Decolonizing Dialectics.

Author:Sierra, Luis M.
Position::LATIN AMERICA - Book review

Ciccariello-Maher, George. Decolonizing Dialectics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.

In Decolonizing Dialectics, political theorist George Ciccariello-Maher sets out to decolonize "the" dialectic in order to position dialectics as a framework for fighting oppressive contexts and structures. Ciccariello-Maher uses a three-pronged approach to the decolonization of class, race, and "the people." First, he demonstrates how Georges Sorel decolonized class by insisting on a reconfiguration of the category from an "objective set of conditions" to one felt and lived by people (a mythical notion of class) and one that foregrounds "class-for-itself." Second, he uses Franz Fanon's reconfiguration of masterslave dialectics. Fanon rejects the static Hegelian notion of the master-slave relationship--one forged among ontologically equal adversaries--and instead posits that the slave is always-already marked as less-than-being. The slave, according to Fanon, transcends that racial othering by forcefully rejecting it through "combative self-assertion" that enables the slave to reject "her self-alienation," to "turn away from the master," and to force the master to "turn toward the slave" (pp. 58-9). The slave's action re-starts dialectical motion and forces the master and the slave to contend with each other and with the possibility of violence and transformation. Ciccariello-Maher's third prong for decolonizing dialectics is Enrique Dussel's concept of the people. Using Venezuela as a case study, the author asserts that the people must remain a multivalent category and dialectical practice must strive to mirror the diversity of the people. Honoring the diversity of the people enables dialectics to remain in motion. At the same time, liberation remains a horizon to strive for rather than becoming a social harmony attained.

In a final chapter, Ciccariello-Maher moves backward and forward in historical time, inserts a useful extra dimension, and illustrates his admirable resistance of teleology and Eurocentrism. The author analyzes Frederick Douglass's practical decolonizing of his own identity, excavates W. E. B. Du Bois's engagement with dialectics and politics, and examines Angela Davis's engagement with her own raced and gendered self. Each of these thinkers in their own way points to the importance of decolonizing dialectics and demonstrates that dialectics are powerful tools for understanding, challenging, and rejecting oppression. Thus, Dussel...

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