Orfalea Center Thematic Research Cluster

Resistance, Autonomy, Liberation

Section Three: Uncovering the Archives of Self-Liberation

Ed Greevy's Photograph Collection

Dominant media organizations and politicians and even certain academics tend to depict Africa as a continent of tribes riven by ancient conflicts that inhibit “development.” This primer from scholars associated with the Africa Policy Information Center interrogates this homogenizing, primitivist, ahistorical, and neocolonial depiction. It contends that the Eurowestern notion of tribe does not translate into many African communal and social contexts and that many apparently “tribal” conflicts are rooted in colonial divisions introduced within the past two centuries, demanding sensitivity, accuracy, and reflexivity from students, scholars, and all other commentators.

In this short chapter, Ranajit Guha frames a number of key problematics and terms within the field of subaltern studies. He shows how both colonial and postcolonial nationalist historical writing has failed to acknowledge “the politics of the people,” a relatively autonomous domain defined by the horizontal mobilization of its heterogeneous inhabitants. Guha posits that any critical postcolonial historiography must reckon with the co-existence and interaction of the elite and non-elite (or “subaltern”) spheres of existence.

“From the vantage point of the colonized,” states Māori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith at the start of this landmark methodological work, “the term ‘research’ is inextricably linked to European imperialism and colonialism.” Tuhiwai Smith develops this argument in the first half of this text, demonstrating how the regimes of knowledge developed by fields like anthropology have reinforced imperial and colonial power to the consummate disadvantage of Indigenous populations across the Global South / East. In the second half, she maps the contours of an Indigenous research agenda, outlining twenty five projects–from renaming colonial spaces to envisioning Indigenous futures–that researchers can conduct with the Indigenous populations that they engage for the sake of their self-liberation. 

This vital reference work addresses the failure of mainstream research to engage with anarchism, presenting a range of perspectives on how researchers can employ anarchist analytics and methods in a variety of disciplines. Saul Newman challenges conventional political science and repositions the state as an agent of war upon any given society; Uri Gordon proposes that participant observation should establish a horizontal dialogue between researchers and their interlocutors that allows the former to analyze and strengthen transformative movements; and Süreyyya Evren similarly calls for a global, horizontal, network-based reconceptualization of history to account for the worldwide proliferation of anti-authoritarian politics. This compendium concludes with a glossary of key anarchist terms and an annotated bibliography of recommended further reading.

This edited volume seeks to dispel the common misconception that academics must leave their politics at the door if they are to function effectively within the academy, instead asserting that “research and political engagement can be mutually enriching.” Contributors show how activist-scholarship can be methodologically rigorous and theoretically innovative, drawing verifiable conclusions that subvert the privilege and power imbued by academia through collaboration between academics and their non-academic interlocutors. As the title of this text suggests, it grapples at length with the limitations and contradictions inherent in political engagement from within the corporatized university, considering the value of reforms to this institution while also emphasizing revolutionary intellectual and political possibilities beyond its boundaries.

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