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Race, Amnesia, and the Education of International Relations.

by Sankaran Krishna
Sankaran Krishna (*)
Aren't all cultures and civilizations just screens which men have used to divide themselves, to put between that part
o themselves which they are araid o and that part o themselves they want to preserve!
"ichard #ri$ht
%his article ar$ues that the discipline o international relations was and is predicated on a systematic politics o
or$ettin$, a willul amnesia, on the &uestion o race' (istorically, the emer$ence o a modern, territorially soverei$n
state system in )urope was coterminous with, and indissociable rom, the $enocide o the indi$enous peoples o the
*new* world, the enslavement o the natives o the Arican continent, and the colonization o the societies o Asia'
Speciically, + will ar$ue that the discipline o international relations maintains its ideolo$ical coherence via two
crucial strate$ies o containment that normalize the coeval emer$ence o modern soverei$nty and dispossession on a
$lobal scale, these strate$ies are *abstraction* and *redemption'* +n this article, + lesh out the ar$ument vis-a-vis
*abstraction*. or, reasons o space, however, + can have no more than an adumbrated discussion o *redemption'*
/irst, +" discourse's valorization, indeed etishization, o abstraction is premised on a desire to escape history, to
eace the violence, $enocide, and thet that marked the encounter between the rest and the #est in the post-
0olumbian era' Abstraction, usually presented as the desire o the discipline to en$a$e in theory-buildin$ rather than
in descriptive or historical analysis, is a screen that simultaneously rationalizes and elides the details o these
encounters' 1y encoura$in$ students to display their virtuosity in abstraction, the discipline brackets &uestions o
thet o land, violence, and slavery--the three processes that have historically underlain the une&ual $lobal order we
now ind ourselves in' 2verattention to these details is disciplined by proessional practices that work as taboo,
such-and-such an approach is deemed too historical or descriptive. that student is not ade&uately theoretical and
conse&uently is lackin$ in intellectual ri$or. so-and-so mi$ht be better o specializin$ in com parative politics or
history or anthropolo$y. such-and-such a &uestion does not have any direct policy relevance. and so on'
A second strate$y o containment in +" discourse is the idea o deerred redemption' %his operates by an eternal
deerment o the possibility o overcomin$ the alienation o international society that commenced in 3456' #hile
*realistically* such overcomin$ is re$arded as well-ni$h impossible, its promise serves as the principle by which
contemporary and historical violence and ine&uality can be justiied and lived with' "edemptive strate$ies o
containment are relected in a wide variety o +" discourses, Kant's idea o perpetual peace as conse&uent upon
international war and dispersion. the possibility o an international community epitomized in or$anizations such as
the 7nited 8ations. the promise o international socialism. the discourse o capitalist modernization on the
"ostowian model. and more recently, the *end o history* under the re$ime o $lobalization' All these strate$ies
hin$e on the prospect o deerred redemption, the present is inscribed as a transitional phase whose violent and
une&ual cha racter is e9piated on the altar o that which is to come'
+n the irst section o my article, + illustrate an e9emplary act o abstraction that is central to the sel-construction o
the discipline o international relations--the depiction o nineteenth-century )urope as a paciic zone (the (undred
:ears' ;eace) orchestrated by diplomatic virtuosity' + oer a brie readin$ o this same century rom the vanta$e o
outside the imperium to illustrate the possibilities o contrapuntal readin$s o international-relations discourse' +n
this section, + urther elaborate what + mean by *strate$ies o containment* and how they have worked to constitute
+" discourse as a *political unconscious'* +n the second section o the article, + e9amine three distinct encounters
between the rest and the #est' +n each o these, abstraction works as a strate$y o containment to discipline what is
considered le$itimately within the purview o *proper* +" discourse and what ou$ht to be let on the cuttin$-room
loor' +n each instance, + ar$ue that the etish or abstraction has to be under stood as deeply political and
depoliticizin$' + irst e9amine the narration o a i$ure such as (u$o <rotius as a oundin$ ather within the
$enealo$y o international relations and international law' + conte9tualize the canonization o <rotius by placin$ it in
dialo$ue with the colonization o Arica and the consolidation o the slave trade across the black Atlantic' 8e9t, +
consider the encounter between the Spanish and the =e9icans in the mid-si9teenth century that consolidated a
national ima$inary in the case o Spain and urther propelled the classiication o the =e9icans as a people without
history and deservin$ o $enocide, slavery, and colonialism' /inally, + look at the encounter between the 1ritish and
the +ndians in the nineteenth century to show how abstraction serves as the means to recuperate colonialism and
con&uest within liberal discourse--how and why the universalism o )nli$htenment reedoms could come to
constitute the essence o 1ritish sel-understandin$ even as they stopped short o in ormin$ their conduct in the
colonies' %hese contrapuntal readin$s across three encounters illustrate how some o the core conceptual cate$ories
in +" discourse were produced throu$h processes o abstraction'
+ conclude the article with some thou$hts about the implications o such a contrapuntal analysis or the *education o
international relations*. that is, how it mi$ht and should impact on our peda$o$y as practitioners o somethin$ called
*+" discourse'* (3)
1eore proceedin$, + ou$ht to clariy two central conceptual themes that recur in this article, abstraction and
contrapuntality' + reco$nize abstraction as an inescapable analytical device that makes knowled$e practices possible
in the irst place--that without strate$ies o abstraction the ininity o reality would overwhelm us' :et abstraction is
never innocent o power, the precise strate$ies and methods o abstraction in each instance decide what aspects o a
limitless reality are brou$ht into sharp ocus and what aspects are, literally, let out o the picture' +n related ways,
both =ichel /oucault and =artin (eide$$er sensitize us to this act' +n the case o (eide$$er, drawin$ on a (ellenic
and tra$ic tradition o interpretation, he consistently ore$rounds the act that every eort at knowled$e is ineably
accompanied by a simultaneous and unavoidable concealment o the plenitude o bein$ rom which that which is
sou$ht to be understood is *disclosed'* %he process o knowled$e production is rom the very outset re$arded as the
lip side o a process o concealment and unknowin$' Amon$ other thin$s, this implies that whether one is or or
a$ainst abstraction is an irrelevant &uestion since it is an unavoidable moment in the constitution o knowled$e'
"ather, one ou$ht to be ever vi$ilant about what it is that abstraction simultaneously conceals as it reveals, and
urther that one $ive up the illusion that our devices o abstraction can ever $ive us a inal and omniscient purchase
on reality' +n similar vein, /oucault's injunctions on the imbricated character o power and knowled$e may be read
as a reminder that the precise nature o our abstractions hin$es on the productive ends toward which they are
deployed--that is, that *reality* always is already an impositional interpretation' +n essence, both these writers enjoin
us to be aware o the inevitability o abstraction, but also that it has an intimate and un-innocent relationship to
power' (6)
+n his ma$isterial 0ulture and +mperialism, )dward Said oers at least three closely interrelated deinitions o what
he means by *contrapuntal* analysis' (>) (e avers that, *by lookin$ at dierent e9periences contrapuntally, as
makin$ up a set o''' intertwined and overlappin$ histories, ?one can@ ''' try to ormulate an alternative both to a
politics o blame and to the even more destructive politics o conrontation and hostility* (p' 3A)' )laboratin$, Said
