To the Anemic Pedants Amidst Our Pseudo-Progressive Academic Narrows | Or… Someone has a Beef with Slavoj

Hamid Dabashi draws a sharp line in the sand between European and post-colonial philosophers in this provocative introduction to Can Non-Europeans Think?

[Other people are also entitled “to recapture” – as, of course, is Žižek – a world beyond their imagination. Žižek is correct that “In no way does my basic vocation have to be drawn from the past of peoples of color.” But those very “people of color” (as he categorizes them, according to his prerogative) do not only have a past; they also have a present, and a future. Žižek is blinded to that present unless he assimilates it backward into his present, and is indifferent to that future unless he gets (singularly) to define it. He is unconditionally correct that “In no way do I have to dedicate myself to reviving some black civilization unjustly ignored.” But a “black civilization” unjustly ignored is peopled by other people, by other thinking people, kicking people, people who talk, and talk back, and talk past Žižek. He is entirely entitled to say “I will not make myself the man of any past” – and he should not, as no one should. But the people of color he just buried alive in their past are also living and breathing a present of which he seems to be blissfully ignorant. He is, of course, pulling my colored beard when he says, “My black skin is not a repository for specific values.” But mine is, and I am a living repository of not just “values” but universes, emotions, words, sentiments, rebellions that he and all his Horatios have not yet dreamt of in their philosophy.

Žižek and his fellow philosophers are oblivious to those geographies because they cannot read any other script, any other map, than the colonial script and the colonial map with which Europeans have read and navigated the world; conversely they cannot read any other script or map because they are blinded to alternative geographies that resistance to that colonialism had written and navigated. The condition is exacerbated any time people around the world rise up to assert their geography as the ground zero of a world historical event. At these times Žižek and his followers are all up and about trying to read the world back into what they already know. There is a new condition beyond postcoloniality that these Europeans cannot read, hard as they try to assimilate it back into the condition of coloniality. The task is not a mere critique of neo-Orientalism, which always is commensurate with immediate and short-sighted political interests, but to overcome “Europe” as an idea and make it behave as one among any number of other exhausted metaphors, neither less nor more potent, organic, or trustworthy. Europe was “the invention of the Third World,” as Fanon fully realized – both in material and normative senses of the term. I have already argued that we need to change the interlocutor with whom we discuss the terms of our emerging worlds. We should no longer address a dead interlocutor. Europe is dead. Long live Europeans. The Islam they had invented in their Orientalism is dead. Long live Muslims. The Orient they had created, the Third World they had crafted to rule and denigrate, have disappeared. If only those who still see themselves as Orientals would begin to decolonize their minds too.]

Fuck You Žižek!

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