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6.

POSTCOLONIAL NARRATIVES

The

led following excerpt is from a seminar

b7 susafl Buch'Morss,

in whicb rue disfiom postco'

,oord.

prartir6 ofreading euents and reconfguring historical
discussed susan Buck-Morss! essay "Hegel

narratiues

lonial persPectiues.

and Haiti" (now part of her visual Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History) and her interuiew for the Journal of Her C,rlture, titled "Globalization, Cosmopolitanism, Politics, and tbe Citizen'"' we
"Hegel and,

Haiti"

retdraws the intellectual history of Hegeli much interpreted

dia'

lrcial formulation offreed.om. Ratber than reading Hegel's mdster'slaae dialectic within the lineage oi ir*pron liberal political discourse and in the corutext of the
the concep' reuolutionary d.rrrlipmrnts of late eighteenth-century Europe, she hcates tion of Hegel! Phenomenology of Spi it in the empiri.cal context of the r79r-t804

Haitian Reuolution, dt the historical beginnings of the anticolonial reuolutionary notion offeedom m4uements. while her essay deuehps a ?\stc\l\nial critique of tbe the seuen' as it is articulated. by the English and Freruch liberal thinkers during pbilosopher from teenth and. eightrenti centuries, it radically se?drates tbe German tbe French Enlightenmeftt traditi\n and phces hls phllosoph\ at the foundations

preceded this of twentieth-rrrr'rury porrrolonial thought. Buck-Morssi lecture, which mouement irt seminar, presented. her historical research on the Haitian dnticolonial relation to a collectiue-empdthetic ruotion of uniuersal humartity.

MTCHELE GREEr:

In your lecture last night you talked about emotional involvement and does that the commonality of human experience of the lived moment. How relate to the task ofhistorical research?

although, I adsuSAN BUCK-MoRSS: The emphasis is not on emotional involvement, mit, I may have become emotional in defending a project that is today quite hybridity, and unpopular, because it opposes ideas of alternative modernities, a case for universality by focusing on the dangers I

multiculturalism.

"* belonging' that human beings face when they experience the limits of collective to rescue from long-time disrepute the idea of universal The project ",,.ripr. but as history, not as wirld. history, not even as the history of global capital, abanempathic identification with historical actors when they find themselves out, slipped have dorr.d by their cukures, exposed and vulnerable because they all ofwhich or been pushed out, of the ambiguous shelter of collective identities,
r. Susan Buck-Morss, "Hegel and Haiti," Critical tnquiry 26, no. 4 (zooo): 8zl-65;
(zoo6): Journal of Visual Culture l, no' 3 and Universal tlaiti, Hegel, Buck-Morss, 325-4oi Hlstory (Pittsburgh : Un iversity of Pittsburgh
Press, zoog).

-rkirrg

"Globalization, Cosmopolitanism, Politics, and the Citizen: lnterview with Susan Buck-Morss,"

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75

POSTCOLON

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from distant Haiti would demand and fight for what the philosophes articulated from their posh salons. Yet I find this politics of recognition leading to an ultimate radiance and final reconciliation profoundly problematic. After Fanont Blacle Skin, lYhite Masks, it is no longer possible to think of the problem of race
slave

under colonialism as a sociological matter of exclusion/inclusion: the politics of race cannot be contained within the humanist myth of Man or the (meta)narrative of historical progress. The colonial condition renders it impossible to speak in rerms of a commonality of human experience: there, everyday life exhibits a "constellation of delirium."' The colonial state of emergency, as elaborated by Fanon, interrupts the diaIectic of deliverance by interrogating presence as such (Man, Thuth, Self, Progress). Practices rhat are endemic under colonialism-violence, paranoia, selfhate, treason, madness-are not mere alien presences which the dialectic seeks to explain away as the ultimate misrecognition of Man. These are what reveal the
presence of the other

in the time of our own consciousness.

susAN BUCK-MoRSS: Fanont conception of history is far more Hegelian than my own. I am skeptical of the implication that the solution to Hegel's Eurocentrism is a

different variant of the same dialectical overcoming. But philosophical relativism gets us nowhere, and it is counterproductive to give up on the philosophical concepr of truth. If you imagine yourself in the same place as those who have been betrayed by their cukure, yoLr are likely to discover a different truth, one that is more material, more corporeal, out of play of culture and its meanings.

