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Global Formations of Knowledge: Intellectuals and Political Praxis Beyond the West

Asia
Latin America
Developing World Politics
Knowledge
Global
Identity
Comparative Perspective
Political Engagement
P173
Sinan Chu
German Institute of Global And Area Studies
Massimo Ramaioli
Habib University
Sinan Chu
German Institute of Global And Area Studies

Tuesday 09:00 - 10:45 (31/08/2021)


Abstract

In recent years there has been a surge of interests in non-Western theories among political scientists (e.g. Post-Western/Global IR, Comparative Political Theory). Several factors contributed to this broader trend in the discipline, including the critique of Eurocentrism in existing knowledge production and the call to move “beyond monologue” (Dallmayr 2004) as well as important shifts in the global order characterized by the growing salience of non-Western powers such as India and China (Acharya 2014). However, the fascination with and quest to locate and retrieve “homegrown theories” beyond the West have been criticized for further marginalizing or silencing scholars from the Global South due to their expectation for “radically different” theories that serve to “exoticise” the discipline (Fonseca 2019), thereby reproducing the ethnocentric categories that prompted the critique in the first place (Jenco 2007). Furthermore, the unproblematized practice to privilege local knowledge based on an assumption of epistemological relativism also gave rise to several contending “national schools”, for instance, in the field of International Relations. This trend resulted in a tendency of “renationalizing” instead of “internationalizing” knowledge and of promoting exceptionalism instead of promoting dialogue and mutual understanding (Hellmann and Valbjørn 2018). In response to these critiques, in this panel we propose an alternative, actor-centered approach when confronting non-Western contexts, actors, and the ideas that emerge therein. We do this by elaborating on the figure of the ‘intellectual’, broadly understood as a producer of ideas. Rather than focusing on the textual meanings of philosophical and/or theoretical reflections from the non-West, we ask researchers to pay more attention to the practices of ‘non-western’ intellectuals who create, transform, adapt, appropriate, synthesize, rearticulate (not necessarily local) ideas to specific ends, in specific context, and for specific struggles that may nonetheless have broader relevance for students and activists elsewhere (Gonzalez-Vicente & Montoute 2020). An important implication of this approach, we submit, is to circumvent any hidden orientalization of non-Western actors and of their ideas that would relegate them as representatives of a putative indigenous and native non-Western theorizing. Instead, we want to operate along two axes. First, we look at them in a situated manner by bringing the intellectuals - as idea entrepreneurs - and their specific contexts into the analysis. This move entails granting a more prominent role to the way in which their ideas are mobilized in actual political praxis. Second and consequently, we seek to outline how non-western intellectuals are imbricated in networks - of power and of knowledge - that are not purely indigenous and native precisely as they engage with their specific contexts and mobilize for actual political praxis. As the contributions of this panel demonstrate, such a reorientation can be a useful analytical perspective for not only political theorists, but also comparativists and area specialists; more importantly, it could serve as a bridge to bring together researchers of diverse theoretical and methodological traditions into fruitful dialogue with one another.

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