Theologies (Plural): Local, Global, Comparative… Located (Process): Oceanic

As you can see, the site has set up three categories of theology: Global Theologies, Local Theologies and this section, Comparative Theologies. These names are problematic, chosen for their contradictory meanings.

Local: I have put “Liberation Theologies” and “Postcolonial Theologies” next to “North-Atlantic [meaning dominant Western] Theologies” under the heading of Local, thus to create a conceptual parity against the European propensity for universalising their claims. The former are in contest with the claims of the latter, dealing largely with the imposition of Western values, language and force on their own localities.

Global: Under Global we have the social realities present in every local society on some level, the near “universal” problems of Race, Gender and Class hierarchies, along with which we must, I now realise, put Environment. These are the sins (in theological language) that have marked the human condition since the beginning, often backed discursively by religious thought. This too is a complex, multilayered and diverse set of phenomena and social relations, yet the results are especially globalised through

Comparative: All theology is Comparative, I claim. Certainly theology is only interesting because it is a sort of conversation or argument, valuable for its dialogic contribution to the society we are forming together. In this light I want to look at “Exegesis”, “Dogmatics” and the “Public Square”. The latter is obviously associated with debate, while Exegesis and Dogmatics are often conceived, despite their obvious context, as static and universally relevant. If exegesis is delving into Bible and doctrine about narrating the insights one finds in Scripture, both are zones of contest.

Oceanic: This is my own immediate interlocutor, my Location, Oceania; where I am, who is around me, the history I am involved in. My horizons are largely shaped from experience here. In this section I have the subcategories of “Australia” (where I current live), “Pasifika” (the island countries we neighbour) and “Migrant”, the last one being something of a leitmotif for the human stories born here and arriving via the Ocean. Aboriginal, Settle-Colonial, Multicultural: this uneasy mix of variously occupied space is a parable for global themes, the work of Comparison that sharpens. “Locating”, or “situating” is a theological imperative in order to listen and speak honestly.

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Round two – Postcolonial Histories

QUOTE:

. . . subaltern is not just a classy word for “oppressed”, for The Other, for somebody who’s not getting a piece of the pie. . . . In postcolonial terms, everything that has limited or no access to the cultural imperialism is subaltern—a space of difference. Now, who would say that’s just the oppressed? The working class is oppressed. It’s not subaltern. . . . Many people want to claim subalternity. They are the least interesting and the most dangerous. I mean, just by being a discriminated-against minority on the university campus; they don’t need the word ‘subaltern’ . . . They should see what the mechanics of the discrimination are. They’re within the hegemonic discourse, wanting a piece of the pie, and not being allowed, so let them speak, use the hegemonic discourse. They should not call themselves subaltern.

Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: New Nation Writers Conference in South Africa (1992) [21]

Timeline.

