What We Talked About At ISA: Critique in Anti-Colonial Thought: Fanon and Cabral as Philosophers of Being, knowledge and ethics

I saw folk die of hunger in Cape Verde and I saw folk die from flogging in Guiné (with beatings, kicks, forced labour), you understand? This is the entire reason for my revolt.”.[1]




I sincerely believe that a subjective experience can be understood by others; and it would give me no pleasure to announce that the black problem is my problem and mine alone and that it is up to me to study it…Physically and affectively. I have not wished to be objective. Besides, that would be dishonest: It is not possible for me to be objective.”.[2]

For some time, I have been preoccupied by the connections between the ways in which we see, analyse and interpret the world, and the forms of political action to which this gives rise. In general, for critical social theory, the challenge is how to think about the world such as to understand and overcome structures of injustice or violence in it.  As a particular instance of this, the anti-colonial movement of the middle part of the twentieth century provides much food for thought, not least when so many point to patterns of colonialism and imperialism in world politics today.

In the paper I presented to the International Studies Association conference a few weeks ago, I offer a particular reading of Frantz Fanon and Amílcar Cabral as philosophers of being, knowledge and ethics.  Commonly, but not exclusively, these two figures are understood as having important things to say about revolt and resistance – Cabral is portrayed as the arch-pragmatist who emphasises the need for political unity and realistic objectives, whereas Fanon is frequently engaged for his affirmative treatment of violence in an anti-colonial context.  In this sense, they are largely approached as political thinkers and activists rather than philosophers per se.

Yet, their systems of thought stem from distinctive, and in important ways shared, philosophical commitments on the nature of being (ontology), ways of constructing knowledge (epistemology) and the ethical foundations of engagement (um, ethics). These foundations are strong, coherent and compelling points of departure and important in terms of understanding what kind of future order they envisaged.  What are these, and how do they support an anti-colonial political programme? What is the relevance of this intellectual legacy today?

I. A multi-foundational political ontology (we are many things)

Whilst I will continue to search for a more elegant expression to capture this, I feel that it is accurate. What I mean when I say that there is a multi-foundational ontology of politics at work in the thought of Fanon and Cabral is that both argue that there are multiple domains through which colonial power operates and which constitute it as a form of domination. Briefly, these include the economic structures of capitalist imperialism, political repression, psychological negation, social apartheid, racial discrimination and cultural erasure. Fanon and Cabral both recognised these structures as ‘reciprocal and dependent’ , though not reducible to one another. The irreducible nature of this multiplicity is an important claim – they both reject the ultimate and demonstrable priority of master categories of being such as class struggle, individual self-realisation or racism. Rather, they claim a fundamentally multi-foundational basis for political life. Working against colonialism in an effective and complete sense thus meant working against it in all its connected dimensions.

This is slightly different to the idea of intersectionality that has emerged within postcolonial feminist literature most obviously  – it is not so much the idea that there is an emphasis on intersecting structures of oppression such as class, race and gender which produce particular effects, although both Fanon and Cabral would accept this broad idea. Rather, the multi-foundational political ontology that is present in their work suggests that the political is present at all levels of analysis and domains of social life. The idea that one should sort between them to determine where to really start, a common dispute within social theory, is belied by the irreducibly plural constitution of the political.

II. A situated epistemology; affect as a mode of apprehension (from where you know determines what you know; feeling is a way of knowing)

Reality, for once, requires a total understanding. On the objective level as on the subjective level, a solution has to be supplied.[3]

In using their ‘reality’ – of colonialism, racism and struggle – as a critique of the ‘objective’ analysis of their more orthodox contemporaries on the European left, both thinkers were critiquing the ways in which social phenomena were being known. In both, we find critiques of the distant and abstracted ways in which colonialism is understood and rationalised within Europe, even by its critics. For Fanon and Cabral, knowledge of colonialism comes ultimately from those who experience its various dimensions and exclusions in their lives as its supposed objects. In this, then, there is an acknowledgement and embrace of the particular power and insight generated by situated knowledge claims. It is not that these viewpoints are exclusively the foundation of knowledge: rather it is a reminder that these should be the starting point. Both Cabral and Fanon used their professional positions – as agronomist and physician respectively within the colonial governmental structures – to engage deeply with the political, economic, social and psychological experiences of the colonised as a basis for their analyses.

