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An Apology for Postcolonial Reason

An Apology for Postcolonial Reason FEATURE REVIEWs AnApologyforPostcolonialReason Paul Lyons DepartmentofEnglish,UniversityofHawai`i On Reason: Rationality in a World of Cultural Conflict and Racism.ByEmmanuel ChukwudiEze.DurhamandLondon:DukeUniversityPress,2008.Pp.xx+327. Followinghisdeathin2007,responsestoEmmanuelChukwudiEze'sposthumously publishedOn Reason: Rationality in a World of Cultural Conflict and Racismhada memorializingtone,andtookplacearoundspacesdevotedtoAfricanaPhilosophy.1 Thiswasappropriate,givenEze'scontributionsthroughtheestablishmentofthejournal Philosophia Africana; through editing the field-mapping Post-Colonial African Philosophy: A Critical ReaderandOn African Philosophy: An Anthology (collections whosePrefacesdefineAfricanaphilosophyinclusivelyandextensivelyasincluding thediasporaanditsengagementsovertime,inpartbecausediasporicthoughthas returnedtoinformintellectualmovements);andthroughaseriesofworksthatargued fortheongoingneedtomarkandcountertheracismthatEzeidentifiesas"coloring thought"withinEnlightenmentphilosophyanditslegacies.Itwouldbeunfortunate, however,ifOn Reasonwerenotengagedmorewidelywithinphilosophicalcircles, forwhilethebookclaimstohave"quitemodest"intentions(p.xi),itsimplications forphilosophyinthe"PostcolonialAge"arepotentiallyfar-reaching. Ezemakesacompellingiflargelyimplicitcasethatthefigureof"Africa"inhistoryasamulti-sourcedcrossroadsofthought,andasagenerativesiteofpostcolonial philosophy,necessitatesarethinkingoftheoftenEast-Westcoordinatesofphilosophyasadiscipline.Intheprocess,On ReasonofferssubtlereflectionsonAfricana philosophy; on the question of how and where Africana philosophy's difference amongthefamilyofphilosophicaltraditionsmightbelocated(inwhat"nonaccidental"formsofkindredthought[p.137]);andonthepersistentandirrationalpowerof racetoinfiltratethoughtinareasrangingfromlegaltopedagogicaltomedicalethics tothequestionofwhatconstitutesphilosophy.ButEzeapproachesthesequestions, purposively,fromwhatseemsthelongwayaround:suggestionsabouthowreason canbereconstructedforpostcolonialthoughtfollowfromathoroughandtechnical breakdownofideasabouttheconstituentcomponentsofreasonandrationality,and then a reconstruction through and against analyses of conceptions of reason that underwriteversionsofcolonialandpostcolonialphilosophy,includingtheNegritude movement. Against what he sees as the grandiose assumptions informing these lines of thought,Ezeproposesamodelofreasonbasedonminor,vernacular,everyday,or ordinary experience, and conceived of as provisionally distinct from politics and PhilosophyEast&WestVolume62,Number4October2012574­580 ©2012byUniversityofHawai`iPress r ligion.On ReasonmovesinalliancewithpostcolonialworklikeGayatrispivak's e A Critique of Postcolonial Reason(whichitneverreferences):bothEzeandspivak maintainthatKant"foreclose[s]theaboriginal"andHegel"put[s]theotherofEurope in a pattern of normative deviations"; that postcolonial thought works within the dangerzoneofitscooptationbyadiverserangeofpoliticalprojects;andthatanew comparativism,cautiousaboutre-inscribingethnocentricbias,mustnourishtheidea ofaplanetaryCommonsbasedonrespectforthediversityoflanguagesofthought.2 However,On Reasonholdsthatagenuinelyphilosophicalapproachtoreasonshould avoidthepre-positioningorMarxist/feminista prioriofmuchculturalstudieswork, andconcernitselfmorewithresituatingthepostcolonialsubjecttactilelyinhistory as a reasoning agent. Flatly rejecting the classical and continental heritage in this process,orskirtingtheneedtojustifyitsownmethod,wouldamounttoanevasion ofphilosophy.Rather,tothedegreethatEnlightenmentidealsunderwrotecolonial reason,postcolonialphilosophyshouldwindbackitspremisesandcomposenew modesofreckoningwithtime.Assignaledbythebook'stitle/subtitle,theclassical concernsofphilosophy("onreason")mustmeetandanswertothepostcolonialcondition(a"worldofculturalconflictandracism")atthelevelofconcepts. In framing his project in the Preface, "What is Rationality?" and Introduction, "DiversityandthesocialQuestionsofReason,"Ezeseekstoengagethecentralphilosophicalproblematicoftherelationofparticularanduniversal,andoftheposition ofindividualswithinsociety.InwaysthatresistthedescriptionofAfricanphilosophy asastruggletoberecognizedasaparticularsetofcollectiveanswerstop ilosophical h universals,Ezeinsiststhatreasonbereconstructedas"internallydverseandexteri nally pluralistic" (p. 24).3The internal diversity that he describes as "a necessary conditionofthinkingingeneral"(p.3),"goesallthewaydown,"percolatingthrough cognitiveactsandinformingordinaryreasonintheplaceswhereitemerges"outof http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Philosophy East and West University of Hawai'I Press

