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Humanism in an age of globalisation
Dipesh Chakrabarty, 2006

Extended version of the talk held at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona on 6th October 2006, as part of the «Translating the World from Africa» debate.

As we leave the shores of the 20th century to move into the uncharted waters of the 21st, we look behind to take our bearings for the future. Is there a way of summing up our immediate past? Is there any one problem that defines the 20th century? Of course, a century is a long span of time marked by many different developments. Yet certain problems sometimes come to the fore. We can think of the European 18th century as a global period that saw Holland, France and Britain replace Spain and Portugal as founders of modern empires, and as a period of Enlightenment that upheld powerfully an abstract idea of the human equality. It was also, ironically, a period that overlooked the problem of slavery and the question of discrimination against women. The 19th century — some very important critics (among whom we have to count Nietzsche) notwithstanding — concluded on a high note of progress, leaving to the peoples of less industrialized and colonized nations the legacies of Marxism and liberalism as the two greatest gifts of European political thought. How would one see the global history of the 20th century? From what developments of the 20th century shall we derive our resources to deal with the future?

There could no doubt be more than one answer to this question. Let me begin with one that we have already been given, for this is an answer that bears significantly on the theme of this short essay: humanism in an age of globalization. «The problem of the 20th century», wrote the great African-American thinker W. E. B. Du Bois peering into the future just as the century began, «is the problem of the color-line.»1 Du Bois was right. The line ran right through the colonial divide in the first 50 or 60 years (or longer in the case of South Africa) of the century and through the lives of those whose ancestors had lived through Atlantic systems of slavery. In Du Bois' words, the color-line concerned «the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea».2 The same line also divided the indigenous peoples from their white settler-colonial rulers and, as we know, assumed a vicious form in the biological racism of the Nazis. Even when it did not assume the menacingly virulent form of the Nazi imagination, biological racism or varieties of social Darwinism underpinned administrative policies in European colonies. There were, of course, contrary and antiimperial voices in Europe — Sankar Muthu's recent book on the Enlightenment comes to mind — but they usually did not set the tone of policy as European empires consolidated themselves. 3

Du Bois, however, also pointed to a more positive side of the color-line. He said that «the characteristic of our age» was «the contact of European civilization with the world's underdeveloped peoples». It was true that much of this contact, as he put it, was «not pleasant to look back upon.… War, murder, slavery, extermination, and debauchery, — this has again and again been the result of carrying civilization and the blessed gospel to the isles of the sea and the heathen without the law».4 But the very fact of close contact between Europeans and others in large numbers and in everyday life also opened new human opportunities that, Du Bois hoped, would be taken up by leaders in the 20th century.5 To overcome the color-line and preserve for humanity all that was good, beautiful, and true is how Du Bois posed the task for his time. One can look on Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela as men who embodied, howsoever partially, the 20th century's realization of Du Bois' dream.

Our times are different. While «racism» as an ideological belief in a hierarchy of biological races has lost its coherence and has very few followers today, the word is still used to denote the multitude of ways in which human beings are inferiorized, marginalized, demeaned, excluded and de-humanized on the basis of the way they look or on the basis of a devalorization of their group identity. As the philosopher Étienne Balibar has put it: on the one hand «racism» no longer really exists and on the other, never has there been more racism. It is not surprising, as Professor Balibar explained in a recent lecture he gave at the University of Chicago, that the riots of November 2005 by the youth of north-African descent in the suburbs of Paris had something to do with forms of policing and administration that were copied directly from France's colonial practices.6

Let me repeat a point Balibar has made on several occasions. 7 We live in a world that is post-colonial in two senses. We have all been profoundly affected by the waves of decolonization that shook the latter half of the 20th century. And increasingly movements of people in large numbers across the world — mainly from the South to the North — ensure that most developed countries today have significant numbers of people from parts of the world previously colonized by European powers. The question of what to do with cultural and historical differences between human groups — to which what is called racism is merely a default response — only becomes more insistent as we enter a post-colonial world in which more people move around from one place to another as migrants — legal or illegal, skilled or unskilled, — as refugees, and even as businessmen; a world in which multinational and global or regional agencies, whether private or governmental, supplement the nation-state; an age in which even the phenomenon of so-called terrorism cannot but be a multicultural and multinational enterprise. Given what the United Nations project to be the world's population growth in the next 50 years — a one-and-a-half-times increase to nine billion is their median projection — and the ageing populations of the richer countries, one can safely predict that the next few decades will see further large-scale population movements in the world from the South to the North.

