Eurocentrism, the academy and social emancipation

07 August 2017 | Story Yusuf Omar. Photo Supplied.
Prof Vivek Chibber challenges ‘traditional’ theories about postcolonialism. He will deliver the VC’s Open Lecture at UCT on 14 August 2017.
Prof Vivek Chibber challenges ‘traditional’ theories about postcolonialism. He will deliver the VC’s Open Lecture at UCT on 14 August 2017.

Sociology guru Professor Vivek Chibber will be delivering the Vice-Chancellor’s Open Lecture at UCT on 14 August 2017. He will be offering a critique of postcolonial theory in a lecture titled “Eurocentrism, the Academy and Social Emancipation”. 

Chibber, who hails from India and whose life’s work has focused on interrogating analyses of colonialism and postcolonial theory, argues that in all postcolonial nations, the struggle to build a just and democratic order has had to contend with the parochialism of the colonial power’s intellectual frameworks.

The calls to “decolonise” the academy and to rid the social sciences and humanities, in particular, of their Eurocentric frame of reference stems from that premise, Chibber says.

“While the commitment to wrest free of Eurocentric biases and even to decolonise higher education is entirely laudable, it leaves open the question of what the content of new knowledge ought to be, and also the structure of new institutions,” he says.

“In this lecture I suggest that the only way to press forward with these goals, while still upholding democratic principles, is by embedding the critique of Eurocentrism in an egalitarian and humanistic framework.

“This means rejecting parochialism of any kind, including the nativism that is often presented as a counter to Eurocentrism. Indeed, nativist critiques often recreate the Eurocentrism they seek to displace.”

Chibber is the author of Locked in Place: State-Building and Late Industrialization in India (Princeton University Press, 2003), which won several awards, including the Barrington Moore, Jr. Prize from the American Sociological Association. He also wrote Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital (Verso, 2013). The debate that this book touched off is collected in The Debate on Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital (Verso, 2017).

The lecture takes place at 18:00 on Monday, 14 August, at the New Lecture Theatre on upper campus.

Please RSVP if you would like to attend...


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