su$$ests *we must be able to think throu$h and interpret to$ether e9periences that are discrepant, each with its
particular a$enda and pace o development, its own internal ormations, its internal coherence and system o
e9ternal relationships, all o them coe9istin$ and interactin$ with others* (p' >6)' /urther, that one ou$ht to have *a
simultaneous awareness o both o the metropolitan history that is narrated and o those other histories a$ainst which
(and to$ether with which) the dominatin$ discourse acts* (p' B3)'
2ne can scarcely conceive o a discipline more hostile to contrapuntality than mainstream +" discourse' "estin$ as it
does on the nonne$otiable and immense ediice o a ra$mentin$ device called *soverei$nty,* the discipline emer$es
rom and is oriented to the reproduction o an alienated way o bein$' %o understand why and how +" discourse has
evolved the way it has, how it produces an amnesia on the &uestion o race throu$h the device o abstraction, one
has to resta$e, contrapuntally, the encounters between the #est and the rest, encounters that produced the ori$inary
alienation that + believe inau$urated the modern (post-0olumbian) world and necessitated the discipline o +" to
suture it' (4) %he essence o what it means to be the *#est* or *+ndia* or *Arica* or *American* was produced
coevally and dialectically durin$ these modern times' 0ontrapuntality serves as the device throu$h which to
historicize the undamental epistemic cate$ories (soverei$nty, nation, property, state) o an +" discourse that pr
ivile$es the priority and eternal character o its conceptual cate$ories throu$h its devices o abstraction' (B)
Abstraction as a Strate$y o 0ontainment in +" Ciscourse
#hen still a newcomer to the discipline o international relations, + ound the dominant characterization o the
nineteenth-century *world* as *the (undred :ears' ;eace* maintained by the 0oncert o )urope somewhat balin$'
%o describe the period rom 3A3B to 3534 as *peaceul* in any sense o that term seemed astoundin$ to anyone
amiliar with the history o empire' 0onsider the ollowin$ incomplete list o wars, insurrections, mutinies,
con&uests, and territorial e9pansions en$a$ed in by the 1ritish or just part o the nineteenth century, (D)
3A>5-46 2pium #ars in 0hina
3A4Es #ars a$ainst South Arican Kairs, 8ew Fealand =aoris, con&uest o ;unjab
3AB4-BD 0rimean #ar
3AB4 0on&uest o Gower 1urma
3ABD-DE Second 0hina #ar
3ABH Attack on ;ersia
3ABH-BA Suppression o +ndian "evoltI=utiny
3ABD <overnor )yre case in Jamaica
3ADD Abyssinian e9pedition
3AHE "epulse o /enian e9pansion in 0anada
3AH3 =aori resistance destroyed
3AH4 Cecisive campai$n a$ainst the Ashanti in #est Arica
3AA6 0on&uest o )$ypt
%he list does not include the periods 3A3B-3A>5 or 3AA6-3534, nor any o similar activities en$a$ed in by )uropean
powers other than the 1ritish, such as /rance, <ermany, Spain, ;ortu$al, +taly, and 1el$ium' +n thinkin$ o what it is
that allows these numerous and violent encounters between dierent peoples to all out o the history o
international relations, it becomes obvious that a certain principle o abstraction is at work here, centerin$ on the
concept o *soverei$nty'* #ars are deined e9clusively as the acts o soverei$n powers on each other in a tradition
that $oes back a lon$ way in +" discourse, whereas the impressive list above constitutes merely encounters between
various orms o &uasi states, native principalities, warlords, tribes, territories, and puppet re$imes, on the one hand,
and a soverei$n state, on the other' Such encounters can hence be e9cised rom the $enealo$y o international
relations' %hus, the "evolt o 3ABH that swept across northern +ndia, resulted in tens o thousands o deaths, and at
one point looked likely to brin$ a orcible end to the 1ritish "aj there, does not count, it is not between two settled
soverei$n bounded entities that mutually reco$nize each other as authentic states' "ather, it is seen as a hiccup in the
paciication o empire, a mere *=utiny* as it came to be called, a *domestic* issue that is by its very deinition
incapable o alterin$ the (undred :ears' ;eace'
%he operation o this abstraction o soverei$nty to deny the bloody history o the nineteenth century is no aberration'
%he same soverei$n deinition o *war* inorms J' Cavid Sin$er's voluminous data-$atherin$ enterprise on conlict.
it underlies the eort by 1ueno de =es&uita to assess the rational utility calculations o war initiators. it allowed
"udy "ummell to claim that *democracies* rarely, i ever, initiate wars with each other or produce $enocides. and
or still others to claim (a$ainst all the evidence o the incredibly san$uinary twentieth century) that the 0old #ar
brou$ht stability and peace to the world order' (H) 1y detly deinin$ international as the encounter between
soverei$n states, much o a violent world history is instantly sanitized' A recent study by 1ernard 8ietschmann inds
that o the 36E wars that were on$oin$ in 35AH, only 4 were between soverei$n states, and the vast majority o
insur$encies and civil wars were unnoticed because *the media and academia are anchored in the stat e' %heir
tendency is to consider stru$$les a$ainst the state to be ille$itimate or invisible' ' ' ' %hey are hidden rom view
because the i$htin$ is a$ainst peoples and countries that are oten not even on the map'* (A) Amon$ other thin$s,
what this soverei$ntist abstraction accomplishes is simple, the loss o lives durin$ encounters between states and
nonsoverei$n entities is o no conse&uence' +t needs to be mentioned that the overwhelmin$ number o these
casualties were either brown or black, while soverei$nty remained lily-white' %he overwhelmin$ discursive lo$ic o
the discipline is oriented toward securin$ the state a$ainst any other orms o belon$in$' (5)
1eore turnin$ to the three contrapuntal readin$s o encounters that have consolidated the modern underpinnin$s o
+" discourse throu$h abstraction, + outline what + mean by *strate$ies o containment'* %his section is critical to
understandin$ the very nature o contemporary +" discourse, its characteristic an9ieties and obsessions, and the
reasons why it is a &uintessentially *white* discipline constructed around an amnesia on the &uestion o race'
+" discourse's valorization and etishization o *theory* becomes more comprehensible as a *strate$y o
containment,* to use /redric Jameson's term rom his %he ;olitical 7nconscious' (3E) /or Jameson, a strate$y o
containment allows the wielders o a body o interpretive work to *project the illusion that their readin$s are
somehow complete and sel-suicient* (p' 3E)' #ith a sharper political ed$e, he urther deines strate$ies o
containment as a process that *allows what can be thou$ht to seem internally coherent in its own terms, while
repressin$ the unthinkable ' ' ' which lies beyond its boundaries* (p' B>)' 2r, clearer still, a strate$y o containment is
a means at once o denyin$ those intolerable contradictions that lie hidden beneath the social surace, as intolerable
as that 8ecessity that $ives rise to relations o domination in human society, and o constructin$ on the very $round
cleared by such denial a substitute truth that renders e9istence at least partly bearable' (33)
+n Jameson's *strate$y o containment,* one can discern clear echoes o (eide$$er's idea o knowled$e as the
simultaneous act o disclosureIconcealment' /ounded as it is on discourses that justiied, abstracted, and rationalized
the $enocide o the populations o the so-called new world, the enslavement o Aricans, and colonization o the
Asians, the discipline o +" is one $iant strate$y o containment, *a substitute truth that renders e9istence at least
partly bearable'* +t is also then a &uintessentially white discipline' +t is not that race disappears rom +". it is rather
that race serves as the crucial epistemic silence around which the discipline is written and coheres' %hat which is
made to appear in +" discourse is that which conceals the silent presence o race' +ncidentally, rom such a view,
postcolonial +" is an o9ymoron--a contradiction in terms' %o decolonize +" is to deschool onesel rom the discipline
in its current dominant maniestations, to remember international relations, one needs to or$et +"'
%he disciplinin$ moves within the peda$o$y o +"--the taboo a$ainst overly historical and descriptive narratives. the
etish or &uantitative analyses that compress centuries o contested historical narratives into eviscerated numbers.
