Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sam Aranke: Anti-Authoritarians and Decolonizing the Everyday

Anti-Authoritarians and Decolonizing the Everyday
by Sam Aranke
Friendly Fire Collective


It was both the economic and the cultural that determined the colonial project. Colonialism refers to a historical moment where the “Oriental-European relationship was determined by an unstoppable European expansion in search of markets, resources, and colonies, and finally because Orientalism had accomplished its self-metamorphosis from a scholarly discourse to an imperial institution” . The cultural products that came out of this time crystallized into forms of knowledge that we rely on today—we can only think of the books we are required to read in school like Jane Eyre, the historical figures we are required to know like Christopher Columbus, or the references we have imbedded in our too-common cultural history (“the sun never sets on the British Empire”). This is the living residue of a colonial past that seems so far removed from our everyday experiences; but in reality, we are surrounded by these cultural legacies.

Thinking in terms of the postcolonial allows us to think through “difference” in a more productive way. Postcolonial scholarship often details the complexities of difference. Often this type of scholarship details the histories that we wish to ignore: from the complicated collaboration between native elite and colonial magistrates to the conflicted desire of many colonized subjects to imitate those that oppressed them. Or, (dare I say it), they even criticize Third World Liberation movements and figures, many of whom we often romanticize within our own movements. We can only think of Frantz Fanon in his early writings during decolonization in French-controlled Algeria or the more contemporary work of the Subaltern Studies Collective around British Colonialism in India. They demand that we critically negotiate between the history of the past and the history of the present. They ask for a more critical engagement with history—one that complicates our desires to simplify the totality of history in order to look at difference within our communities in a more generative way.

This is where anti-authoritarians come in. A struggle against hierarchy and capitalism is a struggle that accounts for these colonial legacies within our current postcolonial moment. In order to really dismantle the role of authority in our society, we have to look both internally, within ourselves, and externally, within our communities. “Difference” within our communities becomes more generative and nuanced, it is not a simple glossing of race, gender, sexuality, etc. Here, I mean that the way we even talk about difference within our political work needs to do two difficult tasks at once: 1) deconstruct the ways in which these differences are stabilized and 2) creating accountability within our communities in order to ensure a space where anti-authoritarianism is even possible. It requires talking about difference differently. This means transparently talking about and maintaining the complexities of difference as a social construction. In many ways, this means giving up the comfort of silence. Sometimes, this also means giving up the comfort of difference in order to destabilize its power and give evidence of its colonial origins. If we start to think of our work as decolonizing the everyday, then we can begin to think about how we are all subject to the overwhelming presence of colonial and neocolonial domination.

A thoughtful engagement with postcolonial theory could potentially give us a more complicated framework to address anti-authoritarianism. By complicated, I don’t want to suggest that things aren’t confusing and complex already. We are bombarded daily with the complexities of the current global order and the positions that it forces us into. I just believe that framing our analysis within the narrative of “decolonizing the everyday” opens up an entire set of possibilities. This type of framing forces us to deal with the contradictions, complexities, and difficulties of our various desires, interests, and identities as anti authoritarians. These are questions we grapple with everyday.

What would antiwar organizing look like if it started talking about the Military Industrial Complex’s infiltration of our minds and bodies as well as its global violations around the world? What if we started to realize that the war is already home and has been vis-à-vis patriarchy, racism, and homophobia? Or, what if we connected these various sites of war through the framework of the everyday colonial encounters that the current dominant system forces us to swallow, internalize, and re-enact? An active anti-authoritarianism confronts these internal forces of colonization and actively connects their origins with the presence of external colonial forces. If we work to break down these hierarchies within our minds, bodies, and communities than we will be sure to decolonize our lives. It is the living presence of various colonial histories that attempts to repress this vision. Thinking in terms of postcoloniality allows us to work with our complexities in a constructive way. Decolonizing our lives is working towards an active vision for a new world.

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