Friday, October 3, 2014

A response to the White Man's (Un)Imagination: Does Decolonization = ISIS?

During my recent talk on decolonization, I was approached by one of these White men, who with a smirk on his phase, reminded me, "You know, an example like ISIS also uses the same language of decolonization that you are talking about."

He then went on to educate me about the need to delineate between the good and bad kind of decolonization, offering a lesson that this talk about decolonization is fine as long as it is palatable to our White Master. I suppose, he wanted to be the gatekeeper in theorizing about which kinds of talk of decolonization would be acceptable.

The parallels offered between decolonization struggles and ISIS when talking about decolonization asserts the dominance of US/Western hegemony even as it hypocritically ignores the history of violence that is integral to the narrative of Western (un)civilization.

I see such parallels drawn between ISIS and conversations on decolonization to be heuristic devices that distract attention away from the broad history of violence that is intrinsic to liberal ideas of democracy, liberty, and freedom. I go back to the writings of Gandhi and Tagore to observe that the very nature of Western (un)civilization is fundamentally violent and hence antithetical to notions of human progress and peaceful participation.

I am reminded that as Mill wrote eloquently about liberty, he penned some of the most racist and primitive thoughts about India, justifying the primitive colonial technologies deployed by the uncivilized British.

To decolonize theory and practice is for me first and foremost to open up the conversation about the uncivilized threads of violence that constitute the Empire and its Western roots.

The logic of violence is integral to the common sense of the empire.

To imagine other possibilities, ISIS or not, has to begin by returning the gaze at the uncivilized colonial tropes of the Empire, pointing out its holes, hypocrisies, and fundamental inconsistencies. To imagine other possibilities is to begin the conversation with the observation that much of the conversation on democracy in the West is a whitewash.

So my response to the White man, I refuse to talk about ISIS without talking about the Western/colonial context that produces it and feeds it in this conversation on decolonization. Because ultimately ISIS is part of the problem of the very logic that constitutes the aggression integral to Whiteness.

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