This is the globalized world we are beginning to inhabit: connected, fluvial, and «flat», as the Indian software entrepreneur Nandan Nilekeni put it.8 On the one hand, as globalization theorists have often said, this is an exciting world full of human possibilities as we increasingly come into contact with people who are not like ourselves. It should promote an ethos of cosmopolitanism throughout the world, whether officially so-called or not. This could be a world that actually promoted more human toleration and understanding by generating identifications that challenged and crossed national boundaries. On the other hand, the presence of cultural differences could also produce more prejudice and fear. One powerful version of this fear that has acquired some notoriety is, of course, Huntington's thesis about the clash of civilizations. Another has been the fear of refugees and immigrants (legal and illegal) in many countries of the Western democracies. Governments have never officially subscribed to the Huntington thesis, with even President Bush acknowledging that civilizations, including the Islamic one, are always internally plural and contradictory. But it is clear that as Western governments necessarily become more security-minded in the fight against ill-defined and seemingly interminable forces of terror, they adopt «emergency» measures that both undercut civil liberties and are deployed, at the same time, to control immigration as well. But, given the nature of modern «terrorism», this is an emergency with no end in sight!

When Hannah Arendt wrote The Human Condition in the late 1950s, she did so, as she put it, from «the vantage point of our newest experiences and our most recent fears».9 Globalization, I submit, has been simultaneously the site of our «newest experiences and our most recent fears» about fellow human beings. It is therefore all the more urgent that we devote our collective attention to questions of humanism and to how to think about, and relate to — and converse across — our cultural and historical differences. Globalization often appears as a «blind force» in people's lives making them a «victim» of it. Yet, if we are to participate, however vicariously, in some sense of having agency over its processes, we need to be able to spell out visions of humanity that propel such a movement. Questions abound. Will globalization lead to one global culture that the media will both mold and sell? Will globalization mean that all our claims to cultural differences will survive only if we can make such differences into marketable commodities so that «local» becomes merely an inflection of global capitalism? Or will globalization lead to the emergence of a universal humanism that is enriched by numerous particulars? The time has come for the world to produce a new charter of humanism.

The past is a resource in addressing our concerns. There have been multiple moments in human history when human beings have desired togetherness without any element of domination. I want to begin by suggesting that one exemplary archive of such thought would be the writings of anti-colonial and anti-imperial thinkers of the 20th century. These were people deeply engaged with the traditions that made Europe modern and who yet knew firsthand the exclusionary tendencies of the humanism that European colonizers preached to the colonized. These thinkers felt compelled to consider afresh the problem of being human and to reflect on the need for a new kind of humanist charter as part of their effort to build a world in which the domination of humans by humans would be finished for once and for all. This was utopian thought to be sure — I am enough of a Nietzschean to grant the will to power that animates human existence in everyday life — but a utopian thought that was badly needed. For there could not be any modern anti-colonial movements without utopian dreams of a world without domination; it is such utopia that one hurled at the face of one's enemy, the colonial masters. Anti-colonial thought is utopian also because no ex-colonial nation, on independence, has ever kept the promise it made with itself while fighting the indignity of colonial rule. Post-colonial states and nations have often repeated the sins of colonial rule with respect to their own populations.10 But that does not make anti-colonial and utopian humanism any less valuable as an archive for us to mine as we face our own times.

