Anthropology and postcolonialism

Vassos Argyrou (University of Hull)
Rik Pinxten (University of Ghent)
Vassos Argyrou
James Carrier
Wills G27
Start time:
20 September, 2006 at 11:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Long after colonialism, Europe remains ideologically dominant despite all efforts to decentre it. This workshop invites anthropologists to take stock and rethink fundamentally key theoretical and cultural assumptions.

Long abstract:

If postcolonialism still retains some meaning, this must surely be related to the fact that, half a century after colonialism, Europe, and more broadly the European intellectual tradition, remains the source of all legitimate significations including those borrowed, given the stamp of approval and authorised for circulation. And this despite all efforts to the contrary both within and outside Europe, and notwithstanding recent theories about multiple modernities, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism, which to a very large extent are symptomatic of European ideological dominance. Poststructuralism, whose avowed aim was to decentre the West, has come and gone without any decentring taking place; postcolonial theory seems to have largely exhausted itself, having produced little more than the anaemic figure of the hybrid; while a second wave of criticism in this and related fields appears to have come to the daunting realisation that resistance is caught up in power and inevitably reproduces it. Although anthropology constitutes a critique of ethnocentrism by virtue of both its underlying assumptions and its discursive practices, it has largely shied away from becoming involved in the broader theorisation of postcolonialism. After decades of criticism of European dominance and little real progress, the task becomes more urgent and compelling than ever before. This workshop invites anthropologists to take stock and rethink fundamentally key theoretical and cultural assumptions. Questions to be raised could include, but are not limited to, the following: Can Europe decentre itself? What is at stake in the desire for self-decentring? How far are Europe's Others complicit in their own domination, and can this be avoided? What sort of alternative epistemologies, ethics and imaginings might be possible? Is there a place for indifference in the struggle for cultural difference? Papers must be theoretically informed and critically oriented. Playfulness is welcome.