The (De)coloniality of Conceptual Inequivalence: Reinterpreting Ometeotl through Nahua Tlacuiloliztli

Part of the Literatures of the Americas book series (LOA)


Xiang coins the term “conceptual inequivalence” to analyze the coloniality of translation between indigenous and European languages and cosmologies through a close survey of the colonial/modern reception and translation of the Nahua duality deity and principle Ometeotl. He argues that the negation of conceptual inequivalence accompanies the colonial imposition of Western cosmology to the indigenous one. Seeing this imposition as coloniality/modernity’s intellectual limitation in comprehending the complex Nahua cosmology, he considers conceptual inequivalence to be the space for decolonial resistance. “The (De)coloniality of Conceptual Inequivalence” tackles these issues through a learning to learn from Nahua cosmo-philosophy conceived in its pictorial writing system tlacuiloliztli, for which he includes statues like Coatlicue Mayor and the calendar stone.


(De)coloniality Translation Tlacuiloliztli Ometeotl Coatlicue Mayor 


  1. Bal, Mieke. A Mieke Bal Reader. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Print.Google Scholar
  2. Boone, Elizabeth Hill. “Writing and Recording Knowledge.” Writing without Words: Alternative Literacies in Mesoamerica and the Andes. N.p., 1994. 3–26. Print.Google Scholar
  3. Braidotti, Rosi. Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Print.Google Scholar
  4. Brotherston, Gordon. “America and the Colonizer Question: Two Formative Statements from Early Mexico.” Coloniality at Large: Latin America and the Postcolonial Debate. Ed. Mabel Moraña, Enrique Dussel, and Carlos A. Jáuregui. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008. 23–42. Print.Google Scholar
  5. ——. “Towards a Grammatology of America: Lévi-Strauss, Derrida and the Native New World Text.” Literature, Politics and Theory: Papers from the Essex Conference, 1976–1984. Ed. Francis Barker et al. London: Methuen & Co.Ltd, 1986. 190–209. Print.Google Scholar
  6. Burkhart, Louise M. The Slippery Earth: Nahua-Christian Moral Dialogue in Sixteenth-Century Mexico. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press, 1989. Print.Google Scholar
  7. De León, Ann. “Coatlicue or How to Write the Dismembered Body.” MLN 125 (2010): 259–286. Print.Google Scholar
  8. De León y Gama, Antonio. Descripción Histórica Y Cronológica de Las Dos Piedras. México D.F.: Imprenta de Don Felipe de Zúñiga y Ontiveros, 1792. Print.Google Scholar
  9. Elzey, Wayne. “The Nahua Myth of the Suns: History and Cosmology in Pre-Hispanic Mexican Religions.” Numen 23.2 (1976): 114–135. Print.Google Scholar
  10. Fernández, Justino. A Guide to Mexican Art: From Its Beginnings to the Present (trans. by Joshua C. Taylor). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969. Print.Google Scholar
  11. ——. Coatlicue: Estética Del Arte Indígena Antiguo. México D.F.: Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1959. Print.Google Scholar
  12. Godoy, Iliana. “Coatlicue: Visión Holográfica.” Escritos, Revista del centro de ciencias del lenguaje 33 (2006): 79–92. Print.Google Scholar
  13. Gombrich, Eric H. Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. London: Phaidon Press, 1984. Print.Google Scholar
  14. Gruzinski, Serge. La Colonisation de L’imaginaire: Société Indigènes et Occidentalisation Dans Le Mexique Espagnol XVIe – XVIIIe Siècle. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1988. Print.Google Scholar
  15. Haly, Richard. “Bare Bones: Rethinking Mesoamerican Divinity.” History of Religions 31.3 (1992): 269–304. Print.Google Scholar
  16. Klein, Cecelia F. “A New Interpretation of the Aztec Statue Called Coatlicue.” Ethnohistory 55.2 (2008): 229–250. Print.Google Scholar
  17. ——. “The Identity of the Central Deity on the Aztec Calendar Stone.” The Art Bulletin 58.1 (1976): 1–12. Print.Google Scholar
  18. León-Portilla, Miguel. Aztec Thought and Culture: A Study of the Ancient Nahuatl Mind. Trans. Jack Emory Davis. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963. Print.Google Scholar