A second aspect of their epistemologies, arguably one rather more prominent in Fanon than Cabral, is that affective engagement with the colonised becomes an important mode of apprehending colonialism. In particular, its unjust, humiliating and de-humanising character cannot be understood through detached rationalist modes of explanation or analysis; rather, they fundamentally require an emotional and empathetic engagement and response in order to be known as forms of violence.  This is connected with the situated character of knowledge claims, but is distinctive in that it speaks directly to how we apprehend. This is important in terms of opening up space for a form of shared understanding amongst those not subject to colonialism in the same ways, and thus a form of solidaristic response.

The ways in which these thinkers viewed knowledge clearly fit with their account of the multidimensional character of the political – both were more elastic and embedded in the many details of colonial domination than other theories of colonialism. Importantly, as will be discussed next, they were also grounded openly in a humanist ethical framework which fit into their accounts of being and knowledge.

III. Ethical humanism (we identify with one another through our shared humanity)

‘Humanism’ is a term with many meanings – however, it captures some core themes within the ethical frameworks of Fanon and Cabral, which in turn underpin their conceptual worlds.  Fundamental in this is the notion of a universally shared humanity – a radical idea in the face of structures of stratified and embedded racism – which should inform how politics and economy are organised and re-defined.

For these two thinkers, it underpins the necessarily universal – and universalisable – character of the problems faced. As Fanon shows, following Cesaire, colonialism de-humanises the coloniser as well as the colonised, and thus the objective must be a new type of humanism. As he argues, the suffering of the Negro is that of the Jew – both are subject to the same political logic and the same violence, and crucially, this unites them.  Humanism – understood here as an ethical universalism – is thus the appropriate response to the divisive structures of colonialism, which operates through the ranking and division of humanity into races and standards of civilisation.

An ethical humanism also informs their obvious preoccupation with the direct experiences of suffering, violence and impoverishment as part of colonialism – it is a type of grounding in the concrete and immediate experience of peoples which complements a wider analysis of the causes and structures underpinning these phenomena.  Clearly, this complements the emphasis on empathy as a foundation for political knowledge mentioned earlier as it reinforces the role that being able to identify with the experiences of other subjects plays in political action.

Rethinking the political

Clearly, the above summarises the key ideas in only the briefest of ways, and does not answer a raft of substantive and detailed questions which may be legitimately raised. My purpose here is mainly to introduce the ways in which I have been reading and reflecting on their work and open some lines of thought. Both men died young, in the years before their adopted countries achieved independence – it is thus something of an open question how they would have viewed the events thereafter, or indeed now.

Their ideas however are useful places from which to start in thinking about the present. The reductive ways in which we see or simplify the political – into questions of religion, identity, class or development – are rightly problematised if we accept an inherently multi-foundational ontology of the political. That is to say, we might be better off accepting this as a starting point rather than arguing over which of the various grand narratives provides the best structural account of the political.

Thinking about from where our knowledge comes from and whose realities are engaged is also an important question for the present – perhaps especially in thinking about the tendency within solidaristic movements to try to speak for rather than with those who it regards as dominated. Fanon and Cabral clearly sought to put their own interpretations and analyses forward and in this sense they are not innocent mouthers of the authentically represented struggle. Yet, they both recognised the problem and strove to invert the supposed authority of the scientist or professional over the colonised subject through re-positioning their own lenses.

Finally, admitting that a form of affective engagement underpins, quite legitimately, our political judgements is an important move to make, and one that echoes more widely with arguments made within feminism and elsewhere on what kind of terrain politics should take place. The point that one cannot understand various questions of injustice without more basic foundational assumptions about human dignity has been a contested and problematic one within political theory – but it has largely remained a point about the rational foundations of politics. Less emphasised, less appreciated and less understood is the question of human empathy as a vital basis for political action, yet it is one without which the core complaints against colonialism do not make sense. In thinking about the imperial structure of politics today, it is clear to me at least that we need to make space for a type of intellectual and political engagement which can appreciate multiple spaces and dimensions of domination, the importance of engaging with lived experiences of domination and of responding to them through a humanist, humanising ethical framing. How this is done in different circumstances is not something to be determined abstractly but concretely.  Nonetheless, Fanon and Cabral offer us some basic wisdom for continuing such an engagement.

