Heloise Weber (Queensland)

Thanks immensely for this initiative…..It sure is timely to engage explicitly the modes of ‘closures’ (and enclosures) not just in IR but in global politics more generally, and the various ‘disciplines’ within it. I come to an appreciation of the value of such a project from my work and interest in development, and especially development through dispossession and domination; frequently, this is articulated through discourses of ‘improvement’, often premised upon the naturalization of a quite specific (“Western”?) conception of ‘development’. The latter, as we know, is often presented in idealized ways that obliterates the other(‘s) histories. This vision and representation of development (‘civilization’) continues in thought and practice, and resistance to it also continues in various forms.

While many anti-colonial thinkers and movements resisted the often brutal (and savage) behavior that has been integral to ‘civilization’, they were, nevertheless, forced to walk the line –- at least to some extent– and / or in many cases also embraced some premises of the ‘civilizing mission’ as being superior to other ways of knowing, doing and being (Gandhi and Nehru come to mind here..). An understanding of the complexity (brutality) of our histories and their legacies–as well as the various solidarist efforts for more humane relations and development pathways – are what Fanon and Du Bois and other anti-colonial thinkers bring to the otherwise teleologic narrative of the history of progress. And, I feel I should mention here Chinua Achebe’s beautiful book, Things Fall Apart….

Anyway, I have not read Deleuze. I have read some Foucault, and I like some of it. More specifically, I like the ‘reverse ethnography’ that he brings to bear on “Western civilization”. But, I’m not convinced of the use of Foucault’s works in the study of political economy, for instance. I do also share concerns that some working from within such approaches (“post- structuralism”..??) have tended to assume ‘intellectual’ hegemony by purporting to articulate the critical voice over others. And, in this context, I kind of see a trend emerging that is conflating ‘post-colonial/de-colonial’ concerns and such lines of enquiry, merely with (critical?)‘methods’ of enquiry. In such cases, substantive critical concerns are subsumed as merely instrumental to the method of inquiry itself– this is my feeling. For this reason, I am particularly thankful to you for raising this as an explicit focus. It matters for political reasons as much as for the pursuit of intellectual analysis of our histories, and thus also for potential discussions of alternative developmental pathways. Such an account cannot really come from within the confines of methodological approaches, which are becoming increasingly self-referential.

Given my interest in understanding substantive social and political relations (also how we can better understand these relations), and my interest (like many others) in writing back in agencies of the ‘subaltern’, Fanon, and other anti-colonial/de-colonial thinkers bring not just these histories to life, but also offer better accounts of the meanings of historical relations. They caution against mimicking the violence that has been implicit to the history of development… Importantly, they render visible other(‘s) histories which the narrative of international relations has so quickly and so easily obliterated… (this violence is prevalent for example, in discourses of failed states as well in the simplistic comparativist trope that underpins the idea and practices of ‘international’ development).

Working along these lines of inquiry, others who come to mind, as having made important contributions to such concerns (for me, at least) include, Memmi, Du Bois, Nandy, Grovogui, Seth, Hindess, Cooper, Chakrabarty, Mbembe, Rojas, Chatterjee and Shilliam (do you know him? :-))…… …and in a different way, but nevertheless not unimportant to such debates, at least to some extent, I think, are Hobson (J.M) and Goody (J).

I love the project, Robbie! As for scope content, organization and remit: the blog is a good start! Perhaps in the longer term we could think of possibilities to workshop these ideas … the dialogue is important.

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