Alina Sajed (McMaster)

Reading your message filled me with immense joy and enthusiasm: a huge YES to this long-term project. It is not only sorely needed, but I think it has the potential to open up IR and de-center it in an unprecedented manner. Your thoughts and reflections resonated most profoundly with me, and mirror perfectly my feelings on the topic. Firstly, can you explain your understanding of de-colonial? I have an inkling of what you might mean, but I would like to hear more from you.

Secondly, ditto, yes, there is immense tension between fanon/foucault/deleuze. I am not sure though I would take Fanon to be the paragon of understanding the de-colonial, at least not the way Fanon is being read and used nowadays. The Fanon I have in mind is a far more complex and ambivalent figure, and his work is almost always taken out of context (and the context of Algeria is crucial for Fanon, but no one seems to care…). I am not terribly familiar with deleuze/guattari, I am more familiar with Foucault’s work. But like you, I find myself really irritated by current critical undertakings that claim to break boundaries simply because they are using deleuze or foucault. I find many poststructuralist analyses to be remarkably Western-centric and oblivious of colonialism! I think it is symptomatic of a self-referential tendency in critical IR that translates into projects that fail to effect a genuine opening of the field. Or to put it more crudely, I find that most poststructuralist IR is more preoccupied with 1) wallowing in its self-assigned marginality; 2) engaging in a practice of gatekeeping that is quite disturbing. I know it sounds harsh, but that’s how I feel.

Not only is there a need for “non-European, non-American traditions of decolonizing thought” as you put it, but also for non-European and non-American issues and topics. Moreover, I do not want to create false dichotomies here, namely fanon vs. deleuze. I am also very interested in thinkers that blur the lines and trouble us with their ambiguity, such as Camus. To me what is at stake is not simply an exchange of perspectives on resistance and Eurocentrism, but rather two different
experiences of politics. From the “postcolonial” voices I get a sense of urgency of the struggle, of articulating politics and an agenda, an almost fearlessness in expressing such an urgency. From the “poststructuralist” perspective I sense a stubborn resistance to sharing the margins – I am not sure if this makes much sense but that is my feeling, and a dangerous refusal to take responsibility for silencing other voices and to let go of its “monopoly” on understanding otherness, power, and resistance.

I have been very keen lately on the work of Subaltern Studies, of Ashis Nandy, and am a huge fan of Rey Chow’s work. I believe that both Subaltern Studies (especially Chakrabarty) and Rey Chow articulate very aptly the tensions between European modernity and non-Western modernities, between the European leftfield and the postcolonial one. I am thus interested in the tension, in the uneasy relation and proximity between the European leftfield and the post/de-colonial alternatives.

About the long-term project, I think it would be really neat if we could put together a workshop of several days, where like-minded people can meet, talk, and brainstorm. It could be a start for the forging of a network or community of thought. What do you think?

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