[1] Cabral, A., M. Wolfers, et al. (1980). Unity and struggle : speeches and writings. London, Heinemann Educational. 41.

[2] Fanon, F.(2001) Black Skin. White Masks, Pluto Press, 63-4

[3] Ibid., 4.

21 thoughts on “What We Talked About At ISA: Critique in Anti-Colonial Thought: Fanon and Cabral as Philosophers of Being, knowledge and ethics

  1. A philosophy of social science question: does one’s analysis – rather than political judgment – also depend upon affect? Or, can social “scientific” analysis be done without rendering ethical/political judgments?

    I’m mostly curious how far you’d push your critique – and in what terms you would push it – are Cabral and Fanon thinkers with social analysis of imperialism/colonialism *and* a political project of emancipation, or are they (necessarily) linked together?


    • Excellent question, for what I hope this is a partial response: I think that the way that we ‘code’/’parse’ the world in the conduct of analysis necessarily incorporates some form of identification with what might constitute a motivating factor for another person. So far, so Weberian. If you are trying to interpret human behaviour in analysis, then according to Weber empathy is required for verstehen, since you need some connection with the inner states of social subjects.

      But this is different to the claim that in order to analyse the social world ‘at all’ we must engage empathetically with it. I think that claims about human subjects and their behaviour require empathetic reasoning in order to make sense, and I think we do this so routinely that we do not even think about it the vast majority of the time. I don’t think this is a particularly controversial claim.

      But does the same follow about ‘structural’ claims? Do we need to reason empathetically in order to analyse the distribution of income, or the mode of production, or the balance of military power? Perhaps in a mundane sense, we do, to understand why they are explanatory in any sense. How can you explain why the distribution of income in a country in a pre-revolutionary setting matters, if you have no sense of inequality causing resentment and discord? How can you understand civil obedience to an authoritarian regime unless you can understand how fear works in this context?

      I’d be interested to know if we can think of any examples of ‘social scientific analysis’ that do not at some level require the analyst to empathise with the human ‘objects’ of analysis, even if only obviously and mundanely.

      But does that imply an affective engagement with the society or the subject matter? Perhaps, although this again would depend on what we understood as ‘affect’ and what it was contrasted to, which I don’t specify in the post as such. The way Fanon and Cabral use it is in contradistinction to the self-proclaimed rationalism of Western apologists for empire – however, once you divest those claims of their ‘rational’ or ‘scientific’ garb then they lose their power. My thinking is that ‘affect’ and ‘rationality’ are closely entwined in social thought, and very widely so. The issue is what kind of ‘affect’ informs thought – fear, anger and hatred may do as much as humanist solidarity or respect. But if we are pretending that affect is somehow avoidable then we are fooling ourselves.


      • A fascinating and important discussion. Certainly one too big for a blog post and replies to it (shorter reply: weak version of empathetic research is mundane but strong one is incredibly complicated and should not be seen as part of an either/or choice for or against rationality, truth and objectivity. And shouldn’t be too closely associated with ‘politics’, which is itself also a way of grafting an internally coherent ideology onto affect).

        My question is more about the politics of talking about affect. On the one hand, it concerns me when emotion, subjectivity and collective existence get associated too strongly with post-colonialism, feminism, etc. It’s historically true that these kinds of scholars have been interested in these ideas, but this becomes conflated all too easily with a vague notion that such methods and methodologies are appropriate to *those particular objects and subjects of study*. In other words, it risks reinforcing a well-explored binary in which colonial, gendered and variously othered peoples come to stand in for, or be the special representatives, of emotion, spirit, authenticity, rhythm, nature, etcetera ad nauseum.