  • 1830 – G.F.W. Hegel, “The African Character”
  • 1871 – Joseph-Ernest Renan, La Réforme intellectuel et morale, justifying European control over the world based on European superiority.
  • 1885 – Anténor Firmin, De l’Égalité des Races Humaines, an anthropologist’s rebuttal of Gonibeau
  • 1916 – Vladimir Lenin, Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism.
  • 1931 – Harlem’s Paulette Nardal (proprietor of the Clamart Salon) and Haiti’s Leo Sejou published the French/English journal La revue du Monde Noir
  • 1935 – L’Étudiant noir, Journal Mensuel de l’Association des Étudiants Martiniquais en France first published by Césaire with Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas in Paris. The journal only published two issues — March 1935 and May–June 1935 — including poems of Damas and articles from Senghor, but in the second issue Césaire’s essay Conscience raciale et révolution sociale first implemented his term négritude.
  • 1937 – Antonio Gramsci dies.
  • 1939 – Césaire returns to Martinique to teach at the Lycée Schoelcher in Fort-de-France, becoming the teacher of Frantz Fanon and an indirect influence on Édouard Glissant. In this year the French periodical Volontés will publish Césaire’s poem-book Cahier d’un retour au pays natal after its publication is rejected. Later published, 1947.
  • 1945 – Frantz Fanon returns to Martinique from time in the Free French Army active in Madagascar and Algeria. He had fled Martinique when Vichy collaborators took control. Now back he helps former teacher Césaire electoral run with the island’s French Communist Party. After receiving his degree he went to Lyon France, because a psychiatrist in ’51.
  • 1947 – Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, a book-length poem is published after initial rejection in 1939. This time Césaire’s friend, Surrealist André Breton writes an introduction.
  • 1948 – Jean-Paul Sartre, Orphée Noir (Black Orpheus), an essay on négritude philosophy, later becomes intro for Senghor’s compilation of Francophone poetry, Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache
  • 1950 – Aimé Césaire, Discours sur le colonialism, published by small press Réclame, associated with French Communist Party.
  • 1952 – Fanon writes his first book, Black Skin White Masks, but as a rejected doctoral dissertation at Lyon entitled “Essay on the Disalienation of the Black”, later published by pro-Algerian philosopher Francis Jeanson’s press Éditions du Seuil, Paris. The title, Peau noire, masques blancs, was the suggestion of Jeanson. Apparently the meeting did not go well between Fanon and Jeanson, with Fanon’s defensive “Not bad for a nigger, is it?” getting him kicked out of Jeanson’s office but binding them finally in a mutual respect. In the fifth chapter, “L’expérience vécue du Noir”, heavily anthologised, Césaire’s influence is explored.
  • 1953 – Fanon arrives in Algeria, this time as a psychiatric (and also medical) doctor in the BlidaJoinville Psychiatric Hospital, where he remains practicing until he is deported in Jan, ’57. He develops radical socio-therapy but is radicalised even more politically following the Algerian Revolution and his contact with Dr. Pierre Chaulet at Blida.
  • 1954 – Algerian Revolution breaks out.
  • 1955 – Aimé Césaire, Discours sur le colonialism, republished ’55 by the anticolonial quarterly Présence Africaine, trans. 1957
  • 1956 – 1st International Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris, organised by publisher Présence Africaine:
    Speakers include: “Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Jacques Rabemananjara, Cheikh Anta Diop, Richard Wright, Franz Fanon, and Jean Price-Mars” (Wikipedia).
  • 1957 – Albert Memmi, Portrait du colonisé, précédé par Portrait du colonisateur, trans ’65, preface by Sartre
    Jan – Fanon expelled from Algeria and travels to Tunisia. During this time he serves as a pan-African revolutionary and travels the continent. His short writings from this part of his life were collected posthumously in Toward the African Revolution.
  • 1958 – Césaire founds the Parti Progressiste Martiniquais after growing disillusioned with communism. The Soviets had put down the Hungarian revolution of ’56. He had previously been politically engaged as Mayor of Fort-de-France through the French Communist Party, and was criticised for “departmentalising” the former French colonies as drafter of 1946 laws for the French National Assembly for Martinique. He wrote Lettre à Maurice Thorez in denouncing the PCF and Soviet communism.
