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Wynter, Sylvia. The Re-Enchantment of Humanism: An Interview with Sylvia Wynter
2000, Small Axe 8. pp. 119-207.
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Abstract:

Sylvia Wynter is a radical Jamaican theorist influenced, among others, by Frantz Fanon. This well known interview is often considered to be the best introduction to her thinking about the question of human in the aftermath of 1492 and the consequent racialisation of humanity.
Wynter rethinks dominant concepts of being human, arguing that they are based on a colonial and racialized model that divides the world into asymmetric categories such as "the selected and the dysselected", center and periphery, or colonizers and colonized. Against this Wynter proposes a new humanism. According to Katherine McKittrick Wynter develops a "counterhumanism", that breaks from the classification of humans in static, asymmetric categories.

Comment: Sylvia Wynter is a Jamaican novelist, playwright, and academic who draws on a huge breadth of academic literature, including amongst others anthropology, critical race theory, postcolonialism, and feminism, in her prolific academic writings that cover an equally diverse set of themes. One important strand of her work involves “unsettling” what she sees as the dominant (Western/European) understanding of “Man”, which she argues is responsible for enabling the brutal and harrowing treatment of non-whites by the European colonisers. Indeed, one of the goals of Wynter’s project is to theorise a new kind of humanism that does not collapse into violence and exclusion, as the current dominant Western paradigm has, but rather one that is truly “comprehensive and planetary” (p.121) in scope. The reading for this week is a long-form interview Wynter did with David Scott, the editor of Small Axe, and covers a huge breadth of her work. The preface of the interview offers a helpful contextualisation of Wynter’s work, while the section we will be reading offers an overview into Wynter’s thinking about the ways in which humanist discourse has functioned to exclude non-whites.

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Chakrabarty, Dipesh. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference
2007, New Edition. Princeton University Press.
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Publisher’s Note: First published in 2000, Dipesh Chakrabarty's influential Provincializing Europe addresses the mythical figure of Europe that is often taken to be the original site of modernity in many histories of capitalist transition in non-Western countries. This imaginary Europe, Dipesh Chakrabarty argues, is built into the social sciences. The very idea of historicizing carries with it some peculiarly European assumptions about disenchanted space, secular time, and sovereignty. Measured against such mythical standards, capitalist transition in the third world has often seemed either incomplete or lacking. Provincializing Europe proposes that every case of transition to capitalism is a case of translation as well - a translation of existing worlds and their thought-categories into the categories and self-understandings of capitalist modernity. Now featuring a new preface in which Chakrabarty responds to his critics, this book globalizes European thought by exploring how it may be renewed both for and from the margins.

Comment: This book is a watershed in Indian history, labour theory and postcolonial theory. Chakrabarty begins by accepting the idea that history has already provincialized Europe. However, time and again we find the author acknowledging that the categories and ideals that European thought and the Enlightenment produced are both indispensable and at the same time inadequate to understand the modern political relations of non-European, ex-colonial lands. On the one hand, the familiar theories we use to understand the lives of the proletariat or bourgeois political relations were inadequate to explain their postcolonial existence in Bengal and India. Yet, on the other, these frameworks are simultaneously indispensable for theories about the proletariat in postcolonial Bengal to be accepted as knowledge. A quest, therefore, ensued to interpret the lives of the working class and bourgeoisie political relations in parts of the world that did not replicate the historical transition of Europe. This book challenges the monolithic understanding of historical progression and attempts to follow a different historiography (using Marxist insights) to understand political modernity in places with different histories.

