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Behind Our Backs

Moishe Postone on teaching social theory

by Moishe Postone / Oct. 22, 2018

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Postone, M. (2018, October 22). Behind Our Backs. The Point. https://thepointmag.com/2018/dialogue/behind-our-backs-moishe-postone-teaching-social-theory

One of the reasons why Black Skins, White Masks is very uncomfortable for a lot of students is that it’s in part a psychoanalytic approach to the experience of being Other. In postcolonial thought, by contrast, the Other is a reified category. It’s reverse Orientalism, where you’re not allowed to do a critical analysis of a Muslim society. With what’s going on now, people are totally helpless conceptually.

[...]

One of the reasons I think Fanon is so challenging, for many students, is because he argues that the system of racism creates certain kinds of selves that are not free from it, that it does not sit like a carapace on the black self, which is just waiting to burst the carapace and emerge. In some respects, aspects of The Wretched of the Earth are for me a theoretical regression and indissolubly linked with a valorization of violence as liberating. There is a kind of fairy tale that racist structures remain external to people, and that all you have to do is change the structure and everything will poof! Then there’s just you and me. There’s no damage done. It’s a form of positivism. And I think Black Skin, White Masks makes students uncomfortable because that isn’t what he does there.

by Moishe Postone 3 years ago

One of the reasons why Black Skins, White Masks is very uncomfortable for a lot of students is that it’s in part a psychoanalytic approach to the experience of being Other. In postcolonial thought, by contrast, the Other is a reified category. It’s reverse Orientalism, where you’re not allowed to do a critical analysis of a Muslim society. With what’s going on now, people are totally helpless conceptually.

[...]

One of the reasons I think Fanon is so challenging, for many students, is because he argues that the system of racism creates certain kinds of selves that are not free from it, that it does not sit like a carapace on the black self, which is just waiting to burst the carapace and emerge. In some respects, aspects of The Wretched of the Earth are for me a theoretical regression and indissolubly linked with a valorization of violence as liberating. There is a kind of fairy tale that racist structures remain external to people, and that all you have to do is change the structure and everything will poof! Then there’s just you and me. There’s no damage done. It’s a form of positivism. And I think Black Skin, White Masks makes students uncomfortable because that isn’t what he does there.

by Moishe Postone 3 years ago