        On the other hand, I think the question of ‘avoiding’ affect can be passed over rather too quickly by reference to the increasingly isolated group of scholars who think it has no relation to reason at all and that it should be abolished. The question of how affect should be manifested in academic analysis, as opposed to in immediate reactions to events or long-term political campaigns (recognising that those are overlapping) does matter IMHO. We deploy arguments about how a particular claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny all the time. When we do so, it’s rarely from the perspective that the claim is wrong *because* it makes angry or sad or whatever. It may *also* do that, but the grounds of the critique are not necessarily affectual. Moreover, such objections may also, and quite legitimately, take the form that a particular affective moment has interfered in some way with the claim being objected to (for example, that somebody has merely assumed that particular countries fall below a GDP threshold because of bias but not really looked at the evidence, or that they have assumed that gender differences are biological instead of using reason and evidence to think through the issue).

        Also, I think it’s a really massive claim to say that the apology for empire depends on a scientific/rationalist garb. This is obviously a rather hot historical potato too, but there are plenty of systems of domination (including empire) which will do just fine (if not better) with reference to such non-rationalist concepts as duty, dignity, spirit, destiny and even solidarity and justice.


      • Interesting stuff here, though my question was more about the place of affect rather than empathy – which I think is important in the ways you outline. I think the place of affect in social analysis is even more pervasive then you suggest in your reply – I don’t think we can even have social science as an endeavor/practice without the affective dimension as a way into inquiry at all (but here my Deweyan perspective is showing).

        What I find interesting about your reading of Fanon and Cabral is the way you bring out their conscious deployment of affect, in particular their empathy for the suffering of colonial subjects, as a starting point for social analysis. For me that makes their work (a) more honest, (b) more ethical, and (c) better (I wouldn’t say accurate because I’ve got known objections to such notions). Here my situated/standpoint reading of Dewey come out… So, I’d think that the traditional attempt to separate out the affective, ethical and political elements of social inquiry is a losing wager and would see the approach you want to develop as pretty promising – though I do reckon further conversation is necessary to find the differences that make a difference, or at least where we agree and where I am being the Dewey-borg.


      • And as a reply to Paul:

        Point 1: Fuck ’em.

        Point 2: “We deploy arguments about how a particular claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny all the time. When we do so, it’s rarely from the perspective that the claim is wrong *because* it makes angry or sad or whatever.”

        This skirts the issue for me – I would be quite willing to say that a particular claim or theory may not stand up to scrutiny because:

        (a) the affective starting point of the analysis/theory is problematic (that’s my beef against IR-realism, its about the desire for power attainment/management and the resulting anxiety, which is a pretty indefensible once it is made explicit);

        (b) the analysis/theory results in conclusions/judgments that make angry/sad/etc for good reason (to use another example, if Ferguson’s analysis leads him to justify Pinochet’s dictatorship on the grounds that pension reform was necessary, then that’s a good reason to object to his specific claim and to put other claims into question); and

        (c) the analysis/theory excludes or misses out the affective responses/dispositions/expressions of those who it aims to study/explain/understand.

        But then again, I often say ridiculous things.


  2. This is very interesting. I wish I’d gone to your panels at ISA. I would only note that Fanon was from Martinique, which is now a French Department and a part of the European Union. So I’m not entirely sure that it achieved independence at all, except possibly through the vote, and the EU passport.


    • 🙂 For the pedants amongst you… the post specified “adopted countries”…. which of course was Algeria for Fanon, where he is now buried, and Guinea-Bissau for Cabral who was born in Cape Verde. But of course, before independence, they were nominally ‘France’ and ‘Portugal’…


      • Although, Cabral was born in Guinea Bissau. Oddly enough I’ve actually been to the town where he grew up in Cape Verde. A small boy threw a stone at my car near there, probably because I was a white man, although maybe he just didn’t like Daihatsu cars. (smiley face)


  3. Paul – lots of excellent points that move us on to more interesting ground about how and why affect matter in analysis, or indeed how we think about ‘affect’, ‘reason’ and ‘evidence’.

