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In Memoriam: Aníbal Quijano, 1928-2018

Aníbal Quijano: The Joy of the Warrior

December 04, 2018

The hero of a thousand battles, Aníbal Quijano was taken by surprise when the University of Costa Rica conferred on him the title of Doctor honoris causa. He was even more surprised when a packed auditorium gave him a standing ovation. He warmly thanked the authorities and academics for “having familiarized themselves with his work”; and emphasized his thanks as he shared the thought that the recognition was due to a way of life “that gives meaning to what one writes and what one thinks.” With extreme humility and simplicity he offered the public what he considered to be his life’s motto: “Live within and against.” And he added: “There is no other way to live in a world that brings together power, exploitation, and violence.”

I met Aníbal Quijano many more years ago than I remember, in my home country, where he arrived as an exile in the mid-1970s. His anti-imperialist thought and struggle; his conviction regarding the need to ground social knowledge in the demands and struggles of the peoples of America, Asia, and Africa; his empathy with the struggles of women, young people, indigenous peoples, migrants, displaced people, and refugees throughout the world, all led him to set out on innumerable journeys and to become recognized and welcomed in places where academics rarely set foot.

His long history of defiance forced him, when he was back in his native Peru at the start of the 1990s, to renounce his chair at the University of San Marcos after the dictator Fujimori ordered the military to seize control of the University. So it was that once more he found refuge at the Binghamton University, and in Paris, and in other places too; and it was not until the start of the second decade of this century that the Ricardo Palma University in Peru generously offered him a place for what were to be his last years of battle. His whole life was one of untiringly organizing and participating in events that were academic, political, and educational, and constantly reaching out to the people; always formative and always demonstrating great solidarity. He wrote brilliant chapters in collaboration with many intellectuals and academics who participated with him in the World Social Forum, including Immanuel Wallerstein and Pablo González Casanova, his intimate friends.

His vision of the coloniality of power, for which he has been recognized at all latitudes of the planet, stems from a struggle that is both political and academic. In fact, I would say that it constitutes a moral call and indeed a demand to raise one’s sights and one’s dignity, in order no longer to be subjects of the powers that be, whether foreign or domestic. It is a call to turn instead to knowledge, a tool and unrelenting weapon to search out true routes of transformation, to the benefit of the vilified, deprived, excluded, and abandoned people of the world.

Just as with his predecessors Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, and especially José Carlos Mariátegui, Aníbal Quijano brought genuine historical meaning to his work, based on vehemently demonstrating the way in which the world has been transformed since the sixteenth century, as racism and slavery have been converted into the driving economic forces of capitalist development. The understanding and denouncing of this cycle of oppression and alienation that has not ceased to this day, became the constant theme of his life. Aloof from trends and celebrations, without feeling the pain of periods of isolation or incomprehension, personal privation or political persecution, his was the joy of the warrior. He was someone who was happy because he knew that he was fighting for a cause that was greater than he was. And he enjoyed life, beauty, his family and his friends, with all the intensity that his own longevity allowed him to. Let us celebrate his tremendous example, his determination, and his integrity!

Raquel Sosa Elízaga, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico

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