Courses of Study 2018-2019 
    Mar 22, 2023  
Courses of Study 2018-2019 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

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ASRC 6350 - Modernity and Colonialism

Spring. 4 credits. Student option grading.

O. Taiwo.

This course assumes that the colonial enterprise is an integral part of the outward march of modernity Europe.  G.W.F. Hegel, one of the most important philosophers of the modern age, provides some theoretical support for this interpretation.  But the variety of colonialism that will be the object of our focus differs from that “classic” type illustrated by the historical experiences of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, or that of Greek city-states or Rome.  Needless to say, there are other forms of colonialism instantiated in Africa and Asia and internally within Europe, especially in central and eastern Europe, that we shall be referring to only in passing and for comparative purposes.  What we are interested in is the variety of colonialism that took roots in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean and the origins of which we can date to 1492 and its aftermath.  It is this colonialism that, on one hand, formed an integral element in the constitution of the discourse of modernity and, on the other, mediated the induction of the areas we are interested in into the discourse of modernity and its associated processes typified by “the West”.  Additionally, it is part of the self-understanding of colonialism and its ideologists that it was going to move the “natives” of the rest of the world to “civilization,” “modernity,” “the modern age,” and so on.  Of course, were one to see this movement as a unidirectional one from “the West” to “the Rest of Us” with the latter treated merely as a plaything of Western powers, it would be easy to abide the near total absence of the contributions of the Rest of Us to the discourse of modernity.  But were we to take seriously the bidirectional nature of the relationship between the West and the Rest of Us, especially in the deployment of agency on both sides of the divide, it becomes curious to see how routinely the interventions of the Rest of Us in the discourse of modernity are omitted from the narratives of the movement in Euro-America.  Although this has changed in recent times, especially given the prominence of Asian and Latin American-descended theorists in the discourse, the African inflections continue to be very much absent. One aim of this course is to reinsert this moment—the colonized—into the discourse of modernity and, simultaneously, show how colonialism, rather than being the vector for the dissemination of modernity and its principles in the colonies, actually subverted the transition to modernity in Africa, in particular, and in the rest of the world, in general.  A corollary aim will be achieved by considering the impact of this reinsertion on the accepted conceptualizations of modernity and on our understanding of contemporary transitions to and struggles for freedom and democracy in our world.

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