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The impulse towards theorising arises within the urgency of historical conjunctures. Decolonisation provided an impetus within the global south to imagine new relations to the past, present, and future; free of the teleologies imposed by the civilizational hierarchies of a colonial epistemology.
There was the need to look back, not with nostalgia or anger, but to recover from the amnesia imposed by colonial rule which had allowed an engagement with native pasts only as irrelevant, outmoded, or mired in forms of imagination unsuited to the idea of the modern. In a moment of departure, we need to think with questions of inheritance as much as a rejection of a colonial patrimony.
The concepts with which we think - from modernity to secularism and democracy - have embedded in them both a trajectory as much as a hierarchical politics of spaces (Kaviraj, 2005). We are faced with the challenge of taking up again the critique made by Dipesh Chakrabarty et al but to reject a conceptual vocabulary situated in an idea of western modernity, imbued with its abbreviated temporality as much as an aspiration toward universality. Words have to arise from particular worlds. For too long we have thought only with the trajectories of a European history and its self-regarding nativist epistemology that was rendered universal only through the violence of conquest and empire.
About the speaker
Dilip M Menon is the Mellon Chair in Indian Studies and the Director of the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, University of Witwatersrand. He is a historian of South Asia who works on caste and inequality in particular but also writes on film, literature and art. His earlier publications include Caste Nationalism and Communism in South India, 1900-1948 (Cambridge, 1994, 2007); The Blindness of Insight: Essays on Caste in Modern India (Delhi, 2006) and an edited volume on the Cultural History of Modern India (Delhi, 2007) which is also available in a Hindi edition.
Over the past decade his work has engaged with oceanic histories and the question of knowledge from the global south resulting in two volumes, the first titled Capitalisms: towards a global history Oxford, 2020) edited with Kaveh Yazdani. The second which is forthcoming is titled Concepts from the Global South and is forthcoming in 2021. The ongoing project on the global south and oceans will result in three edited volumes between 2021 and 2022. Cinemas of the global south edited with Amir Allam (Routledge); Cosmopolitan Thought Zones and Oceanic Histories edited with Nishat Zaidi (Routledge); and Ocean as Method edited with Nishat Zaidi et al (Palgrave Macmillan)
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