CLACSO (Latinoamerica de Ciencias Sociales) offer this rich anthology as a free download.
There is a problem about intellectual work in settler-colonial societies that deeply affects social science.
The problem was named “The Cultural Cringe” by the Australian critic Arthur Phillips, in a pungent article published in 1950 by the new literary magazine Meanjin. Phillips diagnosed “a disease of the Australian mind”, an assumption of inferiority vis-a-vis England, a deep dependence on imported judgments and tastes. Phillips shrewdly observed that this resulted in “the estrangement of the Australian Intellectual” from Australian society, a disdainful attitude that equated the rough, the uncultured and the local.
Phillips was talking about literature and art, but the same issues arise in science. The Beninese philosopher Paulin Hountondji described the situation in his important 1997 book Endogenous Knowledge. There is a global division of labour: data are gathered in the colony, but theory is made in the metropole. Scientists from the global South travel to the USA and Europe for training and recognition, learn Northern intellectual frameworks, try to get published in Northern journals. Hountondji calls this attitude “extraversion”, being oriented to external sources of authority. It is found both in settler and colonized societies.
What Phillips called a disease is better analyzed by Hountondji as part of a global economy of culture. It’s structural, not personal. Ultimately it has to do with the way the public realm is created in colonial societies.
The colonizers claimed to have the true religion or a superior civilization, but what they crucially had was warships, muskets, cavalry, cannon, steam power and the ruthlessness to use them for conquest. As Hilaire Belloc observed,
Whatever happens, we have got/ The Maxim gun, and they have not.
Imperial force enabled settlement, up to the point of demographic dominance over indigenous people, and demographic dominance was mainly achieved by immigration. The colonial state achieved local order, so far as it could – the colonies were violent places – through imperial law and bureaucracy. Settler schools and newspapers were modelled from the start on those of the home country. When the colonists felt they were up to universities (the 1850s, in Sydney and Melbourne) they imported both the academics and the curricula direct from what was, without irony, called the mother country.
Settler colonialism thus produced a truncated public realm. The leading institutions and technologies were developed in the metropole; most of the capital that underpinned colonial development came from the metropole; and key political decisions were also made there. In 1939 the Prime Minister famously announced on radio that “Great Britain has declared war on [Germany], and that, as a result, Australia is also at war”. The gesture was repeated as recently as 2003, when the Prime Minister of the day sent Australian troops into Iraq.
For social sciences in a settler-colonial society, this produces an “as-if” form of knowledge. Research is done as if the researcher were standing in the metropole, or as if the society being studied were part of the metropole. Thus, Australian psychology is full of experiments using scales developed in the United States, Australian economics is full of models developed in the United States, Australian sociology is full of concepts developed in France.
When these studies are published, there is normally no discussion of whether such ideas really apply in a settler-colonial context. What might be called the productive arc of methodology – the movement of thought in which concepts and methods are generated from actual social experience – is missing, in settler society’s truncated public realm of social science. That arc was traversed in the metropole. Its results, packaged as theory or methodology, are simply imported.
To extraverted thought, what is imported from the metropole simply is theory or method – no other meaning for those terms is recognized. So, on the rare occasions where an Australian journal conducts a conceptual discussion, it is conducted wholly within European or US parameters, and often by invited European and US writers, at that. Australian social scientists writing theory usually do so by commentary on European and US theorists.
The fact that the settler population is mostly white, English-speaking, and has European ancestors creates an illusion of identity. Politicians encourage this by constantly talking of Australia as a “Western country”, a nonsense term that a surprising number of social scientists still use.
Current trends in universities are worsening the problem. Neoliberal policy-makers drive Australian universities and academics to compete with each other. The key metrics for this competition involve recognition in the metropole, especially, publication and citation in highly-ranked metropolitan journals. Since metropolitan journals operate within metropolitan intellectual cultures (we can’t expect them to do otherwise!), the message for Australian scientists is clear: do it the US/EU way, if you want promotion and grants in Australia.
Social science in a settler-colonial society therefore tends to split between an abstracted theoretical discourse, conducted as if in the metropole with little or no local reference, and an applied social science in which methodologies developed in the metropole are applied to empirical studies of local social problems.
The social problems – class, patriarchy, racism, environmental destruction, and more – are all too real. But the methodologies are rarely sufficient to understand them in depth. Why? Because the social problems of settler society partly arise from the nature of settler colonialism itself, especially from its truncated public realm. When key determinants are located in the relationship with the metropole, or in the dynamics of the world economy, a social science using methods and concepts developed for the metropole to describe itself, and constantly looking for authority to the metropole, is in a specific way displaced. Like the literary culture criticized by Phillips, though trying to describe local society it is estranged from it.
Estrangement of intellectuals is recognized, indeed a cliché of Australian cultural history. There are also well-known responses to it. One is the angry rejection of the cultural cringe in the name of an anti-imperial nationalism. That was the note struck by Bulletin school of writers in the 1890s, especially the radicals who associated English culture with a despised upper class in the colonies. Settler intellectuals don’t have Aboriginal culture to fall back on, though the “Jindyworobak” movement poets of the 1930s tried – the result being an arrogant act of colonial re-appropriation, as well as some interesting poetry. Some go into exile, but in a way that inverts the exile stories known since Ovid. It is exile to the metropole. The result can be the haunted double vision of the world seen in The Man Who Loved Children, the great work of Australia’s first modernist novelist, Christina Stead, who wrote it in exile in the United States.
