Creolizing Political Theory: Reading Rousseau through Fanon

Creolizing Political Theory: Reading Rousseau through Fanon

Creolizing Political Theory: Reading Rousseau through Fanon

Creolizing Political Theory: Reading Rousseau through Fanon

Synopsis

Might creolization offer political theory an approach that would better reflect the heterogeneity of political life? After all, it describes mixtures that were not supposed to have emerged in the plantation societies of the Caribbean but did so through their capacity to exemplify living culture, thought, and political practice. Similar processes continue today, when people who once were strangers find themselves unequal co-occupants of new political locations they both seek to call "home." Unlike multiculturalism, in which different cultures are thought to co-exist relatively separately, creolization describes how people reinterpret themselves through interaction with one another. While indebted to comparative political theory, Gordon offers a critique of comparison by demonstrating the generative capacity of creolizing methodologies. She does so by bringing together the eighteenth-century revolutionary Swiss thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the twentieth-century Martinican-born Algerian liberationist Frantz Fanon. While both provocatively challenged whether we can study the world in ways that do not duplicate the prejudices that sustain its inequalities, Fanon, she argues, outlined a vision of how to bring into being the democratically legitimate alternatives that Rousseau mainly imagined.

Excerpt

… with what eyes?
—SAPPHO

… yet more inclusive than “and.”
—PAULA WILSON

This book offers a reading of two central themes in the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau through insights from the writings of Frantz Fanon. Through this effort, I hope to enrich discussions of the nature of methodology and requirements of democratic legitimacy and provide an example of the creolizing of political theory In this case, it is a creolization of one canonical figure through the ideas of another as well as of central concepts in Western political thought. Why undergo such an undertaking?

Rousseau’s unsettling challenges concerning the emancipatory potential of human inquiry and his infamous conception of the general will can be more fruitfully understood and further enlivened through drawing upon resources from the creolized thought of Fanon and, by extension, political reflection from the Global South. In particular, when using the typically abstract idea of the general will to explore how political theory can be put in the service of forging more legitimate democratic possibilities in diverse and unequal, colonized societies, one can envision creolization as the general-

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