    On a small clarificatory point, my point about ‘rationalist’ apologists for empire was in reference to the specific thinkers Fanon argues against in his texts – Cesaire also does so, making a case against ‘rationality’ as self-proclaimed, rather than what we might accept as being ‘pure reason’.

    I hope I didn’t imply anywhere that there was a naturalness or appropriateness to the race/gender question and the relevance of affect – my comments above about the relevance of affect are pitched to the general questions of social analysis.

    But the other question – where and how does ‘affect’ play a role in scrutiny, evaluation, deconstruction of claims? I think there is interesting space around this one for discussion, which I won’t pursue in this space but maybe hold it back for another day.


    • Meera:

      My problem is not that I think *you* do this, it’s that it’s a possible, and plausible, effect of mainly talking about affect in relation to certain ‘kinds’ of people, and implicitly allowing the claims of rationality made by the standard white western male to stand. What it needs (re: Joe’s point about “fuck ’em”) was that we risk perpetuating these binaries unless we focus on the affects of whiteness as well as those of blackness, and of maleness as well as femaleness, etc.


      The ‘starting point’ of Realism wouldn’t count as an argument or claim in the sense I mean. To pursue your analogy with a thought experiment:

      Ferguson says that London financiers viewed colonialism in a positive light and claims support for that view by reference to diary entries and the discourse of the period. Regardless of whether we agree or disagree with this claim, it isn’t sufficient to do so on the basis of an affective starting point. I can see the role affect plays in caring about the overarching question of colonialism. I can see the role affect plays in caring about the contemporary (mis)application of such an idea for normative purposes. I can see how affect in a much more loose sense is ‘inseparable’/fundamentally part of the neurological process of thought itself. I don’t see how my affect about Ferguson furnishes a sufficient answer to whether his specific claim is correct. Moreover, I can see good grounds for wanting to ‘control’ my affect in this case, which is to say trying to evaluate the claim *without* dismissing or accepting it on the basis of who said it. Since we are implicated in the reality we study in a certain way, I may want to avoid talking about that claim as if it reflects well on the rest of Ferguson’s oeuvre, and may seek to avoid awarding him citation points, etc. but that seems to me to exist at a rather separate level of discussion re: the character of inquiry itself.

      A complex and internally differentiated theoretical-ideological-political formation like ‘Realism’ is something of a different deal. But even here, I think the different possible senses of ‘affect’ are significant. For example, your options (b) and (c) above certainly *involve* affect in possible ways I intimated in my first reply, but your use of ‘good reasons’ and the like opens up a qualification and a space for the moderation/control/combination of affect with other things which exactly takes us to the relevant tensions and opportunities. Your comments presume not just something called affect, but an affect opened to reflexivity and scrutiny (and vice versa). It doesn’t seem to me simply to require that we accept or embrace affect and reject or marginalise something called reason or rationalism, but that we think much more carefully about their relationship, and about the ways that we’re defining them to start with.


      • In response to point 1: it all depends on the relevant question – if the question is should the way I (as the inquirer) feel about Ferguson (as an academic/person) be used to reject a particular claim about the content of a particular historical source, the answer is obvious. But if the issue is over the frame with which he approaches a particular object and/or the implications and judgments he makes with it, then affect (and affective judgments) do come into it, both in what Ferguson’s own affect is – in his Civilization TV series he clearly laments the “fall” of the “West” – and in my affective response of revulsion at such imperial apologetics – which I do take to be a better response/judgment (though that of course opens up a whole wider set of issues).

        And point 2: Of course affect is moderated by other things, I never implied otherwise, only that I think it’s a pretty central part of social inquiry – I’d even say it plays a pretty important role in the physical sciences. I didn’t and wouldn’t suggest that we should embrace affect/emotion at the cost of reason/rationalism (though I’d be very hesitant to use either in a dichotomy with affect/emotion).

        I’m interested in exactly the question of how affect/emotion motivate and are part of social inquiry – working as part of an analysis that reasons carefully, attends to consequences, draws conclusions, suggests action and makes judgments – or more simply the role of emotion in intelligence.


      • Well this may be of more interest to people who disagree more strongly than we do, since I find the role of affect in responding to fully-fledged claims about the goods and bads of western civilization obvious too. But if that’s the case I’m not entirely sure how I was skirting the issue.

