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Anticolonial Modes of Unknowing, Reading, and Critique

Join us for a two-day online workshop focused on the imagination, politics and practice of anticolonial reading and critique.

Taking our lead from J. Daniel Elam’s recently published World Literature for the Wretched of the Earth: Anticolonial Aesthetics, Postcolonial Politics (Fordham University Press 2020), IPCS is calling artists, activists and academics to join us for a two-day online workshop focused on the imagination, politics and practice of anticolonial reading and collective unknowing. In our first session of the Against Mastery workshop we turn to the politics and ethics of friendship worked upon by Frantz Fanon, B. R. Ambedkar, M. K. Gandhi, and Bhagat Singh, among others, as a way of imagining anticolonial politics. On day two we hope to develop further and creatively our ‘practices of inexpertise’ as we work our way towards a radical politics of egalitarianism.

To join Daniel and others in the workshop, please send through a brief expression of interest by Monday 6 June to Carlos Morreo.

Session 1 – Disavowing mastery 

Tuesday 6 July, 6-8.30 pm AEST / 8.00-10.30 am UTC

  • Elam, ‘Introduction: Impossible Subjects’, pages 1-18
  • Elam, Gandhi’s Lost Debates, chapter 3
  • Gandhi, excerpts from Hind Swaraj (to be read together during the session)

Session 2 – Inexpert reading

Thursday 8 July, 6-8.30 pm AEST / 8.00-10.30 am UTC

  • Elam, ‘Bhagat Singh’s Jail Notebook’, chapter 4, 92-112 
  • David Scott, ‘Apology’, Stuart Hall’s Voice
  • Leela Gandhi, ‘Epilogue: If this were a manifesto for postcolonial thinking’, in An Introduction to Postcolonial Studies

Session 3 – Egalitarian critique

Thursday 8 July, 6-8.30 pm AEST / 8.00-10.30 am UTC

These readings are suggestions that can be replaced with other readings depending on where our conversations go.

  • Elam, ‘Epilogue’ 
  • David Marriot, ‘Negre, Figura’ in Textual Practice
  • Aniket Jaaware, ‘Recapitulation with Variations’ Practicing Caste

(if you’d like to read more but in a different vein) Hannah Arendt, ‘The Social Question’ in On Revolution and James Baldwin, Evidence of Things not Seen

Possible questions for discussion include

  • Could the politics (or ethics) of ‘friendship’ be one rubric under which we might imagine egalitarian communities in the present, without regard for accumulative value or future success? 
  • At what scales does friendship or collaboration work? What are its limitations? 
  • How might ‘reading’ be a practice of ‘relinquishing’ or ‘disavowing’ mastery?
  • What forms of critique (or, more specifically, postcolonial criticism) are conducive to egalitarian politics? 
  • Participants are encouraged to bring questions from their own practice or work for the collective two-day discussion.

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Date: 13 July 2021
Time: 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm Location: Zoom Workshop

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anticolonial critique



J. Daniel Elam

J. Daniel Elam is assistant professor of comparative literature at the University of Hong Kong. He works on political and aesthetic thought across the Global South. He is the author of World Literature for the Wretched of the Earth (Fordham University Press, 2020) / Impossible and Necessary (Orient BlackSwan, 2021), as well as the co-editor, with Kama Maclean and Chris Moffat, of two volumes on revolutionary anticolonial thought.