Indigenous Intellectuals?

Ollantay Itzamná
https://i1.wp.com/ollantayitzamna.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Captura-de-Pantalla-2021-10-14-a-las-13.10.24.png?resize=768%2C469&ssl=1Abya Yala, Buen Vivir, Intellectual Aymara Perspectives.

… the term intellectual is highly epistemicidal (it annuls other forms of producing knowledge), colonial (it reproduces relations of racial domination), scriptocentric (it annuls unwritten knowledge), individualistic (it annuls the community as a subject of knowledge because of its predilection for successful writers/individuals), papyrocratic (it privileges academic titles as qualification criteria over millenarian knowledge).

On the eve of October 12, 2021, in what is known as Bolivia, different university institutions, together with the Vice-Presidency of that country and the media, organized an event called the First Plurinational Meeting of Indigenous Intellectuals, with the participation of different indigenous personalities from Bolivia and other countries.

If the term or adjective “indigenous” (due to its homeostatic character) arouses growing suspicion on the part of individuals or groups self-defined as indigenous, the term “indigenous intellectual” also raises several concerns.

What is an intellectual?

From the academy or westernized colonial hegemonic knowledge, intellectual is that individual who has the merit of understanding and explaining reality with an objective, historical and integral perspective. For the Greeks, the intellectual would be the philosopher. A thinker who, in order to understand and explain reality, has to distance himself from it, and not commit himself as far as possible to it.

During Western modernity, the intellectual will be that literate individual, author of several books, with or without university degrees. In this sense, in the current hegemonic modern collective imaginary, the intellectual is inseparably referred to the literate individual, knowledgeable of hegemonic theories and literary works, better if he is prolix, apolitical, author of books and articles in hegemonic languages.

Always from Europe, within critical theory, an attempt was made to qualify the objective and “distant from material reality” character of the modern intellectual. Gramsci calls “organic intellectual”: thinker (literate) situated and committed to the transformation of reality. Even on the left, the organic intellectual will be a literate individual who is part of the “revolutionary vanguard”, never of the plebs or the masses (a derogatory term to differentiate from thinking beings).

Wherever one looks, the term intellectual is highly epistemicidal (it annuls other forms of producing knowledge), colonial (it reproduces relations of racial domination), scriptocentric (it annuls non-written knowledge), individualistic (it annuls the community as a subject of knowledge because of its predilection for successful writers/individuals), papyrocratic (it privileges academic titles as a criterion of qualification over millenarian knowledge).

Is it possible to be original and intellectual at the same time?

The original being is a way of life that has as its horizon the restoration of the balance of the cosmic community (Buen Vivir). It is centered on the community, but not on the individual. It is driven by reciprocity, not by competition or individual meritocracy. Rooted and committed to Mother Earth and not only to the idea of human welfare.

The intellectual is diametrically opposed to the original being. In other words, the intellectual is a reproductive agent of the products and instruments of modern domination. In the best of cases, critical of modernity.

It is no news to anyone that the individual, regardless of his geographical location, the more schooling he has, or the more books he has read or written, the more distant he is from his Earth identity and spirituality. It is more linear reasoning than sentimental thinking. This is also evident in indigenous academics.

An aboriginal, in his effort to “be intellectual” dies to his aboriginal being (connected with Mother Earth) to be qualified as literate, intellectual, successful by the hegemonic “sede sapiencia”. From there, the “indigenous intellectual” is obliged to demonstrate his habit of reading and writing (to the detriment of his millenary oral tradition), he is obliged to compete in the “olympics” of academic titles, of books published in hegemonic languages, etc.

In other words, from the perspective of decoloniality, it is impossible to be an intellectual and be original indigenous at the same time. It is an impossible dual fidelity. When from the community, and from the Earth, one thinks about the world around him (hopefully to cultivate it), he is inevitably compelled to abandon (in his thinking, feeling, doing and being) the dream of being a “full-fledged” intellectual.

Translation by Internationalist 360°