Colonial & Postcolon Disorder

Term: Fall 2010

Subject Code: GANT

Course Number: 6725

Can a history of our contemporary world be written without writing a history of empire? Can one understand the techniques, technologies, and politics of genocide and torture without a history of imperial governance? Can one account for the programs and policies of the European radical right without understanding how racism and state violence has been woven through the fabric of liberal democracy and the distribution of resources in Europe today? Critical studies of colonialism have a deep genealogy, some of which has been acknowledged, some of which has not. Postcolonial studies is only one manifestation of it. Emerging on the Anglo-American academic scene nearly thirty years ago, it has just recently hit the French and Germany academic bookshelves. How have its critical tactics and methods changed? While for some postcolonial studies represents a critical multi-disciplinary assault on how the production of knowledge in multiple disciplines-from philosophy to geography, literature, anthropology and medicine have shaped both the policies and perceptions that underwrote Euro-American domination of nearly three-quarters of the globe�s population, for others it has been not only a �safe� site of scholarship but a surprisingly atemporal one. For some it is about a morally outrageous past. For others it demands a �worldliness� and a critique of the present. Its project has been to do more than rewrite the history of colonialisms but to revamp what count as viable questions, and to examine the violence wrought by what once were considered colonialism�s benign tools of production; concepts and categories, epistemologies and narrative forms, archives and criteria of evidence. Some of that earlier work focused on colonial situations in the past; some on the postcolonial condition of formerly colonized populations. Often left unaddressed was the relationship between the two. Terms like �colonial legacy� and �colonial vestiges� tell us little about what matters, and what durabilities of imperial relations matter today. That landscape has radically changed in geographic breadth, temporal scope and political scale. In this seminar, we will look at how colonial pasts bear on people�s present options and future possibilities, and for whom and in what way there is a vivid colonial present today. We�ll examine the �portability� of colonialisms� conceptual categories-what they have enabled, and in what ways they have been revived. We�ll look at the conceptual categories of colonial scholarship and what comfort zones it has produced. We�ll look at the sexual politics of empire, at the material and psyche debris that it has left in its wake and at debates about whether a history of Europe and its contemporary racial configurations should or should not be understood as a part of the scarred landscape of empire today.

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