Cannibalising the Decolonial or Decolonising Cannibalism?

Organizers: Giuseppe Cocco (UFRJ, Brazil) & Raluca Soreanu (University of Essex, UK)


This is an international interdisciplinary seminar bringing together social and political theorists, psychosocial theorists, psychoanalysts, anthropologists, cultural theorists and artists to engage with contemporary paradoxes, impasses and possibilities around the question of the decolonial. The seminar starts from the figure of the cannibal, as a figure to think with, so as to generate new interrogations on the decolonial. We ask what it means to decolonise cannibalism itself. We also ask whether and in which ways the decolonial itself is being cannibalised. We approach a variety of ‘sites’ in our investigations, ranging from social and political movements, to artworks, to the psychoanalytic consulting room.

Background: The Decolonial. Paradoxes, Impasses and Possibilities.

The diffusion of the ‘decolonial’ perspective occurred at the same time as the devaluation of narratives of miscegenation. The latter is reduced to the status of a colonial dispositif: a policy of whitening black populations. At the same time, the notion of “race” is reaffirmed as paradoxically indispensable to the struggle against racism.

Decolonial narratives are thus traversed by a series of ambivalences. On the one hand, by mobilizing the notion of coloniality, they can serve to indicate that the States born of decolonization are the agents of an internal colonization, which destroys cultural and natural diversity and perpetuates – in the various forms of racism – the legacy of slavery. On the other hand, they can be used within a sovereignist horizon and thus legitimize projects of national development, the same ones that clashed with the movements that decoloniality would like to bear the flag for. A second ambivalence follows: while decolonial struggles diagonally cut across social relations of power and knowledge, the decolonial narrative produces vertical and identity-based oppositions: South and North, the West and the Rest, in a world composed of sets that are so homogeneous as the ‘civilizations’ what Samuel Huntington predicted would clash.

The colonial condition thus runs the risk of becoming pure determination of relations of domination and, therefore, of a condition of oppression to which the struggles of the ‘oppressed’ would respond. In this dialectical determination of the struggles, the trap is that of the return of a homogenizing essentialism. As always, the temptation to respond to the homogenizing logic of domination by an excessive offer of identity may seem like an effective shortcut, but it always leads us to two impasses: when it doesn’t work, the illusion of a simplification of the conditions of mobilization evaporates in the face of the amplification of fragmentation it determines; when it “works”, it is even worse: it ends up producing relations of domination that even more closed than the ones we wanted to decolonize.

This seminar proposes to organize the debate around these paradoxes, impasses and possibilities.

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