        Any hows, I do think it raises an interesting conundrum since the position you outline (trying to keep affect about Ferguson somehow at bay when assessing a particular historical claim, but engaging or embracing affect when it comes to larger, more clearly political discourse) doesn’t really seem so far from Weber to me. It appears to concede that there may indeed be reasons to consciously attempt to ‘tune out’ affect in particular circumstances in the name of some other kind of practice (or constitutive element of a practice), one that goes under the banner of ‘good scholarship’ or ‘good faith’ or ‘rigorous analysis’ or some such cognate phrase.

        I take Meera to be interested in (if not outright endorsing) the claim that affect goes somewhat deeper than this, that it matters *not just* for engaging in political aspects of our research, or for determining what we think it is worth researching, or for building networks of solidarity with other academics and activists. The closest thing I can think of to this is standpoint theory, which is what led to my initial emphasis on empathy as a rather more *substantive* affective element of ‘good scholarship’ regardless of non-academic or more conventionally political applications.


      • You were only skirting the issue that I was blathering on about. I don’t think my willingness to concede that how I feel about Ferguson doesn’t bear on a particular historical claim pushes me closer to Weber – at least not on the points that I think I disagree with Weber on – though my engagement is largely limited to responding to Jackson’s use of Weber and the notion that values are wholly subjective.

        To clarify, I wouldn’t reject the place/role of affect in assessing historical claims as such – just the relevance of my effective response (revulsion) to Ferguson as a person to the historical accuracy of a particular claim about what merchants wrote in their diaries – there are loads of other ways affect could be relevant to an historical claim.

        Ever the contextualist, I’d say affect/emotion is generally relevant but not necessarily or absolutely relevant – I’d think the ability to tune out or tune in affect (of the inquirer or the subjects of inquiry) as required by the question at hand is an element of “good scholarship” (a deeply loaded term) – I’d be slightly happier with thorough or competent inquiry.

        This leads, maybe, to a response to the final point – though I wouldn’t speak for Meera – in that I would distinguish between a need to take affect seriously as a feature of thorough/competent inquiry, and my own belief that inquiry should be motivated by and carry forward a particular emotional/affective orientation – I’d suggest better inquiry results from starting from a place of love/care for other human beings and a commitment to inclusion/empowerment – but I’m ever the pluralist and wouldn’t try to suggest that other affective/emotional orientations (or the attempt to eliminate any orientation) are illegitimate, false, wrong or should be excluded from participating in inquiry. I would, however, be happy to distinguish between better and worse orientation, and use such evaluations persuasively. So, I don’t think a particular affective orientation (say sympathy) is required for proper or allowable inquiry, but I would defend what I take to be the superior virtues of inquiry that arises from and is guided by such a sympathetic orientation.


  4. awesome conversation! I have learnt so much!!! you dudes are ROCKING!! Are you sure you are at the same institution as Dr Held? haha. three questions:

    Meera, is the “affect” thing in Fanon fundamentally linked to his “sociogeny” approach? If so, then that helps to flesh out Joes question about analysis.

    Meera/Paul: can colonialism also explain Europe? or is colonialism a particular?

    Meera/Joe: would love for you guys to read Rodolfo Kusch, Indigenous And Popular Thinking in America (from 60s, argentinian guy). (If you haven’t already read him, because it sounds like you dudes have read everything!!). I think Kusch, in his auto-critique of his developmentalism, clarifies what is at stake in these issues you are talking about, especially with regard to affect and explanation.


  5. Hey Robbie,

    I would certainly say that colonialism explains Europe in several different senses, even though it is also a particular.

    First, as you so often point out, the sign of Europe basically means ‘modernity’ and modernity is intimately colonial (although not only colonial). My favourite example of this is Gurminder’s point about the mythological starting point of the industrial revolution (and hence capitalist modernity) depending on existing colonial relations and processes (the transport of cotton, the role of the slave trade, the architecture of trade routes, etc.)

