‘Europatriarchal Knowledge’ from the ‘Sensuous Knowledge’

My current read is Sensuous Knowledge: A Black Feminist Approach by the renowned writer and feminist theorist, Minna Salami. In the book, particularly in the first chapter, Of Knowledge, she introduces the phrase “Europatriarchal Knowledge” as the rigid, rule-bound and robotic way that dominates how we view knowledge–“It is a hierarchy-fixated construct that was initiated by elite European men as propaganda to solidify their worldview on a large scale.” This knowledge has produced structures of white supremacy, imperialism, capitalism, neoliberalism and patriarchy. Salami explains that in this kind of knowledge everything is binary–It is either the mind or body, either reason or emotion, either feminine or masculine. But she goes ahead and coins the term “Sensuous Knowledge” which contends for a kaleidoscopic approach to knowledge–that the mind exists with and within the body, reason with and within emotion, the masculine with and within the feminine and vice versa.

“Europatriarchal Knowledge, the narrative that centers assessment and quantification as the epitome of knowing, and positions the European phenotype and male genotype as particularly gifted in the production of said knowledge.” In the chapter we get to see that Europatriachal knowledge acknowledges intellectual intelligence as superior to emotional intelligence. Since throughout modern history, the dominant belief has always been that valuable knowledge is only the rational and logical. “The conviction is that all valid ways of knowing are strictly assessed by the cognitive skills of reasoning, quantification and deductive inquiry.” This belief explains why from a young age, those with the best grades in subjects that involve logic and rationality, such as mathematics, chemistry, physics, etc, are considered the most intelligent. As a matter of fact this culture of grading and ranking children is a result of this mode of thinking.

“Our educational systems are stale; they teach us how to transform the mind but not the psyche; they explain how to design evolved societies but not how to be evolved citizens of them; they claim that emotions–central as they are to life–are incapable of explaining existence.” We enter well into adulthood and continue to evaluate intelligence according to ratable and hierarchal processes. We associate talent with the arts but not with knowledge. We do not view knowledge as an entity that can be accessed and assessed through the arts and their connection to emotions, senses and embodied experience. Therefore, despite living in the information age, we are incapable of solving issues such as, poverty, racism, sexism, climate change, mental health problems and social injustices–just to name a few.

Europatriarchal Knowledge is not all negative. The competitive race to acquire knowledge has resulted in significant achievements. For instance, the scientific, industrial and information revolutions would not have happened without the existence of Europatriarchal Knowledge. “In the absence of these revolutions, there would have been no Enlightenment movement and in turn no maps, modern mode of transport, modern universities and institutions that in their own ways enhance our collective experience.”

However, “Those who wish to maintain the status quo will do everything in their power to prevent the transformation of knowledge. They know that a mind that is frightened, fragmented and frustrated is the least likely to resist oppression and the most likely to perpetuate it.” The imperialists, sexists, white supremacists, multinational corporations discourage a wholesome approach to knowledge because they are aware that the more robotic people are, the easily manipulated they are. This is why colonialists confiscated indigenous art. It is why organized religions radicalized indigenous people to embrace a new religion and consider their native doctrines as ‘ungodly’ and untrue. It is why the library of Alexandria was burned multiple times. These autocrats understood that the more you prevent an experience of knowledge, the higher the chances of upholding power. They know that a person who cannot think for themselves is a person who can think for them.

If there is a movement that has challenged the Europatriachal Knowledge school of thought, it is Black Feminism. This feminist movement offers a countercultural approach against this knowledge system–it understands that we need new ways of conceptualizing what we know. Therefore, black feminists believe that creative expression is a vital form of knowledge production because it allows for the development of emotional intelligence which is essential in the destruction of all systems of oppression. As the Combahee River Collective Statement states, “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.”

I can hardly explain the whole chapter in depth, let alone the whole book in one blog post. I recommend reading the book in order to fully understand the significance of a wholesome approach to knowledge production. In my understanding of the chapter, knowledge is not an entity that can be divided and one deemed greater than the other. Instead, both intellectual intelligence and emotional intelligence are mutually dependent, more like the yin and yang.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s