Postcolonial Identities and Decolonial Struggles: Creolization and Colored Cosmopolitanism (International Field)
Open to doctoral students based at universities within the U.S. and first-year doctoral students based at universities within the United Kingdom.
Spring - May 28-June 2, 2013 in Coventry, England
Fall - September 18-22, 2013 in Cambridge, Massachusetts
This workshop addresses the production of contestatory cultures from the age of enslavement and colonization to that of decolonization. It is concerned with the continuing resonance across social, cultural and political fields of the emancipatory struggles of those times. We will focus, in particular, on the historical and contemporary dimensions of creolization and colored cosmopolitanism. Creolization refers to the mutually constituting processes of identity construction, such as cultural syncretism, hybridity, or mestisaje that oppressed peoples create in their struggles against injustice, most usually in contexts of colonialism, settlement, and enslavement. It is a frame through which researchers can recognize these difficult histories, not to diminish the inhumane conditions of the time, but rather to acknowledge the creative capacity of human endeavour to cope with and overcome such conditions. The idea of ‘colored cosmopolitanism’ is one such product that points to movements of socio-cultural engagement and solidarity across racial and national lines.
- Gurminder Bhambra
- Professor, University of Warwick, Sociology [ bio ]
Gurminder K. Bhambra is Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick. Her research addresses how the experiences and claims of non-European 'others' have been rendered invisible to the dominant narratives and analytical frameworks of sociology. While her research interests are primarily in the area of historical sociology, she is also interested in the intersection of the social sciences with recent work in postcolonial studies. Her current research project is on the possibilities for historical sociology in a postcolonial world. She is Director of the Social Theory Centre, University of Warwick, and convenor of the British Sociological Association's Theory Study Group. She is also co-editor, with Professor Robin Cohen (Oxford), of the new monograph series, Theory for a Global Age for Bloomsbury Academic. Bhambra received her D. Phil in Sociology from the University of Sussex.
- Nico Slate
- Assistant Professor, Carnegie Mellon University, History [ bio ]
Nico Slate is Assistant Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University. His research and teaching focuses on the transnational history of social movements in the United States, with a particular emphasis on South Asia and on the history of struggles against racism and imperialism worldwide. He maintains broad interests in the intersection of literature, philosophy, politics, and history, with particular interests in the history of race and caste, diaspora, cosmopolitanism, anti-colonial and post-colonial nationalisms, environmental science and politics, the Second World War, the Cold War, and nonviolent civil disobedience. Slate received his Ph.D. in History from Harvard University.
- Martín Arboleda
- University of Manchester, Political Science
Relational place-making and the struggle for nature in the Andes: elements for a political ecology of networks[ project summary ]The so-called "turn to multiculturalism", that during the 1990's incorporated previously excluded and disenfranchised ethnic minorities throughout the region to the political and democratic process, created favorable conditions for the appearance of a novel form of radical posthumanist political ecologies in the Latin American region. These indigenous political ecologies are eminently decolonial in that they subvert the nature/culture, corporeal/spiritual, symbolic/material dualisms that are so common in western epistemologies and ontologies and are transforming socio-environmental struggles to a considerable extent. It is now frequent to see sacred plants, animals, rivers, mountains and the like to be mobilized to the political sphere by parties, social movements and other constituencies in order to press policy and political objectives. Specifically, my thesis intends to look at how these place-based indigenous worldviews and resistances (aided by non-indigenous actors) affect political culture and multiscalar networks of socio-environemental resistance against transnational corporations and the state.
- Lucia Carminati
- University of Arizona, Middle Eastern Studies
Turn-of-the-Century Egypt: Working-class Cosmopolitanism and Shifting Boundaries of Belonging[ project summary ]On September 25th 1919, Max di Collalto and Giuseppe Pizzuto sailed for Italy on the steamship "Sicilia". They had been expelled from Egypt by the British, on charges of supporting the Egyptian nationalists, fomenting strikes, and organizing syndicates. My work explores, in turn-of-the-century Egypt, those instances when workers cooperated and foreign and in particular Italian "agitators" were targeted by the British authorities. In the 19th and early 20th century, migrants crossed the Mediterranean from Greece, Italy, Malta, Syria and other parts of the Ottoman empire. Focusing on these trans-Mediterranean and Egyptian workers and to events of inter-ethnic cooperation, new questions on foreignness and belonging, cosmopolitanism and nationalism are elicited. Class is reintegrated as a category of investigation and used to describe the "working-class cosmopolitanism" of those foreigners and Egyptians who set aside their ethnic solidarities, thus deifying essentialist notions of identity.
