Jota Mombaça and Michelle Mattiuzzi:​ III Congress for Postcolonial Studies / IV Postcolonial Feminism Conference. Photo: Aline Furtado.

The postcolonial does not exist!

What form do colonial ghosts take? How is coloniality present in the bodily relationship marked by the racialized geopolitical? – asks Jota Mombaça.

Ella Shohat, in a text from 1992 called Notes on the postcolonial, expands upon a series of questions and crucial critiques toward a re-politicization of the tensions and colonial contradictions in a world that many would classify as postcolonial: “When lines drawn in the sand still outline the geographies of the [so-called] Third World, we must ask urgently how we are to trace the meaning of‘postcolonial.’What perspectives have been elaborated by the ‘postcolonial’? To what purpose? And what are the lapses? What then is the meaning of ‘post-coloniality’ when certain structural conflicts persist?”

Of interest, here, is the ethic dimension that unfolds from these lines of questioning, and in this sense, it is interesting to intensify the questioning of the postcolonial towards an ethics positioned against the fictions of power and contemporary manifestations of coloniality in ordinary day-to-day life. I do this from my positioning, from the heat of the Brazilian Northeast, through brown-skinned raciality – that marks to the flesh the trajectory of whitening as a politics of ontological, economic, biopolitical and colorist extermination, that persists in black and indigenous lives in Brazilian social life – and through my civil, sexual and gender disobedience. With this body, I articulate the act of refusal that this text provokes: refusal of the linearity of modern-colonial time, refusal of the peacemaking intellectual practices and refusal of extractive ethics. Consequently: refusal of the postcolonial fiction.

Colonial ghosts

What form do colonial ghosts take and how do they interact with what has been made out of the ex-colonies? How is coloniality present in the bodily relationship marked by the racialized geopolitical? What forces do these ghosts move? What fictions materialize? They are embodied ghosts, inscribed in the unavoidable latency of the colonial wound: like a muscular tension or a sting felt in the bone, in body’s bone structure and in the former colonial land.

Self-proclaimed postcolonial spaces, or even decolonial and anticolonial ones, are not exempt from reproducing coloniality as systematic. The way in which these spaces articulate themselves, who coordinates them, who decides for them, which power relationships, what they write, how, with what support, for what circuit: all these modes of trafficking in the midst of the ruins of colonial relationships (and producing from them) mobilize – almost as a rule– a contradictory, nonnegotiable dimension, the fruit of a racial historical wound inscribed tenaciously onto the social body, though much more poorly elaborated from the point of view of collective feelings and emotions.

Following the 3rd Conference on Postcolonial Studies, a group of racialized people from various places in Latin America and the Caribbean, of which I was part, disseminated a , Report of racialized bodies on racism and epistemicide at the 3rd Conference on postcolonial studies, as a narrative document about the racial, class and gender tensions experienced at the Conference and the contradictory character of it considering the presumed anti-oppressive disposition of the postcolonial meeting.

Spaces of tension

It is true that this is not the only space in which an initiative that is presumably critical of coloniality turns out our fundamental contradictions. There are also limits to this text, for instance, my authorship, my inscribed politics and the limits tangential to this critical act. In the colony, wherever there is text, there will be cross sections whose unexpected effects can produce historically predictable repetitions: there is no way to write from outside, no way to access a postcolonial discursive positioning and be exempt from this, because one does not leave behind what is all around.

Nor can one accept that what is all around will forever be here. It is not for nothing that the spaces of tension multiply at the same rate as, from the left wing movements to the right, pressure for compulsory and uniform alliances intensifies. To deny space to these conflicts or to try to box them into a single analytical movement – as if they were part of the same process – is a mistake, a gesture to mend coloniality when it’s cracking. On the contrary, making anticolonial conflicts vibrate – that deny at once whatever national projects that may be, extractivisms and ontological terrorisms of whiteness, of patriarchy, of supremacy, and of heteronormativity, just as the imperial geopolitics and the universalism of power – is a way of opening up cracks in coloniality to let pass to the present the more-than-colonized forces.

Jota Mombaça is a non-binary queer, born and raised in the Northeast of Brazil, who writes, performs and carries out academic studies about the relations between monstruosity and humanity, anti-coloniality, redistribution of violence and visionary fiction.