  • 1958 – Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, a novel on native Algerian life under colonialism.
  • 1959 – Frantz Fanon, L’An Cinq, de la Révolution Algérienne, later titled “Sociology of a Revolution” by Maspero, and later “A Dying Colonialism”.
  • 1960 – Aimé Césaire, Toussaint Louverture, on the Haitian revolutionary.
  • 1961 – Frantz Fanon, Les Damnés de la Terre, preface by Sartre, published by Éditions Maspero; trans ’63. It is censored by the French government.
    Dec – Fanon dies in Bethesda, Maryland where he’d flown (via the CIA) for leukemia treatment. He had progressively gotten sicker after his exile and a good deal of travel: travel that involved, for example, the opening of a third military front for the Algerian revolution from the Saharan and Tuniso-Algerian borders. The writing of “Wretched” happened around this time, as well as a trip to Rome to visit Sartre, after his extensive African engagements brought him back to Tunis.
  • 1962 – Algerian Civil Wars ends.
  • 1964 – Jean-Paul Sartre, Colonialism and Neocolonialism, contains preface from Wretched of the Earth.
  • 1964 – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’oWeep Not Child, novel of colonial experience in East Africa
  • 1965 – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (James Ngugi),  The River Between, novel on Mau-Mau Kenyan experience.
  • 1969 – Aimé Césaire, Une Tempête, a decolonial response to Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
  • 1969 – Fausto Reinaga, La Revolución India, in which he breaks from Marxism and his previous goals:
    “In my works from 1940 to 1960 I sought the assimilation of the Indian through White-Mestizo cholaje. And in those that I published from 1964 to 1970 I sought the liberation of the Indian, prior destruction of White-Mestizo cholaje… and I propose the Indian revolution.” (Wikipedia). He was a founder of Bolivian indigenism, founding PIAK in 1962: the Party of Aymara and Keswa Indians. He published many books on Indigenous philosophy, saying: “Christ and Marx must be removed from the Indian’s head.”
  • 1970 – Kwame NkrumahConsciencism,
  • 1975 – Chinua Achebe – “An Image of Africa: Racism in Joseph Condrad’s Heart of Darkness“, a lecture given at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, turned essay, published in the ’88 collection Hopes and Impediments.
  • 1978 – Edward Said, Orientalism, on the literary creation of the East by the West, and the West by the West’s creation of the East. Looked at classic European conceptions of the Oriental.
  • 1986 – Gyatri Chakravorty Spivak, Can the Subaltern Speak? and “Selected Subaltern Studies”
  • 1986 – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (James Ngugi), Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, essay.
  • 1988 – Samir Amin, L’eurocentrisme.
  • 1990 – Gyatri Chakravorty Spivak, The Postcolonial Critic
  • 1991 – Aníbal Quijano, “Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality”
  • 1993 – Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism.
  • 1994 – Homi K. Bhabha, Location of Culture, critiques the imaginary division of the world into essentialist parts, such as Christendom and the Islamic World, First, Second and Third World, etc., providing “hybridity” to counter this reduction and deal with the ambiguities.
  • 1997 – R. Siva Kumar, curated exhibition Santiniketan: The Making of a Contextual Modernism, the manual introducing the concept of contextual, local modernisms, located outside/apart from European modernism, a phrase that will be applied to the likes of Rabindranath Tagore Nandanal Bose, etc.
  • 1999 – Walter Mignolo, Local Histories/Global Designs, developing “border-thinking”.
  • 1999 – Aníbal Quijano, Globalizations and Modernities
  • 2000 – Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe, which made Europe one region among many.
  • 2004 – In this year’s edition of The Wretched of the Earth, Homi K. Bhabha criticised Sartre’s original introduction for limiting the scope of Fanon’s vision to promotion of violent resistance to colonial oppression (according to Wikipedia).