No collective can claim possession or control of such truth. Of course, you remain sarurated by parricular cultural traces, but that is a different issue.
KErrH MoxEy: Maybe the distinction would be berween truth with a capital Iand truth with a small r. i think that the small truth is namely that there is always going to be a truth that is for you, that you believe in something. This is different from relativism-relativism is always brought out as a red herring. There are perspectives that are irreconcilable' susAN BUCK-MoRSS:
emerges agree about the noncommensurabilities, but I would want to argue for the universaliry of affective reaction to events, a sense of collectivity that

I

with the experience of human vulnerability.
ourselves as others." "l had to meet the white man's eyes . . . I was battered down by tomtoms, cannibatism, inte[lectual deficiency, fetishism, racia[ defects . . . I took mysetf far off from my own presence." Here Fanon is not talking about colonialism as a violation of some human essence or the btackiwhite binary as founding terms ("The Negro is not. Any more than the white man"). The white gaze breaks up the btack man's body, and in that act of violence its own frame of reference is transgressed. lt is not the Self and the Other but the otherness of the Selfthat is revealed under colonial conditions'

2. Fanon the existentialist-humanist has to confront this delirium at every turn. A frightened, confused white child cries out on the street, "Look, a Negro . . . Mama, see the Negro! l'm frightened." Or, "Our women are at the mercy of the Negroes . . . God knows how they make love." What's so disturbing about Fanon's writings on the psychological conditions of coloniatism ("Manichaean delirium") is that, in shifting the focus of cuttural racism from the potitics of nationalism to the politics of narcissism, he opens up a space of engagement "between mask and identitv, image and identification, from which comes . . . the lasting impression of

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77

POSTCOLONTAL NARRATIVES

from various disciplinary perspectives. That's "uninteresting interdisciplinariry" in Steve Melvillet sense.' This book series is planned to end in zorr with a conference and book called Farewell to Visual Studies, and part of the reason for that farewell is the dissolution of interesting conversations on interdisciplinarity within visual studies.a \(hat is at stake in our event this week is, in a way, part of that. Zhivka and I wanted rhese conversations to be intermittently irucomprehensible in hopefully productive ways, and for that purpose your texts and your interventions are wonderful models-but wonderful, partly, because I dont think they can be
used as

models.

susAN BUCK-MoRSS: Here is an example that might be new to art history's discussion of globalization (I think a similar proposal was brought up in Tom Kaufmannt seminar). It involves having medieval art history begin with a consideration of Africa, where method becomes a means of constructing the past not as a narrative of political collectives, but as traces of human borrowing and local innovarion. Historians like Jan Vansina trace the cross-continental movement of
arrifacts among Africans of different cultures, including across sub-Saharan Africa, an area impenetrable for Europeans until the nineteenth century.t Artifacts move among people nor as the spread of imperial cultural forms, but as the consequence of intercultural connections. Sryles have a way of escaping politi-

Art not only emanates from power centers but disregards them. The Department of Art History at Cornell has come up with a brilliant way of doing global art history. \X/hen there was an opening for baroque art, rather than hiring a European baroque specialist, they advertised for an expert in South American baroque. And when there was an opening in medieval history, they hired someone who works on the entire Mediterranean basin and writes on the infuences of Muslim architectural traditions on European architecture and art, and vice versa. This is one way of doing global art history that manages not to
cal boundaries.

reproduce the Eurocentric art-historical narratives.
JAMES ELKTNS: Yes,

is possible that art history can expand beyond its regional and national specialties-but I meant, in a more personal way, that what happens across disciplines in "Hegel and Haiti" and your newer work is not itself usable as a model. It follows that this discussion today is not an ordinary seminar about

it

interdisciplinariry in which texts and practices can become recipes and models.

I think that
ANGELA MILLER:

is wonderful.

I think that "Hegel and Haiti"

is an example of global history and the

ways in which a global perspecrive fundamentally redraws the very substance of such disciplines as history. Take the history of ideas-intellectual history; it has too often been segregated from history, a discipline that has the tools to examine

the widest possible web of inrerconnections between different locations, com3. This is etaborated in chapter r of Visual Studies: A Skeptical lntroduction York: Routledge,

4. See

zoo3). www.imagehistory.org.

my (New

5. lan Vansina, The Children of Woot: A History of the Kuba Peoples (Madison: University of wisconsin Press, 1978); Paths in the Roinforest (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, l99o).