the reduction o socially sentient human bein$s into rational utility-ma9imizers. the preerence or problem-solvin$
theory (in the $uise o policy relevance) rather than or critical or $enealo$ical theory. the putative anarchy o the
system o nation-states that discredits possibilities o ima$inin$ non-national ways o bein$. the hypermasculine
tetchiness and insecurity on &uestions o $ender, andro$yny, and &ueer identity. and, most si$niicantly, the elision
o themes such as the thet o land, racism, slavery, and colonialism can be collectively understood as a series o
e9traordinarily eective moves that preserve the ideolo$y o +" discourse'
;ressin$ on with Jameson, he makes a point o some si$niicance or +" discourse when he notes that *strate$ies o
containment are not only modes o e9clusion. they can also take the orm o repression in some stricter (e$elian
sense o the persistence o the older repressed content beneath the later ormalized surace'* (36) + ar$ue
peremptorily here and now that the obsessive an9iety displayed by +" discourse on issues such as terrorism, third-
world immi$ration, spread o inectious diseases such as A+CS or the )bola virus, ille$al dru$s, or reu$ees, is the
return o the repressed' %he ideolo$y o +" discourse, its $othic apparitions, premised as they are on an ori$inary
alienation and estran$ement between a *civilized* #est and a dan$erous, incomprehensible, and barbaric *rest,* is
unable to repress the entailments o that alienation throu$h its multiple strate$ies o containment--they resurace as
+" $othic, perhaps the dominant literary $enre in the discipline' %hey return to haunt the habitus o a disc ipline
destined never to be at peace with itsel because its ori$ins and reproduction owes to a process o abstraction that
represses the violent preconditions o its very locus o enunciation' (3>)
+ am conse&uently ar$uin$ that the very oundations o +" discourse should be interpreted as an attempt at
overcomin$ an ori$inary alienation that clets humanity with the discovery o the Americas by 0olumbus in 3456
and the slavery that accelerates thereater' %he encounter with the *other* constituted both the sel o )urope rom
this point in time and space and the steady estran$ement o the world thereater into an enclosed zone that reserved
or itsel the attributes o civilization, culture, reli$iosity, science, rationality, private property, and humanity, and
attributed to the other the precise opposites--barbarity, a lack o history, superstition, lack o private property, and
ineriority' +t is perhaps unsurprisin$ that this ori$inary alienation, an alienation that $oes to the very heart o the
modern condition, is sou$ht to be ener$etically overcome by the creation and sustenance o a discipline that
e9empliies the alienation, and throu$h its devices o abstraction seeks both e9piation and transc endence' %o
understand international relations, then, seek out that which +" discourse represses, hides, elides, conceals, and
prematurely closes o as avenues or in&uiry' As %oni =orrison has it on the impact o this ori$inary alienation on
the content o modernity,
=odern lie be$ins with slavery' ''' Slavery broke the world in hal, it broke it in every way' +t broke )urope' +t made
them into somethin$ else, it made them slave masters, it made them crazy' :ou can't do that or hundreds o years
and it not take a toll' %hey had to dehumanize, not just the slaves but themselves' %hey had to reconstruct everythin$
in order to make that system appear true' +t made everythin$ in world war two possible' +t made world war one
necessary' "acism is the word we use to encompass all this' (34)
;rimal )ncounters, 0ontrapuntal "eadin$s Across %hree 0ontinents
+n this section, + demonstrate how some o the critical conceptual buildin$ blocks o +" discourse--soverei$nty,
property, nationness, and international law, to mention some--were all emer$ent in the encounter between the #est
and the third world' "ather than bein$ timeless &ualities embodied in )urope prior to contact, concepts such as
property and soverei$nty ac&uired their particular valences durin$ and as a conse&uence o the need to both
dierentiate and privile$e )urope in contrast to its other' /urther, to put it rather bluntly, they enable the thet o
lands and the annihilation o the other' Since each o the encounters e9amined across the continents o Arica, Gatin
America, and Asia is a vast terrain o relationships over time, + have chosen to ocus on slivers that hi$hli$ht the
power o abstraction in empowerin$ the colonizer in its relations with the colonized'
<rotius in Arica
/or +" discourse, (u$o <rotius is a ounder o international law and a conservative supporter o absolutism in the
atermath o the %hirty :ears' #ar' (e is re$arded as havin$ authored some o the most inluential tracts in the
evolution o the discipline o international law--on the reedom o the seas, separation o church and state, the ri$ht
to ac&uisition o discovered properties, and on just war' %he balance and moderation o his works have conse&uently
attached his name to a paradi$m that attempts the melioration o =achiavellian realpolitik with Kantian cooperation'
%he ima$e o <rotius in the disciplinary lore is that o a universalist and abstract thinker, he is appropriated purely
intellectually, as an impartial lo$ician and rule maker or an emer$ent order o nation-states in )urope, whose
pathbreakin$ work ri$htly serves as the oundation or the evolution o international law over the centuries
thereater' %he world that allows or such an inscription o <rotius is one that be$ins and ends with )urope and its
interstate rivalries' Get us turn to how a contrapuntal approach to world politics produces a rather dierently
inlected <rotius' %he dierence hi$hli$hts the need to rewrite the conceptual buildin$ blocks o +" discourse
(soverei$nty, territoriality, security, the nation-state) and its major i$ures--includin$ <rotius--in terms o their
conjoined ori$ins in the colonial encounter, and o the ways in which )urope's dealin$s with non-)uropeans
critically inormed and inluenced the content o such terms and people' Siba <rovo$ui points out in impressive deta
il that most o <rotius's work worked irstly to empower the Cutch in their ar$uments and battles with the Spanish
and the ;ortu$uese over the ri$hts to trade with the colonies, both in Asia and Arica, as well as with the 8ew #orld.
and secondly, it worked to coalesce an incipient )urope a$ainst the *other*--variously deined as the +slamic =iddle
)ast, the despotic Asians, the propertyless +ndians o the 8ew #orld, and the slaves o Arica' (3D) (e shows that
<rotius's inluential =are Giberum, the renowned tract on the reedom o the seas, was occasioned by the Cutch
)ast +ndia 0ompany's desire to han$ on to a ;ortu$uese $alleon captured by them in the Straits o =alacca' (%o be
clear, <rotius was hired by the Cutch )ast +ndia 0ompany to write this tract') %his occurred in the conte9t o the
Cutch rebellin$ rom under Spanish he$emony and seekin$ to enlar$e their share o colonial trade durin$ the decline
o the Spanish and ;ortu$uese empires' Similarly, the incipient secularization o <rotius's ar$uments a$ainst the
pope's whose various edicts and bulls had avored Spain and ;ortu$al has to be conte9tualized a$ainst a risin$ Cutch
economy that was predictably antimercantilist' As <rovo$ui notes, his ?<rotius's@ deense o the relative autonomy
o Asians was not a maniestation o his concern or their ri$ht to soverei$nty' "ather, it was a sprin$board rom
which to reject the papal arbitration that had $ranted e9clusive ri$hts over portions o the $lobe to Spain and
;ortu$al' <rotius's central concern was the immediate eects o the 345> papal bulls on the emer$in$ power o the
8etherlands' +ndeed, Spanish and ;ortu$uese privile$es stood in the way o the development o Cutch commerce
and navi$ation' (3H)
%he key step in the canonization o the work o <rotius within the ield o international relations, the step that
anoints him as a ounder o modern international law, is an act o abstraction. that is, to shear the theoretical
principles o his various works away rom the historical conte9ts within which they emer$ed, the purposes they were
meant to serve, the interests they were urtherin$, the speciic peoples the were simultaneously dispossessin$ and
empowerin$, and the acts o epistemic and physical violence that they set in motion' Abstraction in this sense, is to