My Dream Essay Due Tomorrow is a Nightmare! Postcolonial history.

I don’t even know where to begin with it all. This is the actual topic I want to pursue in my thesis, which I can begin after I finish these damn units! I get to/have to write a 4,000 word essay on postcolonial history, namely the challenges that arise in “recovering the voices and perspective of the subaltern.”

I have written none of it. My textbooks are exceptional. Curthoys and Docker “Is History Fiction?” and Green and Troup “Houses of History” but little to say about postcolonial history. Where to begin on what I have been meditating on and attempting to practice for a few years now, consciously, and perhaps all my life, in connections to subalterity that do not qualify me to speak as an expert or as a “subaltern” but as someone who has much to say about this without scholarly distance.

I should be thrilled to write what I’ve been wanting to for so long. But I have also been too insistent on a kind of masquerade scholarly distance, accounting for all sources, all possible disagreements, which could in the end be a byproduct of the consumerist Faustian knowledge-making from my rather un-Subaltern upbringing: wanting to say all things and thereby control the conversation.

The introspection (self-criticism) required from the study of topics that demand proximity and praxis of you, as well as ‘real’ dialogue, and the feeling that ‘criticism’ generally is often a code for talk over action, namely talk about things unconcerned with action… and I suppose these are debates that have been debated by postcolonial scholars too (like Walter Mignolo comparing the praxis-oriented scholars of Liberation Philosophy and Postcolonial Studies in Latin America with the meaning-oriented scholarship on postcolonial literature taking place elsewhere.)

Could it be that by typing my tentative understandings, my so-far knowledge, into WordPress, could free me to “blog it out” and make an essay in the process?

That is what we must do then.

Um, so I guess I first think about Frantz Fanon. Let me tell you about him, and the challenge is I can’t reach for my books, wikipedia or whatever. Just tell it how you have it so far.

Okay. Frantz Fanon. I first read Concerning Violence which I think is an extract from Wretched of the Earth or somewhere else. He was born in Martinique, in the Caribbean. He emigrated to France and then worked as a doctor in French Algeria. He was confronted with the reality of colonisation and of his own blackness during these years and contributed to the Algerian resistance and the realm of decolonial thought, beginning in the 1950s.
Another of his classic works is Black Skin, White Masks, on the socio-psychological dynamics of colonial and racial oppression in terms similar to today’s revived focus on ‘internalised colonialism.’ I wonder where that comes from?

Who else? Shit, it’s too late for me. That one was easy but that’s not what I’m being asked.
Okay so what challenges is Fanon facing. Let’s think:

