THIS BOOK INCLUDES THREE interviews with Noam Chomsky about indigenous resistance to globalization and cultural homogenization in the American hemisphere, but it offers even more than that. Gathered here for the first time in virtual conversation with the preeminent linguist and critical analyst of American foreign policy are voices from the indigenous Americas (South, Central and North), who speak to, with, and at times against, Chomsky’s views. To our knowledge, this book is the first of its kind. It moves beyond interviews where Noam Chomsky’s voice predominates, into a more textured and nuanced intellectual and political exchange in which Chomsky dialogues with more than twenty voices from the New World of indigenous resistance. We are deeply grateful to Dr. Chomsky for granting this series of interviews and especially appreciative that he opened his thoughts to analysis and comment by renowned activists, educators and scholars from the indigenous Americas. Together these voices participate in an unusual, and long overdue, hemispheric conversation among equals.

The perspective on equality and expertise that motivates the title of this chapter and the selection of participants in this conversation deserves comment. All of our commentators chose to join this hemispheric conversation not because of close personal or professional ties with Benjamín Maldonado or myself (many of them we have yet to meet personally), but because of their respect for Noam Chomsky and their desire to dialogue with him through text. Obvious differences exist among the commentators in terms of their participation in intellectual, educational, and political resistance efforts and movements in their local, regional, national, or international spheres of influence. Some of their commentaries on Chomsky’s interviews include scholarly footnotes and bibliographic citations, while others narrate autobiographical accounts of oppression and resistance in specific communities or throughout their personal life histories. Both of these are important and valid paths to expertise, although they are differentially valued in Western and indigenous thought.

The commentators in this volume were selected to reflect and honor both scholarship and direct action as equal and necessary paths to wisdom. According to Grimaldo Rengifo Vásquez (this volume), “In local indigenous thinking, living is what gives knowledge, not gathering up a lot of a priori facts about the nature of things. As they say, ‘To know, you have to live.’” While many of the commentators recognize Western knowledge to be important and strategically necessary for indigenous communities, they decry the relentless academic bias in Western thought and the consequences this bias has wreaked on oral indigenous cultures, alienating indigenous education from culturally authentic ways of learning, knowing, and remembering. Commentators in this volume emphasize that authentic ways of learning, in life and through communal action, are holistic, ecological, spiritual, and healing. It is this very form of learning and knowing that the indigenous movement seeks to revitalize, value, honor, and embed into schools and other sites of learning, not only for the benefit of their own children, but for the healing of the entire world.

We refer to this as a hemispheric conversation, for geographically the participants span the American continents, both North and South. We acknowledge, however, that the topics addressed here range beyond the so-called New World, encompassing profound struggles over political, economic, social, and educational power and ideology worldwide. The analyses in this volume dissect the yawning ideological divide between the communal priorities and practices of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, and the priorities, practices, and power of global corporate capitalism, whose centers lie both in and beyond our geographic hemisphere. All of the contributing voices here come from the “New World” of indigenous resistance in the Americas, where they contest the hegemonic state policies and capitalist values emanating from Bogota, Rio de Janeiro, Lima and Mexico City, as well as from Washington, D.C., London, or Tokyo.

In this introduction and in many of the commentaries to follow, as well as in Noam Chomsky’s interviews, this ideological divide is described in shorthand as the struggle between “Western” power and ideology and indigenous communalism, often termed the “Other.” Given our complex hemispheric context, what do we mean by “Western”? We do not use this term to refer to a geographic direction on a compass or map, nor do we wish to reinforce the U.S. geographer’s biased perspective where “West” implies a contrast with “Middle East” or “Far East,” as if all physical directions were universally marked from a territorial center within this dominant world power. In today’s convoluted and interconnected planetary geography, “Western” ideology permeates the farthest reaches of the global north, south, east, and west. Indigenous communalism, often slighted as the “Other,” coexists with and resists “Western” domination inside the boundaries of virtually all nation-states of the Americas, which have been inhabited for centuries by non-Western cultures and communities. Our use of the term “Western” refers to the hegemonic values, beliefs, and policies which undergird global neoliberal capitalism. While these developed first in Europe and the United States, they now pervade elite classes and power structures worldwide. There is no place in our hemisphere (understood here in contrast to Europe, Africa, or the Asian-Pacific region) where indigenous resistance to Western domination and in defense of communal practices and priorities does not have its history and impact.

Our commentators denounce the marginalization, exclusion, and repression of indigenous peoples as it is evidenced in references to the “Other.” When any alternative ideology and lifeway can be dismissed by those in power as the “Other,” Western ideological hegemony flaunts its linguistic and conceptual impunity. Interestingly, this dismissive terminology has been taken up as a strategy of indigenous struggle—the Zapatista National Liberation Army in Mexico has declared its struggle of resistance to be the “Other Campaign” and its educational vision to be the “Other Education.” We celebrate their defiance by featuring a photo from the “Other Campaign” on our cover.As will be seen, “hemisphere,” “Western,” and the “Other” are only three of several terms whose meanings will be clarified and also complexified in the course of the multivoiced conversation documented here.

Lois Meyer.


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