denude a historical process o its sociality and instead to reiy it into disembodied principles o chan$e and evolution
<rovo$ui notes in a trenchant summary,
+ contend that the modern law o nations has been proposed by a select $roup o nations, not as the ethical basis o a
universal order, but as a means to he$emony' As a result, international law has been composed o morally deicient
and unrelated, albeit complementary, principles and norms' %he le$al provisions that have applied to non-)uropeans
have been culturally speciic, enablin$ )urope to undermine the other's subjectivity and soverei$nty in the
international order''''=ost ?#estern theorists@ have omitted the importance o non-)uropean alterity to the structures
and hierarchies o international law' /rom the mid-3Dth century onward, the relationship between )uropean powers
and non-)uropeans was constructed upon the twin principles o either denyin$ or suppressin$ the subjectivity o the
latter' %hese principles maniested themselves in two related developments, the diminution o the juridical capacity
o the other, a necessary condition or #estern he$emony. and the institution o e9traterritoriality, that is, the
application o #estern laws outside o )urope' ''' Althou$h the #est has proclaimed the universality o the
principles o international law (e'$', liberty, ree trade, and property ri$hts), #estern pra9is has e9cluded the other
rom e&ual participation in the international order' %his pra9is has also $enerated jurisprudence, that is le$al
doctrines and juridical idioms' %he ormulation o these doctrines and the determination o these idioms have
mirrored historical sensitivities and the ethos o their times' =odern western jurisprudence has endorsed or
condoned,, but in either case perpetuated, the violent e9clusion o the other' (3A)
#estern abstraction in the discourse o international law worked not merely to ra$ment the other, deny it its
subjectivity and speciicity, and justiy the appropriation o its lands, the same process o abstraction also worked to
consolidate )urope and to produce the *#est* as a cate$ory' A$ain, <rovo$ui,
Curin$ the early phase o Cutch he$emony, <rotius built on the ri$ht o booty, unilateral appropriation, sel-deense,
and retribution to develop speciic rules that protected Cutch interests and encoura$ed 0hristians to en$a$e in
mutually beneicial relationships' +n his writin$s, he demonstrated his inclination or inter-)uropean accommodation
and dialo$ue, which would beneit the 8etherlands as an emer$in$ power' ' ' he advised that in their relations with
one another, 0hristians were obli$ed to keep their promises, to restore unjust $ains, and to make reparations or
wron$ul acts' (35)
#hile it is true that the idea o )urope would remain a checkered one or centuries to come and would be punctuated
by the worst wars o humankind, both direct and pro9y, the residual notions that would eventually consolidate this
space as the ultimate repository o civilization, the metric o justice, and the arbiter o international airness are
already evident in the contrapuntal process that <rovo$ui charts here' (6E)
%he same international law that sanitized and normalized the thet o lands and the destruction o the si$n-systems o
indi$enous $overnance and property in Arica in these centuries is today used to preside over the decolonization o
8amibia, South Arica, and Fimbabwe' #hat is let sacrosanct in the process o decolonization is the property o the
*settler* and the corporations o the #estern nations--thus ully embodyin$ the truth o both =ar9's dictum that *the
ori$in o all property is thet* and 8ietzsche's insi$ht that *truths are illusions about which one has or$otten that this
is what they are'* (63) Arica comes into bein$, alon$side )urope but as a space o lack, o inade&uacy,
incompleteness, and incompetence in the business o achievin$ nationness' 2nce a$ain, race serves as the silent
epistemic absence that *presences* )urope and the soverei$n, developed white world' As =ahmood =amdani inds
in his continentwide comparative analysis o the $enealo$ies o postcolonial state ormation in Arica, #estern
contact and colonialism introduced ideas o tribalism and tribal chietainship based on their own preerred
abstractions o Arica' %he interaction o these introduced abstractions with the political $round realities and social
ractures in the various parts o Arica have produced a continent riven by ethnic and *tribal* strie' +t is the related
simultaneity o these processes that is or$otten in so much o the contemporary literature on Arica--both in the
mainstream media and within the discipline o +"' +nstead, Arica is enjoined to either *$row up* or reinvite the
erstwhile colonial masters under whom thin$s were so much better' (66)
Anti&uatin$ )urope in 8ew Spain
+ approach the issue o soverei$nty somewhat elliptically in this article' #hile conventional deinitions emphasize
the realm under the writ o a kin$ or an e9ecutive or state, + ar$ue that modern soverei$nty is more powerully
underlain by a bounded sel-spatialization that names itsel as a destiny, a $enius, a culture, a civilization, or
homeland -- a conti$uous and identiiably discrete and separate entity' +mputin$ a certain coherence to a space
throu$h its culture or lan$ua$e or ethnicity or reli$ion or history is a critical step in the production o soverei$nty'
%he importance o lan$ua$e in this re$ard is critical -- as noted by, amon$ others, 1enedict Anderson's seminal work
in this re$ard' (6>) +t is crucial to remember, as )u$en #eber su$$ests, that modern )uropean lan$ua$es such as
/rench became *national* only very recently and throu$h a process that was anythin$ but one o paciic $radualness'
(64) +n the early encounter between Spain and the 8ew #orld, the *standardization* o 0astilian into a modal
Spanish is a critical step or the production o a soverei$n realm o Spain that would eventually become the
contemporary nation-state that $oes by that name' 1y rereadin$ the standardization o 0astilian and by chartin$ its
rise to a he$emonic lan$ua$e over other competin$ dialects, one is chartin$ the presencin$ o soverei$nty' +n 3456
0astilian was one o a number o competin$ dialects. its emer$ence as the lin$ua ranca o a nation is somethin$ that
owes immensely to the accident o it bein$ the ton$ue o the con&uistadors'
+n his seminal work on this issue, #alter =i$nolo shows how 0astilian came to deine itsel, ac&uired a $rammar,
reestablished its interrupted linka$es with Gatin, and then, in the century ollowin$ contact, became the template on
which the =esoamerican lan$ua$es and their $rammar came to be scripted' (6B) 2ne o the conse&uences over the
lon$er run o this primal need or communication alon$side con&uest is the consolidation o a national ima$inary --
or the production o modern, soverei$n space' %he subtitle o =i$nolo's irst chapter indicates the coeval production
o Spanish soverei$nty and its colonial ra$ments, *%he Gin$uistic 7niication o Spain and the Gin$uistic Civersity
o the +ndies'* Gan$ua$e becomes the vehicle or the $radual consolidation o a national ima$inary in Spain (in other
words, the production o Spanish soverei$nty), while it simultaneously ra$ments the social and lin$uistic landscape
o the new world as their picto-ideo$raphic lan$ua$es are it into the ;rocrustean $rammar o 0as tilian' =i$nolo
makes a series o e9traordinarily important points as he charts this history, many o them o considerable relevance
to the import o this article' + can oer only an adumbrated discussion o some o them'
=i$nolo contrasts the alphabetized i9ity o <astilian with the picto-ideo$raphical luidity o the =esoamerican
lan$ua$es' #hile both scripts are undoubtedly abstractions, =i$nolo is sensitive to the comportments that this
dierence oten entails' Amon$ other thin$s, the alphabetized i9ity o 0astilian renders Spanish 0hristianity a
reli$ion o the book and encoura$es a Spanish attitude that presents the =esoamericans with a depressin$ choice,
either assimilate into us via conversion or assert your reli$ious recalcitrance and ace the conse&uences o acceptin$
your subhuman status. namely, annihilation' Althou$h =i$nolo is not e9plicit about it, it is also obvious rom his
work that the i9ity o 0astilian makes it a acile vehicle or the e9propriation o the lands o the +ndians, An