  1. The war in Algeria has him shift through praxis into a new thought: decolonisation which engenders violence. He is trying to make sense of what is taking place, the revolt, the war, the long settler occupation that has spiralled from a false peace into, for Fanon, a truthful violence.
  2. He explores the psychological effects of colonialism’s life in the colony. He describes a world of boundaries marked by fences, soldiers, checkpoints, ethnic zones for those who rule and those who are ruled, the settler and the native. He describes the envy and resentment this system of apartheid and oppression incurs in the colonised native who awaits the moment he has long dreamed of, of taking his master’s house, land, wife… all that his master has acquired through the uneven and violently imposed division of labor and rights in the racial hierarchy of a European colony.
    He does not (as far as I know) write on what happens psychologically and actually after the revolution, but the intolerable situation of colonialism is vanquished and for Fanon this is purifying and through it the native becomes true man.
    Perhaps what he means is that, as he says about the servants’ daydreams of taking, if he could, even the master’s spouse, because what the master has is the wealth and enjoyment that belongs to a man who… no, a man. He has what belongs to a man. The master is certain he is a human because he lives in human conditions, and is untroubled by the inhumane squalor of the servants quarters and the shanty-towns. In this respect the violent claiming of the ruling classes’ property is the establishing of a new fact that now the blacks are living like men and will not be spoken to by fathers any longer. Fanon is not a nonviolent theorist; he does not believe that the coloniser will recognise the humanity of the colonised until the colonised exerts his right to humanity in the only language the coloniser knows, violence and the claiming of territory.
  3. That’s not really how he’d describe it, that last sentence^, and the way I wrote it sounds like the formally oppressed now in the colonial estates have mistaken the symbols of power and status of the colonial structure — epistemologically and administratively(?ugly word!) — for symbols of true humanity. This is one of the criticisms internal to decolonial thought; whether or not the subaltern is continuing to think in colonised ways even while resisting colonialism. Fanon would speak about many of these difficult issues, some of which directly relates to today’s mainstreamed debates on appropriation. He was not the first to explore this either.
    But we should briefly return to say one thing on shitting in the boss’s toilet. It is not, I imagine for Fanon or the Algerian, a simple matter of taking the possessions of your oppressors and kicking them out — although that in itself is a true step for Fanon toward the liberation that means beginning again on one’s own terms, to become one’s own boss as all humans should be — still rather a matter of gaining the meanx of survival as well as stripping the tools of injustice, which in a colonial system is the whole system or at least a sum of its parts. Questions of what come after in this context can’t wait until after happens, as if by magic. Besides the war in Algeria was already brewing before Fanon wrote, I believe: thus is was a “fact” as per Cabral in Guinea-Bissau.
  4. Yes. So yes Fanon also spoke about the aspect of “internalised colonialism” although I’m not sure he used that term, did he? In Black Skin, White Masks he explores the concepts of coloniality which arise within the racism, essentialism, difference and, I guess, alterity of colonial subjects and non-subjects, subjects and objects, humans and savages or whatever vulgar distinctions were made by the rulers who justified their oppression on concepts of “us and them” or “us and those” things, objects, niggers, slaves, noirs, etc.
    The dehumanisation in which the ghettoed live and which is continually sold them by perpetual nonhumanness, sub-status, as well as being sold to them through the lies told by the dehumanising power, always praising its own values and persecuting alter-natives: European cultural elitism saw its alternatives as always essentially other (cf. Said’s Orientalism) and essentially less, primitive, base, debased, taboo, even evil and punishable when displayed. Europeans had knowledge, Africans had myths. Europeans were logical and scientific and religious. Africans were illogical, unsophisticated and pagan. White was good. Black was bad. Just as it is in our common parlance. Okay, so what am I saying that’s new! We all know that part, that function of racism or generally “isms” (the bad ones) where it’s like “we’re good, naturally”-“you’re bad, obviously”.
    In BSWM, Fanon talks about the aesthetic, fashion, culture, vernacular and symbols, as well as academic discourse, appropriated by blacks, such as in the straightening of hair, bleaching of hair and skin, the sycophantic need for approval by the whites still in power after official decolonisation (or emancipation in the United States) and the association of whiteness (skin, hair, voice) with beauty. For Fanon this was an imprint of slave consciousness, another term I am unsure to use but hey this is a blog, and he rejected the great esteem given to Western cultural artefacts, especially if it meant becoming like the oppressor.
  5. This is paradoxic except that in his revolutionary works Fanon sees the appropriation of the colonial agents’ plunder as the reclaiming of lost produce from the land and so reappropriation. This leads to the blossoming human emerging in the colonised not because they now have objects but because they have asserted themselves. The substance of the colonial mythology, that goodness and prosperity shall belong to the settlers who can maintain it by force, is defeated by force. Humanity emerges as it could not in chains, under whips and in misery.
  6. His concern here (I am back to BSWM) seems particularly “pastoral”, almost… I mean it is really about the despising of blackness, the association of black appearance, music, language, culture, history with taboo, evil, mystery, and so many white conceptions based on distance and denial. He gets pretty close I seem to recall to James Baldwin on the kinda Freudian aspects of projects and… Oh shit, that’s right. I forgot about Unveiling Algeria, which I’m also not sure where that’s from, like when written. But that’s very much like Said’s Orientalism. The European in a country like Algeria imagines a beautiful innocent and untouched virgin behind the veil of the women of the East where he has heard stories of Aladdin’s Princess Jasmine, or where in real life he has seen the mistreatment by European standards of native women by native men, which he doesn’t associate with colonial violence by inference of direct association. He is human, noble, Christian-maybe, and worthy, with a roguish exploring attitude — this is the self-imagining of the settler out in the wilderness of tribal peoples and pre-modern landscape — and how could he keep from the fruit taboo for his own society and forbidden by the society he despises. He must unveil. It is like all the seeing and knowing of the coloniser, the explorer, the discoverer, those who uncover the world do so with a false mystique about it, seeing what they imagine instead of the humans in front of them. Fanon is exploring epistemology here, how knowledge is produced in the service of (sexual) conquest. Perhaps this is the counterpart to the black desire to replicate whiteness. The white desire for… how do you describe that mess? Again I call in Baldwin, where y’at?

Phew! Time to go to bed. It’s 3.57. Not sure if that was worth it. Probably I’ve helped myself understand something and a few of those sentences are worth keeping. Goodnight. Wish me luck. Gotta discuss: Homi Bhabha, Guyatri Spivak, Walter Mignolo, Enrique Dussel, Guha, Said, ecc.