Introduction
Coloniality
The Darker Side of Western Modernity
I was intrigued, many years ago (around 1991), when I saw on
the “news” stand in a bookstore the title of Stephen Toulmin’s latest
book: Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity (1990). I went
to a coffee shop, across the street from Borders, in Ann Arbor,
and devoured the book, with a cup of coffee. What was the hid-
den agenda of modernity?—was the intriguing question. Shortly
after that I was in Bogotá and found a book just published: Los
conquistados: 1492 y la población indígena de las Américas, edited
by Heraclio Bonilla (1992). The last chapter of that book caught my
attention. It was by Anibal Quijano, of whom I had heard, but with
whom I was not familiar. The essay, also later published in the jour-
nal Cultural Studies, was titled “Coloniality and Modernity/Ratio-
nality.” I got the book and found another coffee shop nearby, where
I devoured the essay, the reading of which was a sort of epiphany.
At that time I was finishing the manuscript of The Darker Side of
the Renaissance (1995), but I did not incorporate Quijano’s essay.
There was much I had to think about, and my manuscript was al-
ready framed. As soon as I handed the manuscript to the press,
I concentrated on “coloniality” which became a central concept
in Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledge
and Border Thinking (2000). After the publication of this book, I
wrote a lengthy theoretical article, “Geopolitics of Knowledge and
the Colonial Difference,” which appeared in South Atlantic Quar-
terly (2002). For Toulmin, the hidden agenda of modernity was
the humanistic river running behind instrumental reason. For me,
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