Gurminder Bhambra on "In the beginning all the world was America’: Dispossession, Justice, and Social Science"
Gurminder Bhambra will have a talk on "In the beginning all the world was America’: Dispossession, Justice, and Social Science".
In this talk I propose that justice in the present requires taking into account the historical processes of exclusion and domination that have come to configure our contemporary time. This further requires us to understand how our social scientific categories and frameworks are bound up in equivalent processes. I argue that the possessive individualism that underlies modern claims to justice is not formed in capitalist relations of production, but in processes of dispossession and settler colonialism. The dispossession associated with the enclosure movement in Europe generated migration to the ‘New World’ that established new forms of domination there. European social thought – normative and explanatory – had to confront how rights claimed for one group (Europeans) involved the dispossession of another (indigenous peoples). For Europeans in the early modern period, this was done by representing travelling across space as travelling back in time. Dispossession was thus incorporated into a stadial theory of progress that would eventually reincorporate those initially excluded, while continuing to deny their agency and understanding of rights differently grounded. This exclusionary logic continues to inform contemporary social scientific understandings and is in urgent need of transformation.
About Gurminder K Bhambra
Gurminder K Bhambra is Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies in the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex. Previously, she was Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick and also Guest Professor of Sociology and History at the Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, Linnaeus University, Sweden (2016-18). In March 2017, she was Visiting Professor at EHESS, Paris; for the academic year 2014-15, she was Visiting Fellow in the Department of Sociology, Princeton University and Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. She has also held a Visiting Position at the Department of Sociology, University of Brasilia, Brazil and is affiliated with REMESO, Linköping University, Sweden.
Her first monograph, Rethinking Modernity: Postcolonialism and the Sociological Imagination (Palgrave, 2007), won the 2008 Philip Abrams Memorial Prize for best first book in sociology. It addressed how, within sociological understandings of modernity, the experiences and claims of non-European ‘others’ have been rendered invisible to the standard narratives and analytical frameworks of sociology. In challenging the dominant, Eurocentred accounts of the emergence and development of modernity, she has put forward an argument for the recognition of ‘connected histories’ in the reconstruction of historical sociology at a global level. This argument for a global historical sociology can be found in her second book, Connected Sociologies(Bloomsbury, 2014), which is open access and free to read at this link.
She has co-edited five collections, Silencing Human Rights (with Robbie Shilliam, Palgrave, 2009); 1968 in Retrospect (with Ipek Demir, Palgrave, 2009); African Athena (with Daniel Orrells and Tessa Roynon, OUP, 2011), and European Cosmopolitanisms (with John Narayan, Routledge, 2017), and forthcoming in August 2018, Decolonising the University (with Dalia Gebrial and Kerem Nisancioglu, Pluto Press). She has also organised special issues of the following journals: Sociology (Global Futures and Epistemologies of the South: New Challenges for Sociology, with Prof Boaventura de Sousa Santos) Current Sociology (on Knowledge Production in Global Context: Power and Coloniality); Journal of Historical Sociology (on Contesting Imperial Epistemologies, and on Translation and the Challenge of Interdisciplinarity); Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies (on Edward Said).