the Opening Counterrealism meeting !

May 21, 2009


It was fun and rigorous, with Dipesh Chakrabarty joining us for a Q n A, which put some issues into focus and rather opened a lot more questions then we had time to discuss.

 One of the most interesting things that came only in retrospect to me was Dipesh mentioning his current work on global warming and the postcolonial perspectives on the issue of environment. I don’t know how it happened that we didn’t ask him to talk more about the exciting prospects of the postcolonial philosophy of science, which to my knowledge (and I still feel quite new to the debate, so let me know of any useful literature) is a rather underdeveloped and not widely discussed topic.

 Because of the pre-analytical ready- to-hand breaking into our everyday present-at-hand of the technology (the mic’s batteries ran out) we recorded only around 10 min of Dipesh talking. So, it seems, we’ll have to rely on the tradition of typing. My and Enrique’s thoughts and reflections are on their way and should be up in some time soon.

Anna suggested we do some other session on Chakrobarty again in June to finalize some points. We could read some of his more recent stuff then!



NOTES: Chakrabarty – When and What was Postcolonialism

April 8, 2009

Intro by Archeologist…
The title of his book ‘Provincializing Europe’ is so good that it is
sufficient to just read the title.

I’ll strart with the ‘When’ of the question, then move onto the What, and
hopefully there isnt’t enough time left for me to discuss the controversial
‘was’ of the title.

$B”# A good historian messes up Periodization & Chronology

●Anti-Colonialism and Decolonization movements of the post WWII were stuck
in a binary, what Bhabha called Difference without Hybridity. This was the
Pan-Africanism period, where ‘race’ played such a crucial part, in for
example the writings coming out of the Carribean
●Postcolonialism – emerged as a critique to make liberal-capitalism (or in
todays terms Globalisation) more democratic, include the hitherto excluded
and marginalized subjects,
●Latin American post-colonial theorist (Mignolo) have raised important
questions, such as what are the implications, that countries in Latin
America gained independence in the early 19th century, for seeing
postcolonialism as part of recent globalisation narratives.

Ill start with the Asia and Afrika Conference of 1955, or what is called
Bandung Conference.
●Richard Wright, African American Author who attended the confernce, wrote
that the “elites are more Western than the West”, partly because they took
European idealism to literally.
●The conference managed to create a “shared anti-imperialism” even though an
“alliance” was spurious. China was not allowed to join until the last
minute, and lots of countries were rather por-American.
●The desire to catch-up. The Engineer emerged as the eroticized image of
developmentalism. The new national hero and symbol.
●Leaders, Sukarno, Naseer, Nyere, Nehru, were all Pedagogical rather than
Dialogical, but I dont have time now to pursue this distinction.

The Nation

●During colonialism , the nation was made through street mobs, through
songs, rituals and poetry (except for collaborator-buerocrats in the British
Empire). After Independence, the nation became administrative and
●After Charisma – After the death of leadership figures was dissilussionment
●In the 60s, the elite emigration, “brain drain”, signal of disillusionment
with the State
●Working-Class Migrations existed since the 19th century, but
Post-Colonialism impossible without the “chattering classes”, a
●=> Emergence of Post-colonialism
●The circulation of anti-imperialism: For example how the figure of Ghandi
travelled, in USA in the 60s and during Anti-Apartheid struggle.

Post-Colonialism emerges
●Why was Vietnam rather Kurdistan the focus of international solidarity.
Because Kurdistan was a national issue.
●Issac Julian (made film on Fanon), with Stuart Hall and Homi Bhabha in the
70s, organized a Conference on Fanon
●Also this was when writings of someone like Charles Taylor were emerging
around the issue of recognition. Its not co-incidental.
●Stuart Hall, at the Birmingham Cultural Studies, emerged 1st as a critique
of E.P. Thomposon & the History Workshop Journal

Recognization of Post-colonialism
●Anti-essentialist (not “white & black”)
●Suspicion – That the Man of the Universal is “white” (Fanon)
●The Man of the Universal does not know how to deal with difference
●Post-cololianlist went to look in the colonial archives, and developed a
critique of sameness (the sammeness of the catch-up impulse of
●But writings were no only about asserting difference
●Differences as Real, but not stable enough to stabilize into Disciplines
●((How to reproduce market functions, without its institutions))
●Theorized difference, after post-structuralist thinkers- Derrida, Irigaray,
for example Bhabha in his concept of mimicry
●=> But this doesnt mean that Post-colonialism is simply indebted to
European Thought, as critics such as Arif Dirlik like to point out.
●The alternative i’m proposing is that Post-colonialism is more influenced
by anti-colonialism.