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POSTCOLONIAL NARRATIVES

Is this what you are looking for? Is this the cognitive value or the affect value

of your fragmented j uxtapositions

?

susAN BUCK-MoRSs: Perhaps the argument in "Hegel and Haiti" is not based primarily on the interpretation of images, but images still play a crucial role throughoutfrom my critique of Simon Shamas history writing, to the sections on the spread

of freemasonry. The use of images has to do with method more than anything. The discovery of certain images is key to formulating questions with which to approach the historical sources. They provided clues as to where, and how to look. In Dreamworld and Catastrophe, the method was to build sections of text out of clusters of images.
.When I was writing The Dialectics of Seeing, finding the objects that entered \Talter Benjamin's visual field was fundamental to the interpretive process. I

wenr ro Paris and followed Benjamint footsteps around the city, traversing, as he did, its many arcades. I found catalogues of exhibitions and world's fairs that he artended, and images from magazines rhat he might have read-an1'thing that might help me encounter fragments of the past about which he wrote, so that I could see how these things happened to bim.Images do methodological work. Very rarely do I use them as illustrations for what I already know needs to be said. And I try to let their ambiguities speak.
JAMES ELKTNs: There is a very complex question

lurking here, which I don't think we can open now. (I hope you Il forgive me if I'm thinking ahead: the second conference in this series, which we'll have in these same rooms this same time next year, is tWe apon the subject What Is an Image?) So I'd just like to mark this moment. proach the question of images in our texts in a very curious way, by asserting that they work in unexpected ways in our rexts, and occasionally-as youre saying,
Susan, and as I ve said and some others have said-that they can even create their own narratives. That is a strangely truncated rhetoric. It stops well short of saying what exactly happens when images like the ones in Dialectics of Seeing are

permitted, for a while, to be something more complicated than either cognitive tools or affective opportunities.6

tVhat about really strange similarities and MTcHAEL HoLLy: V/hat about \Warburg?

dif-

ferences that had points? They seemed that they were repossessed by the same

historical sensibility. Warburg's and Benjamin's notions of eruptions through

6. To ctarify that: like some other historians, I have also written books that began as sequences of images, with no nanative. But I do not think that the pictures are as undetermined or as potentially independent of our intentions as we may hope. And I am especially interested to notice that conversations on this sublect, in and around visual studies, tend to stop with the assertion ofthe potentiaI independence of images. (That is what happens in lhe Journal of Visual Culture interview that was set for this seminar.) lt's like saying an employee is

free to choose: after that assertion, it's time to get back to work. Next year's Stone Summer Theory lnstitute witl be partly on this subject. I have tried several times to write books whose structure grew in surprising ways from images I had cotlected. One is Ihe Obiect Stares Back (New York: Harcourt Brace, ry97), and another is Six Stories from the End of Representation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, zoo8). Each time the apparent freedom evaporated: it wasn't much more than a desire I had in retation to

writing and images.

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PosrcoLoNtAL NARRATIVES

From my point of view, the Haitian images in Susan's essay "Hegel and Haiti," the images in Dreamruorld arud Cata*rophe, the images in Tim Clarks book, the images in \Tarburg's Mnemosyne, and the images in Schefer's books are all differenr cases. At the moment I dont see any of them as models for writing about conremporary global arr, for two reasons: first because in each case I think narrative does dominate, even in \Tarburg; and second because the art world has an infinite capacity to dilure serious experiments into impressionistic pastiches."
sHELLy ERRINGToN:

If I may go back to the idea of breaking ths v256-

that JAMES ELKTNS: Michael introduced that metaphor, of art history as a beautiful vase now lies broken, in fragmentssHELLy ERRTNGToN: One of the reasons that I like the idea of shards is that "we" are shards among others. \7e can no longer count on just one whole totalizing story

like the beautiful vase of traditional art history that could contain everything and that will be the answer ro ever)'thing, but there are lots of bits and pieces that dont cohere. My question is: how do you use these bits and pieces without gluing them together to a mosaic of the whole, reconstituting them as another vase with another shape and design, but still an all-comprehensive story? My favorite globalization theorists address this issue, of how to make a big and even global storywithout making it totalizing or linear. One is my colleague Anna Tsing, whose ethnographic work was mainly in Borneo. She published a book called Friction,whichis really about globalization, and her idea was to let the structural order of these stories and interviews emerge from their undisturbed multiplicity. I told her before it was published she might have called it "taction," because it is about how ideas, often misunderstood, land in alien places and get traction in these new conrexrs-they stick and produce something new. To her question of
how we can engage in an ethnography ofglobal connections, she talks about grasping the productive moments of misunderstanding, both in what we narrate and in how we understand what's going on. In other words, she has a way of putting these
experiences together nor
Ieaves