abstract, alphabetized lan$ua$e is more conducive to the writin$ up o land deeds, the proclamation o new
ownership, the calculation o debt. in other words, the lan$ua$e o the con&uistador enables the e9propriation and
con solidation o the *property* o the +ndians, especially as one considers simultaneous chan$es occurrin$ in the
world o mapmakin$ at this time' (6D) A prominent $rammarian o this time in Spain, 8ebrija, revealed an
appreciation or this' As =i$nolo ventrilo&uates 8ebrija, *A lan$ua$e whose destiny is to uniy a native territory and
to subju$ate a con&uered people could not' ' ' be let open to the variations o speech'* (6H)
%he ac&uisition o an abstract and alphabetized lan$ua$e, in contrast to picto-ideo$raphic lan$ua$es, becomes a
principle o hierarchy' /or $rammarians such as 8ebrija and Aldrete, that the Amerindians lacked the alphabet
suiced to e&uate them with naked sava$es, who also lacked science, literature, and civility' Alphabetized
lan$ua$es, by their $reater i9ity o meanin$ in comparison with oral cultures, it was ar$ued, preserved meanin$ and
enabled continuity and incremental $rowth o knowled$e over $enerations' (As a counteractual e9ercise, one can
easily construct a series o invaluable civilizational values and comportments that mi$ht be better preserved by oral
cultures in comparison with written ones. or e9ample, respect or elders as they are seen as the repository o culture
and knowled$e rather than decayin$ bodies and minds' =ore than anythin$ else, the reasonin$ o the colonizers is
an instance o airmin$ the conse&uent, or, to put it dierently, that history belon$s to the victors')
%he culmination o this hierarchy in the universalization o )urope as metric is indicated in a amous episode
wherein /ranciscan missionaries arrived in 3B64 in the wake o the con&uest o =e9ico by 0ortes' %hey learned the
indi$enous lan$ua$es and created their $rammar' %he latter, o course, is not an innocent process, as one can well
ima$ine' %he encounter between an alphabetized society and an ideo$raphic lan$ua$e at dierent levels o power
and control necessarily remade the latter on the template o the ormer' As =i$nolo notes, understandin$ in this
encounter was e9clusively on 0astilian terms,
A $lance at the Amerindian lan$ua$e $rammars written by 0astilian riars in =e9ico durin$ the si9teenth and
seventeenth centuries shows that the majority o them be$an with a discussion o the letters o the alphabet and by
identiyin$ those letters Amerindian lan$ua$es did not have' 8one o them showed any concern with the script o the
classic civilizations in the central plateau' ''' %he new preoccupations e9pressed by the $rammarians su$$est that the
letter had been promoted to an ontolo$ical dimension with a clear priority over voice as well as any other writin$
system' %he classical tradition was inverted, and the letter no lon$er had the ancillary dimension attributed to it by
Aristotle but had become the voice itsel, while nonaiphabetic writin$ systems were suppressed' (6A)
%he consolidation o )urope as norm and normal &uickly ollows, as the /ranciscans make an astoundin$
pronouncement on the =e9ican lan$ua$e, they aver that it lacks seven letters' %he only basis on which the newly
encountered lan$ua$e can be described in terms o such a lack is by the simultaneous elevation o the *old* lan$ua$e
to a universal yardstick' And the de$ree to which we have internalized the yardstick is revealed by the act that the
observation o lack was astoundin$ then, but is banal and actual now'
%he purpose o this e9cursus throu$h lan$ua$e is to demonstrate that the consolidation o a Spanish national
ima$inary and the ra$mentation o the political authority structures o the new world were coeval, simultaneous
processes' A $enealo$y o soverei$nty that is conined to a )urope with its drawbrid$es up is necessarily an
incomplete $enealo$y--one that is complicit with the attendant universalization o )urope'
%he Kueen's )n$lish in +ndia
A number o recent works ree9aminin$ 1ritish colonialism in +ndia and elsewhere have su$$ested that it mi$ht be
more accurate and would certainly be ruitul to re$ard imperialism as a social ormation that importantly
transormed both colonizer and colonized, rather than an irresistible and one-sided imposition o an already
constituted *superior* culture on a supine recipient' (65) +mportant aspects o what is today considered
&uintessentially and timelessly 1ritish or +ndian evolved conjointly as an imperial social ormation' #hile at a
supericial level such a theoretical claim appears innocuous enou$h to elicit our $uarded assent, as <auri
Liswanathan demonstrates in her work on )n$lish literary studies in the nineteenth century, some o the results o
adoptin$ such an approach are remarkably counterintuitive' Liswanathan's work shows that the very *ield* o
)n$lish literature and cultural studies--and within that the cullin$ o a list o works considered canonically )n$lish
in some sense--emer$ed irst to satisy the needs o school and colle$e curricula within +ndia, many decades beore
they would appear in )n$land itsel' %he impetus or the construction o a canonical syllabus or )n$lish literature
came not merely rom the need to train white civil servants at (aileybury 0olle$e to mana$e the aairs in distant
colonies--spaces where the )n$lish had to appear at all times in command and as the le$atees o an ancient and
cultured civilization--but also because the l iterature o a country had come to be deined, as a conse&uence o the
colonial encounter, as a crucial marker in the hierarchy o societies and the ascendance o #estern he$emony' +t is
not merely as a demonstration o the cultural capital and anti&uity o )n$land that )n$lish literary studies in the
nineteenth century $ain salience, but also in terms o the eects they had on the +ndian colony' As Liswanathan
ar$ues, 1ritish educational enterprise in +ndia at that time ou$ht also to be seen as *an activity ''' desi$ned to
transmute even the aintest traces o mobilized, uniied sentiment a$ainst 1ritish rule into internal schisms'* (>E) As
=i$nolo showed in the instance o Spain and =e9ico, the eects o literary study work simultaneously to
consolidate (and anti&uate) the idea o )n$land, while they unravel and ra$ment the possibility o +ndia'
2ne o the most conse&uential arenas o encounter between the 1ritish and the +ndians durin$ the centuries o
colonialism was obviously that o land and land-revenue e9traction' All histories o empire, whether they see it as an
absentminded and intentionless ac&uisition on the part o 1ritain or whether they impute it to the ine9orable lo$ic o
insatiable capital, are a$reed that the critical turnin$ point was the )ast +ndia 0ompany's ac&uisition o the ri$ht to
collect the land revenue o a diwani in 1en$al in the mid-ei$hteenth century' And thereater, the entire ediice o the
"aj was built literally on the back o the +ndian peasant, it was the land revenue eked out rom under the peasant that
constituted the "aj's mainstay' #hile the literature on the ideolo$y, methods, amounts, and eects o 1ritish land
policy in +ndia is vast, + ocus on one small sliver o this contested literature to hi$hli$ht a ew central points salient
to this article' Speciically, + try to show how the device o abstraction e mpowered the 1ritish as they sou$ht to
comprehend a bewilderin$ array o hi$hly localized practices relatin$ to the land' Abstraction allowed them to claim
that they *understood* +ndia because such an understandin$ was part o an overall emer$in$ scientiic ethos' %his
valorization o abstraction (knowled$e relatively unencumbered by the need or empirical validation via
ethno$raphic observation) was intimately connected with the rei$nin$ belie that what distin$uished the orderly
mind o the 1ritish was precisely this $enius or abstraction, in contrast to the undisciplined and emotional +ndian,
who tended to $et lost in the details and thereore miss the orest or the trees' %he classic instance o this is, o
course, James =ill's si9-volume history o +ndia, which was written without his ever havin$ set oot in that country.
what is more, it claimed that that very act constituted the best proo o the veracity o his scientiic observations and
dispassionate analysis'>3
Abstraction, in this instance, allowed or an assimilative and intra-)uropean understandin$ o the +ndian situation.
