Decolonization and the Wild

The Academy only goes so far left (and only in certain domains). The majority of radical ecological writers are seemingly unpublished (unless you count the Anarchist Library as a publisher). And in trying to push the envelope, occasionally, necessarily, one breaks out. “Research” takes on a different tone.

I’d already discarded the idea of anything anthropological, ethnographic, or otherwise pseudo-colonial (although my focus had always been white folx), but I am perhaps realizing that the whole idea is bunk. How can one critique science “scientifically”? I need a critique that exists on a different level, something experiential…

While it’s easy to model oppressive behavior as “ignorant”, perhaps the opposite is true. Ideology, hegemony, and oppression are learned — so it isn’t a matter of addition of knowledge to the empty sponge of my brain (borrowing creatively from Freire), but instead replacementunlearning.

J. Sakai, in the introduction to Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat, says:

U.S. imperialism would rather that all Third World people in their empire remain totally blank and ignorant about themselves, their nations, their cultures, their pasts, about each other, about everything except going to work in the morning. But that day is over.

So instead they oppose enlightenment by giving in to it in form, but not in essence. Like ju-jitsu, our original demand that our separate and unique histories be uncovered and recognized is now being used to throw us off our ideological balance. The imperialists promote watered-down and distorted versions of our pasts as oppressed Third World nations and peoples.

The imperialists even concede that their standard “U.S. history” is a white history, and is supposedly incomplete unless the long-suppressed Third World histories are added to it. Why?

The key to the puzzle is that Theirstory (imperialist Euro-Amerikan mis-history) is not incomplete; it isn’t true at all. Theirstory also includes the standard class analysis of Amerika that is put forward into our hands by the Euro-Amerikan Left. Theirstory keeps saying, over and over: “You folks, just think about your own history; don’t bother analyzing white society, just accept what we tell you about it.”

The same is true for the story of our ecological selves — which have been constructed such that the idea is the addition of things like queer theory, decolonization, critical race theory, and feminism is supposed to be the cure to the incompleteness of ecological theory and histories of ecology. Instead, my thought is that the base is in need of deconstruction.

This particular sort of unlearning has been referred to as rewilding, but in this form it has had some rather unsavory developments. Often, such theories are labeled as excessively radical, but the problem in my mind is instead that they fail to sufficiently unlearn — particularly cisheteronormativity, white supremacy, and settler-colonialism.

It is an impossible goal to rewild without a knowledge of the ways in which we have been duped — the oppressive structures which rear their ugly heads even in our knowledge of the wild.