Thursday, October 2, 2014

Decolonizing democracy and politics of social change

My opening keynote at the International Communication Association regional conference in Brisbane titled "Communicative Transformations, Communities, and Imaginations: A Decolonizing Agenda" explores the possibilities of democratic politics in the global South.

The talk seeks to engage with openings for decolonizing the "communicative inversions" that lie at the heart of the imperial project that constitutes liberal ideas, and at the same time offers opportunities for engaging with articulations of democratic politics that emerge from social change processes in the global South. I argue that these social change processes need to be strategically read as exemplars of the politics of decolonization in the global South, resisting the imperial reading of these processes as exemplars of the diffusion of the modernization framework of "democracy promotion."

As observed by Partha Chatterjee in his discussion of everyday politics in the global South, the participation of subaltern communities in the politics of the everyday offers openings for imagining democratic possibilities that bypass the dominant structures of civil society and interrogate the normative ideas of civil society. I build on this notion of political society to suggest that subaltern participation in the global South puts forth notions of democracy that work precisely on the principles of decolonization even as they seek openings for culture-centered ontologies of democracy.

The voicing of democracy and democratic politics in the traditional sense are rendered impure by participatory articulations that depict the inherent communicative inversions that constitute these dominant notions of democracy.

The processes of creating spaces for other democracies are simultaneously processes of interrogating the taken-for-granted assumptions in dominant constructions of democracy and for listening to participatory possibilities of social change and structural transformation that emerge from the global South. The many realms of subaltern participation in the politics of social change point toward the openings in theorizing that render possible interpretations grounded in the everyday politics of the global South.

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