{ (Decolonial) AestheSis }


(Decolonial) AestheSis is a concept that can be employed as a decolonial option/tool when undertaking an attempt to delink art practices from the colonial matrix of power. The concept AestheSis is laid forth as a decolonial option by Walter Mignolo and Rolando Vazquez (2013) when seeking to break with the hegemony of the Eurocentric concept of AestheTics as we understand it today.

The words and concepts AestheSis and AestheTics both originate in ancient Greece, but as the concept of Europe did not exist in the classical age when these terms were coined, these notions cannot be seen as Eurocentric in their origin. The transformation of the meaning of the word aesthetic into a normative theory happened centuries later, when Kant “mutated it into a key concept to regulate sensing the beautiful and the sublime”.[1] And, as Fred Moten has shown, this regulative discourse on the aesthetic that Kant instated “is inseparable from the question of race as a mode of conceptualizing and regulating human diversity…grounding and justifying inequality and exploitation…”.[2] It was this transformation of modern AestheTics into a regulating and standardizing concept of beauty that was projected or superimposed upon the world during the colonial expansion of the European powers. AestheSis, the classical Greek word to describe the “plurality of the organic senses” was thus condensed and reduced to a single visual sense in the AestheTic, as simultaneously “all non-Western ways of sensing were denied” by these universalist claims.[3] Therefore, it can be claimed that AestheTics as we understand it today is “nothing else than a form of sensory colonization, that dovetails with other economic and political forms of control”.[4]

As a decolonial option, AestheSis seeks to stand as an epistemic critique against Western, Eurocentric ideas of how we should understand art and its possible uses. AestheSis can act to renegotiate and reformulate the concept of art, to encompass full sensory experiences of knowledge production that may prove to have emancipatory potential. This uncoupling can be achieved through an acknowledgement of suppressed alternative practices – subaltern so-called “everyday” practices and forms of making – to delink and liberate the senses from the regulative constraints encompassed in the AestheTic. It is from the “embodied consciousness of the colonial wound” that decolonial AestheSis begins, by both making visible – unveiling the wound – and at the same time “mov[ing] towards the healing, the recognition, the dignity of these aesthetic practices that have been written out of the canon of modern aestheTics.”[5]


[1] Mignolo, Walter and Rolando Vazquez “Decolonial AestheSis: Colonial Wounds/Decolonial Healings” Social Text Online, July 15, 2013. https://socialtextjournal.org/periscope_article/decolonial-aesthesis-colonial-woundsdecolonial-healings/

[2] Moten, Fred Stolen Life Duke Press, 2018 p.3

[3] Shutz, Marine “Decolonial Aesthetics” ECHOES https://keywordsechoes.com/decolonial-aesthetics

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mignolo and Vazquez


Peter Nylund