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Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. Decolonising Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples
2012, 2nd Edition. London and New York: Zed Books.
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Publisher’s Note: To the colonized, the term 'research' is conflated with European colonialism; the ways in which academic research has been implicated in the throes of imperialism remains a painful memory. This essential volume explores intersections of imperialism and research - specifically, the ways in which imperialism is embedded in disciplines of knowledge and tradition as 'regimes of truth.' Concepts such as 'discovery' and 'claiming' are discussed and an argument presented that the decolonization of research methods will help to reclaim control over indigenous ways of knowing and being. Now in its eagerly awaited second edition, this bestselling book has been substantially revised, with new case-studies and examples and important additions on new indigenous literature, the role of research in indigenous struggles for social justice, which brings this essential volume urgently up-to-date.

Comment: Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonising Methodologies argued that, for the colonised, the idea and practice of academic research was imbued with imperialism. Thus, to escape this problem and reclaim indigenous forms of knowing, an effort to decolonise the methodologies of research is imperative. The reading for this week is the first chapter of the book, in which Smith advances her critique of Western knowledge to show that “every aspect of producing knowledge has influenced the ways in which indigenous ways of knowing have been represented” (p.35). Smith’s critique is far-reaching, and her point is to suggest that Western notions of history, writing, and theorising are bound up in the way research is pursued such that they exclude and marginalise indigenous groups.

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Wiredu, Kwasi. Philosophy and an African Culture
1980, Cambridge University Press.
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What can philosophy contribute to African culture? What can it draw from it? Could there be a truly African philosophy that goes beyond traditional folk thought? Kwasi Wiredu tries in these essays to define and demonstrate a role for contemporary African philosophers which is distinctive but by no means parochial. He shows how they can assimilate the advances of analytical philosophy and apply them to the general social and intellectual changes associated with 'modernisation' and the transition to new national identities. But we see too how they can exploit traditional resources and test the assumptions of Western philosophy against the intimations of their own language and culture. The volume as a whole presents some of the best non-technical work of a distinguished African philosopher, of importance equally to professional philosophers and to those with a more general interest in contemporary African thought and culture.

Comment: Kwasi Wiredu’s Philosophy and an African Culture grapples with the relationship between African philosophy and African traditional folk thought in order to carve out a distinctive role for African philosophers in the present day. In the chapters for this week, Wiredu is contributing to a debate in African philosophy that seeks to answer the question: “What is African Philosophy?”. Wiredu takes issue with Europeans elevating the traditional folk beliefs of Africans to the status of philosophy, which historically has been used to justify and legitimise the racist belief in the inferiority of black Africans. Instead, Wiredu suggests that the absence of a written tradition of philosophy means that African philosophy can only exist in the present. Thus, it is up to contemporary African philosophersto create a ‘new’ tradition with distinctive insights for the problems faced by African societies.

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Said, Edward W.. Orientalism
1978, Pantheon Books.
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More than three decades after its first publication, Edward Said's groundbreaking critique of the West's historical, cultural, and political perceptions of the East has become a modern classic.
In this wide-ranging, intellectually vigorous study, Said traces the origins of "orientalism" to the centuries-long period during which Europe dominated the Middle and Near East and, from its position of power, defined "the orient" simply as "other than" the occident. This entrenched view continues to dominate western ideas and, because it does not allow the East to represent itself, prevents true understanding. Essential, and still eye-opening, Orientalism remains one of the most important books written about our divided world.

Comment: Orientalism is a classic text in postcolonial theory which successfully brought out the politics of ‘othering’. It shows how the ‘Orient’ was constructed by delineating it from the supposedly morally, culturally and politically advanced (and superior) ‘Occident’. The book is not so much about the East as much as it is about how the Orient was ‘produced’ by the imperial masters of Europe and America and perceived as the ‘other’ to the rest of the ‘civilized’ world. The author traces and examines various literary and political sources which originated and perpetuated Orientalism. The abstract gives an overview of the argument and introduces the reader to the rest of the book.

