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The CLR James Journal

Volume 23, Issue 1/2, Fall 2017

Melanie Otto
Pages 135-156
DOI: 10.5840/clrjames201712747

Poet-Shamanic Aesthetics in the Work of Gloria Anzaldúa and Wilson Harris
A Critique of Postcolonial Reason

Western intellectuals since the Enlightenment have tended to push non-Western forms of knowing to the margins of intellectual discourse and into the realm of myth and folklore. Although postcolonial criticism within and outside of the Americas challenges binary thinking and hegemonic political structures, it frequently does so within the framework of Western scholarly practice. The writings of Wilson Harris and Gloria Anzaldúa, while originating in different “American” contexts, are rooted in an indigenous-inflected episteme and address new ways of producing theory and critical writing through the creative arts. Contemporary literary studies and academic practice are far from the kind of imaginative participation that characterizes the work of Harris and particularly Anzaldúa, who was a scholar as well as an activist. Yet, the notion of art as thought or theory has the potential to expand our understanding of what constitutes knowledge and to enrich the kind of work we do as scholars in the academy.