Topics in Comparative Studies 2

Semester 2

Fridays, 4pm- 7pm

Our Modernity/ Their Modernities? – Manuela Ribeiro Sanches

Critiques of modernity ranging from postmodernism to post-structuralist approaches in postcolonial theory (Homi K. Bhabha, Gayatri Spivak) and, more recently, to decolonial thinking (Walter Mignolo) have been addressing the limits and the epistemic violence of the project of modernity (Jürgen Habermas). Notwithstanding the legitimate reasons to denounce the coupling of modernity and racism (Aníbal Quijano), such approaches, by privileging alternative epistemologies and knowledges, may also risk the reification of  indigenous or subaltern authenticities, once more understood as the absolute Othersof Europe, thereby unwittingly reproducing a form of cultural relativism that makes effective universals impossible.

Starting with a reflection on the notions of comparison and comparability, we shall then consider different concepts of modernity, as developed by some canonical Western authors (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Hegel, Karl Marx, Max Weber). Later, we shall articulate these proposals with other theories developed in anti-colonial and post-colonial contexts (Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Amílcar Cabral, Partha Chatterjee, Dilip Gaonkar, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Sandro Mezzadra, Jean and John Comparoff). Drawing on these approaches, we shall also address the question of an exclusive association of the concept of modernity to the Western tradition, as well as the possibility of pluralising or translating the concept into diverse spatial and temporal contexts. While doing so, we shall consider the possibilities (Judith Butler, Gayatri Spivak) and limits (Alain Badiou) of an ethics of the Other, its impact on forms of political subjectification and the possibility of universals (Peter Hallward).