  19. ——. La Filosofia Nahuatl: Estudiada En Sus Fuentes. México D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México, 1956. Print.Google Scholar
  20. ——. “Ometéotl, El Supremo Dios Dual, Y Tezcatlipoca ‘Dios Principal.’” Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl 30 (1999): 133–152. Print.Google Scholar
  21. Lockhart, James. Nahuatl as Written: Lessons in Older Written Nahuatl, with Copious Examples and Texts. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. Print.Google Scholar
  22. Lugones, María. “Heterosexualism and the Colonial/Modern Gender System.” Hypatia 22.1 (2007): 186 – 209. Print.Google Scholar
  23. Maldonado-Torres, Nelson. “Secularism and Religion in the Colonial/modern World-System: From Secular Postcoloniality to Postsecular Transmodernity.” Coloniality at Large: Latin America and the Postcolonial Debate. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008. 360–387. Print.Google Scholar
  24. Marcos, Sylvia. “Mesoamerican Women’s Indigenous Spirituality: Decolonizing Religious Beliefs.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 25.2 (2009): 25–45. Print.Google Scholar
  25. Matos Moctezuma, Eduardo. “Tlaltecuhtli: Señor de La Tierra.” Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl 27 (1997): 15–40. Print.Google Scholar
  26. Mignolo, Walter. “Delinking: The Rhetoric of Modernity, the Logic of Coloniality and the Gramma of De-Coloniality.” Cultural Studies 21.2 (2007): 449–514. Print.Google Scholar
  27. ——. “Philosophy and the Colonial Difference.” Latin American Philosophy: Currents, Issues, Debates. Ed. Eduardo Mendieta. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003. 80–86. Print.Google Scholar
  28. ——. The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011. Print.Google Scholar
  29. ——. “Writing and Recorded Knowledge in Colonial and Postcolonial Situations.” Writing without Words: Alternative Literacies in Mesoamerica and the Andes. Ed. Elizabeth Hill Boone and Walter Mignolo. Durham: Duke University Press, 1994. 293–313. Print.Google Scholar
  30. Nicholson, Henry B. “Religion in Pre-Hispanic Mexico.” Handbook of Middle American Indians (Vol.10). Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971. 395–446. Print.Google Scholar
  31. Ortiz de Montellano, Bernardo R, and Victoria Schussheim. Medicina, Salud Y Nutrición Azteca. México D.F.: Siglo Veintiuno, 2003. Print.Google Scholar
  32. Oyewùmí, Oyéronké. The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses. MInneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. Print.Google Scholar
  33. Rabasa, José. “Elsewheres: Radical Relativism and the Frontiers of Empire.” Qui Parle: Literature, Philosophy, Visual Arts, History 16.1 (2006): 71–94. Print.Google Scholar
  34. ——. “Thinking Europe in Indian Categories, Or, ‘Tell Me the Story of How I Conquered You.’” Coloniality at Large: Latin America and the Postcolonial Debate. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008. 43–76. Print.Google Scholar
  35. Roberto Vera, Luis. Coatlicue En Paz, La Imagen Sitiada: La Diosa Madre Azteca Como Imago Mundi Y El Concepto Binario de Analogía/ironía En El Acto de Ver: Un Estudio de Los Textos de Octavio Paz Sobre Arte. Puebla: Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla: Dirección General de Fomento Editorial, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Maestría en Literatura Mexicana MMIII, 2003. Print.Google Scholar
  36. Sigal, Pete. The Flower and the Scorpion: Sexuality and Ritual in Early Nahua Culture. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011. Print.Google Scholar
  37. Thomas, Nicholas. Colonialism’s Culture: Anthropology, Travel and Government. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994. Print.Google Scholar
  38. Tlostanova, Madina, and Walter Mignolo. Learning to Unlearn: Decolonial Reflections from Eurasia and the Americas. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2012. Print.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural InquiryBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations