Abstracts Revista Crítica 80 (2008)

2 July 2008
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Boaventura de Sousa Santos
Philosophy for sale, learned ignorance and Pascal’s wager

The “epistemology of the South” which I have been proposing aims at recovering the knowledge and practices of social groups which, through the workings of capitalism and colonialism, were historically and sociologically placed in a position wherein they were the mere object or natural resource of dominant knowledge, viewed as the only valid form. The central concepts of the epistemology of the South are the sociology of absences, the sociology of emergence, the ecology of knowledge, and intercultural translation. In actual fact, this is not an epistemology, but rather a set of epistemologies. Unlike the epistemologies of the North, the epistemologies of the South seek to include the greatest number of experiences of the types of knowledge of the world. Thus, after undergoing reconfiguration, they embrace the North’s experience of knowledge. Unsuspected bridges of intercommunication open up, namely across to Western traditions which were marginalised, discredited or forgotten by that which in the nineteenth century came to be the prevailing canon of modern science.

João Arriscado Nunes
Redeeming epistemology

Over the past three decades, the project of epistemology has undergone a process which has critiqued and transformed it. This process has been stamped successively by the transfer of epistemic sovereignty to the “social”, by the re-discovery of ontology and by attention paid to constitutive normativity and the political implications of knowledge. It is even the case that abandoning epistemology as a philosophical project was mooted. In counterpoint to this process, the proposal began to gain contours for another epistemology rooted in the experiences of the global South.

This article sets out to explore the possibilities of creating a space for dialogue between the (“naturalist”, feminist, postcolonial, epistemographic, epistopic, etc.) critique of epistemology as a philosophical project and the proposal for an epistemology of the South formulated by Boaventura de Sousa Santos, taking as a point of departure a revisiting of philosophical pragmatism as the most radical form of critiquing conventional epistemology.

Nelson Maldonado-Torres
The topology of being and the geopolitics of knowledge: modernity, empire, coloniality

This essay examines the conjunction of race and space in the work of several European thinkers. It focuses on Martin Heidegger’s project of Searching for roots in the West. This project of searching for roots is unmasked as being complicit with an imperial cartographical vision that creates and divides the cities of the gods and the cities of the damned. Maldonado-Torres identifies similar conceptions in other Western thinkers, most notably Levinas, Negri, Zizeck, Habermas, and Derrida. To the project of searching for roots and its racist undertones, he opposes a Fanonian critical vision that highlights the constitutive character of coloniality and damnation for the project of European modernity. The author concludes with a call for radical diversality and a decolonial geopolitics of knowledge.

Ramón Grosfoguel
Decolonizing political-economy and postcolonial studies: transmodernity, border thinking, and global coloniality

The author discusses the epistemic implications of the de-colonial turn of the decolonization of the “global capitalism” concept, as it has been used in the paradigms of political economy and cultural studies. Other terms that are discussed include “colonization of power”, “border epistemologies” and “transmodernity” to start thinking not in “new utopias”, but rather in “other utopias” based on a different cartography of global power relationships of the “worldsystem Europe/ Euro-Northamerican modern/colonial capitalist/patriarchical”. The article argues that there is a necessity to use the aforementioned concept (even though it is more extensive) and to abandon the category of “capitalist world-system” or “global capitalism”.

Paulin J. Hountondji
Knowledge of Africa, knowledge by Africans: two perspectives on African studies

How African are the so-called African studies? The study of Africa, as developed so far by a long intellectual tradition, is part of an overall project of knowledge accumulation initiated and controlled by the West. This article advocates an active, lucid, responsible appropriation by African societies themselves of the knowledge capitalised over centuries about them. It advocates more generally the development in Africa of an autonomous, self-reliant tradition of research and knowledge that addresses problems and issues directly or indirectly posed by Africans. It calls upon “épistémologies du Sud”. African scholars in African studies and in all other disciplines to understand that they have been doing so far a kind of research that was massively extraverted, i. e. externally oriented, intended first and foremost to meet the theoretical and practical needs of Northern societies. It invites a new orientation and new ambitions for research by Africans in Africa.

Maria Paula G. Meneses
Bodies of violence, languages of resistance: the complex webs of knowledge in modern-day Mozambique

This article aims to analyze the deep-seated roots and valid reasons for reconfiguring “traditional” methods of conflict resolution in Mozambique, by means of a perspective of State development, both in colonial and post-colonial contexts. Taking as its starting point the continual references to acts of witchcraft, the article seeks to analyze these charges as part of a wider cultural context where multiple cultural realities intersect in a complex web of competition for power. In this context, the epistemological privilege conferred upon modern law continues to act as a tool for suppressing other forms of legality and, at the same time, subordinate social groups whose social practices were based on such forms. Thus, an analysis of witchcraft charges paves the way for a debate, wider in scope and more localised, on the diversity of the “epistemologies of the South”.

Liazzat J. K. Bonate
The Theory of “Closing the Doors of Ijtihad‘ in Islamic Law

The postulate of classic Islamic jurisprudence of the “closing of the doors of ijtihad“, or the theory of abdicating from applying human reasoning to the extrapolation of law from sacred scripture, was posited by Orientalists as one of the reasons for the alleged inability of Islamic societies to stay abreast of the modern development which the West enjoyed. The closing of the doors of ijtihad appeared to be the credible cause for the seeming stagnation and lack of creativity of Muslim jurisprudence. Although pre-modern Islamic legal scholars and Orientalists agreed on the closing of the doors of ijtihad, the latter, in our time, has been the object of more acute study and of heated debate among academics. It is a commonly held view that neither the exercise nor the theory of Islamic law ever evinced the absence of ijtihad or of juridical creativity.

Published 2 July 2008

Original in Portuguese
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