More Evidence of the Need to Shut Down the Universities

Heterosexualism and the Colonial / Modern Gender System
Maria Lugones


The coloniality of power is understood by Anibal Quijano as at the constituting crux of the global capitalist system of power. What is characteristic of global, Eurocentered, capitalist power is that it is organized around two axes that Quijano terms “the coloniality of power” and “modernity.” The coloniality of power introduces the basic and universal social classification of the population of the planet in terms of the idea of race, a replacing of relations of superiority and inferiority established through domination with naturalized understandings of inferiority and superiority. In this essay, Lugones introduces a systemic understanding of gender constituted by colonial/modernity in terms of multiple relations of power. This gender system has a light and a dark side that depict relations, and beings in relation as deeply different and thus as calling for very different patterns of violent abuse. Lugones argues that gender itself is a colonial introduction, a violent introduction consistently and contemporarily used to destroy peoples, cosmologies, and communities as the building ground of the “civilized” West.


    • Try this on for size:

      Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers – particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.

            • I passed that piece above (the glacier thing) on to my geographer son asking for his comments. I said I thought it was absolute nonsense. This is his reply:

              It’s an abstract. It’s summarising the contents of a full paper, rather than saying anything in itself.

              From what I can see the full paper looks at how the epistemology (i.e. theory of knowledge) of “glaciers” has developed. One analogy is that our knowledge of anything (e.g. electricity, gravity, the atom) is built up like a framework or scaffolding. We don’t know everything there is to know about any particular subject, but the framework should provide enough of a guide that we can move from the general to the specific. Possibly it’s a bit like a doctor being presented with a list of symptoms in an individual patient, and using their own framework of knowledge to make a diagnosis, i.e. construct a theory about what is wrong with the patient.

              You could write a similar article about how our framework of knowledge about electricity has developed. A thorough examination of our understanding of electricity might start with an overview of the history from pre-modern ideas (e.g. lightning is caused by angry gods) through the work of key scientists (e.g. Faraday), numerous dead ends and abandoned lines of enquiry to the present day. The history of knowledge about electricity cannot be divorced from the society which has produced that knowledge. For example, I’m sure at least some research will have been driven by commercial pressures and possibly by warfare.

              Related to this would be a study of the popular perception of electricity. You might examine cultural representations of electricity, such as in the works of Jules Verne and HG Wells, or try to find out what ordinary people in 2017 actually understand electricity to be. There have, for example, been several studies of the ways in which schoolchildren understand the concept of electricity – to try and find out if there are misconceptions, and if so what can be done about them.

              Many non-sentient phenomena are anthropomorphised in the popular imagination. To give an example, what is meant by the word “nature”? Is it always understood as an entirely non-sentient phenomenon, or do we ascribe human qualities to it? It is traditional to represent nature as a feminine entity (e.g. “Mother Nature”). This is, of course, scientific nonsense, but you cannot deny that this representation has existed in the human mind for a very long time. It is, for example, implicit in the story of Adam and Eve. Where it has this representation come from? Why does “Father Nature” sound so odd to our ears, but “Old Father Time” sound fine?

              The glaciers paper examines how the framework of knowledge (entirely non-sentient phenomena) are perceived and represented within science. It looks at four things in particular:

              (1) Knowledge producers – the history of knowledge of glaciers. 200 years ago humans knew nothing about glaciers. What has changed since?

              (2) Gendered science and knowledge – I’d guess this section lists examples of where glaciers are anthropomorphised within the scientific literature. To give an example: the leading edge of a glacier is often known as the “snout”. Many students are misled by this name, as it suggests sentient qualities in what is in reality just a big ice cube. Are glaciers also ascribed feminine or masculine qualities? As “key icons of climate change” (along with polar bears) they are often given victim status.

              (3) Systems of scientific domination – as outlined above, knowledge is not produced in a vacuum. This section probably looks at the way in which power has operated, e.g. institutional arrangements, who pays? (glaciers are an expensive phenomenon to investigate).

              (4) Alternative representations of glaciers – glaciers can be understood in different ways. One widespread modern way of thinking is a systems framework, in which a glacier is merely a set of equations relating snowfall, temperature and altitude. But if you look at the photos that people (including scientists) take of glaciers, it’s clear that people perceive them to be awesome, wondrous things. What are the perceptions of glaciers? Do these vary between different parts of the world? Have they changed over time? Why?

              As it is a brief summary of a longer piece, it is necessarily concise. Although I think it is clearly written, it is not aimed at the non-specialist reader. It is unfortunately packed with buzz words, but this is the way to get your abstract picked up by search engines, so it is a necessary evil these days.

  1. “I used to enjoy Fox’s Glacier Mints. I also once spent a night at Fox Glacier (in New Zealand). And that proves that all foxes are female.” That’s the level of these “academic” papers.

    In reality, there’s something called the “scientific method.” We humans evolved it around the time of the Enlightenment (perhaps a bit before). It’s the best way we have so far found of seeking truth about our surroundings. This stuff is not scientific in any way.

    And my comment on the headpost would be a lot stronger than johnrmcd’s, if I felt I wouldn’t endanger the LA’s charitable status by publishing it.

    • You’d do better to expand on any ‘scientific method’ you might have for untangling yourself from your own rear end.

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