My case in point is the anti-colonial humanism of Frantz Fanon whose 81st birthday (20 July) we passed this year. Utopian thought is unrealizable by definition. In that sense it fails. Fanon's thoughts are interesting because his is a rich and instructive case of failure. Fanon, who was born in Martinique in 1925 and who died in a Washington hospital in the United States in 1961, was a product and prisoner of European thought. Indeed, it is impossible to think of his works without reference to the Parisian milieu of Marxism, existentialism, and psychiatry of the 1940s, and the 50s. But he was also someone who burned with a spirit of rebellion against the way European colonial rule and its attendant racism showed up what was problematic in the colonizing humanism of Europeans. As he declaimed, angrily and with some rhetorical liberties, asking for a new beginning to human history: «Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of man, yet murder men everywhere they find them.»11 But where would one go, leaving «this» Europe? Not back to a blackness as had been proclaimed by Fanon's mentors such as Leopold Sédar Senghor (1906-2001), the Senegalese poet and intellectual and later president of the country, and Aimé Césaire (1913- ), both of them among the foremost creators of the Negritude movement in Paris in the 1930s and the 40s. That option would not work for Fanon and we will soon see why. For him, there was nowhere to go but to create a new beginning with European thought outside of Europe, to rescue from Europeans their heritage of the abstract humanism of the Enlightenment — the human who is the subject of the idea of human rights as spelled out at the end of the 18th century — and make that everybody's heritage everywhere. Fanon was never a nationalist and never failed to acknowledge what one owed to Europe: «All the elements of a solution to the great problems of humanity have, at different times, existed in European thought.» The problem was that the «action of European men has not carried out the mission which fell to them».12 America was no alternative model either, for its institution of slavery mocked at every step its loyalty to the values of the Enlightenment.13

Hence the option before the Third World — for Fanon wrote at a time when this concept still held ground — could be not that of catching up with Europe or becoming like America (i.e. modernization programs). The choice, according to Fanon, was profoundly new and yet in a deep sense connected to Europe:

Let us create the whole man, whom Europe has been incapable of bringing to triumphant birth.… No, there is no question of return to Nature. It is simply a concrete question of not dragging men toward mutilation…. No, we do not want to catch up with anyone. What we want to do is to go forward all the time, night and day, in the company of Man, in the company of all men.... It is a question of the Third World starting a new history of Man, a history which will have regard to the sometimes prodigious theses which Europe has put forward, but which will also not forget Europe's crimes, of which the most horrible was committed in the heart of man…14

The target of Fanon's new universalism was not merely the failed application of universalist thought by European colonists.15 Fanon was disagreeing with his mentors as well — Césaire and Senghor. Both Senghor and Césaire — deeply immersed in Parisian debates to do with Hegel and dialectics, Heidegger and existentialism, Breton and surrealism — rejected the French republican and universalist version of colonial humanism.

The French granted colonized people French nationality without the full citizenship that they advocated only for a tiny native elite, depending on their perceived stage of evolution, as Gary Wilder has shown in a recent book on French cultural policies in their colonial territories.16 This was a humanism that belittled the colonized. Senghor and Césaire were right to reject it. Instead, they used their poetic gifts and their affiliations with black literature coming out of the African-American diaspora, with existentialism, French and German colonial ethnography, surrealism, and Marxism to develop a poetic diction that emphasized their refusal to be assimilated into French universalist ideas. They wanted to explore, creatively, different dimensions of their blackness and African roots. It was as if they declared a war of the particular against the universal. The result was the famous Negritude movement that both invigorated and disturbed many Black intellectuals later, including Fanon and Wole Soyinka, who once famously asked, in criticism, «Does the Tiger need to display its Tigritude?»

There has been much written on the works of Negritude writers and on Senghor and Césaire specifically and I do not intend to revisit that literature here. What is of interest to me is the fact that this war of the particular against the universal was actually not anti-universal in itself. Césaire and Senghor were definitely trying to resist the French imperial attempt to assimilate them into a Frenchness that for the colonized could only be an instrument of exclusion and oppression. They would therefore — and by way of claiming their roots — seek to introduce into their works images and sounds of an Africa they expressed nostalgia for: the Africa of sensuality, of nights where the tom-tom beat out its rhythms to the «music of Koras and the Balaphon», and of villages that did not aim to expand, occupy, and civilize the land of others. As Senghor wrote in one of his poems:

At the bend in the road the river, blue by the cool September meadows. A paradise protecting from fever a child who eyes are bright like two Swords Paradise my African childhood, protecting innocence from Europe.17

Or consider these lines from Césaire famous Notes on the Return to One's Land of Birth — immortal monuments to anti-colonial criticism of the Europe that saw in its worldly power to subjugate others the proof its «superior» civilization:

Eia for those who have never invented anything for those who never explored anything for those who never conquered anything but yield, captivated to the essence of all things ignorant of surfaces but captivated by the motion of all things indifferent to conquering, but playing the game of the world.18

This turning back to Africa or blackness was something Fanon could never accept.19 For one thing, he thought that the Negritude movement papered over all that divided the African from African or the African from the African-American or the African-American from the black people of the Antilles.20 But more to the point, he believed that the black peoples of colonial Africa and even those of America and the Caribbean islands had had their pasts so changed by the colonial impact that there was no way of returning to a precolonial past escaping Europeans' representations of it.21 There was nothing to be found in claiming the color-line for oneself: «The Negro problem does not resolve itself into the problem of Negroes living among white men but rather of Negroes exploited, enslaved, despised by a colonialist, capitalist society that is only accidentally white.»22 Or as he put it differently in the same text: «The discovery of the existence of a Negro civilization in the 15th century confers no patent of humanity on me. Like it or not, the past can in no way guide me in the present moment.»23

Fanon's description of Negritude poetry as a «will to particularism » was at the very least a misreading of what Césaire and Senghor and their comrades intended to achieve. It is true, as Fanon charged, that Senghor or Césaire owed their romanticism of Africa to the sympathies of colonial ethnography. The German Africanist and ethnologist Leo Frobenius, whose books were quickly translated into French, had a great influence of Senghor.24 Fanon was right in one respect: the past Senghor and Césaire related to was already a creation of European Africanists. But where Fanon misread the intention of Senghor and Césaire was in not recognizing that they also were looking for a universal humanism through a different path. As Senghor once put it: «to be nègre is to recover what is human beneath the rust of what is artificial and of "human conventions".»25 A lecture Senghor gave at the Dakar Chamber of Commerce on September 8, 1937 sought to demonstrate «that universal humanism, when pushed to its logical limit, necessarily leads to a spatio-temporally specific cultural humanism ».26 And he was clear that he was not looking for any «authentic African culture»: «Our milieu is no longer West Africa, it is also French, it is international; we should say, it is Afro-French.» Implying that «the universal human being always and only exists in culturally mediated forms», he rejected, as Wilder puts it, both «the universalizing racism of the civilizing mission and the particularizing racism of the white supremacists».27 In fact, the first volume of his collected works was called Liberté: Négritude et humanisme. He claimed that the book was a «cornerstone in the edification of the Civilization of the Universal, which will be the common work of all races, of all different civilizations…. It has been enriched by the contribution of European civilization, which it has likewise enriched.… Negritude is therefore not a racism.… In truth, Negritude is a Humanism.»28

The same could be said of Césaire whose Notes included the prayer: «preserve me from all hatred/ do not make me into that man of hatred for whom I only feel hatred/ for entrenched as I am in this unique race … that what I want is for universal hunger/ for universal thirst.»29 In an interview with René Depestre, Césaire added: «My will to be rooted is ferocious. Hegel once wrote that the universal is not the negation of the particular, because one moves toward the universal through a deepening of the particular. » And in a famous letter in 1956 to Maurice Thorez, on the occasion of the resignation of his membership of the French Communist Party, Césaire wrote: «Provincialism? Not at all. I do not enclose myself in a narrow particularism. But nor do I want to lose myself in a lifeless universalism. There are two ways to lose oneself: through walled segregation within the particular and through dilution within the universal. My conception of the universal is of a universal enriched by every particular.»30 Césaire was intensely aware of the utopian nature of his project and that is why he found in poetry an effective resolution of the universal and the particular. In opposition to Sartre and others who thought the French language could not be an effective vehicle for the expression of Africanness or blackness, Césaire said in an interview published in 1978:

I am not a prisoner of the French language. I try and have always wanted to bend French. That's why I have had a strong affection for Mallarmé, because he has shown me … that language at bottom is arbitrary. It is not a natural phenomenon… my effort has been to bend the French language, to transform it in order to express, let us say, «this self, this black, Creole, Martinican, West Indian self.» That is why I am much more interested in poetry than in prose, precisely to the extent that the poet creates his language.… I re-create a language that is not French. If the French rediscover their language in mine, well, that's their affair.31

What hurt Fanon profoundly was Sartre's gloss on Negritude in his introduction —entitled «Black Orpheus»— to Senghor's 1948 collection of Negritude poetry. Sartre described Negritude as «a temporary "racist anti-racism" that will be transcended by the dialectic of history.»32 Fanon said to his friends, «the generation of young black poets has received a blow they will not recover from.»33 That blow, one feels, shaped a lot of the argument in Black Skin, White Masks. Fanon now felt that «every hand was a losing hand». «I wanted to be typically Negro — it was no longer possible. I wanted to be white — it was a joke.»34 Sartre had made a «minor dialectic» of Negritude in the larger Hegelian schema of world transformation. The Negro's «anti-racist racism» was only a temporary phenomenon soon to be superseded by the coming of a universalhumanist consciousness: «Beyond the black-skinned men of his race it is the battle of the world proletariat that is his song.»35 Fanon decided that the only way open to him was to struggle for a completely new universal, not as a black man — for he only happened to be black, — and not even as a historical man descended from slaves («I am not the slave of the Slavery that dehumanized my ancestors»). «The Negro is not.» he wrote, putting a deliberate full-stop there in the sentence and then continuing, «Any more than the white man is.» «There is no Negro mission; there is no white burden.»36 What there was, was the Enlightenment mission of valuing the abstract human being of human rights, someone who is entitled to our civility long before we have in any way placed him or her in any historical or social context.37 But this was precisely the mission that the white man, self-absorbed in his arrogant sense of supremacy, was not able to carry out. How would the oppressed man of color keep that pledge to the Enlightenment? This is where Fanon mobilized the rhetorical power of the figure of redemptive violence and called for an act of complete volition by which, at one stroke, to leap out of history.38

That debate within and about Negritude is one of my 20thcentury archives as I think of humanism in a post-colonial age of globalization. When I read about Fanon and Césaire and Senghor's restless spirit in their struggle against the colonizing humanism of the ruling race they encountered, and I reconsider my own Indian background — and my background in Indian history — I realize that colonial rule was not the same everywhere, nor were the compulsions of the racedynamic the same. A Gandhi or a Tagore or a Nehru — the three most universalist and yet profoundly Indian anti-colonial thinkers I can recall immediately — never theorized race with the intensity of Negritude writers or writers in the African- American diaspora. It was not that Indians did not come across incidents of unpleasant and extreme British arrogance. But in their experience of colonial rule, racism remained episodic rather than something constitutive of colonial relations of power.

It may be said against my invocation of the familiar names of Fanon, Césaire, or Senghor that they in turn remind us of the radicalism of the sixties, forms of utopian thinking that may appear useless in the face of a world in which capitalist globalization and domination seem inexorable. Today's tasks, it may be said, ought to be humbler and pragmatic, and not echo the seductive but powerless dreams of these anti-colonial thinkers. But what use, one might counter, is a pragmatism the logic of which amounts to simple capitulation to the very forces one once set out to fight? Should not one instead try and develop pragmatisms that rework and recall — in however fragmented and practical a manner — the idealisms of the past that once sought to change the world, lock, stock, and barrel? Let me give a concrete example of this phenomenon from post-colonial writing. Salman Rushdie's subversion of the English language from within may seem pragmatic and practical without being driven by a revolutionary or totalizing intent. But can one deny that it stands on the shoulders of the efforts of anti-colonial writers such as Césaire whose desire to «bend French» arose out of a desire for total anti-colonial autonomy?

That is why I think that there are general lessons for all of us in the stories I have recounted here. We have three positions on humanism here. Firstly, that of Sartre's in his «Black Orpheus» where he wanted to say that the Negritude emphasis on blackness and race — on the particular, say — was a temporary recourse to anti-racist racism, soon to be sublated into a superior term of history's dialectic, universal proletarian consciousness. Fanon's biographer, David Macey, has pointed out what was problematic about this position: «Sartre falls into a trap of his own making, and he describes that very trap in his Réflexions when speaks of the "democrat's" inability to recognize the Jew in the assertion of his Jewishness and in his insistence on the need to see him as a universal.»39 Then there was Frantz Fanon's position that called for an entirely new historical stab at Enlightenment humanism, except that it was the task now belonged to anti-colonial people of color. But the creation of this universal called for something like a violent action of the will, akin to jumping out of one's own skin. It has never been realized in the world and cannot be, for its extreme and deliberate inattention to history. It is a program for violence that implodes from within.40

We are left with Césaire's or Senghor's positions that do look for a path to universal humanism but a universal that will never be able to fold completely into itself — and thereby subsume in a Hegelian way — any particular that enriches it. The Jew will be allowed his assertion of Jewishness as will the Muslim his Muslimness, so long as the assertion of the particular does not aim to destroy the universal. What this calls for is a deeper appreciation of historicity. Let me explain what I mean by that expression. To do that, I need to introduce here, briefly, a distinction I make between «rootedness» and «dwelling».

