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Discussion Questions


WEEK 2: Georgie Holmes and Pat

WEEK 3: Rittika

WEEK 4: Dhyey

WEEK 5: Thomas

WEEK 6: Alisah Sagir

WEEK 7: Christian Gurdin

WEEK 8: Aimee Bates and Kishan Katira

WEEK 9: Gemma Richards

WEEK 10: Ayushi Rakesh and Isabella


WEEK 10 (Ayushi and Isabella)

1. Looking at the foreword by Isabel Allende, she suggests some context surrounding the time that the book was written and published. Also, think about...
a. The aggressive expansion of US spheres of influence - Neoliberalism and the rise of the IMF and the World Bank.
b. Decolonisation and the transition from formal colonialism to neo-colonial methods of exploitation.
c. The emergence of right-wing dictatorship in Latin America, and the resulting left-wing guerrilla organisations.
How is this book a reflection of the historical experience of the time? Why was it important for Galeano to underscore the idea of dependency in this historical moment? How does Galeano not only outline his contemporary context, but how might he pre-empt and prophesise? Can his ideas speak to areas outside of Latin America, or is his methodology limited to this area? What might Galeano and Dependency Theory have to offer for the contemporary moment?
2. In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon states:
'the young independent nation sees itself obliged to use the economic channels created by the colonial regime. It can, obviously, export to other countries and other currency areas, but the basis of its exports is not fundamentally modified. The colonial regime has carved out certain channels and they must be maintained or catastrophe will threaten. Perhaps it is necessary to begin everything all over again: to change the nature of the country's exports, and not simply their destination, to re-examine the soil and mineral resources, the rivers, and—why not?—the sun's productivity.'
How does Galeano represent revolution and its aftermath? Why is revolution not the end-point? What follow from revolution? (Looking at p.73 onwards may be useful)
3. How does Open Vain of Latin America discuss environmental activism? Why is it important to discuss and incorporate in postcolonial studies? Quote for reference: "The human murder by poverty in Latin America is secret; every year, without making a sound, three Hirsohima bombs explode over communities that have become accustomed to suffering with clenched teeth. This systematic violence is not apparent but is real and constantly increasing: its holocausts are not made known in the sensational press but in Food and Agricultural Organization statistics."
4. The idea of representation, as presented by Silvia Rivera in her essay, poses the threat of as "internal colonialism", is often used as an anticolonial tool. The theatrical making of society which in turn is just another form of colonialism, Neo-colonialism breeds grounds for extremist ideology. How do we combat the problem as Postcolonial Studies.

WEEK 9 (Gemma)

  1. Glissant clearly sees Relation as a political intervention, but one that cannot organise a form of resistance because, in part, Relation takes it fullest expression in the poetic realm. Poetics is exemplified by creolization, whose emphasis on processes rather than content allows it to be open to constant transformation. As such, written in French, Glissant’s own text is full of destabilisations of the French language creating new linguistic formulations in order to mimic the transformations of a living language and the collisions of culture that he sees as productive of Relation, meant to build a body of examples that imitate Relation without ever fixing it to a totality of a single definition. However, it is therefore hard to pin down his theory of Relation to a concise summary. Philosophy as poetry, however, seems to be hard to translate to action. Is this valuable/what is the value of this rather than an empiricist approach? Might there be further issues reading his work in translation rather than French that complicate this?
  1. Lugones looks at the issues of uniting the concepts of ‘woman’ and ‘black’. For her, to see non-white women is to exceed the categorical logic of such terms. Her analysis allows us to remove sex from gender. To make colonised women into gendered beings would have been to humanise these individuals. As such, “no women are colonized; no colonized females are women”. She thus calls for a resistance based in the idea of ‘womanhoood’ but rather colonial difference. How might this be the basis for an intersectional approach? Might there be any issues with the removal of gender as an explicit category for research and more importantly, resistance?
  1. To me, what united the readings by Glissant and Lugones was their sense of identity and instability. The value of stable identity is that such subject positions are limited from the very beginning by assuming a subject position that is only available in opposition to the oppressor. However, I want to look at another area that has destabilisation at its core: queer theory. The goals of queer theory are to destabilise and reformulate norms. Sexuality is seen as always unstable and, on a continuum, opening up new ways of understanding our relationship to our bodies and identities that constantly change as new possibilities open up. Queer wants to embrace the freedom of the fluidity (both of groups and individuals). As to my question, Dussel wants to destabilise ideas of modernity, an idea inherent in queer theory and its idea of an anachronistic time. Some queer theorists have argued that the coloniser and the colonised seem to inhabit different times (modernity and the past) in colonial writings which are not allowed to be dialogical and coexist. The denial of co-existence means that only the coloniser must occupy the space of the modern – the colonised are not allowed to occupy the time of the modern. However, if we rethink time as having multiple modernities rather than that of a necessary teleological succession and replacement, how might we allow for a better understanding of World History? How might this aid Glissant’s idea of the atavistic?
  1. A major part of identity formation for Glissant is based on the idea of the atavistic (characterised by the reversion to something ancestral). For him, it only through the spread of the atavistic identity that encounters that lead to Relations are made possible. Glissant’s focus here is the hulls of the slave ships. However, Dussel wants us to approach questions of identity in Europe from the standpoint of Spain and Latin America. For him, destabilising the idea of Europe as a unified ego requires looking back to the periphery that surrounds the centre to legitimate this self-definition, this being Latin America. If we want to flip this to focus on the importance of colonial harm done to Latin America in World History, rather than our traditional focus on Africa, do we need to rethink Glissant’s idea of the atavistic as central to identity?

