Theorizing colonial knowledge production in a still-colonial nation requires learning from the knowledges produced in the Caribbean – that region accustomed to the contradiction (although to locals, it isn’t so) of extractivism and tourism. We need not go further than how these narratives are explored in key postcolonial texts such as Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, and most recently, in Yarimar Bonilla’s work (she is currently interim director of El Centro: Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, City University of New York): she has explored Klein’s idea of disaster capitalism in Aftershocks of Disaster (edited with Marisol LeBrón).
Kincaid’s work registers a postcolonial stand using anti-imperial and tourism critiques in Antigua. She “talks back” to the figure of the tourist, resisting a sort of strange bedfellows, formed between a government that rips its citizens of resources, and the privileged tourists who are able to travel to the Caribbean. Bonilla extends Kincaid’s anti-imperial analysis from her previous work in the journal Political Geography by speaking to “the temporality of disaster.” Citing sociologists such as Javier Auyero, she thinks through waiting as a sign of power relations that locates the person or unit waiting in subordinate relation to the state. But “waiting (esperar) implies hope (esperanza).” It fuses both promise and anticipation into a quest to see, and seek, a future. In her analysis of how disasters (natural, economic) unfold, she asks: “if we understand disasters to have deep colonial histories, how can we formulate visions of repair that take those longer trajectories into account? How can we develop visions of recovery that do not simply re-establish a previous state of inequity, or prepare populations to endure future forms of structural violence, but which instead offer substantive forms of transformation and redress?” The framework of the temporality of disasters is indebted to social scientists’ analysis from frameworks such as coloniality of power; sociology and the social sciences’ quest to continue to understand these systemic macro lenses – which she calls racial-imperial formations – forge a path to think of disaster and risk not just as behavioral (and inherently, resorting to neoliberal or causal readings) but as systemic. Systemic risk, connected to economics and networks, has been explored in sociology as it may relate to globalization. Colonization is the other side of the coin in terms of the disasters, lack of infrastructure, and the impact of a racial-imperial formation that still influences the peripheral countries and (more often than not) territories.
What would it mean to think of the potentiality of risk in and through disasters, including those connected to a debt such as Puerto Rico’s? It would require sustaining a mirror in front of us as a society, and catching a glimpse of the greed that democracy curtails. While Puerto Ricans thrive and adjust to a multitude of challenges, unemployment and migration pose a structural decoy to the Island’s future, in ways that connect them to communities abroad – in the United States and elsewhere. But mortgages and abandoned properties are the law of the land on the Island, ever since the debt has created a systemic employment crisis, and given Puerto Ricans’ citizenship granted at birth, which facilitates such migration. The impact of hurricanes “Irma” and “María” in 2017 further impacted the weakened economic platform. And then there are issues of a weak, intermittent infrastructure – weekly and monthly challenges with electricity, water, or gas – that continue to plague locals; more than one of my academic colleagues has left a position at one of the University of Puerto Rico campuses for one in the United States. How would education shift, given the movement of resources from the most prestigious public institution on the Island, and into privatized efforts from for-profit Universities? What about the people power/resources that deplete the Island, in that continuous migration cycle of searching for “el sueño Americano”?
Puerto Rico is connected to other Latin American countries socially, artistically and culturally, and in particular linguistically, and the economic nexus to the United States has not slowed down those linkages after over a century of U.S. colonization. I am one of a few sociologists involved in the Grupo de Trabajo Feminista y Queer/Cuir de las Américas (or, in English, Cuir Américas Working Group), which brings together scholars from the humanities, arts, social sciences and other fields with artists, activists, and artivists from the region. In it, we try to connect work about activist, citizenship, and queerness in Puerto Rico with that of others in the hemisphere. This has become a place of comparative work across fields and disciplines. One of its tenets is to challenge the notion that Latin America as a region exists for the documentation and application of US-based theorizing, and seeks to produce conversations, presentations, publications and debates across Latin American countries – without it being mediated by the U.S. In queer studies and decolonial studies, the Working Group nurtures the use and application of regional theories and theorists, challenging the placement of the U.S. scholarship in perpetual “canonical” status as necessary in its theorizing. This model is useful in considering the place of U.S. theorizing elsewhere, and it impacts sociology in particular: among scholars in the rest of the hemisphere, the Working Group fosters critical conversations about the origins and applications of commonly perceived fields of study, such as queer theory, but also, to a lesser extent, other fields including feminist formations, intersectionality, and the queer of color critique, in their applications in Latin American countries. Adjusting and reinventing the categories and principles of some of the theoretical approaches that are developed “in the north” produce newer knowledge, knowledge that does not need to be always contesting that which is produced in the United States.
