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ISS - Gurminder Bhambra - 23/03/2021

NASP International and Interdisciplinary Seminar

Gurminder Bhambra (School of Global Studies, University of Sussex)

Decolonizing Critical Theory?

Epistemological Justice, Progress, Reparations

23 March 2021, h. 14.30-16.30 on ZOOM
 

Abstract

Theorists working within the Frankfurt school tradition of critical theory have not been immune to calls to “decolonize” that have been circulating in and beyond the academic world. This seminar asks what it means to seek to decolonize a tradition of thought that has never explicitly acknowledged colonial histories. What is needed, instead, this seminar suggests, is consideration of the very implications of the “colonial modern”—that is, an acknowledgement of the colonial constitution of modernity—for Frankfurt school critical theory’s idea of historical progress. The issue is more extensive than simply acknowledging the substantive neglect of colonialism within the tradition; rather, I suggest that its categories of critique and their associated normative claims are also necessarily implicated by this neglect and require transformation. Acknowledgment of colonial histories requires material reparations for the substantive inequalities bequeathed as legacies of the past, but these reparations also require a transformation of understandings and a recognition of “epistemological justice.”

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