- Linda Chhath
- University of Wisconsin-Madison, Asian Languages and Cultures
Buddhist Ethical Media: a Study of Cosmopolitan Buddhism and "Ethical Creole" During Norodom Sihanouk's Golden Era[ project summary ]This project seeks to examine Cambodia's post-independence period under the rule of Norodom Sihanouk. The aim of the project is to examine this period through the lens of its Buddhist ethical media in order to reveal the ways in which Buddhism served as a vital resource in Cambodia's projects of defining its sovereign identity and instituting stability. An important nationalist discourse put forward in this period was the construction of a national identity that melded modernity and morality. This identity involved the import and export of religious ideas and expressions, and made Cambodia an important yet often overlooked world actor, because of its active role in negotiating ancient and new, modern and moral. Thus, I assert that transnational exchanges of the post-colonial world, has entangled cultures and socio-cultural consciousness to such an extent that modern Khmer ethics is an ethical creole and modern Khmer Buddhism is a cosmopolitan Buddhism.
- Simon Cole
- University of Essex, Sociology
Subaltern Masculinities in the Andes: Conceptions of race and indigeneity in the construction of indigenous masculinity among rural-urban migrants in Ecuador.[ project summary ]This research examines the gendered subject formation of indigenous men in Ecuador. It looks at the persistence of racial hierarchies in Andean society, explores the relationship of race to constructions of masculinity, and the ambivalent place of subaltern men. Focusing on the effects of rural-urban migration on the transformation of masculine identity, it looks at the ways in which the urban experience provides indigenous men with opportunities to renegotiate their position in social hierarchies, but in ways that allow racial and patriarchal hierarchies to persist.
- Jordache A Ellapen
- Indiana University Bloomington, American Studies
Becoming Brown: Re-constructing Identities in Post-Apartheid South Africa[ project summary ]This study analyzes the re-construction of Indian identity in post-apartheid South Africa. A central question that this research aims to navigate is whether, in a society characterized by a strong struggle/liberation consciousness, is it possible to imagine an Indian identity outside of the larger black experience? During apartheid black became a strategic form of identification for marginalized communities (ethnic African, Indian and Colored), creating a sense of belonging that cut across race, ethnicity and class. Thinking about the Indian experience is one way of examining the complexities of minority identity construction in contemporary South Africa. The view from the perspective of the Indian experience opens up the black-white question. Privileging this epistemological standpoint and shattering the black-white binary, has the potential to shed new light on one of the biggest issues in South Africa and globally. This research also argues for the deterritorialization of Diaspora Studies, suggesting that Diasporas be thought of as circulating across space. This can combat ideas of essentialism that continue to dominate the field.
- Simon Daniel Fisher
- University of Wisconsin-Madison, History
The Development of Gandhian Nonviolence as a Useful Tool for Fighting Jim Crow in the Early Civil Rights Movement[ project summary ]The introduction of Gandhian nonviolent resistance into the burgeoning Civil Rights movement is one of the most important developments in United States social movement history. The early students of nonviolent resistance were pacifists – mainly northern war resisters who also addressed racial and economic injustice in their cities. A few of the youngest students, who would form the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), turned their attention southward, believing nonviolence was a peaceful means that could interrupt the hegemony of Jim Crow. Nonviolent resistance would embolden African Americans to protest their treatment as second class citizens, and the interracial makeup of the actions modeled to whites a way to embody their racial identities in a more just way. The goal of my research is to explore the interconnections between nonviolent resistance, the individuals who transformed the tactic into one applicable to anti-segregation activism, and the vision of justice towards which they strove.
- Mingwei Huang
- University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, American Studies
Bandung Internationalism to the "Pacific Century": Mapping Afro-Asian Worlds and U.S. Empire[ project summary ]Deploying feminist and postcolonial approaches to history, geography, and cultural studies along with studies of empire, this project aims to historically link Afro-Asia with U.S. empire from the Bandung era to present, and examine how their historic modalities continue to triangulate relations between U.S., China, and Africa. Through historical and ethnographic research, I explore three sites: China's changing "friendship" with Tanzania and Zambia via the Freedom Railway from its inception during the nonaligned movement through its ongoing liberalization and privatization; the encounters between the Black Panther Party, Richard Nixon, and Mao Zedong in China (1971-72); and China-Africa cultural formations emerging through contemporary popular, economic, and foreign policy discourses and in African and Chinese migration sites such as Guangzhou and Johannesburg. As a theoretical project, I ask how Afro-Asia is constituted as a diasporic geography and racialized and sexualized embodied subjectivities and identities through social, economic, political, and cultural interconnections.