Q: What is Dialogical you mentioned?
●What I meant by Dialogical in terms of Pedagogical. Dialogical is basically
without imperialism. e.g. Enligh becomes Kreole through appropiation
●Quote from Cesaire “I am not a prisoner of French Language, Language is
arbitrary, I use the language to express my ideas” vs. Language of Empire as
Imperialism – Anticipates Debates on Globalization
● Leopolod Senghor vs. Hardt and Negri. For Senghor man is incarnate, always
already, positioned. Hardt and Negri use words like “placelessness and
nomadic” and emphasize the free movement of people

Q: What about the WAS of your title, is post-colonialism over?
The WAS of my Title (hope ive answered the when and what)
● Latin American Post-colonialism is based on the Renaissance (e.g. Octavio
●Indian Post-coloanilism is more based on the Enlightenment
●West Remains Post-colonial. As Etienne Balibar has tried to address –
“Question of cultural and historical difference and how to respond”
theoretically. e.g. The police in Paris riots 2005 was a colonial police

●Fanons gesture of Double-Conscioussness in 1961, where he says Marxism is
indispensable, but simultaneuolsy reaffirms that we need to scrap Marxist

Q: You haven’t mentioned Said
● Said, mh, he was quite different from people like Spivak and Bhabha. First
he signals that he’s influenced by French post-structuralism, by mentioning
Michel Foucault, but he does not remain very loyal to Foucaults notion of
“Discourse”. Also he does not intersect this with “Difference”. This is the
opposite of Bhabha. Also Said, who was older than Bhabha and Spivak, often
looked down upon them, seeing them as the children, dabbling with French

● There is a difference between post-colonialism done in history Departments
and in Literary Departments. In the first, theres the need for specifictiy
and context. Also theres the underlying idea that Language does not mediate
the past, the task of the historian is to represent the past. The Literature
branch of post-colonialism centeres upon the ‘singularity in poetry’. They
see language as the event. The play with Language and do all sorts of
wonderfull things with it. This is not accepted at History Departments, for
the better, since my prose is only capable of being that of the Historian

● In the 70s USA – Identitiy Politics
UK – anti-rascism and activism (Fanon big in France)
● Post-colonialism came from the left, but now moving to the right,
possibly… The 80s was the Right moving into the White House, and the Left
moving into English Departments
●My friend Sandro Mezzadra has been writing about Post-colonialism and

Q: On Palestine, and whether it is a colonized place.
A: Post-colonialism can be 2 things. One a metaphoric level, so to say,
which links different countries in History, Palestine can be said to be
colonized, thereby tracing some continuity with past expriences of
colonialism. But Post-Colonialism is also much more specific, in its
configuration as emerging in the 70s from an expirience of the British
Empire. Here context is more important.

Q: About Marxism, Post-colonialism an effect of economics of colonialism.
● If we relinquish Universality it leads to political paralysis, the
breaking down…black feminisits, 3rd world feminists… Leads to a politics
of Suspicion. This did not produce a poltics of dialogue
● vs. Zizek though, who thinks the Universal is only European
●Marxist Historiography failed in India, because it did not realize what
kind of politics caste gave rise to
● You can have difference, without having to essentialize it
● The Historian Ginzburg argue against expirience, such as Biographies, this
was challenged by feminsits in the 70s.
● Now the recent bestseller the US, is called “The trouble with diversity”,
which moves from a discussion from race to class.
● Intellectual Tradition, comes alive, when you debate as if they were
alive. Marx is still relevant, not consigned, or contained within the 19th
century context. Marxism needs to be renewed from & for the margins. Marxism
might be exhausted, but it is not invalidated
● Transfer- My intellectual trajectory as combination, for a non-eurocentric
Universalism, that is how to recombine, re-engage in contemporary
intellectual deadlock