Aram Ziai interview: Provincialisation of Europe
Aram Ziai interview: Provincialisation of Europe
You gave us a lecture on provincializing and a postcolonial theories and political science and international relations. What exactly is meant by provincializing Europe?
By provincializing Europe, we mean according Europe gained status of one province among others in the world. Because many concepts in social science have a Eurocentric origin, derive from European experiences, they derive from European worldviews and sometimes even from European ideologies but are used as universal concepts neglecting the experiences and the world views and the perceptions of non-western origin.
Ok, thank you. And the...well human rights are an important concept and for some natural rights. How does postcolonial approach...approaches human rights? Is it ok for people to call for human rights? To actually refer to human rights
Well, as postcolonial studies is not concerned with rejecting European concepts because they are European and as postcolonial approaches have also been dealing with the ways colonized people have well appropriated and transformed and used for own ends the concepts of the colonizers. Many postcolonial approaches would see no problem in adopting language of human rights. Other postcolonial approaches would in fact stress the point that the human rights as we know them in the universal declaration of human rights, well in fact, do have European bias and they were pointed the fact that concepts of rights or of decent humane behaviour are prevalent in all cultures and not only in the western culture and would dispute to universality of human rights by pointing to the fact that well...if a concept like this to be universal, we would have to have a discussion, well an intercultural debate on what in fact are universal rights; a debate which has not taken place. So those strict opponents of this concept would probably then dispute the universality of human rights, while of course have been wary not to be instrumentalized by the abusers of human rights.
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Ok, thank you. Well I want to also ask you, what postcolonial approach goes with continuities of colonization. There are many people who...well there are some people who claim, that colonialism had some positive impacts on the societies. How would you respond to these...well, critiques of the critiques of colonialism?
Well, I would respond with an analogy because at the moment I am doing research on German schoolbooks from postcolonial perspective and what strikes me is that in many schoolbooks we find just a position of the pros and cons of colonialism, the bad aspect of colonialism, the good aspects of colonialism in which the building of infrastructure is included, in which the building of hospitals is included and also... Numerous positive aspects of colonialism are being listed. Now in the representation of National Socialism in German schoolbooks you would never find such a thing. Why? Because it is deemed offensive towards the victims of National Socialism to list these positive effects of National Socialism as if there might be rational debate, whether the positive aspects might have outweigh the negative impact. Now in the area of colonialism such a juxtaposition of the pros and cons is obviously not deemed offensive towards the victims. So, we are dealing here with two different standards. While on the one hand in the context of National Socialism is been said well ... there have been so many brutal and negative aspects of the thing that we would not want to highlight its positive aspects. This is not the case colonialism and although European colonialism was a bloody endeavour in human history and has elicited a death toll unparalleled in human history we still from European perspective are prone to stress the positive aspects which might be perceived and is [sic] perceived by some of the victims of colonialism or the heirs of the victims of the colonialism to be very offensive as if, well as if the roads that have been build might outweigh the massacres that have been performed.
Thank you. And the final question. Imagine if you were to be head of the department, or head of a institute or maybe any other head…how would you start to decolonize the academia?
Well, I would start by changing the curricula. We have in fact still the situation that European social science – basically apart from the postcolonial studies departments – European social science is [sic] usually quite content with European social scientists and often neglects very interesting debates and theories that come from Latin-American or any other social science department. So this would be the first step, well to teach in political theory, not only Kant and Locke and Rousseau and not only Foucault and Giddens and Bourdieu. But to also teach Ashis Nandy and Dipesh Chakrabarty, to include Aimé Cesair and Franz Fanon and, well, to include all those thinkers of anticolonial movements which have often been neglected in debates of European social science. This would be the first starting point. The second point would be talking about the methodology to try to decolonize social science by slightly changing the methods that have been used so that those people in the south on which many European researchers do research upon are being threated less as objects who provide the data but are basically instrumentalized for the ends of the researcher and of the research and start treating them as coproduces of knowledge to establish some form dialogical research which would recognize contribution of those who are being researched upon to the process of knowledge production.
And I assume that third step would be the world revolution, right?
No the third step would then…well I think this is a dynamic process and I am pretty sure that once you do not grow up any longer with the perception that all relevant knowledge has been produced by Europeans and that all concepts you are using in social science are of course European concepts and that democracy and self-determination are European ideas, then things start to evolve by themselves and I think this process will unfold a certain dynamic that people will start to see not only research by also world differently and will start asking questions and start doing things differently. At least that is what I hope for.
Thank you very much.