WEEK 8 (Aimee and Kishan)

1) “A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization. A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization. A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization” (Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism, 31)

Is Aime Cesaire a Europessimist? And are you a Europessimist? Is there a hope for Europe?

 2) Can the concept of surrealism be interpreted in the imagery and language of the revolutionaries depicted in chapter IV of The Black Jacobins?

 3) “Though she [S. Cesaire] was attacked by some Caribbean writers, following an early edition of Tropiques, for aping traditional French styles of poetry as well as supposedly promoting "The Happy Antilles"” – (Wikipedia, Suzanne Cesaire webpage).

Suzanne Cesaire talks about the nostalgia that is a fundamental part of the appeal of the Antilles (‘The Great Camouflage’, 45). She also talks of its beauty as a blinding camouflage to the colonial problems of the Antilles (46). This is like Calypso in Book IV of The Odyssey, where Calypso (which means ‘covering’) has imprisoned Odysseus on her island Ogygia, except whilst Odysseus’ nostalgia is homesickness for Ithaca (against Calypso’s island of Ogygia), for Cesaire, the homesickness is like Calypso’s binding spell upon Odysseus. With this in mind, how does Suzanne Cesaire fare against the critique of purporting “The Happy Antilles” idea?

 4) “To the end of his days he could hardly speak French, he literally could not write three words without the grossest errors in spelling and grammar. Years afterwards when he was master of San Domingo he wrote thus to Dessalines: Je vouss a ve parle pour Ie forIi berte avan theire … He meant to write: Je vous avais parle du Fort Liberte avanthier. … He could never do better. But he dictated in the local bastard French or creole, and his secretaries wrote and re-wrote until he got the exact meaning he wanted. (C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins, Chapter IV, 104).

 Given the fact that letters are a significant feature of The Black Jacobins, what is the impact of language barriers in the context of writing in revolution? Is L’Ouverture’s creole a form of ‘radical otherness’ in a colonial context?

WEEK 7 (Christian)

1. To grapple with the plasticity of Blackness and race, Mbembe deploys a shifting, fluid, lyrical and (we might say psychoanalytical?) style. Is this an effective style to tease out the contradictions and ambivalence of blackness, of black reason (or, as he terms it later) “the reason of unreason”?

2. Thinking back to the week on Fanon, just how far do Wilderson and Sexton’s views on the role of the intellectual differ to Fanon/Walter Rodney/Amilcar Cabral/Thomas Sankara? What are the political ramifications of thinking about decolonisation in the abstract? What does it mean to think of decolonisation as a textual or epistemic project alone? Also, can we think of any other moments of corporate capture in relation to decolonisation, particularly within the neoliberal university?

3. Like Mbembe, Okoth and Denise Ferreira da Silva, Stuart Hall speaks of his interest not in “racism” as a universal, unchanging phenomena, but of “racisms”, understanding that racism emerges from specific socio-historical contexts. Can we think of any contemporary manifestations of racism? Are we able to locate a genealogy to these forms of racism, relating them to the afterlives of slavery/imperialism? Also, whilst racism is often discursively produced (floating/sliding signifier), can we establish how racialism provided the material infrastructure for the capital relation and how it continues to inform the reproduction and competitive accumulation of the capital today? (E.G., one example could be the dialectic between super-exploitation and disposability faced by migrant/non-white workers: see meatpacking plants in US during COVID-19 crisis: predominantly Latinx and Black workers forced to work not only for low-pay but in precarious conditions)


4. Hardt and Negri describe the nation-state as a ‘poisoned gift’. Likewise, Okoth recognises the importance of national sovereignty to the struggle against racism. In light of these comments and keeping in mind the week on Fanon, do we need to rethink the cycle of national liberation once again? What are the contradictions and problems of the nation-state form, but also what possibilities does it engender?

