The email to which people responded from Robbie Shilliam (Victoria University of Wellington)

I want to ask you about a possible long term research project. It comes out of things i’ve been thinking for a while, and writing about, but also from some things that went on at the last ISA.  Here’s my own thinking about this thing in quite emotive, intuitive ways.. In general, it’s about the relationship between postcolonial (i would prefer decolonial) thought and poststructuralism. In particular, this issue for me crystallises around two authors, fanon and deleuze (both men: this needs to be addressed). These two represent for me (but just for me) the most intense of de-colonial and de-vanguard projects.

There’s a few things that i think are going on in IR. Firstly, an anger about the continued marginalization of non-European, non-American traditions of decolonizing thought in the western academy. Secondly, the way in which the leftfield of IR as a whole, dissatisfied with both “traditional” left thought and the mainstream, has shifted towards foucault and now, increasingly, deleuze, and in general hasn’t thought about how this reproduces the violent erasure of non-european thought in critically minded projects. Thirdly, that this shift threatens to also do violent closure to the openings in e.g. deleuze towards an acknowledgement and working with and through the problem of decolonizing thought vis a vis the challenges of the european left tradition (this, crystallising in the growing literature on the algeria and france context).

Honestly, because of this shift, I increasingly feel an instinctive twitch of pissed-off-ness towards foucault, deleuze etc when i read them (but mainly people using them). And this makes me want to just drop and abandon them and the whole tradition they come from.  This is intensified by the way in which much of this continental-inspired literature in IR is now being picked up implicitly and explicitly by western power as something that it is comfortable working with (could it be so comfortable with fanon?). Yet the other part of me doesn’t think that “delinking” is a productive move. I have always read Gramsci, Marx, Lenin etc as, in their time, thinkers on the liminal edge of Europe both geopolitically and culturally. And anyway, decolonizing thought, as it works in and through the hierarchies of colonial mentality, can’t reproduce the categories of separation produced by that mentality.

In other words, despite and against my twitches, I think it very important that for the sake of preserving a critical leftfield in IR in the mid-term future that we must build connectivity and relationality between those traditions that I am signifying in terms of fanon and deleuze. Not for one to save the other, or one to reveal the truth of the other. And also being aware, of course, of the hierarchies of this relation itself; and recognizing that much postcolonial thought at present is actually poststructural thought applied to colonialism (which is why i am using Fanon and not, e.g. Spivak or Bhabba). I truly, truly think that in the mid-term future, this enterprise of building connectivity and relationality between “fanon” and “deleuze” is necessary both politically and intellectually for the survival and integrity of a leftfield in IR (de-colonial, de-vanguard). I want to here just note that while not especially picked up in IR feminism, something like this has almost always underpinned the problematique of feminism as a whole.

The kind of research project i have in mind.. well i’m not sure what i have in mind.. but it’s not defined in terms of outputs of any kind. Some might derive from it, but it’s more about building an intentional community in the mid-long term. It’s much deeper than just outputs or presentations, although i know that in all practicality, this makes the project something that might be immediately put on the backburner; but maybe it can evolve into a long term resource-rich community? Just to be clear: i know that this is already going on amongst us, some of us have really led the way in this stuff, and I just wanted to mark this up as something that could be brought into sharper relief.  But anyway, i’m wondering if a) you find this of importance/interest? (am i just tripping and off the mark?) b) would you want to be a part of it in some way? c) if yes, what would your vision of it be (content, issues, organization, remit, scope etc)? d) who else do you think would be interested in this?

Let me know when you can.


2 Responses

  1. It is great to see this initiative coming on the side of IR! Its consonance with the work that I am engaged in makes it all the more exciting for me. Let me explain, In the last few Years I have been striving to build links between the critical european thought (continental philosophy, Frankfurt School and Postructuralism) with decolonial thinking from the south (mainly the Latinamerican modernit/coloniality research agenda). We this idea in mind, together with Walter Mignolo, I am hosting a summer course and a workshop this summer in the Netherlands. The titles of the summer course and the workshop already show this effort to bridge the gap between ‘euro-centric’ critical theory and decolonial thought from the south. The course is called ‘Slaver, the Holocaust and the Challenge of Global Justice: Exploring Critical and Decolonial Approaches and the workshop is titled “Building Dialogues Between North-South and West-East” I personally believe that a dialogue among equals between these critical traditions is necessary if we are to advance towards ‘epistemic justice’ and thus towards global justice.

  2. Yes Rolando! Thank you for this. It’s very exciting. It will also be interesting to see how various different gravity centres in de/postcolonial thought (e.g. latinamerican colonial modernity; caribbean creolite; subaltern studies; indigenous epistemology etc etc) relate to the different centres of poststructural thought, maybe there will be some resonnances and disonnances cretaed through this mapping process..

    Maybe at some point Rolando when you have a moment you could contribute to building up a reading list. See this post:

    Thanks mate!!!!

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