Walking with María Lugones....
María Lugones (1944-2020)
Professor, Department of Comparative Literature and Women's Studies, Binghamton University
¡Qué bonita la coincidencia que no es azarosa! La relación íntima entre el abortar los mitos de un solo sentido y el romper espejos que nos muestran rotas, despedazadas.
I am not moved by formal obituaries. I do not read them when I find out about the death of a great thinker, especially one that I deeply admire and whose thought has been indispensable in my work. Obituaries about famous people are usually written in advance, something I have always found disconcerting, as if the book of an important life needed those last public sentences to confirm greatness. While obituaries honor accomplishments, they are also the stuff of formal papers and institutions—they constrain, narrow, categorize, and reduce, a type of soul-filing for the ages.
María Lugones’s self and intellectual production, however, can never be reduced. They were “long and wide,” as she had described selfhood at one point in her theorizing. In my mind, she always walked many steps ahead of so many philosophers, opening paths of complex thinking and being in relation to race, gender, sexuality, and class at the nexus of white and Latina/x feminisms, decolonial theory and socio-political spatiality. Not many others have been able to elucidate on the tangled, contorted paths of oppression and the tactical-strategies to oppose such oppression in the way that María did.
Like her view of complex communication, nuanced, distrustful of simplistic oppressor-oppressed dichotomies, her own communication was rhizomatic, like the underground mycelia that she so admired—poems, personal stories, allegories, philosophical writing, political speech were alive in her thought-and-world travels. In the mundane task of making mayonnaise, she saw a philosophical opening, a critique of a logic of purity that loves separation, that forgets the very enmeshedness of words, thoughts, lives, worlds, and selves that, for her, were the key for deep coalition across differences. María’s critique of purity is a defiant move against what characterizes so much of philosophy’s predilection for univocity and unified selves with transparent consciousnesses; it is an undaunted attack against philosophical goliaths that needed to be defeated. Her account of the coloniality of gender radically altered a field in need of attunement to the workings of gender at the modern, colonial matrix; and her call for decolonial feminism opened new avenues of decolonial thinking and doing in the context of the U.S and Latin America.
María was a formidable, strong self, unafraid to say what many others would not to say. She recognized the value of anger and did not give into a politics of civility that serves to keep mouths closed and hands tied. She was also full of life and laughter and appreciation for the beauty of art, of theory, and of loving perception. As a streetwalker theorist, world-traveler, activist, educator, philosopher, she commanded respect, praise, love, fear, and admiration. July 14, 2020 marks her departure from this world, but given her strength of character and of mind, I see María continuing her pilgrimages in the so many thoughts, ideas, writings, and political praxes that her exceptional gifts of words and deeds have inspired.
Mil gracias María from me and all the members of the Latina/x Feminisms Roundtable who have been inspired by your work. You were with us when we started and we will continue walking with you...
Thank you to Alison Bailey for the photograph.