Recall Césaire: «My will to be rooted is ferocious.» I have a small quibble with Césaire. I will read «dwelling» where Césaire uses the figure of «roots». I want to argue that human beings will always ferociously want to dwell but are seldom rooted. By rooted I mean something like a fixed and enduring relationship of persons to places. This actually seldom happens, for human beings move, if not in one or two generations then in three or four or more. When Lady Diana died and the BBC commentator said she would be buried in the grounds of the mansion where the family had lived for hundreds of years — I think he said five hundred — I asked a class of mine how many of them belonged to families that had lived in the same building for hundreds of years. None, for human beings move. Being rooted to one place is a very special privilege most of us cannot afford to enjoy. Yet, when human beings move, they almost never move to places where no humans have been before them. And they have to learn from their predecessors in these places how to live — that is, dwell — in those habitations. To dwell is, then, to recognize that wherever we are, there have been other humans there before us and they have left traces — in material and immaterial cultural practices — of suggestions of how to be human in that place. Dwelling is how humans recognize historicity, the fact that we never live in places that have not been inhabited before. It clearly allows for cosmopolitanism but it does not allow for universals that want either to deny (as in Fanon's case) historicity itself or want to subsume these historical particulars completely within themselves (as in Sartre's Marxist reading of Negritude).

What I am suggesting then is a middle path, a middle path between Kant and Herder, say, to bring my concluding references nearer Europe. This middle path gives us a way of thinking about the relationship between the universal and particular that may be helpful in the age of globalization. That such a middle path is theoretically viable has recently been suggested by an American Kant scholar. I refer to John H. Zammito's book, Kant, Herder, and the Birth of Anthropology.41 It is, of course, impossible to do justice to two very deep, complex, and foundational thinkers in the space of a few sentences. I use the names of Kant and Herder here mainly as flag-posts for two positions. Zammito points to the closeness between Herder and Kant in the 1760s — when Herder was a favorite pupil of Kant's — and to their intellectual separation 58 from the 1780s on, and asks if there were not ways of bringing them together, or at least holding on to both, in order for us to address the philosophical aspects of social enquiries of our times. In the process, he elucidates what separates the older Kant of «critical philosophy» from the later Herder. Their opposition is strongly reminiscent of the contrast between the universal and the particular with which I have been working. The «mature» Kant of Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View (1798) held to the position that «universal knowledge will always precede local knowledge as long as it is to be arranged and guided by philosophy, without which all acquired knowledge can provide nothing but fragmentary groping, and no science at all».42 Here the universal triumphs over the local, the empirical, and the particular. It reminds us of the Sartre of «Black Orpheus» or of Fanon's search for a human with no particularity stamped on him. For Herder on the other hand, as Zammito puts it, «logical abstraction, as it gained in precision, lost in content: the more universal concepts lost ever much more of the concrete richness of their subordinate instantiations ».43

You can see the opposition that I have alluded to. In resolving it, however, a younger Kant comes to our rescue. In his Announcement in 1765 of his physical geography course, Kant spelt out a position not too distant from Herder's. He said that the course would «consider man, throughout the world,… from the point of view of the variety of his natural properties» (within which Kant included «physical, moral and political geography»). «Unless these matters are considered », he wrote, «general judgments about man would scarcely be possible», and added: «[Concerning man] I shall always begin by considering historically and philosophically what happens before specifying what ought to happen.»44

In thinking about the relationship between the particular and the universal in questions of humanism today, I have stayed with the younger Kant: the universal needs to be open to the particular and be liable to serious revision under its pressure. Perhaps questions of the universal and the particular as they intensify in an age of globalization are in the end reminiscent of old problems of human reasoning. To speak with Kant again, they are perhaps questions that human reasoning can neither ignore nor answer with any degree of permanent satisfaction.45 The universal, then, functions like a hypothesis, to be constantly tested against reality. If that sounds like I want to have my contradiction and eat it too, then I will have to remind you that, as I said in the beginning, we all live in post-colonial times, and in such periods of human history we can only speak with a «double consciousness», as Du Bois taught us, or with a «forked tongue», in Salman Rushdie's powerful words.