that is, the 1ritish saw +ndia e9clusively throu$h lenses $round in the history o )n$land' +ronically (or perhaps not
so ironically or une9pectedly), it is the elo&uent e9ponents o nineteenth-century liberalism in )n$land--James and
John Stuart =ill, 1entham, and =acaulay--who were the most orceul e9ponents o empire, while it is the
conservative )dmund 1urke who is sensitive to the e9cesses that such a liberal will-to-knowled$e embodies' 1urke
is humbled by the prospect that the *other* is perhaps ineably unknowable, and he is deeply skeptical o strate$ies
o abstraction that ultimately *know* only by reducin$ the other to the *same'*
At the outset, to those o us accustomed to the thorou$hly sel-contained histories o #estern political thou$ht, it
will come as a surprise to realize how much time, ener$y, and space 1ritish thinkers accorded to the relationship
with +ndia' /rom Adam Smith and (ume, throu$h "icardo, the =ills (ather and son), =acaulay, =ar9, 1entham,
and all the way down to John =aynard Keynes, the encounter in the subcontinent ormed a staple in their writin$s,
to the point where )ric Stokes, in his landmark )n$lish 7tilitarians and +ndia, notes that *it is remarkable how many
o the movements o )n$lish lie tested their stren$th upon the +ndian &uestion'* (>6)
+n 3H5>, ater nearly our decades o tryin$ to athom the intricacies o land ownership (or the lack thereo') in
1en$al, the viceroy, 0ornwallis, enacted the inamous ;ermanent Settlement' Crastically to simpliy an enormously
comple9 story, the ;ermanent Settlement i9ed in perpetuity the amount o land revenue to be paid by the zamindars
to the 1ritish colonial $overnment in 0alcutta' %he i9in$ o the amount o the revenue in perpetuity would, it was
anticipated, $ive the zamindars an incentive to improve their lands and cultivation practices (as all surplus over and
above the i9ed assessment would now be theirs to keep). constitute them as the bulwark o a 1ritish )ast +ndia
0ompany re$ime still very unsure o its ability (or willin$ness) to hold on to its distant empire. limit opportunities
or the outri$ht plunder and pilla$e o the 1en$al countryside by the 1ritish servants o the company that had been
on$oin$ rom the late 3HBEs to 3H5>. eliminate the uncertainty involved in assessin$ land revenue subject to annual
luctuations in crop yields. and, in conormity with the #hi$ sentiment o $overnance, remove the company "aj
rom its presence in the intricacies o rural +ndia to a more becomin$ and distant presence in 0alcutta'
0ontinuin$ with our own violently abstract summary o a comple9 story, whether the ;ermanent Settlement met its
many objectives is an essentially contested &uestion' %hat it sou$ht to recreate a aithul native simulacrum o the
landed classes that underwrote the le$endary stability o the 1ritish political and social order is not in doubt' At the
very moment o its enactment, in the decades that ollowed and in the two centuries o scholarship on the issue since
then, the eects o the ;ermanent Settlement--both $ood and bad--are intensely debated and contested' %he
settlement, while it was welcomed by the An$lo-+ndian community o the 1en$al presidency, was vehemently
opposed by the administrations o the =adras and 1ombay presidencies, as well as in the newly ac&uired territories
in the northwest, notably the ;unjab' (>>) +t is held, especially by $enerations o +ndian historians, variously to have
accelerated the decline o the 1en$al a$rarian economy, promoted rack-rentin$ and absentee landlordism, irre
trievably destroyed the customary and mutually obli$atory relations that wove to$ether the (lar$ely (indu)
zamindars and their (lar$ely =uslim) tenants, made the avaricious moneylender a $reater presence than ever beore,
caused the terrible amines that be$an to depopulate the countryside with a depressin$ re$ularity, and so on and so
orth' 2n the other hand, it may (in a backhanded way) be credited with providin$ the early nationalists o 1en$al
with the material and ideational basis rom which to articulate their demands or sel-$overnment and, in the lon$er
run, independence'
+ wish to ocus here on the irst hal o the nineteenth century--a time when the company's charter was up or
renewal and occasioned much debate within the 1ritish ;arliament and amon$ the attendant public in Gondon and
0alcutta on a number o issues, includin$ the proper role o )n$lish $overnance in its distant outpost in 1en$al' %he
;ermanent Settlement o 3H5> and the hi$hly *interventionist* policies in areas such as law, reli$ion, social reorm,
and education, entered into by the 1ritish colonial re$ime in the period rom about the 3A3Es to the late 3ABEs
marked a momentary and vehemently contested triumph o a liberal sentiment on empire in 1ritain' %he purpose o
empire, it was ar$ued by the liberals, was to brin$ the li$ht o science, reason, )n$lish lan$ua$e, literature, and
culture, and with it pro$ress, to the beni$hted +ndian' %o unravel the overlappin$ (and sometimes violently
anta$onistic) constituencies o liberals, 7tilitarians, )van$elicals, ree traders, An$licans, and others as 1ritish po
licy or its +ndian colony was bein$ debated would take us too ar aield' 1ut the opposition between the liberals and
the conservative )dmund 1urke on the appropriate 1ritish comportment toward its +ndian colony oers a
ascinatin$ window into the role o abstraction in this encounter'
/or =ill and the rest o the liberals in )n$land at this time, the speciics o +ndia are literally irrelevant because the
content o what was +ndia had already been unlocked within an overpowerin$ narrative o science, reason, evolution,
and the modern script o history' Armed with this rationalist vision o their own time and locus o enunciation, when
they turned their $aze to +ndia all they could see was the empirical conirmation o their thesis re$ardin$ 1ritish
reason and oriental irrationality' 2r, as =ehta has it,
%he historian in James =ill, the le$islator in 1entham, the educator in =acaulay, and the apostle o pro$ress and
individuality in J' S' =ill ' ' ' all ' ' ' ail in the challen$e posed by the unamiliar. because when aced with it they do
no more than *repeat,* presume on, and assert (this where power becomes relevant) the amiliar structures o the
$eneralities that inorm the reasonable, the useul, the knowled$eable, and the pro$ressive' %hese $eneralities
constitute the $round o a cosmopolitanism because in a sin$le $lance and without havin$ e9perienced any o it, they
make it possible to compare and classiy the world' 1ut the $lance is braided with the ur$e to dominate the world,
because the lan$ua$e o those comparisons is not neutral and cannot avoid notions o superiority and ineriority,
backward and pro$ressive, and hi$her and lower' (>4)
%he content o +ndia is overdetermined in the liberal $aze--its details narrated a priori by an epistemic rame that, or
all its inductivist and empiricist claims anchored in e9perimental science--proved incapable o seein$ anythin$ that it
was not already pro$rammed to encounter' +t is this same rationalist vision that serves as basis on which to deny the
+ndian his coevalness with the 1ritish, and simultaneously justiy colonialism as a civilizin$ mission to uplit the
inantile and backward +ndian (but yet never to the point where he mi$ht be ready or sel-$overnment)'
%hus the author o 2n Giberty proceeds to justiy, throu$h his three limitin$ conditions, why its prescriptions stop
short o the subcontinent, (is second condition reserves liberty or mature and advanced societies. it is not or
*backward* ones such as +ndia, who will have to do with the beni$n despotism o an Akbar, i they should be so
ortunate' %his liberal inability ever to *really be surprised by the stran$er, or he or she is always reco$nized as '''
amiliar, thou$h deormed* (>B) oers an interestin$ contrast with 1urke, who takes issue with the entire enterprise
o colonialism at this time' And, interestin$ly enou$h, in makin$ his case, 1urke trains his eye precisely on the etish
or abstraction that $overns liberal reason' #ith (ume and Smith, 1urke reco$nizes the possibility that the very
valorization o reedom could become a principle by which classes and nations come to be hierarchized' (e is aware
that the revolutionary, championin$ the cause o reedom, could use that very idea as his veh icle or domination
over others not so similarly inclined--a move clearly revealed by the liberals and particularly by J' S' =ill (see the
sections above)' Such a criti&ue o the domineerin$ possibilities inherent in an ideolo$y o reedom had, o course,