These responses are available to social scientists too, and we can trace them through the history of social sciences in settler societies. The greatest social scientist Australia has produced, the pre-historian Vere Gordon Childe, went down the track of exile, working in Europe for most of his career from the 1920s on. He came back to the Blue Mountains near Sydney to die.
The problem can’t be solved on an individual basis. It requires collective and institutional change, on a scale that is only now becoming clear. It requires, in fact, a re-making of social science on a world scale. It is worth enquiring whether there is a specific role for settler-colonial intellectuals in that re-making.
Raewyn Connell is Professor of Sociology at University of Sydney – see www.raewynconnell.net.
Wiebke Keim, from Institut für Soziologie (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg) announces a new research project around Europe’s relation to the Global South:
We are happy to announce the launch of our international project ‘Universality and the Acceptance Potential of Social Science Knowledge: On the Circulation of Knowledge between Europe and the Global South’. Four interconnected research projects are going to be carried out in the next four years and at same time we will be supporting and complementing one another.
Our studies focus on the following ambivalent phenomenon: on the one hand, the European research area and its achievements still enjoy a high standing outside of Europe. On the other hand, the worldwide influence of the European theoretical tradition is increasingly being perceived as dominant, and European social science’s claim to universality is, as a result, seen as overbearing and presumptuous. By investigating this field of tension, we aim to obtain innovative ideas for the future positioning of the European scholarly community and its successful activity within the internationalized field of social sciences.
This endeavour has been made possible above all through the funding of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (German: BMBF) within the ‘Free Space for the Humanities’ funding initiative on the subject of ‘Europe Viewed from the Outside’. The Institute of Sociology at the Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg has agreed to act as a home for our project. Our international advisory board will support us scientifically: Prof. Hermann Schwengel and Prof. Sabine Dabringhaus from the University of Freiburg, Prof. Jìmí O. Adésínà of Rhodes University as well as Prof. Ari Sitas from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, Assoc. Prof. Syed Farid Alatas from the National University of Singapore, Prof. Monica Budowski from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Ecevit from the Middle East Technical University in Turkey, Dr. Terry Shinn from the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne/CNRS and Dr. Roland Waast from the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) - Ex ORSTOM in France. In addition, at present four researchers are associated to the project: Dr. Miriam Nandi (English studies), Dr. Paruedee Nguitragool (Political Science) und Barbara Riedel (M.A., Social Anthropology) from the University of Freiburg, as well as Dr. Sabine Ammon (Philosophy and Architecture) from the Technical University Berlin. Twelve Fellows from around the world are also going to work with us here in Freiburg, each for several months, in order to promote the international and interdisciplinary scholarly exchange of our project. We will be welcoming our fellows to Freiburg beginning in April 2011.
Last night Raewyn Connell gave the first lecture of the Southern Perspectives series at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies. ‘Thinking South: Re-Locating Australian Intellectual Culture’ covered many points about the relation between Australia and the metropolitan centres of the North:
It was a full house for her talk, and there were many questions:
Here she gives a quick summary of her talk, and reflects on the discussion afterwards.
The first seminar in the Southern Perspectives series at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies features Raewyn Connell, author of Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science. Her book has proven to be a significant and highly controversial intervention into sociology and related disciplines.She has spoken about Southern Theory in academic forums around the world. This is a rare opportunity to address the questions raised by this book at a public forum in Melbourne.
This is the outline of her talk:
Modern Australia was formed by colonial invasion, dispossession of indigenous people, dependent development, and social struggles – framed in turn by the British Empire, the American hegemony, and neo-liberal globalization. Australian intellectual culture, formed to a large extent around universities whose institutional ideology emphasises a placeless modernism, has had difficulty in locating itself securely. A tension has long existed, for intellectuals of the settler population, between intellectual extraversion (in Hountondji’s sense) at the price of dependence, and a resistant nationalism that acknowledges place at the price of marginality. One path beyond this is engagement with the legacy of colonialism and the situation of Australia’s indigenous people now; another is engagement with the structures of world inequality, exploring connections around the global South. In this session I will sketch our place in a global political economy of knowledge; discuss the intellectual wealth of the periphery; and assess responses by Australian intellectuals to the difficulties and possibilities of our location in the world.
Raewyn Connell is University Professor at University of Sydney. See interview.
Raewyn Connell ‘Thinking South: Re-Locating Australian Intellectual Culture’
Thursday 18 March 2010, 7-8:30pm
Institute of Postcolonial Studies
78-80 Curzon Street
North Melbourne (map)
Tel: 03 9329 6381
Admission – $5 for waged, $3 for unwaged, and free for members
Last Wednesday, 2 December, at the annual conference of the Australian Sociological Association (TASA), there was a plenary titled ‘Southern Perspectives’. Speakers included Raewyn Connell, Chilla Bulbeck, Margaret Jolly and Peter Beilharz. They considered the following questions:
The plenary attracted around one hundred and by all accounts a very lively discussion ensued.