The Decolonial Thought

Although I can’t entirely articulate it yet, I have started to think the decolonial thought. Put crudely, the decolonial thought is along the lines of:

Our prevailing understanding of our culture and history has been shaped at every level by white settlor men and it is beyond time to start listening to somebody (everybody) else.”

The decolonial thought - prompted in me by the toppling of Colston's statue in Bristol, now on display in a museum.
Colston’s statue on display at M Shed, Bristol. The coverage of the Black Lives Matter protest in my home city of Bristol one year ago (during which the statue was toppled) first prompted me to have the decolonial thought.

According to the internet, the human population of planet Earth is around 30% white and 48% male. I’m quite good at maths, so I can tell you this means white men make up around 14% of the global human population. My conclusion from this is that the white male is not the default human!

Add in other qualifiers like straight, cisgender and able-bodied and ‘Man’ of ‘mankind’ can be seen to be a tinier and tinier proportion of our global population.

The way we have been led to perceive our past, present and future serves a tiny proportion of humanity. It is not healthy, for us or the planet.

NOT THE UNIVERSAL MAN/HUMAN. I find it interesting (possibly telling) that this Da Vinci sketch did not attract much interest until the 19th Century.

The decolonial thought is a valve or a sphincter, like Timothy Morton‘s ecological thought. Once you’re through, there is no going back.

Of course there are ecological thoughts. […] But there is a particular kind of thinking that I call the ecological thought. It runs like a strand of DNA code through thousands of other kinds of thoughts. […] It is not simply a matter of what you’re thinking about. It’s also a matter of how you think. Once you start to think the ecological thought, you can’t unthink it: it’s a sphincter – once it’s open, there’s no closing.”

Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought

The decolonial thought and the ecological thought are also connected through the cause of climate justice. Although I have much more thinking to do around these big thoughts, what I take from this in brief is:

SMASH ALL THE HIERARCHIES!

Hello! Here’s an awesome utopian reading list.

It’s my inaugural blog post! I thought I would start by sharing my current utopia-themed reading list with you. As you will see, it’s a list of Afrofuturist, African Sci-Fi and Black Utopias. This is where I’m at right now. In this post I’ll tell you how I got to this amazing place and why I think these books are must-reads.

This list is designed to be collaborative so it was published in the Bristol Utopian Book Collective Facebook group. If you have problems accessing it let me know.

Image by John Jennings

Utopia and colonialism

Utopia has an uneasy relationship with colonialism. I say uneasy, but that’s my feeling about it. It would probably be more accurate to say it has a too easy relationship with colonialism. Take this quote from Thomas More’s Utopia of 1516, the foundational text of the genre, about how the original Utopia came to be:

Utopus, that conquered it (whose name it still carries, for Abraxa was its first name), brought the rude and uncivilized inhabitants into such good government, and to that measure of politeness, that they now far excel all the rest of mankind.

Thomas More, Utopia (London: Verso, 2016) pp72-73

I’ve written elsewhere about how the Black Lives Matter protests in Bristol in June 2020 brought the colonialist logic within utopia to the forefront of my mind. To address this I could have re-read the old utopias through an anti-colonial lens, and I might still do this one day. But what I really wanted to do was seek out Black, Indigenous and African utopias and start reading those instead.

The first thing I read was N.K. Jemisin’s How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? Since then I’ve read Nisi Shawl’s Everfair, Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon, The Deep by Rivers Solomon with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, and I’m currently reading Paradise by Toni Morrison. If you know of any others that should be on my list, please add them to the collaborative doc, post in the comments below or contact me.

Other things I’m currently reading…

Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

Spike Island in Bristol are currently hosting a Braiding Sweetgrass reading group, meeting monthly (online) to discuss extracts from the book. While this is far from sci-fi, I’m interested because Kimmerer explores other ways of being and relating to nature than the prevailing consumer capitalist status quo, with its insistence on defining the more-than-human world as ‘natural resources’.

Underland, Robert MacFarlane

This I’m reading for another book group. I actually suggested it myself, despite subscribing to Kathleen Jamie‘s view of the author as ‘A Lone, Enraptured Male‘, peddling an exclusive and over-privileged idea of nature. But everyone goes on about how brilliant this book is, so I’m going to give it a try.