made 1urke's reputation as the classic conservative thinker in his opposition to the e9cesses o the /rench
"evolution' 1ut, as =ehta demonstrates, more so than even that celebrated instance, 1urke himsel re$arded his
labors in attemptin$ to curtail the e9cesses o 1ritish imperialism in +ndia to be the archetypal, i also unsuccessul,
transmutation o his thou$ht into practice' +n contrast to the abstract appropriation o +ndia by liberal thou$ht, 1urke
privile$es what mi$ht be called more spatially bounded structures o eelin$ or sentiment that orms a people into a
nation' And in makin$ that move, 1urke anticipates the Gevinasian respect or the ineable alterity o the other, he
entertains the possibility that reality may not be complicit in our eo rts to comprehend it. that it is not obli$ed to
turn to us a le$ible ace (as /oucault has it somewhere). that +ndia mi$ht in act be unknowable to the imperial $aze'
+n constructin$ his counterar$uments to the liberal desire to know the other in the ima$e o the same, 1urke's
thou$ht is pitched at a level that takes seriously the sentiments, eelin$s, and attachments throu$h which peoples are,
and aspire to be, *at home'* %his posture o thou$ht acknowled$es that the inte$rity o e9perience is tied to its
locality and initude'''' 1y doin$ so it is con$ruent with the psycholo$ical aspects o e9perience, which always
derive their meanin$, their passionate and pained intensity, rom within the bounded, even i porous, spheres o
amilial, national, or other narratives' /or 1urke, in contrast with both the =ills, the si$niicance o e9perience and
the orms o lie which they are a part o is not provisional on their incorporation in a rationalist teleolo$y' "eason,
reedom, and individuality, as nineteenth century liberals understood them, are not, or 1urke, the arbiters o the
si$niicance o these orms o lie. when they are assumed to be such arbiters, he is aware that it was usually by
relyin$ on an implicit alliance with political and other orms o power' (>D)
1urke is ully co$nizant o the role that abstraction plays in the power o the liberal doctrine to marry its (proto)-
Carwinist hierarchies to the interests o empire' (is *well-known suspicion o abstract orms o reasonin$* stem
rom his reservations that *by diminishin$ the si$niicance o 'circumstances' they $lide over the very thin$s that
$ive te9ture and meanin$ to human e9periences'* (>H)
Gest it be thou$ht that 1urke (or =ehta or mysel) subscribes to some naive theory o knowled$e that uncritically
valorizes lived e9perience, or ails to reco$nize that abstraction is an inevitable and inescapable part o any eort at
comprehension, it is not abstraction per se that 1urke opposes--it is the hubris that accompanies this will-to-
knowled$e that he wishes to alert us to' (>A)
%he three encounters in this section o the article to$ether amount to an eort at unsettlin$ the hierarchies that
inorm +" discourse' +n its mainstream variants, the etish or theory and abstraction in +" discourse encoura$es us
to see the world as populated by nation-states that have somehow traveled sui $eneris throu$h time, and without
their histories havin$ intertwined and overlapped' /rom such a construction, +" discourse can then array these
spaces in terms o their pro9imity to an ideal--the soverei$n, developed, and secure nation-state--or their distance
rom it--the sorry, lackey &uasi-states destined or perpetual anarchy within and without' %he contrapuntal readin$s
oered here disturb the eort o mainstream discourse to sustain the ori$inary alienation that inau$urated the
modern disposition o nation-states'
"ather than recapitulate what has been an overlon$ article, + will conclude by pointin$ to some o the implications o
this orm o contrapuntal analysis to the education o international relations. that is, to our peda$o$ic practices as
teachers in this discipline' /irst, we need to ask ourselves what are the political entailments o the speciic orms o
abstraction that we valorize! #hat is the will-to-knowled$e that our aesthetic privile$in$ o ahistorical theorizin$
embodies! Simply put, what is the relationship between our practices o abstraction and the disappearance o
&uestions o race rom the ield o international relations! Second, we need to be sensitive to the routine, everyday
policin$ o the study o international relations by the very strate$ies we use to demarcate our ield rom that o
subjects such as history, comparative politics, anthropolo$y, literature, and cultural studies, to make a random list'
#hy is it that, at the end o these disciplinin$ moves, we ind ourselves inhabitin$ a discipline that has e9cised
&uestions o ine&uality, $enocide, the thet o lands and cultures, and has, in their stead, centered on issues such as
combatin$ terrorism, securin$ soverei$nty, and winnin$ the $ames that nations play! %hird, in what ways are our
own peda$o$ical practices complicit with the narration o international relations as the &uintessential *prose o
counterinsur$ency*--on the side o the state and a$ainst the ima$ination o non-national ways o bein$! /ourth, what
is the relationship between the political unconscious o our discipline--the repressed stories o racism, $enocide,
violence, and thet--and the obsessions o our crat--terrorism, ille$al immi$ration, insecurity, and secrecy! + have
said enou$h to indicate that a relentlessly contrapuntal approach to the multiple histories that have produced the
present dispensation is at least a be$innin$' #e have to work and see around the dazzlin$ blindness o white +" and
its abstractions, acceptin$ and reiteratin$ the conjoined histories that constitute us and our crat tells us what to do
(*') Cepartment o ;olitical Science, 7niversity o (awaii at =anoa, (onolulu, (+ 5DA66. krishnaMJhawaii'edu
%his article is a irst cut into issues that + suspect will obsess me or the ne9t ew years' + would like to thank "andy
;ersaud, Jor$e /ernandes, =ike Shapiro, +tty Abraham, 8aeem +nayatullah, Jonathan <oldber$-(iller, Konrad 8$,
and Siba <rovo$ui or their comments and support' %he epi$raph is rom "ichard #ri$ht, %he 2utsider (8ew :ork,
(arper and "ow, 35DB), p' 3>B'
(3') + deliberately choose the term +" discourse, rather than +" theory, +" literature, or just +"' %he use o discourse
is intended to inlect theory, discipline, or any social narrative with considerations o power' As #alter =i$nolo
e9plicates in his choice o colonial discourse over colonial literature in his work on the "enaissance, *?d@iscourse
used in this sense has an enormous advanta$e over the notion o literature when the corpus at stake is colonial'
#hile colonial literature has been construed as an aesthetic system dependent on the "enaissance concepts o poetry,
colonial discourse places colonial discursive production in a conte9t o conlictive interactions, o appropriations
and resistances, o power and domination*, #alter =i$nolo, %he Carker Side o the "enaissance, Giteracy,
%erritoriality, and 0olonization (Ann Arbor, 7niversity o =ichi$an ;ress, 355B), p' H. all emphases are in the
(6') /or reasons o space, + can do no better than oer this brie description o the intimacy between abstraction and
issues o power' =y understandin$ o (eide$$er in this re$ard relies heavily on two recent works, "udi$er
Saranski, =artin (eide$$er, 1etween <ood and )vil, trans' )wald 2sers (0ambrid$e, (arvard 7;, 355A), and
=ichael Cillon, ;olitics o Security, %owards a ;olitical ;hilosophy o 0ontinental %hou$ht (8ew :ork, "outled$e,
355D)' /or more on /oucault on abstraction and interpretation, see his essays *%ruth and ;ower* and *%wo
Gectures,* in =ichel /oucault, ;owerIKnowled$e, Selected +nterviews and 2ther #ritin$s, 35H6-35HH, ed' 0olin
<ordon (8ew :ork, ;antheon, 35AE), pp' HA-3EA, 3E5-3>>'
(>') )dward Said, 0ulture and +mperialism (8ew :ork, Knop, 355>)' ;a$enumber reerences are $iven in the te9t'
(4') /rantz /anon's description o this ori$inary alienation at the heart o the modern interstate system advises us to
not or$et )urope's crimes, o which the most horrible was committed in the heart o man and consisted o the
patholo$ical tearin$ apart o his unctions and the crumblin$ away o his unity' And in the ramework o the
collectivity there were the dierentiations, the stratiication, and the bloodthirsty tensions ed by classes. and inally
on the immense scale o humanity, there were racial hatreds, slavery, e9ploitation, and above all the bloodless
$enocide which consisted in the settin$ aside o iteen thousand millions o men' /anon, #retched o the )arth
(8ew :ork, <rove ;ress, 35DA), p' >3B'
(B') /or more on the enablements o such a conjoined readin$ o modern history and its reusal to either drop anchor