1 Du Bois, W. E. B., «Of the Dawn of Freedom», In: The Soul of the Black Folk. New York :  Penguin Books, 1989 (first published 1903), p. 13.

2 Ibid.

3 Muthu, SankarEnlightenment against Empire, Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press,  2003.

4 Du Bois, W. E. B., «Of the Sons of Master and Man», op. cit., p. 133.

5 Ibid., p. 134.

6 Balibar, Étienne, lecture given at the University of Chicago in spring 2006.

7 Balibar, Étienne, «Europe: Provincial, Common, Universal», unpublished paper presented at the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes Annual Meeting, 17-18 June 2005, University of Utrecht; Balibar, Étienne, «Europe: An Unimagined Frontier of Democracy», In: Diacritics, fallwinter 2003, p. 37-44.

8 Friedman, Thomas L., The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century. New York:  Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2006, p. 4-8.

9 Arendt, Hannah, The Human Condition. Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1998 (first published 1958), p. 5.

10 See my «introduction» to Chakrabarty, Dipesh, Majumdar, Rochona and Sartori, Andrew (eds.). From the Colonial to the Post-Colonial: India and Pakistan in Transition, New Dehli:  Oxford University Press, 2007.

11 Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth, New York:  Grove Press, 2005, p. 311.

12 Ibid., p. 314.

13 Ibid., p. 313.

14 Ibid., p. 313-315.

15 See the excellent discussion in Wilder, Gary, The French Imperial Nation-State: Negritude and Colonial Humanism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press,  2005, part 2.

16 Ibid., p. 133-135 and 143. 17 Leopold Sédar Senghor cited in Mehta, Linn Cary, «Poetry and Decolonization: Tagore, Yeats, Senghor, Césaire, and Neruda, 1914-1950», PhD dissertation. New York : Columbia University, 2004, p. 326.

18 Césaire, Aimé, Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (1939, begun 1936) cited in Wilder, Gary, op. cit., p. 287-288. 19 Fanon, Frantz.  The Wretched of the Earth, op. cit., p. 239. 20 Ibid., the chapter on «National Culture».

21 Ibid., p. 210. 22 Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks, translated by Charles Lam Markmann. London: Paladin,  1970 (first published 1952), p. 144.

23 Ibid., p. 160. 24 Cited in Mehta, Linn Cary, op. cit., p. 301. 25 Leopold Sédar Senghor cited in Wilder, Gary, op. cit., pp. 188-189. 26 Ibid., p. 235.

27 Ibid., p. 241.

28 Ibid., p. 250.

29 Ibid., p. 288.

30 Ibid., p. 290.

31 See Non-vicious Circle: 20 Poems of Aimé Césaire, translated and introduced by Gregson Davis, Stanford (CA):  Stanford University Press, 1984, p. 14.

32 Macey, David. Frantz Fanon: A Biography.  New York : Picador, 2000, p. 187.

33 Fanon, Frantz, Black Skin, White Masks, op. cit., p. 94.

34 Ibid., pp. 93-94.

35 Jean-Paul Sartre quoted in ibid., p. 94.

36 Ibid., p. 163-165.

37 Julia Kristeva's discussion of the French declaration of civil and human rights in Strangers to Ourselves, translated by Leon Roudiez, New York:  Columbia University Press, 1991.

38 Fanon, Frantz.  Black Skin, White Masks, op. cit., p. 164-165.

39 Macey, David, op. cit., p. 187. Macey explains that by «democrat» Sartre meant «wooly liberal».

40 None of this, however, denies the poetic appeal of Sartre's or Fanon's universals or their capacity to seem apt in certain specific circumstances.

41 Zammito, John H., Kant, Herder, and the Birth of Anthropology, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press,  2002.

42 Ibid., p. 301.

43 Ibid., p. 319.

44 Ibid., p. 293-294.

45 Ibid., p. 280.


I am grateful to Jörn Rüsen for the original invitation to write this paper for a conference on «Der Humanismus in der Epoche der Globalisierung» at the Kulturwissenschafliches Institut in Essen, 6-8 July 2006.