Manuela Riberio Sanches - Disorienting Europe
In the 1950s and early 1960s, when, in the wake of the end of World War II and the challenges it posed to Europe’s economical, political and theoretical supremacy, the first explicit anti-colonial movements in the European colonies announced their willingness to claim, and later opted in some cases for armed struggle to fight for, national independence, two major figures of anti-colonial thinking, Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon — both born in a French colony, the Caribbean Island of Martinique, both recently turned into full French citizens as a consequence of major legislative changes also intended to contain demands for autonomy —, wrote some of the most vehement libels against Europe.
In them they argued for the complicity between nazism, capitalism and colonialism, denouncing the inherent racism that had assisted Europe's notion of progress and the ensuing ‘civilising mission’ that had divided the world in two discrete, opposed, but interdependent zones.
However, Césaire and Fanon launched their challenging denunciation and appeal to a more just world, drawing on the same theoretical weapons that had been used to turn indigènes into subaltern populations, devoid of voice and power, transforming those means of oppression into the weapons of the "wretched of the earth.” They thereby posed a decisive challenge to Eurocentric claims to universality and the definition of what it means to be human, the basic foundation of the declaration of the Rights of 'Man' since the late 18th century.
Forgotten or silenced for several decades, Césaire and Fanon's work gained renewed attention since the 1990s and became more recently a major reference to address issues related to discrimination and racism in Europe.
How is one to read and make sense of these claims in 21st century Europe? How have Césaire and Fanon’s work contributed, how far do they still contribute, to a dislocation of the 'west,' the decolonisation of its knowledges and disciplinary epistemologies? How far can they contribute to a challenge to our orientation points and the ensuing divisions of the world, of the disciplines we practice and the way we deal with our everyday life?
Aim of the seminar is to propose a close reading of Aimé Césaire's, Discourse on Colonialism (1950) and Frantz Fanon's the Wretched of the Earth (1961), considering, on the one hand, the historical contexts in which these texts were written and received as well as the travels of such theories (Edward W. Said), and, on the other, the ways in which they have recently been rediscovered and re-appropriated. We shall consider important re-readings of these texts coming from Africa (Achille Mbembe) and their relevance for the redefinition, dis-orientation of Europe, and its future in a fatally interconnected world, a world, albeit, increasingly divided by physical and symbolic — external and internal — borders, and the ensuing widespread inequalities.