in nativism or or$o the invaluable le$acy o *)uropean* ideas such as reedom and democracy, see also Cipesh
0hakrabarty, ;rovincializin$ )urope, ;ostcolonial %hou$ht and (istorical Cierence (;rinceton, ;rinceton 7;,
(D') %his particular list is cribbed rom L' <' Kiernan, ;oets, ;olitics, and the ;eople, ed' (arvey J' Kaye (Gondon,
Lerso, 35A5), p' 3>4'
(H') See J' Cavid Sin$er, ed', %he 0orrelates o #ar, vols' 3 and 6 (8ew :ork, /ree ;ress, 35H5). 1ruce 1ueno de
=es&uita, %he #ar %rap (8ew (aven, :ale 7niversity ;ress, 35A3). and "udolph J' "ummel, ;ower Kills,
Cemocracy as a =ethod o 8on-Liolence (8ew 1runswick, 8'J', %ransaction ;ress, 355H)'
(A') 1ernard 8ietschmann, *%he %hird #orld #ar,* 0ultural Survival Kuarterly 33, no' > (35AH), 3, H' Kuoted in
=ichael Shapiro, Liolent 0arto$raphies, =appin$ 0ultures o #ar (=inneapolis, 7niversity o =innesota ;ress,
355H), pp' 3HD-3HH'
(5') %his is why, ollowin$ the subaltern studies historian "anajit <uha, + have called the discipline o international
relations a *prose o counter-insur$ency*, See my ;ostcolonial +nsecurities, +ndia, Sri Ganka, and the Kuestion o
8ationhood (=inneapolis, 7niversity o =innesota ;ress, 3555)'
(3E') /redric Jameson, %he ;olitical 7nconscious, 8arrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (+thaca, 8':, 0ornell 7;,
(33') %his last deinition o a strate$y o containment is rom one o Jameson's best interlocutors, #illiam Cowlin$,
in his Jameson, Althusser, =ar9, An +ntroduction to the ;olitical 7nconscious (+thaca, 8':, 0ornell 7;, 35A4), p'
Cowlin$, note 33, p' H5' #ithout usin$ the term strate$y o containment, but with a brilliant deployment o the
notion o taboo, "ick Ashley inau$urated this line o ar$ument within +" by his analysis o the way *economism*
works within and as the discipline' See Ashley, *%hree =odes o )conomism,* +nternational Studies Kuarterly 6H
(35A>), pp' 4D>-45D. and *%he ;overty o 8eorealism,* +nternational 2r$anization >A (35A4), pp' 66B-6AD'
(36') Jameson, note 3E, p' 63>'
(3>') +n this conte9t o abstraction, + really cannot do better than &uote, once a$ain, Cowlin$, who elucidates how
the process works in the conte9t o economics, 0lassical and neoclassical economics unction as strate$ies o
containment ' ' ' not simply throu$h their premature closure (closin$ o in&uiry beore it can lead to ultimate
&uestions about history and society) or
even throu$h their repression o history (repressin$ the sense in which the market economy described in their te9ts
could not e9ist without e9ploitation and oppression), but throu$h the way they accomplish this closure and
repression, treatin$ the workin$s o an emer$ent capitalism as eternal and objective economic laws'
(34') /rom ;aul <ilroy's interview with %oni =orrison, published as *Givin$ =emory, =eetin$ %oni =orrison,* in
;aul <ilroy, Small Acts (Gondon, Serpent's %ail, 355>)' Kuote reproduced rom <ilroy, 1lack Atlantic (0ambrid$e,
(arvard 7;, 355>), p' 663' As in the works o <andhi and those o Ashis 8andy, Aime 0esaire, and /rantz /anon,
there is a keen appreciation here o the act that victory is oten more catastrophic or the culture and civilization o
the victor than it is or that o the van&uished' %he deeated civilizations, at one level unencumbered by the need to
continually reinvent themselves alon$ a hypermasculine will to dominate the world, may be better able to preserve
those values and principles that are, in the lon$er run, more conducive to the survival o the species and the planet'
(3B') James Cer Cerian, 2n Ciplomacy, A <enealo$y o #estern )stran$ement (29ord, )n$', 1asil 1lackwell,
35AH), p' 3D'
(3D') Siba <rovo$ui, Soverei$ns, Kuasi-Soverei$ns, and Aricans, "ace and Sel-Cetermination in +nternational Gaw
(=inneapolis, 7niversity o =innesota ;ress, 355D)'
(3H') +bid', p' BA' +n any case, in his te9t #ar and ;eace, <rotius had already ar$ued that slavery was le$ally
(3A') +bid', pp' 4>-44, D>'
(35') +bid', p' D3'
(6E') Sel-contained stories o the #est are, obviously, hardly uni&ue to +" discourse, but the dominant modus
operandi o knowled$e production in modern times' +n a brilliant recent article, Susan 1uck-=orss e9amines the
parado9 o the coeval and related emer$ence o )nli$htenment ideals o human emancipation alon$side that o
$lobal slavery, the e9traordinarily important role played by the (aitian revolution in the ideals o the /rench
"evolution and enli$htenment, in (e$el's and many another #estern thinkers' meditations on slavery, and o the
importance o disciplinary boundaries in perpetuatin$ the myopia that re$ards these events as disconnected and
disparate' See Susan 1uck-=orss, *(e$el and (aiti,* 0ritical +n&uiry (summer 6EEE), pp' A63-ADB'
(63') /riedrich 8ietzsche, *2n %ruth and Gie in an )9tra-moral Sense,* in %he ;ortable 8ietzsche, ed' and trans'
#alter Kaumann (8ew :ork, Likin$ ;ress, 35B4), pp' 4D-4H'
(66') =ahmood =amdani, 0itizen and Subject, 0ontemporary Arica and the Ge$acy o Gate 0olonialism
(;rinceton, ;rinceton 7;, 355D)'
(6>') 1enedict Anderson, +ma$ined 0ommunities, "elections on the 2ri$in and Spread o 8ationalism (Gondon,
Lerso, 3553)'
(64') )u$en #eber, ;easants into /renchmen, %he =odernization o "ural /rance, 3AHE-3534 (Stanord, Stanord
7;, 35HD)'
(6B') =i$nolo, note 3E'
(6D') 1esides the second hal o =i$nolo's %he Carker Side o the "enaissance, see also "ichard (el$erson, /orms
o 8ationhood, %he )lizabethan #ritin$ o )n$land (0hica$o, 7niversity o 0hica$o ;ress, 3556)'
(6H') =i$nolo, note 3, p' 46'
(6A') +bid', p' 4D'
(65') +mportant amon$ these would be =rinalini Sinha, 0olonial =asculinity, %he '=anly' )n$lishman and the
')eminate 1en$ali' in the Gate 8ineteenth 0entury (=anchester, =anchester 7;, 355B). Anne =c0lintock,
+mperial Geather, "ace, Se9uality, and <ender in the 0olonial 0ontest (8ew :ork, "outled$e, 355B). Cipesh
0hakrabarty, note B. Ashis 8andy, %he +ntimate )nemy, Goss and "ecovery o Sel under 0olonialism (Celhi,
29ord 7;, 35A>). )dward Said, note >. and <auri Liswanathan, =asks o 0on&uest, Giterary Study and 1ritish
"ule in +ndia (8ew :ork, 0olumbia 7;, 35A5)'
(>E') Liswanathan, n' 65, p' 3DA'
(>3') +n =ill's (istory the speciic, but, more relevantly, the stran$e and the unamiliar, are at the epistemolo$ical
mercy o a rationality that is vouched or in advance o *viewin$* and certainly e9periencin$ the stran$e and the
unamiliar' %he project o the empire is inscribed in the jud$ments o that way o 'doin$' history, which relentlessly
attempts to ali$n or educate the re$nant orms o the unamiliar with its own e9pectations' Giberal imperialism is
impossible without this epistemolo$ical commitment--which by the nineteenth century supports both pro$ressivism
and paternalism--that is, the main theoretical justiications--o the empire'
7day Sin$h =ehta, Giberalism and )mpire, A Study in 8ineteenth-century 1ritish Giberal %hou$ht (0hica$o,
7niversity o 0hica$o ;ress, 3555), p' 3A'
(>6') )ric Stokes, )n$lish 7tilitarians in +ndia (29ord, 0larendon ;ress, 35B5), as &uoted in =ehta, note >3, p' 9ii'
=ehta's is a worthy successor to Stokes's classic work and is an e9emplar in political theory o what, ollowin$ Said,
+ have called a contrapuntal approach to understandin$ international relations' %his is also an indirect way o sayin$
that the ollowin$ para$raphs owe much to his deeply insi$htul work'
(>>') /or a superb e9plication o the dierin$ ethos o $overnance that animated these presidencies in comparison
with 0ornwallis's 1en$al, see Stokes, note >6' %he other classic occasioned by the debate on the ;ermanent
Settlement is, o course, "anajit <uha's A "ule o ;roperty or 1en$al, An )ssay on the +dea o ;ermanent
Settlement (Curham, 8'0', Cuke 7;, 355D. irst published 35D>)'
(>4') =ehta, note >3, p' 6E'
(>B') +bid', p' >>'
(>D') +bid', p' 63'
(>H') +bid', p' 43'
(>A') +t is also important to re$ister the limits to 1urke's criti&ue o empire' (is attitude to empire was a dierence o
de$ree, not o kind, to that o the liberals' A lamin$ anti-imperialist he was not by any means' (is overwhelmin$
concern at all times is not the ate o the +ndian but rather o what the rapacious colonialists would do to democracy
in )n$land on their physical or ideational return to the homeland'
Kuestia, a part o <ale, 0en$a$e Gearnin$' www'&uestia'com
;ublication +normation, Article %itle, "ace, Amnesia and the )ducation o +nternational "elations' 0ontributors,
Sankaran Krishna - author' Journal %itle, Alternatives, <lobal, Gocal, ;olitical' Lolume, 6D' +ssue, 4' ;ublication
:ear, 6EE3' ;a$e 8umber, 4E3N' 02;:"+<(% 6EE3 Gynne "ienner ;ublishers. 02;:"+<(% 6EE4 <ale <roup