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Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity
1990, Routledge.
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Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion
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One of the most talked-about scholarly works of the past fifty years, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble is as celebrated as it is controversial. Arguing that traditional feminism is wrong to look to a natural, 'essential' notion of the female, or indeed of sex or gender, Butler starts by questioning the category 'woman' and continues in this vein with examinations of 'the masculine' and 'the feminine'. Best known however, but also most often misinterpreted, is Butler's concept of gender as a reiterated social performance rather than the expression of a prior reality. Thrilling and provocative, few other academic works have roused passions to the same exten

Comment: Judith Pamela Butler is an American philosopher and gender theorist whose work has influenced political philosophy, ethics, and the fields of third-wave feminist, queer, and literary theory. In 1993, Butler began teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, where they have served, beginning in 1998, as the Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory. They are also the Hannah Arendt Chair at the European Graduate School. In Gender Trouble Butler argues that gender is a kind of improvised performance. The work is influential in feminism, women's studies, and lesbian and gay studies, and has also enjoyed widespread popularity outside of traditional academic circles. Butler's ideas about gender came to be seen as foundational to queer theory and the advancing of dissident sexual practices during the 1990s. In this chapter, Butler critically assesses central literatures that have sought to define and illuminate gender and sexuality; in doing so, they lay the groundwork for their subsequent critique of hegemonic depictions of gender binaries.

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Hill Collins, Patricia. Black Feminist Thought
2000, 2nd Edition. Routledge.
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Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion
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In spite of the double burden of racial and gender discrimination, African-American women have developed a rich intellectual tradition that is not widely known. In Black Feminist Thought, originally published in 1990, Patricia Hill Collins set out to explore the words and ideas of Black feminist intellectuals and writers, both within the academy and without. Here Collins provides an interpretive framework for the work of such prominent Black feminist thinkers as Angela Davis, bell hooks, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde. Drawing from fiction, poetry, music and oral history, the result is a book that provided the first synthetic overview of Black feminist thought and its canon.

Comment: Patricia Hill Collins is an American academic specializing in race, class, and gender. She is a Distinguished University Professor of Sociology Emerita at the University of Maryland. She was the 100th president of the ASA and the first African-American woman to hold this position. Collins's work primarily concerns issues involving race, gender, and social inequality within the African-American community. In Black Feminist Thought, Collins sets out to explore the words and ideas of Black feminist intellectuals and writers, both within the academy and without. Here Collins provides an interpretive framework for the work of such prominent Black feminist thinkers as Angela Davis, bell hooks, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde. In this chapter, Collins outlines and illuminates the framework for a black feminist epistemology by juxtaposing it against Western epistemologies that have dominated and hindered thought. In doing so, Collins also underlines the necessity of alternative epistemologies to render the lives of black women intelligible.

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Hooks, Bell. All About Love: New Visions
2000, New York: William Morrow.
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All About Love offers radical new ways to think about love by showing its interconnectedness in our private and public lives. In eleven concise chapters, hooks explains how our everyday notions of what it means to give and receive love often fail us, and how these ideals are established in early childhood. She offers a rethinking of self-love (without narcissism) that will bring peace and compassion to our personal and professional lives, and asserts the place of love to end struggles between individuals, in communities, and among societies. Moving from the cultural to the intimate, hooks notes the ties between love and loss and challenges the prevailing notion that romantic love is the most important love of all.

Visionary and original, hooks shows how love heals the wounds we bear as individuals and as a nation, for it is the cornerstone of compassion and forgiveness and holds the power to overcome shame.

For readers who have found ongoing delight and wisdom in bell hooks's life and work, and for those who are just now discovering her, All About Love is essential reading and a brilliant book that will change how we think about love, our culture-and one another.

Comment: bell hooks, is an American author, professor, feminist, and social activist. The name "bell hooks" is borrowed from her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. The focus of her writing is the intersectionality of race, capitalism, and gender, and what she describes as their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and class domination. All About Love offers radical new ways to think about love by showing its interconnectedness in our private and public lives. In this book, hooks explains howour everyday notions of that it means to give and receive love often fail us, and how these ideals are established in early childhood. In this chapter on Justice, hooks confronts the injustice of childhood by critically examining the lack of autonomy and respect often endured by children. She gracefully articulates the manner in which this injustice lays the groundwork for further distortions and injustices in the world.

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Phadke, Shilpa. Why Loiter?: Women And Risk On Mumbai Streets
2011, Penguin India.
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1950s Calcutta. Seventeen-year-old Shankar walks on to Old Post Office Street to become a clerk in the Calcutta High Court. There he meets the last English barrister, and thus begins their unusual and unforgettable relationship.

The Great Unknown is the moving story of the many people Shankar meets in the courtrooms and lawyers’ chambers of Old Post Office Street—some seeking justice, others watching the drama of life unfold. It offers a uniquely personal glimpse into their PBI – World of unfulfilled dreams and duplicity, of unexpected tragedy, as well as hope and exhilaration.

Here you will meet Marian Stuart, who journeys from Lebanon to PBI – India in search of a husband and happiness; the once-rich but now-destitute Englishman James Gould; Helen Grubert, the embittered Anglo-PBI – Indian typist, who wins her breach-of-promise case but has a miraculous change of heart; Nicholas Droulas, the betrayed Greek sailor desperate for revenge; Shefali Mitra, the distraught mother fighting to hold on to er she did not give birth to; Chhoka-da, the benevolent babu who takes the young clerk under his wing; and the barrister sahib who profoundly enriches Shankar’s life with his own experiences.

The Great Unknown (Kato Ajanarey), Sankar’s debut novel, first appeared in Desh in 1955. An instant success, it remains immensely popular more than fifty years after its publication. This first-ever English translation captures the simplicity and poignancy of the origi

Comment: Shilpa Phadke is a researcher, writer, and pedagogue. She is a Professor at the Tata Institute for Social Sciences and chairperson for the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Culture, School of Media and Cultural Studies. Her research interests include: gender and the politics of space, the middle classes, sexuality and the body, feminist politics among young women, reproductive subjectivities, feminist parenting, and pedagogic practices. Why Loiter presents an original take on women’s safety in the cities of twenty-first century India, it maps the exclusions and negotiations that women from different classes and communities encounter in the nation’s urban public spaces. Basing this book on more than three years of research in Mumbai, Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade argue that though women’s access to urban public space has increased, they still do not have an equal claim to public space in the city. And they raise the question: can women’s access to public space be viewed in isolation t of other marginal groups? In this chapter, Phadke explores the myth of the ‘good woman’ and how gendered virtues such as chastity and ‘respect’ function ultimately to inhibit women’s safety on urba

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Davis, Angela. Women, Race, and Class
1981, Random House.
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Angela Davis provides a powerful history of the social and political influence of whiteness and elitism in feminism, from abolitionist days to the present, and demonstrates how the racist and classist biases of its leaders inevitably hampered any collective ambitions. While Black women were aided by some activists like Sarah and Angelina Grimke and the suffrage cause found unwavering support in Frederick Douglass, many women played on the fears of white supremacists for political gain rather than take an intersectional approach to liberation. Here, Davis not only contextualizes the legacy and pitfalls of civil and women’s rights activists, but also discusses Communist women, the murder of Emmitt Till, and Margaret Sanger’s racism. Davis shows readers how the inequalities between Black and white women influence the contemporary issues of rape, reproductive freedom, housework and child care in this bold and indispensable w

Comment: Angela Davis is an American political activist, philosopher, academic and author. She is a professor at the University of California and a longtime member of the Communist Party USA. She is also a founding member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) and the author of over ten books on class, feminism, race, and the US prison system. Women, Race and Class is a Marxist feminist analysis of gender, race and class. The third book written by Davis, it covers U.S. history from the slave trade and abolitionism movements to the women's liberation movements which began in the 1960s. In this chapter, Davis examines and describes the unwritten history of black women slaves and their legacies.

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