Sunday, April 10, 2011

Conversation Continued: Strategically Disrupting Eurocentric Hegemony

This is a comment in reponse to Yogita's well articulated point about history of ideas...sometimes, comments tend to be hidden, so am posting this again.

Thanks for referring to the James Scott piece on domination and resistance, as that's precisely where I would like to then build from in attempting to work out my half-baked ideas of social change articulated through subaltern narratives shared at the margins. As policies and programs carried out within the neoliberal configuration and directed at projects of development continually use the Eurocentric vantage point, albeit working closely with the local elite, to put forth specific development programs and policies, the work of contemporary SS scholarship has to reinvent a strategically organized politics that works on change from the margins by fundamentally disrupting the Eurocentric hegemony, and by acknolwedging the legitimacy of subaltern viewpoints that have otherwise been treated as magic and sub-standard by these very same structures of knowledge.

This is something I conntinually have struggled with in my own writing. Although I must acknowledge the grace and openness of many scholars situated within the Eurocentric mainstream who have continually engaged with the possibilities of openings, there has been a much larger presence of Eurocentered scholars who deep down believe in the Europeanness of Enlightenment and play it out within values of progress and modernity that celebrate Europe as starting points for progress. In this larger body of work, the European standards constitute the universals, and for any argument made from elsewhere, there are references to pre-existing Eurocentric thought as the sources of origin. The argument then works to show subalterns across the globe that whatever points of knowledge get worked out wherever, they ultimately draw upon European sources. The logic then works out this way: all thought that is worth noting originated in Europe. Power ascribed to Eurocentered knowledge in this way, I argue, fundamentally underlies the (neo)colonial project.

Let me elucidate this with an example. Recently, I was browsing through a JoC special issue on ferments in the field that had engaged with the directions that the field ought to be engaging with. One of the pieces in there written by a noted scholar discussed the idea of multimodal spaces of knowledge and opened up with a quote from the Panchatantra, referring to it as an Indian wisdom...nowhere then did the piece really engage with the notion of polymorphism that emerges as a thread in the panchatantra tales or cite the orginial text. This to me typified intellectual theft in a powerful way; ultimately we have to depend upon the Eurocentered scribe to teach us a concept which I believe might have been integral to the cultural mythology that one might have grown up with. So now, when talking about polymorphism in a Communication journal (and believe me, I tried out this experiment), one has to refer to this so-called seminal piece in JoC, which I believe was really stolen from the notions of polymorphism as played out in multiple strands of Hindu thought and more directly the tales of panchatantra (I am not sure of the author's intention, but that is beyond the point).

Ultimately then, the point of my note is that reclaiming the history of ideas within the domain of postcolonial politics is in and of itself a project of social justice. The purpose of such reclaiming, building on the work of Fannon, is to narrate for us, as postcolonial subjects within (neo)colonial spaces strategic entry points for interventions.

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