Center and Periphery: Marxism and Postcolonial Theory
Marxism and anti-colonialism were once deeply intertwined in national liberation and other movements, from Vietnam to Angola to Algeria and beyond. However, by the end of the 20th century, Marxist and other socialist thought often seemed dated in a world with a waning Soviet bloc and an emerging neoliberal consensus. Postcolonial theory, itself often in conversation with Marxist thought, offered new understandings of liberation and emancipation. Producing broad and diverse critical studies of colonialism and imperialism, postcolonial thought focused explicitly on the power relations between colonizers and colonized. Such domination is expressed in cultural, economic, and political terms, as well as in subjectivity itself. At its core, postcolonial theory proposes new grounds for “seeing” and “understanding” the world beyond “Western” categories. At the same time, postcolonial theory often rethinks and reimagines Marxism, filtering Marxism’s own theories of imperialism and colonization through anti- and post-colonial lenses. How should we understand the intersection of Marxist and postcolonial thought? How has Marxism been utilized and criticized by postcolonial thinkers, and to what extent do these traditions help us understand imperial and colonial relations as they exist today?
In this class, we will scrutinize key texts, theories, and concepts from Marxist authors (including Lenin, Luxemburg, and Gramsci) as well as anti- and postcolonial theorists (including Fanon, Said, and Spivak) to better understand these two traditions. As we proceed, we’ll examine not only specific modes and histories of domination, but also the challenge of crafting unity in diversity—i.e., unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation. What can we glean from these sometimes competing, sometimes complementary approaches as we think about imperialism, capital, and liberation in the 21st-century?
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
April 06 — April 27, 2021