Modernity / Coloniality

‘Modernity/coloniality’ is a concept first used by Aníbal Quijano and later developed by Walter Mignolo. It refers to the way in which the concepts (modernity and coloniality) are inseparable –two sides of the same coin. Like many postcolonialists, decolonialists seek to draw attention to the relation between colonialism and the narrative of modernity, through which much of the world’s history has come to be understood. Modernity, then, is viewed as an epistemological frame that is inseparably bound to the European colonial project.


Decolonialists seek to move beyond what they see as the over-geographical determinism present in various critiques of Eurocentrism, towards an epistemic conception of coloniality. Thus, epistemic hegemony is not limited to particular places, and decolonial thinkers suggest that there is a history of epistemic violence in every geographical location, including the West. If the rhetoric of modernity maintains a logic of coloniality, even critical work emerging from within the geographical and epistemological heartlands of the old empires cannot escape the logic.


Essential reading

Dussel, E. (1995) Eurocentrism and Modernity (Introduction to the Frankfurt Lectures). In: Beverley, J., Oviedo, J. & Aronn, M. eds. The Postmodernism Debate in Latin America. Durham, US: Duke University Press: 65-77.

Mignolo, W. (2007) ‘Delinking: The Rhetoric of modernity, the logic of coloniality and the grammar of de-coloniality,’ Cultural Studies, 21 (2): 449-514.

Quijano, A. (2007) Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality, Cultural Studies, 21 (2):168-178


Further Reading

Vázquez, R. (2011) Translation as Erasure: Thoughts on Modernity’s Epistemic Violence. Journal of Historical Sociology, 24 (1): 27–44.

Mignolo, W. (2009) Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and De-Colonial Freedom. Theory, Culture, and Society, 26 (7-8): 1-23.



What is the difference between thinking of modernity as a series of events or processes, and thinking of modernity as an ‘epistemic frame’?

How is coloniality linked to colonialism?

If modernity cannot be understood without thinking about coloniality, how does this change the way we understand the social and political world?

Can the epistemic hegemony of coloniality/modernity be transcended?



Submitted by Lucy Mayblin

+ Show Comments

3 thoughts on “Transnationalism”

  • As a recent recipient of the graduate school certificate in African studies at ASU, my final drew from or focused in part on the settler narrative movement of the antebellum era. Despite the discovery of over 100 burials from this era that came to light recently, it was all treated in a quite troubing manner. Settler Colonial mentality was pervasive. It is clear, the slave labor narrative must be preserved at all cost. Local professional organizations and offices were disrespected and ignored as if the descended community did not exist. People wear the continuance of mixed relationships from this history and it is only now that they are finding their voice and their heritage in some cases. Global social theory is spot on.

  • I’m interested in colonialism,settler colonialism and decolonisation as it speaks to the original ownership of the land/country[?].
    I was interested to read ‘the tendency among some scholars of settler colonialism to treat settlement as inevitable, simultaneously relieving settler societies and states of the burden of reconciling with indigenous peoples, and placing the burden of accommodating settler sovereignty onto those same indigenous peoples'[above]
    I have been tentatively searching for references to the morality/legality of colonialisation,which could possibly have huge ramifications,and they are scarce.

  • Interesting. Could you please add Maria Lugones’s work in the further reading section please? She not only engaged with Quijano’s concept but revised it significantly to demonstrate the coloniality of gender. Thank you.

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *