themselves, through arts for instance. I see it as the beginning of the resurgence process. Like me, Fanon was very skeptical of the uses of history in national liberation processes.

  1. Settler Sovereignty (Lisa Ford, 2010)

Comparing “settler colonialism” in Georgia and New South Wales, Lisa Ford reflects on how settlers (I would also say colonizers) consolidate their sovereignty on the Indigenous lands and peoples through state building. It’s close to what I have been researching in Uruguay by putting together colonialism, capitalism, and nationalism.

  1. Red Skin, White Mask (Glenn Coulthard, 2014)

I have to say I was first attracted by the title but was rapidly aligned with Coulthard. In his work, he focuses on colonialism and capitalism as interdependent socioeconomic phenomena. He also takes a look at the “Identity Politics” in Canada by exploring the relationships between his people, the Diné, and the government of Canada.

  1. Peau noire, masque blanc[Black Skin White MasksPiel negra, máscara blanca] (Frantz Fanon, 1952)

Here Fanon explores how colonial thought influence relationships, intimacy and interbreeding among people who’s gender and skin colour vary. He takes his own experiences in Martinique as a sample, then in France as he was studying to become a psychiatrist. He suddenly realized how Black people were “surdéterminés de l’extérieur” (”overdetermination from the outside”).

  1. The Autobiography of Malcolm X[L’autobiographie de Malcolm X] (1992)

Malcolm X or Malek El-Shabazz deeply impacted the Black Power Movement with its incisive critiques of US colonialism, racism, and imperialism. He made me conscious of the importance to be open-minded and humble so to change my perspectives and ways of being since it is necessary for becoming “righteous” or coherent with our vision of the world. I like X because he not only puts emphasis on decolonization as a public struggle but also as an inner collective and personal process.

  1. Thérèse Raquin (Émile Zola, 1867)

It’s funny how we sometimes refuse to do something because we “have to,” no? We’ll I’m a bit like that. I had to read this book in college (Cégep) in a Literature class, but only read it completely years later. Zola impulse naturalism as a literary movement. He not only shows how the ambiance is or feels like but also how people’s mind is distorted and what they are willing to do for freedom and love. I can re-read this book on and on.

  1. The Dispossessed[Les DépossédésLos desposeidos] (Ursula K. Le Guin, 1974)

I was introduced to Le Guin at the ls Librairie l’Insoumise, an anarchist bookstore on Saint-Laurent in Montréal. I was looking for a political science fiction book. In The Dispossessed, she shows us what an anarchist setting could look like and she sometimes highlights it through its interaction with a capitalist one. She’ll make you dream and think of a decolonial love, relationships and knowledge. This is the kind of book that impacts your political walk of life, how you will, later on, deal with decision-making and relationships.

  1. The Caves of Steel[Les Cavernes d’acier, Las bovedas de acero] (Isaac Asimov, 1954)

Asimov série Foundation is about human relationships with robots. The Caves of Steel is about the necessary filiation of a human from the earth and a robot detective to investigate the murder of a detective on a planet where professionals once got to migrate in order to save their lives. I like this book because he made me think of our relationships with technological developments and to go beyond appearance.

  1. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (Silvia Federici, 2004)

I met Silvia Federici at the 2017 Anarchist Bookfair in Montréal. It was love at first sight. But I first got to know her through a Charrúa friend who studied the relationships between Indigenous women and colonialism. Federici explores how capitalism separated men and women as a subaltern unit and dispossessed women from their political power in order to commodify land and work. To do this, she investigates witch hunting in Europe. It was quite relevant to me as most Charrua women I met during my fieldwork were descendants of midwives and healers… and I descend from voodoo and tarot practitioners. Her work associates well with the Indigenous feminism movement and its stance on colonial traditionalism.

  1. Wasase. Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom (Taiaiake Alfred, 2005)

Alfred introduced me with Peace, Power, and Righteousness to the Indigenous resurgence movement and how to contribute as an “organic intellectual” to remove consent to the system that oppresses us. I like Wasase, the warrior’s dance because it offers us a path to a resurgence that works through cleaning our inner self, reconsolidating relationships within our collective and confronting oppressive external powers according to our own philosophical principles and as a political unity. It’s quite similar to what Malcolm X was advocating for. Alfred does so by exploring individuals’ path to the resurgence and the possibilities of being autonomous towards colonial powers.

  1. Los dones etnicos de la Nacion(Diego Escolar, 2007)

This one can to my mind because Escolar shows how settler colonialism and nationalism affect our settler and Indigenous minds in seeing and living an Indigenous present. Escolar does so by exposing Indigenous oral histories and settler colonial archives in the light of the return of supposed extinct Indigenous groups in Argentina.

  1. Roots of Resistance. A history of Land Tenure in New Mexico (Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, 1980)

This is a brilliant book if you want to know the history of the south of the United States, you know where Trump is building his fence. Dunbar-Ortiz looks at an Indigenous territory that has been colonized by multiple interests and empires through time and how its Indigenous peoples were used to protect foreign sovereignties, but also how they resisted to colonialism.

  1. L’histoire de la sexualité (Michel Foucault, 1976)

Foucault does an ethnography of the archives to understand the transformation of the language of power. He shows us how and why norms are built and how we experience a biopower, in other words, how we are dispossessed from the sovereignty over our body, not to say mind. I strongly recommend reading Along the Archival Grain (Ann Laura Stoler, 2009) as well. She works with colonial archives and métissage.

 

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