A hemispheric sociological project may suspend the common idea of the U.S. as the exception in producing knowledge on the backs of other countries. Revisiting, for instance, the idea of Australia as an exception to the idea of “developed” countries as part of a “global south” Raewyn Connell invites us to rethink knowledge production and theorizing from what we consider the margins; I urge us, as Claudio Benzecry did in the Spring newsletter, to think about why it is that we think of such knowledge formation periphery as margins.
Even as/when we sustain a lens that always already situates the outside of the U.S. as lesser, as underdeveloped, as marginal, the lessons –from well within the U.S., not just outside– abound: efforts to achieve legal access to abortion, to same sex marriage, and to trans issues have taken place in as many as half a dozen of the Latin American countries; my own work in Argentina in high school, GED-to-college, and University settings that center the lives of trans people in educational systems is but one example of how center and periphery have to constantly be suspended. (I admit enjoying, when sharing with other academics, that it rubs them the wrong way my noting how these things happened in the chaotic South; that is a small way to talk back to the notion that prescribes otherness to an imagined “outside”.) How can we envision a world in which our preconceived notions of elite education, of formative spaces for change, and for making transformative knowledge decenter the U.S. as the natural place from which to start?
I return to the Caribbean, and to Puerto Rico, as a way to close these notes. Considering the critical state of the Puerto Rican government, the austerity of the regulation of its debt, and its apparent (temporal) management, along with the massive movement of (mostly) White USAmericans moving to the Island to avoid U.S. taxes while thousands of Puerto Ricans leave, I want to coopt the notion that Puerto Rico ought to be studied – that would be quite simple. Instead, I aim to turn the eye back to the place of USAmerican sociology in thinking of these spaces in terms of privileged access to them. There are connections, convergences, that scholars in the Caribbean have made, and continue to make. Imagine the fruitfulness of research on the linkages between Haiti’s and Puerto Rico’s “natural” disasters. Consider the possibilities of having scholars produce archival research from countries with three or four different languages. Comparisons that work through simplified learning curves – where only one language is needed and English is dominant, or when literature available is not easily found on global (north) databases – ought to be reconsidered in order to pursue scholarship that is not U.S. centered, that is not produced for the sake of U.S. accolades, and that furthers knowledge while understanding not only other forms of knowledge production, but also, other racial formation systems, or other forms of organizing and teaching. In other words, instead of making our models, theories, and approaches fit (with the inherent forcefulness that will come with it), how can we understand, appreciate, and treat as equal other ways to “fight the system” while recognizing that conditions for knowledge production are uneven. It may imply considering knowledge production from places in languages other than English, one that is published with “a small participant sample” because they come from territories fighting internal war or displacement, and even one with frameworks that might not be sociological, at least explicitly.
 Congressional Research Service. Puerto Rico’s Public Debts: Accumulation and Restructuring. (Updated May 2, 2022) https://sgp.fas.org/crs/row/R46788.pdf. An important point beyond the focus of this text is the taxation imposed on what comes into the Island – estimated at close to 20% of the goods entering the territory. Independent countries are able to trade and receive goods without having to concede this large sum to the U.S. Activists and policy-makers argue that even freeing the Island from this imposed tax (connected by some to the 1917 Jones Act) would allow the government to balance its budget.
 This has a direct impact on sociology teaching and research. For example, we see the demise of the sociology program at the University of Puerto Rico – Río Piedras campus in a recent article by Jorge Giovanetti-Torres, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology there, titled “The Last Sociologist”: https://firstname.lastname@example.org/the-last-sociologist-46bf11cd1c7f.
 Bonilla, Yarimar and Marisol LeBrón. 2019. Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm. Haymarket Books.
 Bonilla, Yarimar. 2020. “The coloniality of disaster: race, empire, and the temporal logics of emergency in Puerto Rico, USA.” Political Geography 78, 102181. 12 pages.
 Centeno, Miguel A., Manish Nag, Thayer S. Patterson, Andrew Shaver, and A. Jason Windavi. 2015. “The emergence of global systemic risk.” Annual Review of Sociology 41: 65-85.
 See also: Vidal-Ortiz, Salvador. 2004. “On Being a White Person of Color: Using Autoethnography to Understand Puerto Ricans’ Racialization.” Qualitative Sociology, 27, 2:179-203.
 Working groups are common in Latin America as a structure that allows for malleability while operating outside of, while in connection to, large organizations (such as the Latin American Studies Association); moving forward research agendas and projects. For more of the origins of the Cuir Américas Working Group, see María Amelia Viteri, “IntenSiones: Tensions and Queer Activism and Agency in Latino América,” Feminist Studies 43. (2017), 405-17.
 Connell, Raewyn. 2007. Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science. Routledge.
 King, Rosamond S. 2014. Island Bodies: Transgressive Sexualities in the Caribbean Imagination. University Press of Florida; Nixon, Angelique V. 2015. Resisting Paradise: Tourism, Diaspora, and Sexuality in Caribbean Culture. University Press of Mississippi.