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Humanism after Colonialism

Claudia Alvares

This study provides a wide-ranging critique of contemporary anti-humanist postcolonial theory. By charting a genealogy of the complicity of humanism and oppression in the New World, this analysis highlights the process of consolidation of a racialised, autonomous and rational modern subject as well as the existence of a fractured modernity. Situating contemporary Derridean critiques of humanism within the Hegelian tradition, this work demonstrates that post-modern anti-essentialism does not succeed in escaping totalisation. Furthermore, it contextualises the fractured modernity of the Western humanist tradition in relation to the works of key twentieth-century thinkers such as Frantz Fanon, Hannah Arendt and Emmanuel Levinas, arguing that these authors problematise the common reduction of humanism to a totalising outlook, due to their revelation of the gaps and fissures prevalent in the modern. Combining insights drawn from Fanon’s emphasis on lived experience, Arendt’s enlarged mentality and Levinas’s non-ontological transcendence, this study aims to deconstruct the complicity between humanism and colonialism.
Contents: The Post-Colonial Dilemma – Humanism and Anti-Humanism: Kant, Hegel and Marx – Alterity and ‘In-Between-ness’ – Slavery and the New World: What is Human – Historicism and the Reinscription of Difference – Negotiating Dialectics: Fanon, Arendt and Levinas – Fanon: Humanism as Lived Experience – Race, Nation and Violence – Arendt: Humanism as Space of Freedom – Political Equality and Social Discrimination – Levinas: Humanism as Excluded Middle – Community and Recognition.