them contingently connected and open. Theret breathing space, and even if her story is big and comprehensive, it is an1,'thing but inexorable'"
SUSAN BUCK-MORSS:

into a totalizing and bounded whole but in a way that

Of

course, you do have

to know the canon, otherwise you

are

dominated by it without knowing it-there There would not be the disciplines as they are today without the neo-Kantian

is no way around that, no shortcut.

Schefer, Ihe Deluge, the Plague, translated by Tom Conley (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan
Press, 1995).

ro. Saying narrative dominates in Mnemosyne is saying that the reception of Warburg is a series of texts. Even Georges Didi-Huberman's interventlons are textuaL (atthough at the time of writing, fall zoo7, he is said to be at work on a purely visuaI response). There is virtualty no visual criticism or visual history. Around

2oo3-4, the lrish art magazine Circa slaged an experiment in visuat criticism, inviting anyone to revlew an exhibition with an image instead of a text. Almost no one votunteered. All this is to say, in a telegraphic fashion, that the issues raised here are peculiar to Buck-Morss's texts, and misused as potential models for art writing. rr. See Anna Lowenhaupt fsing, Friction: An Ethnography of Globol Connection (Princeton: Princeton University Press, zoo5).

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POSTCOLONIAL NARRATIVES

suzANA MTLEVSKA: tWhen we were talking about temporalities, I kept thinking about the Russian philosopher Pavel Florensky, who, in his work lconostasis, offers a really unique inuerse conception of time, which he grasps in the inverse perspective of

the Byzantine medieval iconographic tradition but also through experimental psychology of dreams." In addition to the issue of translation, these concepts

with all this baggage of different cultural conceptualization of time wherein cause-efrect relarion may be inversed both in space and time and therefore such mystical temporality is difficult to be communicated.
come DARBv ENGLTsH: As Shigemi said was wondering

in his seminar, some translations produce

losses.'r

I

if we can look at this loss as something that can be productive rather than as a rhreat. Perhaps if we think about how we respond to that loss,

when we see in the loss an opportuniry to attempt a recuperation, to accept the disorientation Susan is talking about and see where it leads.

zHryKL vALrAVrcHARsra: I would also caution against foreclosures, and return to the idea of how imagining certain possibilities, rather than losses, within our given global conditions becomes a politically enabling practice. Benjamin has an essay on translation, where he focuses on the "translatabilif' of the work as its highest dimension, and understands translation not as a loss, but rather as a way of en1i6hmsn1-lather than looking at how a certain meaning is lost, he looks at how the language it is translated from "expands."'+ So translation has possibilities for reconciliation and it is also a deeply ethical, if not explicitly political, practice. In a very similar way, postcolonial thinkers such as Ngugi wa Thiong'o have put forward a certain norion of humanism in the incommensurabiliry of languages and the experiences they contain. But in their accounts, these incommensurabilities also harbor a radical possibility within: that of their communicabiliry.'s
susAN BUCK-MoRSS: If cultural languages are incommensurate, what is said in these languages ar times converges despite their differences. \fhen experiences are new, language needs

to be stretched to articulate it. So the translation is not only across discrete languages, but within every cultural language, over time. And the need to translate local idioms, local traditions, into a global context is just such a new experience. Not all of our experiences are understandable in terms of
identifiable cultures. Experience can cause cultural languages to be pushed to the breaking point. Between and beneath cultural languages, subterranean solidarities among people takes form. It is this process, threatening to existing cultures, that makes human progress possible in history.
rz. Pavel Florensky, lconostosis, translated
by Donatd Sheehan and Olga Andreiev (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimils Seminary Press, 1996). r3. See Section z ofthe Seminars. 14. Walter Benjamin, "The Task of the Translator," in llluminations, edited by Hannah Arendt, translated by Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1968), 75-82.

r5. Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (London: James Currey; Nairobi: EAEP; Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, t986)i Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedoms
(London: James Currey; Nairobi: EAEP; Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1993).