An Apology for Postcolonial Reason

Philosophy East and West , Volume 62 (4) – Nov 2, 2012

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Abstract

FEATURE REVIEWs AnApologyforPostcolonialReason Paul Lyons DepartmentofEnglish,UniversityofHawai`i On Reason: Rationality in a World of Cultural Conflict and Racism.ByEmmanuel ChukwudiEze.DurhamandLondon:DukeUniversityPress,2008.Pp.xx+327. Followinghisdeathin2007,responsestoEmmanuelChukwudiEze'sposthumously publishedOn Reason: Rationality in a World of Cultural Conflict and Racismhada memorializingtone,andtookplacearoundspacesdevotedtoAfricanaPhilosophy.1 Thiswasappropriate,givenEze'scontributionsthroughtheestablishmentofthejournal Philosophia Africana; through editing the field-mapping Post-Colonial African Philosophy: A Critical ReaderandOn African Philosophy: An Anthology (collections whosePrefacesdefineAfricanaphilosophyinclusivelyandextensivelyasincluding thediasporaanditsengagementsovertime,inpartbecausediasporicthoughthas returnedtoinformintellectualmovements);andthroughaseriesofworksthatargued fortheongoingneedtomarkandcountertheracismthatEzeidentifiesas"coloring thought"withinEnlightenmentphilosophyanditslegacies.Itwouldbeunfortunate, however,ifOn Reasonwerenotengagedmorewidelywithinphilosophicalcircles, forwhilethebookclaimstohave"quitemodest"intentions(p.xi),itsimplications forphilosophyinthe"PostcolonialAge"arepotentiallyfar-reaching. Ezemakesacompellingiflargelyimplicitcasethatthefigureof"Africa"inhistoryasamulti-sourcedcrossroadsofthought,andasagenerativesiteofpostcolonial philosophy,necessitatesarethinkingoftheoftenEast-Westcoordinatesofphilosophyasadiscipline.Intheprocess,On ReasonofferssubtlereflectionsonAfricana philosophy; on the question of how and where Africana philosophy's difference amongthefamilyofphilosophicaltraditionsmightbelocated(inwhat"nonaccidental"formsofkindredthought[p.137]);andonthepersistentandirrationalpowerof racetoinfiltratethoughtinareasrangingfromlegaltopedagogicaltomedicalethics tothequestionofwhatconstitutesphilosophy.ButEzeapproachesthesequestions, purposively,fromwhatseemsthelongwayaround:suggestionsabouthowreason canbereconstructedforpostcolonialthoughtfollowfromathoroughandtechnical breakdownofideasabouttheconstituentcomponentsofreasonandrationality,and then a reconstruction through and against analyses of conceptions of reason that underwriteversionsofcolonialandpostcolonialphilosophy,includingtheNegritude movement. Against what he sees as the grandiose assumptions informing these lines of thought,Ezeproposesamodelofreasonbasedonminor,vernacular,everyday,or ordinary experience, and conceived of as provisionally distinct from politics and PhilosophyEast&WestVolume62,Number4October2012574­580 ©2012byUniversityofHawai`iPress r ligion.On ReasonmovesinalliancewithpostcolonialworklikeGayatrispivak's e A Critique of Postcolonial Reason(whichitneverreferences):bothEzeandspivak maintainthatKant"foreclose[s]theaboriginal"andHegel"put[s]theotherofEurope in a pattern of normative deviations"; that postcolonial thought works within the dangerzoneofitscooptationbyadiverserangeofpoliticalprojects;andthatanew comparativism,cautiousaboutre-inscribingethnocentricbias,mustnourishtheidea ofaplanetaryCommonsbasedonrespectforthediversityoflanguagesofthought.2 However,On Reasonholdsthatagenuinelyphilosophicalapproachtoreasonshould avoidthepre-positioningorMarxist/feminista prioriofmuchculturalstudieswork, andconcernitselfmorewithresituatingthepostcolonialsubjecttactilelyinhistory as a reasoning agent. Flatly rejecting the classical and continental heritage in this process,orskirtingtheneedtojustifyitsownmethod,wouldamounttoanevasion ofphilosophy.Rather,tothedegreethatEnlightenmentidealsunderwrotecolonial reason,postcolonialphilosophyshouldwindbackitspremisesandcomposenew modesofreckoningwithtime.Assignaledbythebook'stitle/subtitle,theclassical concernsofphilosophy("onreason")mustmeetandanswertothepostcolonialcondition(a"worldofculturalconflictandracism")atthelevelofconcepts. In framing his project in the Preface, "What is Rationality?" and Introduction, "DiversityandthesocialQuestionsofReason,"Ezeseekstoengagethecentralphilosophicalproblematicoftherelationofparticularanduniversal,andoftheposition ofindividualswithinsociety.InwaysthatresistthedescriptionofAfricanphilosophy asastruggletoberecognizedasaparticularsetofcollectiveanswerstop ilosophical h universals,Ezeinsiststhatreasonbereconstructedas"internallydverseandexteri nally pluralistic" (p. 24).3The internal diversity that he describes as "a necessary conditionofthinkingingeneral"(p.3),"goesallthewaydown,"percolatingthrough cognitiveactsandinformingordinaryreasonintheplaceswhereitemerges"outof

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Philosophy East and WestUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Nov 2, 2012

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