WEEK 6 (Alisah)

  1. In reference to pp 81-82, by using education as a ladder to climb, do students mimic the concept of ‘…trying at all points to be the dark ghost of a European…

  2. (a)In terms of creating a culture for oneself as an African-American, hip-hop has been a sort of voice for the community permitting young black men and women an 'identity' outside of systems that have rejected them. Hip-hop culture is a creation of the black struggle and tells the tought but commonly glamourised tales of day-to-day life specifically gang culture, drugs, sex and money. Perceiving hip-hop through the lens of rebellion, is it fair to view the culture as disruptive when the structure it emerged from has persecuted its people because of the bodies they have been born into? (b) In addition, has the culture become too focused on wealth and materialism -- if so, to what degree is modern hip-hop culture endorsing the same colonial/capitalist/bourgeoise culture that has oppressed the black community for centuries.
  3. The man resists corruptions within a system that has destroyed his culture and replaced it with the bolted structure of the white man, raising questions of masculinity. Arguably, a ‘good-man’ is prescribed as somebody who adheres to the order written by the white men who, themselves, live above/outside of it, proposing that a man who is good, is a man who follows best. Does this not highlight the moulding of gender, specifically masculinity, in order to keep the colonies tightly tucked into submission. The men who colonised are fastened with the titles of great, brave and courageous yet in the case of a novel, men wind up in trouble by not paying a bus ticket. Therefore, does masculinity translate into how western one can present themselves.
  4. In relation to Fallon's performing of the black man, Armah's character spends time unpicking and discussing the systems that surrounds him. Since he understands and processes his position, is he still performing as the black man or is does he grasp that fact that the damage is too far gone and is conscious enough to not have to submit internally in the same way that the living dead do.

WEEK 5 (Thomas)

1. Let us consider Jean-Paul Sartre’s preface to ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ alongside Arundhati Roy’s ‘The Doctor and the Saint’. How does Sartre situate himself, a white Frenchman, against Fanon and his text? Furthermore, does this make it more appropriate and sensitive to the material it prefaces than Roy’s introduction?

2. How does Fanon explore the psychological states of colonised people in relation to violence inflicted on them and enacted back at the coloniser?

3. Fanon's idea of a revolutionary national culture radically differs from Gandhi's Hind swaraj and Ambedkar's advocacy for ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’. Furthermore, Fanon offers critiques of pacifistic approaches and forms of national independence which draw too much from Europe to model a new decolonised state. Do these critiques question the broad political ideas behind Gandhi and Ambedkar’s nation-building or is there some way to connect the three thinkers, despite Fanon’s different cultural context?

4. How does thinking of Fanon through Lazarus' critique reframe him? Are we more drawn to Fanon as a critic of colonialism and revolutionary thinker or instead find his ideas to be more flawed than from reading ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ alone?

WEEK 4 (Dhyey)

1. What is the significance of the Pterodactyl as a metaphor in Devi’s Pterodactyl, Puran Sahay, and Pirtha?

2. The Adivasi will not dance was accused of promoting immoral and pornographic images of the Santhal people, and painting them in a bad light. Would you agree? It is also criticised for being overly explicit. How does the sexual explicitness affect the discourse surrounding the collection? Does it enable the discourse Shekhar might have intended to have, or does it draw away from the main discourse at hand?

3. How does the portrayal of indigenous people and their struggles differ in Mahasweta Devi's "Pterodactyl" and Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar's "The Adivasi Will Not Dance"?

4. In what ways does Jacinta Kerketta's poetry give voice to the subaltern experiences of indigenous communities in India and challenge the dominant narratives of history and power?


WEEK 3 (Rittika)

1. Do you also think that Roy in her introduction to the Annihilation of Caste, focuses more on the Gandhi- Ambedkar debate rather than providing an actual introduction or prefix to the said text?

2. As Arundhati Roy, how would you provide an answer to the Dalit Camera’s letter to you, claiming you lacked to represent or (mis)represented the Dalit Community and their hardships in the introduction?

3. What do you think is the main aim of Chandra in bringing forth the readers, the Nehru- Gandhi discord? What is the message that he was trying to convey to independent India and its folks about the worshipping of western culture?

4. What are your opinions on Roy’s claims that Gandhi was an absolute hypocrite during the entire journey of his political life? Do you believe she was too harsh on him with her criticism?

WEEK 2 (Georgie and Pat)

1. How do you read Gandhi’s thoughts on railways/travel (following the pandemic), the views on Doctors and healthcare (in line with the current NHS crisis), from our position in a more globalised world? Additionally, Ambedkar frequently mentions examples of (religious) governance from other countries. What does this reveal of his view on the more globalised world?

2. How do patriarchy and postcoloniality combine in Gandhi? How does Gandhi’s choice of words affect his argument? How does Ambedkar’s language impact his argument?

3. Is there anything that Gandhi and Ambedkar agreed on? Did their approaches/methods of change carry any similarity? Aside from that, would Gandhi agree with Ambedkar that social reform is necessary for political reform?

4. How important is the form of both texts in promoting their views? What are your thoughts on the dialogical approach of Hind Swaraj?