Decolonial aesthesis

It was (and still remains) the western aesthetics which exploits the eastern aesthesis – the process of sensory perception of the world by the person through the visual, auditory and other forms of perception.

Author: Michel Maffesoli, Walter Mignolo, Rolando Vazquez, Madina Tlostanova
Year: 1991
Country: France, Argentina, Russia


Michel Maffesoli


In 2015 researchers and theoreticians Walter Mignolo and Rolando Vazquez proposed to use the word “aesthetics” to refer to the normative modern aesthetics that builds and controls our sensations, perceptions and taste preferences, and the greek word “aesthesis” first introduced by Michel Maffesoli in 1991 when we talk about decolonial experience of the sensual. Aesthesis was described by the russian theoretician A.F. Losev as “the general” slavish “worldview of ancient culture embodied in plastic.” Aesthesis is the process of sensory perception by the person of the world: through visual, auditory and other forms of perception. Decolonial practice seeks to liberate aesthesis from the imposed by the West control over sensations, from the dominant aesthetics, to show many ways of expressing sensory experience. There is a common sensibility among many people around the globe. The sensibility that comes from the experience of coloniality, that is, of being considered less or deficient human beings. Who consider them/as such? The One who control discourse and has the authority to define the human. Western aesthetics contributed to that. From the colonial wound inflicted by Western aesthetics (because of course aesthetics is not a universal entity or way of being and sensing) comes decolonial aesthesis. The intellectual force and creativity today is coming from that sensibility, decolonial aesthesis, not only in art but in all spheres of life. 

It was (and still remains) the western aesthetics which exploits the eastern aesthesis forming its base. ‘Global South’ representatives have the unconsciously drawn parallels between the conception of beauty and the image of a blonde blue-eyed white woman for instance. Aesthesis is governed by the knowledge that modern critics and artists try to decolonize in their studies to elevate themselves over the colonial through the liberation of perception and stimulation to action, including political.

Lecture and article by russian researcher Madina Tlostanova on decolonial aesthesis.