ESR 5 Blog May 2021: Claude Nassar

From Universal Logic to Multiple Logics

In the beginning of Maria Lugones’ Purity, Impurity, and Separation she notes the following:

This writing is done from within a hybrid imagination, within a recently articulate tradition of latina writers who emphasize mestizaje and multiplicity as tied to resistant and liberatory possibilities. All resemblance between this tradition and postmodern literature and philosophy is coincidental, though the conditions that underlie both may well be significantly tied. The implications of each are very different from one another.[1]

When I read this paragraph I realised that the relation between the decolonial thinkers that I lean on (Frantz Fanon, Maria Lugones, Silvia Wynter, Denise Ferreira Da Silva) and the post-structuralist theorists that I draw from (Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Brian Massumi, Tiziana Terranova, Luciana Parisi) is not as self-evident as I thought it was. Of course, the similar conditions that underly both feminist decolonial thought and postmodern thought become clearer, for example, when the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari is developed from the intersectional feminist position of Terranova and Parisi. However, within the limited scope of this blog, I will not survey the already existing intersections between different directions in both decolonial and post-structuralist thought, rather, I would like to question the way my research interacts with both in relation to its position as academic work within a European institution. For this reason, it will be helpful to explore the resonance between the resistant and liberatory possibilities that emerge from decolonial thought and the emancipatory potential of post-structuralist thought in relation to the hegemonic post-Enlightenment logic (modern episteme in Foucault’s terms), and think through what the intermeshing of both can bring to my research.

My interest in post-structuralist philosophy and especially the work of Deleuze and Guattari and its continuation in intersectional feminism and feminist film theory, comes from my interest in lines of thought that attempt to go beyond the linearity of post-Enlightenment logic that underlies and connects the institutions of Western modernity. Accordingly, the work of Deleuze and Guattari helps me to establish the fundamental directionality of my research: from the universal Modern/Colonial logic of institutions built upon Western-European systems of value, towards multiple logics. A movement from binary concrete categories to curdling and impure separations. This movement takes with it the conception of art as a formal discipline, towards a notion of art as blocs of affects recorded in space and time. However, while post-structuralist theories of affect provide the framework to understand the power dynamics embedded in pre-conscious processes that establish the ground of thought, I choose to theorise the movement from pre-conscious processes to their conscious manifestations in thought through decolonial theories of multiplicity.

Post-structuralist thought undertaken from a Western-European position (the continuation of the Western canon), is always limited by that position. Meaning that post-structuralist thought grounds itself in post-Enlightenment logic to deconstruct it, in order to then demonstrate that beyond the breakdown of that logic, new and different possibilities emerge. This tracing of the trajectory towards the edges of Western logic in my thesis, is essential to grasp the infinite landscapes of possibilities that lie in-between the either/or of Modern/Colonial thought. Decolonial thought on the other hand (even when undertaken from within Western institutions), starts from the position of the Western-European other, the racialised body. Accordingly, it argues that what lies beyond the Western European self is the racialised other. Beyond Western logic is not an uninhabited region of the mind, but the multiplicities of logics, lifestyles, ontologies and espitemologies that Modern/Colonial thought orders on the linear scale of development and evolution.

Thinking at the intersection of post-structuralist philosophy and decolonial thought allows me to, first, understand the emergence of the individual self, the subject of post-Enlightenment thought that establishes the binary boundaries of being human in the universal logic of the neoliberal world, according to which categories such as art, socially engaged art, and artist, establish their concrete formation. Second, this allows me to theorise art as already socially engaged through a subject that acknowledges the social nature of individual desires that allow a self to emerge. Third, to think through the resistant and liberatory possibilities that emerge from art as already-social praxis, in de-centring the transcendent Modern/Colonial subject.

This individual Modern/Colonial transcendent subject formation, is not confined to the geography of Europe or the former West. Previously colonised societies, and more specifically, nations of the global south produced by European colonisers function according to the same universal neoliberal logic that establishes the subordination of nations of the periphery to nations of the centre, echoing the coloniser/colonised dynamics. For instance, educational institutions in Lebanon still function under a system developed by the French colonisers in the first half of the 20th century, a system of thought and knowledge that acquires its legitimacy by its association with Western knowledge. For this reason, the movement through post-structuralist thought, that tries to break from the Western logic that institutions spread and reinforce in both the global North (as centre) and the global South (as periphery), is essential for me to understand my position as researcher and the position of my thesis within the logic of Western institutions, in order to be able to access decolonial logics that think the world through already different tools. My research hopes to think though art as a decolonial mode of affective relation, that establishes a shared alternative affective space, that allows the emergence of shared, but multiple logics, away from the control, purity, and unity of post-Enlightenment categories.

[1]                    Lugones, Maria. “Purity, Impurity, and Separation.” Signs 19, no. 2 (1994): 458-79.

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