Reading Group: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason pp. 1-37

Tuesday 21st May, 1pm, Staff Marquee, South Lawn, University of Melbourne.

All welcome, please bring a seat if you can.

Convenor: Dr Danny Butt, Victorian College of the Arts

Published in 1999, Spivak’s A Critique of Postcolonial Reason begins with the “sanctioning of ignorance” embedded in three of the West’s most prominent philosophers, Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel, and Karl Marx. In this session, we will look at the first 37 pages of the book, which track how Kant “forecloses the Aboriginal” in his Critique of Judgement (1790). Spivak borrows the term foreclosure from psychoanalysis, supplementing Freud by applying it to the colonial frame, and diagnosing that a “rejection of affect [associated by the coloniser with the colonised] served and serves as the energetic and successful defense of the civilizing mission” (p.5). Through Kant’s text, Spivak suggests, we see how the “axiomatics of imperialism” constructed non-European peoples outside the category of the universal human, not only maintaining a logic of Western superiority but also avoiding bad feelings. Potentially, this analysis allows us to examine the psychic continuity of apartheid thought and genocidal logic across settler-colonial regimes today.

The chapter excerpt is available here:

This group’s conversation will focus on issues inside Spivak’s text, however participants are also encouraged to listen to The Dig Radio’s episode “Scholars Against Genocide” featuring Noura Erakat, Avi Shlaim, Ussama Makdisi, Ilan Pappé, Ghada Ageel Hamdan, and Abdel Razzaq Takriti for important information on and critical examples of how scholarly work is resisting contemporary genocide. These voices will be a constant background presence in our discussion.