Dispossession, Justice, and Social Science: ‘In the beginning all the world was America’

Monday, 16 July 2018: 14:00
Location: Constitution Hall (MTCC NORTH BUILDING)
Oral Presentation
Gurminder BHAMBRA, University of Sussex, United Kingdom
In this talk I propose that justice in the present requires taking into account the historical processes of exclusion and domination that have come to configure our contemporary time. This also requires us to understand how our social scientific categories and frameworks are bound up in equivalent processes. I argue that the possessive individualism that underlies modern claims to justice is not formed in capitalist relations of production, but in processes of dispossession and settler colonialism. The dispossession associated with the enclosure movement in Europe generated migration to the ‘New World’ that established new forms of domination there. European social thought – normative and explanatory – had to confront how rights claimed for one group (Europeans) involved the dispossession of another (indigenous peoples). For Europeans in the early modern period, this was done by representing travelling across space as travelling back in time. Dispossession was thus incorporated into a stadial theory of progress that would eventually reincorporate those initially excluded, while continuing to deny their agency and understanding of rights differently grounded. This exclusionary logic continues to inform contemporary social scientific understandings and is in urgent need of transformation.