- Malarvizhi Jayanth
- University of Chicago, South Asia Studies
Towards freedom: Labor, power and the emancipation of lower-caste India[ project summary ]This research describes transformations in labor in south Asia through the voices of those who access citizenship because of these transformations. Tracking the history of slavery, indentured labor and lower-caste political participation in the nineteenth century across southern India and other colonial territories through archival records, lower-caste journalism, novels, letters and ritual, this work demonstrates that new categories of labor, emerging in imperial Britain and being re-conceptualized in the emancipatory social, political and cultural movements among the lower castes, rework caste relations in the region. The continued devaluation of labor and the contemporary practice of slavery on the subcontinent can only be understood in connection with this history.
- Madhuri Karak
- City University of New York Graduate Center, Anthropology
Rethinking “Indigenous” in a Tribal Resource Frontier: Kondh Cosmopolitanism in Central India[ project summary ]The decade-long anti-mining resistance in Niyamgiri Mountain, southeastern Odisha has taken an unexpected turn in the last two-three years. Activist networks have embraced an indigeneity paradigm for structuring their mobilization efforts within India, and abroad. Autochthony and a violent encounter between indigene and settler-conqueror define the indigenous experience in Australia, parts of Africa and the Americas. Not only are these historical specifics barely approximated to in the Indian subcontinent, tribes and caste peasants here have lived in close social and cultural proximity for centuries. Strategically defiant of academic categories, some Indian tribes continue to seek and build transnational alliances around the indigeneity axis, producing a gamut of unexpected collaborations in their wake. In this research project, I examine the case of the Dongria Kondh and the import of these cosmopolitan entanglements for tribal futures.
- Kaneesha Cherelle Parsard
- Yale University, American Studies and African American Studies
Sugarcane Children: Unintended Subjects in the Afterlives of Slavery and Indenture[ project summary ]In the wake of Emancipation in the British West Indies, South Asian indentured laborers were recruited to the canefields and plantations of the region. While contract labor would continue the work that imperial botany, cultivation, and agriculture began, what happened when the descendants of enslaved Africans and Indians made contact, against colonial strictures and surveillance? Following Afro-Indian collaborations and unions, this project attempts to trace colonial labor and creole nationalisms in the Caribbean and their local and metropolitan afterlives, especially through the mixed-race figure of the dougla. What does it mean for indigeneity that, at the nexus of bonded labor and contract labor, the dougla is a subject new and particular to the Caribbean? Drawing on a broad archive of texts, including Caribbean literary modernism and global visual and performance arts, and employing archival and ethnographic methods, this inquiry suggests that the dougla figure challenges notions of inheritance and liberal freedom as excess to the colonial project.
- Lauren Tooker
- University of Warwick, Politics and International Studies
The ethics of debt: Haiti and the making of modern debtors[ project summary ]Debt cancellation for developing countries is increasingly celebrated as a progressive norm in international politics. This narrative has the emancipation of the "South" by the "North" at its heart. My dissertation research decenters this tale by using the case of Haiti to provide a detailed account of the colonial origins of sovereign debt and the power relations underpinning debt cancellation. The project then reconnects the narrative of emancipation to a number of contestatory cultural practices in Haiti, including vodou and contemporary art. These practices offer a reading of the relationship between past and present, self and other, and material and spiritual that puts an ethos of relational indebtedness, rather than liberal exchange, at the heart of social relations. My dissertation thus examines the significance of a creolized "poetics of relation" (Glissant 1990) in terms of opening up ways of being differently indebted.
- Silas Liddell Webb
- Syracuse University, History
'Birmingham is no Detroit': Cosmopolitanism and the Sikh Diaspora in England and North America[ project summary ]As a micro-history of the Sikh diaspora from the beginning of World War One to the closing years of the 1970s, "'Birmingham is no Detroit'" will assess the impact of migration from the global south to the Euro-American world. Through archival research and textual analysis, this project will establish a transnational labor movement of Sikh migrants. This dissertation will focus on Sikhs to understand migrant self-identity, the effect of migration on concepts of identity in host societies, and the emergence of citizen democracy. Not only have Sikhs, a visible minority with a distinct ethno-religious identity, established substantial communities in England, California, and British Columbia, but also they have formed political and cultural alliances with other marginalized groups, which are integral to understanding the contribution that coalitions of workers have made to the global phenomenon of "colored cosmopolitanism"