IN THE SPOTLIGHT: YUDERKYS ESPINOSA MIÑOSOIN THE SPOTLIGHT: YUDERKYS ESPINOSA MIÑOSO
Yuderkys Espinosa Miñoso is a writer, researcher, professor and activist of Afro-Dominican origin. She earned a BA in psychology, an MA in social sciences and education, and a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Buenos Aires. Through her work, she explains the necessity of adopting a decolonial feminist perspective by reflecting on and confronting the hegemonic, Eurocentric, racist and classist perspectives that are intertwined in the feminist movement.
What were your first thoughts, when you saw the call for applications for the fellowship?
Well, I received an invitation via email directly from the managing director, Felicitas Loest, who explained the fellowship programme and the research agenda at CAPAS, and encouraged me to apply for a 5-month research stay here in Heidelberg.
At first, I didn't really understand what the invitation and the email were all about, and I even thought it was a joke! Where I come from, geographically (the Caribbean) and intellectually in terms of the field I belong to, conducting research about the apocalypse is not a priority, and in fact, it is not even part of the discourse nor conceptualised as a field of research. However, after a few days of reflection and thought, I decided to submit my application because I saw the connection between one of my current research interests and the centre’s research goals.
Recently, I have been working on a reflection of the distinctive ways of experiencing time in the native indigenous worlds in Abya Yala and in the Caribbean, as well as in some Afro-descendant communities. Additionally, in early 2020, I translated an anti-futurist manifesto by a Native Canadian activist group. I became passionate about their anti-futurist proclamation, which contradicts and denounces the apocalyptic narrative as pertaining to the modern ethos and its interpretation model of world and time.
What does the apocalypse and/or post-apocalypse mean to you?
As I briefly mentioned in my previous answer, to me the apocalyptic narrative is part of the teleological production of the West, and it is intrinsically associated with the emergence and development of Christianity. This narrative that announces the end of time is near, and when it comes, the Judgment Day will happen and it will be decided who has been just and who has not, and as a result, some will reach eternal life while others will burn in hell. In this teleology, the world has an end and that final moment will definitely be catastrophic, causing chaos, despair, and general destruction. This would be a result of human acts, according to this narrative.
Contrary to that discourse, to me, it is interesting to see that this narrative and concern is not at all present in indigenous and Afro-descendant communities with whom I have had the opportunity to discuss and exchange perspectives of the world. In the voodoo tradition, for example, I have been told that there is no heaven and hell, no Judgment Day, no idea of god and devil. In some Mesoamerican Mayan communities, an often-used slogan is: “The future already was.”
I wonder, along with my brothers and sisters at indigenousaction.org, why it is easier for the West to imagine the end of the world rather than the end of this model of death, the end of capitalist and racist colonialism?
I believe that this narrative of the end as imminent is part of the fetishization of Euro-nor-centric modernity; it is part of a European way of experiencing time and history. European modernity already contains an apocalyptic ideal.
What is your fellowship trying to achieve, which questions is it addressing, and with which methods?
The research project I am currently working on aims to highlight the narratives and discourses of native peoples of Abya Yala and Afro-descendants, who have been systematically ignored and silenced by the dominant and imperialist modern narrative. My endeavour is a political and epistemic project that seeks to validate the views and interpretations of the world coming from indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, which have been erased from the history of humanity, in order to show that there are and there have been other paradigms of perception, experimentation and production of the world, with outlets and temporalities very different from the one propagated by the dominant European rationality. I intend to do so through analysing oral, written, and artistic discourses coming from native and afro-descendant communities of Mesoamerica, North America, and the Caribbean.
How does the fellowship project build on or connect to your previous career or biography?
A few years ago, I wrote an analytical essay titled "The Future Already Was", where I continued to build on the project of a genealogy of feminism and the sex-gender liberation movement in Latin America; the way I have lived and experienced it. This is a research programme that I began during my studies on decolonial theory, to which I am still deeply committed. In this text, as well as in some of my previous ones, I make a critique of what I have called "coloniality of feminist reason", illustrating the way in which it keeps inevitable commitments with Western modernity. The reflections that I develop in this programme of critique led me to confront the fundamentals of European modernity, in particular, its historical temporality, its idea of continuous progress of humanity, and the idea of "moving forward".
Furthermore, for the last two years I have been working with the Chilean visual artist Katia Sepúlveda on a curatorial project of exchange, work in progress and exhibition in collaboration with 14 individual artists and 3 collectives, where we try to imagine what the world would be like if Europe, as a trope, disappeared. In this context, we organized a full year of art labs that seek to demystify the Western temporality and its catastrophic idea of the future. Our goal is to display an exhibition which goes beyond museums and the art market, and which encourages to reclaim and celebrate relational ontologies and their way of imagining and producing the world outside the futuristic and inevitably apocalyptic fiction of modernity and capitalism. This art project is part of a broader programme of reparation currently pursued in different contexts, which aims to contribute to „healing“ the colonial wound at the individual and community level, as well as at a more universal level.
Those who are today concerned about the unquestionable, signs of the disastrous effects that the modern colonial system has had on the planet, instead of crying about the much-announced arrival of the end should, instead, understand that the destruction and the end of the world is not inevitable, and that this model of experimentation and interpretation of time is part of the problem to finding solutions which can stop the destruction being caused by the Western world.
What do you hope to take with you from the project and its results?
I hope that this research stay allows me to exchange these perspectives with fellow researchers and scholars from the global north, so that they are touched by this perspective, which tries to accentuate the value of other models and narratives different from that of modernity. Change has to happen within modern ontology before its forecast becomes a reality.
As for my research goals, I really want to take make the most of this opportunity to further develop my work on this perspective.
What are the aspects you are most looking forward to with respect to input from other disciplines, other perspectives, and the exchange with the fellows and people at CAPAS?
I hope that this exchange can be beneficial for all of us. I am already benefiting from bibliographical references, conceptualisations and ideas from other disciplines and approaches to the subject. This contributes in expanding my theoretical and (counter) argumentative field.
To get some practical advice: What would be the three things you would definitely need in a post-apocalyptic world?
I answer this question assuming the epistemic framework from which you pose it. From that framework, all that is left to say is that there is nothing to invent: I come from communities that have historically faced catastrophe, death, and destruction as the end and disappearance of their world. These worlds, however, did not disappear as such, and generation after generation, their peoples have been diligent in making life possible, not as a result of hopelessness, but from reconstruction and from memory; times used to be better and it is necessary to remember them in order to rebuild what has been damaged.
As the Maroon experience has taught us, once destroyed or uprooted from the world as we knew it, we need: 1. a machete; 2. candles and matches; and 3. a drum.
What are some of your favourite pop culture references to the/an (post)apocalypse — whether it’s films, books, a YouTube channel, or music — what can you recommend?
A movie: Embrace of the Serpent by Ciro Guerra
A book: The Maid of Omicunlé by Rita Indiana