Orfalea Center Thematic Research Cluster

Resistance, Autonomy, Liberation

Syllabi and Suggested Readings

The chickens, to cite Malcolm X’s famous proclamation, are coming home to roost. Numerous parts of the neocolonial and neoimperial capitalist world-system are increasingly mired in political, economic, ecological, and social crises. From Chile to Algeria, India to the United States, millions have taken to the streets to condemn and challenge the myriad forms of destitution, oppression, and repression precipitated by what Walter Mignolo and Catherine Walsh (2018), among other decolonial thinkers, call “the colonial matrix of power” (or CMP for short): the structure of global management and control established by over 500 years of European and American colonialism and imperialism, a structure that extends to the vast majority of the world’s lands, resources, and populations as well as the knowledges and aspirations contained therein. As global struggles against this structure and its manifold manifestations gain traction, a clear, robust, and sophisticated understanding of self-liberation becomes imperative for preventing counter-revolutionary forces from crushing, co-opting, or otherwise derailing the movements in question.

The members of this research cluster take up this imperative in this annotated open syllabus. Its resources chronicle the proliferation and various manifestations of the CMP, as well as past and present attempts to counter these processes mounted by the enslaved, colonized, and otherwise oppressed populations of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. 

This syllabus is aimed at students, educators, researchers, and political organizers: its resources lend themselves not only to classroom teaching and professional scholarship but also various popular education initiatives, from reading groups to film screenings and discussions. To accommodate as many degrees of expertise and learning styles and preferences as possible, this syllabus features a variety of resources that vary in complexity, including academic journal articles and books, documentaries and films, news and political commentary sites, and geopolitical mapping tools. It is broken into four different sections each with their own resources and focus. 

The resources in this syllabi capture the prevailing interests of the current members of the Resistance, Autonomy, and Liberation Cluster, as well as key materials that we recommend for decoding historical and contemporary contestations with the neocolonial and neoimperial world-system. We hope that this syllabus will stimulate vital conversations around the themes of our cluster, with these dialogues contributing to its expansion in the long term. 

Additional Resource Submissions

This syllabus is by no means comprehensive. We hope to develop it through dialogue with like-minded students, educators, researchers, and activists across the world.

If you would like to submit a resource that you believe should be added to the syllabus, please complete this Google Form, listing all the required details about your proposed resource. As the form states, please try to recommend freely available resources to the fullest extent possible, in keeping with the spirit of this syllabus.

If you have any queries about appropriate resources or any other aspect of this syllabus, please reach out to the Resistance, Autonomy, and Liberation Research Cluster at ralcluster@gmail.com.

Section One: The Genesis and Consolidation of the Colonial Matrix of Power

The resources in this section track the development, expansion, and transformation of European and American colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism over the past 500 years. They address the multiple dimensions of these violent phenomena: they frame how the prevailing world-system is materially constructed upon a bedrock of land theft, resource extraction, labor exploitation, mass killing, and mass detention. At the same time, they highlight how these material phenomena intimately shape the ways in which different actors know themselves and each other, their respective societies, and the world-system that connects them. In grappling with these various aspects of the CMP, the resources below emphasize that colonialism and imperialism are by no means restricted to the past: the modes of political control, economic deprivation, social domination, and psychological manipulation that they established continue to be upheld by individual and institutional power brokers in both the Global North / West and the Global South / East.

Section Two: Decolonial Resistance, Autonomy, and Liberation in Theory and Practice

“Decolonization, which sets out to change the order of the world,” proclaimed Afro-Caribbean revolutionary philosopher Frantz Fanon, “is, obviously, a program of complete disorder.”  The resources in Section Two chronicle various attempts to implement this program by Indigenous peoples, peasants, African and Afrodescendant populations, workers, and otherwise oppressed groups and their accomplices across the world, attending to both the philosophical frameworks and practices that have shaped and been shaped by these struggles. The theoretical and practical frameworks detailed in this section embody the diversity of tactics and strategies employed by the populations in question: they range from outright insurrection to the construction of maroon communities to myriad forms of civil (and uncivil) disobedience. The resources below further showcase and connect different waves of anti-systemic rebellion, from sixteenth century uprisings against the conquest of the Americas to twentieth century national liberation movements to the alternative globalization movement that emerged in the wake of the Cold War.

Section Three: Uncovering the Archives of Self-Liberation

Identifying and analyzing past and present instances of decolonial resistance and autonomy are by no means straightforward tasks. They have been misrepresented, obscured, and erased by colonial, postcolonial, and neocolonial state authorities, hegemonic media organizations, and Eurocentric scholars and cultural commentators; furthermore, they have not uncommonly been expressed through unwritten and otherwise unconventional means, such as song, dance, graffiti, precisely to avoid suppression. The resources in this section expose the silencing processes at hand and the political, economic, and social interests they typically serve, in addition to detailing several conceptual, theoretical, and methodological means of uncovering and amplifying silenced or coded voices and viewpoints. Most importantly, they outline how researchers invested in resistance, autonomy, and liberation can think with, not for, the oppressed populations they engage and weaponize their scholarship to support social movements vying for dignity, equity, and justice.

Section Four: News and Analysis Sites, Archives, and Other Multimedia Resources

The resources in this section broadly share news and analyses from ongoing worldwide movements for self-liberation, provide practical tips for supporting these struggles, and grant free access to theoretical, historical, and educational texts and other materials about these struggles and their predecessors. These resources include written texts, mapping tools, and documentaries, films, podcasts, and other audiovisual materials, so as to accommodate as many different types of learners as possible.

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