Colonial Critique, the Sociological Canon and Contemporary Sociology

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Anaheed AL-HARDAN, American University of Beirut, Lebanon
Two recent trends in sociological theory have been instrumental to the re-imagination of sociology as a “global” discipline, especially as seen from the formerly colonized world. The first, “postcolonial sociology” refers to a recent theoretical orientation in sociology that challenges the discipline’s allegedly Western European origins, classical theorists and general focus. It invokes theorists that pre-date the Industrial Revolution like Ibn Khaldun, and brings classical European sociologists like Max Weber in conversation with forgotten sociologists like W.E.B. Du Bois. Postcolonial sociology therefore attempts to center and universalize non-European and otherwise marginalized sociology in the discipline. The second trend, the so-called “decolonial turn,” is an attempt to center the colonial experience of the Americas in an otherwise British Empire-focused postcolonial theory. The decolonial turn refers to a certain mode of epistemological critique inspired by the post-Bandung decolonization era. It mainly sheds light on modes of power rooted in the modern, colonial and racialized capitalist system that continue to manifest in the postcolonial era. In one important sense, the work of the decolonial turn is to bracket the “post” in the postcolonial, and to move beyond the project of the deconstruction of Eurocentrism, which is always a priori, through new ways of confronting coloniality and possibilities of decolonization. This paper will examine these two overlapping theoretical trends in sociology, and consider their implications for a historical postcolonial sociology of critique as emanating from the Arab world, and brings this critique to bear on a contemporary sociology of the Arab world and the Global South more broadly.