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.]
[Reducing first contact to a “clash of cultures” fails to acknowledge the true intention and goal of colonizers: unrestricted access to territory, resources, and Native bodies. When the Spanish conquistadores made contact with the Natives of the Southwest, they were looking to eliminate us, not to simply convert and enslave us, but to remove us from the land permanently.
Considering that the Spaniards were weak, hungry, and on the verge of death upon making contact with Pueblo people, they did not immediately descend upon us in a shower of violence. In fact they begged for our help, and that is what they got. It was not long before their genocidal intentions were made clear. Accompanying the unyielding raids, rape, and indiscriminate killing of Pueblo people, medicine people, women, and Two-Spirit people were victims of especially heinous acts of torture which included being burned alive and cutting off the breasts of women.
In 1675 when hunts for tribal leaders and medicine people were in full swing, Pope’ began organizing the most prominent revolution in Pueblo history. It is important to note here that the Pueblo Revolt did not occur spontaneously because people were fed up with the violence and oppression they were experiencing — this is another myth. This myth ignores the way we commonly understand the political development of such uprisings. At least five years of intense organizing had to take place before the Revolt could be successful. This kind of organizing required the support and participation of entire Pueblo communities and, most importantly, a common understanding of the social and political climate, which meant identifying a common enemy — the Spanish colonial regime….]
[Mark Twain wrote a satire about Leopold called “King Leopold’s Soliloquy; A Defense of His Congo Rule”, where he mocked the King’s defense of his reign of terror, largely through Leopold’s own words. It’s an easy read at 49 pages and Mark Twain is a popular author in American public schools. But like most political authors, we will often read some of their least political writings or read them without learning why the author wrote them in the first place. Orwell’s Animal Farm, for example, serves to reinforce American anti-socialist propaganda about how egalitarian societies are doomed to turn into their dystopian opposites. But Orwell was an anti-capitalist revolutionary of a different kind—a supporter of working class democracy from below—and that is never pointed out. We can read about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, but “King Leopold’s Soliloquy” isn’t on the reading list. This isn’t by accident. Reading lists are created by boards of education in order to prepare students to follow orders and endure boredom. From the point of view of the Department of Education, Africans have no history.]
[At first glance, the man bun seems a marker of progressive manhood. The bun, after all, is often associated with women—portrayed in the popular imagination via the stern librarian and graceful ballerina. In my forthcoming book, Styling Masculinity: Gender, Class, and Inequality in the Men’s Grooming Industry, however, I discuss how linguistic modifiers such as manlights (blonde highlights for men’s hair) reveal the gendered norm of a word. Buns are still implicitly feminine; it’s the man bun that is masculine. But in addition to reminding us that men, like women, are embodied subjects invested in the careful cultivation of their appearances, the man bun also reflects the process of cultural appropriation. To better understand this process, we have to consider: Who can pull off the man bun and under what circumstances?]
[In 1893 a group of indigenous Aymara Bolivian men traveled to the United States so that they could be put on display at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair Columbian Exposition, which celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. While researching their story, Nancy Egan, a doctoral student in Latin American history at the University of California, San Diego, delved into the history of indigenous people brought to the United States and Europe and put on display in what she calls “human zoos.”
Because the rationale behind these exhibits was so closely tied to the logics of empire, or the exhibition of empire, many of these exhibits began to disappear when the European empires began to decline, but they also began to change form before then. In a historical study of these events, titled Human Zoos, several historians propose that these exhibitions began to emphasize showing cultural differences instead of racial ones by the 1920s. However, some forms of these exhibits continued well into the 20th century, and certainly, using the logic of cultural difference to justify political, economic and military domination has not disappeared.] Read the full article here | INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY
Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill (William Cody) posing for the Wild West Show
[Back then, Europeans called Kaunatjike’s home South-West Africa—and it was European names that carried the most weight; tribal names, or even the name Namibia, had no place in the official taxonomy. Black and white people shared a country, yet they weren’t allowed to live in the same neighborhoods or patronize the same businesses. That, says Kaunatjike, was verboten.
A few decades after German immigrants staked their claim over South-West Africa in the late 19th century, the region came under the administration of the South African government, thanks to a provision of the League of Nations charter. This meant that Kaunatjike’s homeland was controlled by descendants of Dutch and British colonists—white rulers who, in 1948, made apartheid the law of the land. Its shadow stretched from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, covering an area larger than Britain, France, and Germany combined.
“Our fight was against the regime of South Africa,” says Kaunatjike, now a 68-year-old resident of Berlin. “We were labeled terrorists.”
During the 1960s, hundreds of anti-apartheid protesters were killed, and thousands more were thrown in jail. As the South African government tightened its fist, many activists decided to flee. “I left Namibia illegally in 1964,” says Kaunatjike. “I couldn’t go back.”
America has never stopped repeating stories about cowboys and Indians, even when the frontier is somewhere else
[… In a sense, the expansion of the frontier into the deserts of the Middle East were foreshadowed even during Geronimo’s own time, when “Wild Arabs” or “Bedouins” were incorporated into displays of trained horsemen at entertainment venues like the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Some have argued that these “Wild Arabs” were viewed as Eastern “Rough Riders” which is apparently an old cowboy term for those who ride the most resistant horses. In this case, the adjective “wild” in “Wild Arabs” would simply invoke the idea of the Wild West and therefore serve to relate the skilled Arab horseman to the iconic cowboy figure.
The relationship between cowboys and Middle Eastern horsemen would not have been so jarring at the turn of the 20th century, since the Middle East was mainly imagined through the lens of the Holy Land. While Geronimo was put on display at the 1904 St. Louis world’s fair, one of its other main attractions was a replica of the Holy Land. Geronimo was reportedly courted by a “Wild West” entrepreneur to participate in the same shows as the “Wild Arabs.” These intersections are not accidental. They demonstrate a long-embedded link between popular understandings of both the frontier and the desert as land to be conquered and people to be turned into dioramas….]