    Second, and relatedly, since what we call Europe has very little to do with what went on before the consolidation of nation states in modernity, colonialism and Europe also have a constitutive relation, in that the memes and tropes associated with it as an idea and an institutional reality make much sense when viewed as part of a centre-periphery dynamic. Which is of course left out of the standard Westphalian story.

    Third, in a much more fine-grained and contingent sense a lot of the aspects of Europe that we are living with today are descended from experiences and processes of colonialism and imperialism (although I think how much is attributable to the former and how much to the latter is a very interesting debate). Once our scope is extended beyond a Europe-only story, for example, it is hard not to see something as ‘contemporary’ as the make-up of the UN Security Council as fundamentally related to the dual strands of colonial history and inter-imperialist rivalry. Ditto the make-up of the IMF and World Bank. Indeed, a particularly interesting line of thought that I’ve barely followed up on is the idea of Europe’s privileged other, the United States of America, as an importantly post-colonial polity.

    There are lots of other elements that complicate the story and pose analytical challenges. For example, much as I’m into the postcolonial moment in IR at the moment, I’d like to hear more about the more proximate element of Europe named Fascism, which sometimes appears to slip out. The relationship between Fascism and Empires, between Imperialism and Colonialism; between all of them and Capitalism; between Capitalism-Colonialism-Imperialism-Fascism and Modernity; the imbrication of gender, race and class in those processes; the degree to which any of that can be reduced to Enlightenment/Rationality/Secularism; what it all has to do with the emergence of the State form and the idea of Sovereignty…all of that is fascinating to me, and I think Europe-Colonialism is *the* place to enter those debates.


    • Yes, fascism/colonialism = crucial. this is what really annoys me about how everyone harks on about foucault’s (terrible) “race” chapter, but not at Cesaire’s superb – if rhetorical – discourse on colonialism in the early 50s. The irony being of course that Cesaire brought the colony martinique into the french republic! Rob Deuchars and I are trying to figure out a way of looking at Deleuze and e.g. Glissant/Fanon/Cesaire in a way that is un-comparative but draws out the fundamental relationality between fascism in europe and european colonialism.. but it is REALLY DIFFICULT to do it in an un-comparative way.. I also think here is where the gender question is fundamental. not as an intersection, but as the fundament of the colonial relaiton as it had developed by the 19th century: hyper-masculine sovereignty, hyper-patriarchal public sphere. these are not simply effects of capitalism. they seem to be effects primarily of the civilizing mission and the requirements of indirect rule. but these are just thoughts at the moment..


      • Robbie! Excellent and very welcome pointers. Affect and sociogeny – I had not been making the link in my mind explicitly but it is totally the right question to ask. If our being is constituted not atomistically but relationally, the question of what it means to know/analyse/explain this ‘being’ becomes about what starting point we use to understand these relations, and the place of affect in that. I’m very aware that I am still dodging the question :-), although I am still cogitating on various sub-problems: what is the difference between affect and empathy? how are these related to cognition? how is cognition related to explanation/understanding? can ‘logic’ be dissociated from this process? In some senses to take this further with Fanon I need to get more into the psychological material which I presently feel ill-equipped to engage. But I look forward to the Kusch.

        Question two: can colonialism explain Europe? I would totally agree with Paul’s comments and the things you mention in your post that show how colonialism explains/constitutes the fantasy/imaginary of ‘Europe’. Importantly, even struggles against the elites who propagated this fantasy bought into it in so many ways. Like you, I don’t know whether this might not be a general feature of conquest. My feeling is that the notion of the ‘European’ miracle has deeply fetished the idea of modernity/civilisation beyond what might be necessary to simply rule and exploit – in this sense it may be exceptional.


  6. Peterson contends..that DuBois had little or no sustained connection to a larger Black..community p. For Peterson ..DuBois is trapped in a colonial mentality of superiority that impels him..to look down upon his own people based on a socially engineered class..dichotomy that conferred on him an elite status due to having been able..to ascend the academic ladder.


  7. Pingback: What We Talked About At ISA: Critique in Anti-Colonial Thought: Fanon and Cabral as Philosophers of Being, knowledge and ethics – The AntManBee

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