Tata Institute of Social Sciences
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Lecture - 3, TISS Patna Centre's Seminar Series on Dialoguing between the 'Posts'


Nov. 29, 2019

Venue: Jagjivan Ram Institute of Parliamentary Study and Political Research, 10 Mangles Road (Veerchand Patel Road Area), Patna - 1

Lecture - 3: Seminar Series on Dialoguing between Postcolonial and Postsocialist Conditions


Postcolonialism, Marxism and Non-Western Thought: Reflections in the Wake of 20th Century Socialism

Speaker: Prof. Aditya Nigam

Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Society (CSDS), New Delhi



The basic argument of this paper will be towards the larger question of decolonization of thought and theory. I will argue that while the 20th century saw the process of decolonization proceed apace and many former colonies became independent, they continued to remain under the thrall of Western theory and philosophy, trying to become like the West in a short span of time. The two key areas in which this attempt to ‘catch up’ with the West and become like it was most evident were the economy and the state. Regardless of the specific histories of the former colonies, on the one hand, the newly independent postcolonial states sought to create a modern state that would reorder indigenous society in accordance with the idea of what constituted Progress; on the other hand, they pushed forward to rapidly build a capitalist economy which would be based on the complete decimation of earlier life-worlds – indigenous peoples, agrarian communities, artisanal production etc. Even so-called socialist economies only tried to catch up, basing themselves that a proper socialism could only be built upon a sound material basis provided by capitalism.

In my paper, I join issues with Marxist thought in general and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, primarily on the way capital/ism is theorized in the tradition and by Zizek himself as an ‘objective totality’ that envelops the whole world such that there is no ‘outside’ to it. I argue that it is fundamentally this mode of theorization that makes capitalism seem like the inescapable fate of all humanity. Increasingly, it is becoming clear in the theorizations by postcolonial/ decolonial thinkers that it is the European episteme that allows capitalism to be understood the way it is and that the only way of getting around the problem is of decolonizing thought itself and getting out of the thrall of this episteme.


About the Speaker

Aditya Nigam’s recent work has been concerned with the decolonization of social and political theory. He has earlier worked on ideological and discursive formations and their relationship to the emergence and constitution of political subjectivities. The engagement with discursive formations has led to the need for greater attentiveness to the actual thought-worlds and imaginations of social agents and the need to step outside theoretical frames provided by standard theory, derived primarily from Western experience.

Aditya Nigam has also been associated with a group of South Asian scholars from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India, working around the idea of the ‘post-national condition’.

He is the author of The Insurrection of Little Selves: The Crisis of Secular Nationalism in India (2006), Power and Contestation: India Since 1989, with Nivedita Menon (2007), After Utopia: Modernity and Socialism and the Postcolony (2010), and Desire Named Development(2011).


About the Seminar Series

TISS Patna has taken an initiative to start a series of dialogue on conjunctures of postcolonial and postsocialist conditions. As part of the process that started with a workshop by the same name in Belgrade in 2017 (https://dialoguingposts.wordpress.com/), this series intends to set an interdisciplinary research agenda in social science with methodological innovations at the core of which is the conjuncture of the two conditions. The goal is to demonstrate that political economy, social movements, and governance in these two conditions are actually are constitutive of contemporary global capitalism. The idea of this dialogue is to create a research collective of academics, early researchers, doctoral students, public intellectuals, practitioners and others that can collaborate and contribute in a systematic exploration, research, and radical postcolonial-postsocialist knowledge production.

The earlier speakers under the series were Dr. Kasia Narkowicz, University of Gloucestershire and Professor Madina Tlostanova, Linkoping University.

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