UCL Uncovering Politics

Resisting Colonialism

Episode Summary

This week we ask: what are the wider impacts and legacies of colonialism, and how can we go about resisting them?

Episode Notes

A common idea in academic theory and activism, as we start to move towards less unjust institutions, is that we need to decolonise things, from university curricula to museum collections. Following on from a brilliant event which took place last week at UCL, the UCL-Penn State Joint Conference on ‘Resisting Colonialism’, we are discussing these ideas with the three organisers. The conference ranged from discussions what to do about unpaid reparations, museum collections, and the monuments of colonisers; to decolonial approaches to immigration and theories of resistance. Joining us today to talk about some of these important ideas are:

Dr Shuk Ying Chan, Assistant Professor in Political Theory in the Department of Political Science at UCL, whose book in progress examines decolonisation as an unfinished project of global justice;

Dr Desiree Lim, Catherine Shultz Rein Early Career Professor and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Penn State, whose monograph “Immigration and Social Equality” is forthcoming at OUP;

and Dr Chong-Ming Lim, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Nanyang Technological University, whose published work examines, amongst other topics, uncivil political resistance, including the vandalising of commemorations.


Mentioned in this episode:

Episode Transcription


people, colonial, expropriation, statues, colonialism, ideas, desiree, countries, singapore, work, analytic philosophers, sense, immigration, case, views, migrants, book, ying, resistance, history


Desiree Lim, Emily McTernan, Shuk Ying Chan, Chong-Ming Lim


Emily McTernan  00:05

Hello. This is UCL Uncovering Politics. This week we will be discussing colonialism and how to resist it.


Hello, my name is Emily McTernan. And welcome to UCL Uncovering Politics – the podcast of the School of Public Policy and Department of Political Science at University College London. 


This week joining us on the podcast are the organisers of a brilliant event, the UCL-Penn State joint conference on 'Resisting Colonialism', which took place last week at UCL. The event ranged from discussions about what we should do about unpaid reparations, how to fix museum collections and the monuments of colonisers to decolonial approaches to immigration and theories of resistance. 


So with me today to talk about some of these important ideas and their own work on the subject are the organisers: Dr Shuck Ying Chan, Assistant Professor in Political Theory in the Department of Political Science here at UCL, whose book in progress examines decolonisation as an unfinished project of global justice; Dr Desiree Lim, Catherine Schultz Rein Early Career Professor and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Penn State, whose monograph Immigration and Social Equality is forthcoming at OUP, and Dr Chong-Ming Lim, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Nanyang Technological University, whose published work examines, amongst many other topics, uncivil political resistance, including the vandalising of commemorations. 


So a common idea in academic theory and activism, as we start to move towards less unjust institutions, is the idea that we need to decolonise things, from university curricula to museum collections. Let's start with unpacking the core ideas here. 


So I wonder if the panel could tell our listeners a little bit about how and why colonialism and coloniality are extending here beyond the international phenomenon between countries where one is subjugating another and extracting resources to thinking about what's going on in museums and universities and other institutions.


Chong-Ming Lim  02:10

Yeah. Thanks for having us, Emily. 


So I think you're absolutely right that, you know, colonial relations extend beyond, you know, a group of people going to a different place and taking things for themselves. You know, when we think about colonialism we have to see that it was supported by an entire system, right, so including the state and its apparatus, social practices, and a range of attitudes that made everything work and kind of work on time, as it were. I think removing the part where people go to a different place and take things for themselves isn't quite the same as removing the entire system. 


I think, you know, in fact, I think we have reason to think that various aspects of the system persist today. So, you know, amongst other things, you might think, you know, as activists, scholars have [said] that the organisation of museums – you know, the establishment of monuments and curricula – they're all remnants of such a system. So that is to say they're colonial insofar as they are part of the system that supports the idea that some people can go to a different place and take things for themselves or take things from other people, in addition to supporting the very fact of some people actually – like so acting on the idea, right – of going to different places and taking things from other people for themselves.


Emily McTernan  03:28

And Desiree, at the event you give a fascinating talk that takes that thought about how colonialism spreading beyond those international relations even further to talk about colonial subjectivities. I wondered if you could talk our listeners through about your ideas of colonial habitats and colonial capital.


Desiree Lim  03:44

Certainly, and very glad to do that. And thank you for having all of us here. 


So just to build on what CM said, I do think that part of the residue of colonialism can be found in relationships between people and how we relate to each other in the present day. 


And so in terms of how I think about colonial habitus, obviously, with that word, I've borrowed it from Pierre Bourdieu. And I think of it – or rather, he thinks of it – as knowing the rules of a game and knowing how exactly to play the game and how to play it well within a particular field. So when we speak of what the colonial habitus is, it would be the rules of the game within a place that's inherently colonial by virtue of its history. 


And of course the rules of the game keep changing. You might think that 200 years ago, when a territory was so occupied, the rules of the game would be something involving subservience to your colonial master or something like that. But of course things are very different and loads of countries have achieved full independence since then. 


But I want to argue that people can still think in this colonial way and still play by the rules of a game that was the product of that very long history – that's really shaped what we value and the things we set as our goals and hierarchies within that society.


Emily McTernan  05:26

And part of your account with this idea as well is the colonial capital – that there's something about the advantages you get from playing the game, even as a member of a formerly colonised nation.


Desiree Lim  05:37

Exactly. So Bourdieu sees field as essentially a site of competition where people are trying to constantly beat each other at the game. And there are various kinds of capital that you could use to do that.


And so one form of colonial capital I can think of is cultural capital. And that was the focus of my talk. 


So if you're someone who knows the culture of the former colonising nation intimately, that's something you could definitely use to your advantage within the society because it's seen as prestigious. Or you might be attending institutions that have very close associations with the former coloniser. 


So in Singapore, where CM and I are from, the person who's been identified as a central coloniser of Singapore is known as Stamford Raffles. And it's quite interesting that, despite many other countries having very decolonial attitudes towards the past, Singapore has really leaned into embracing our colonial history and naming schools, hospitals, what have you, after Raffles. 


And that's a kind of cachet. So if you say, I went to Raffles Girl School, that's going to impress loads of people and get you into the, you know, 'all boys' or 'all girls club', so to speak. And that would be a version of it.


Emily McTernan  06:54

And so, colonialism so widespread, it's having all of these impacts. So what does decolonising mean? How are we to go about this?


Shuk Ying Chan  07:17

Yeah, great. So thanks, again, for having all of us here. 


So I'm really glad you asked this question. So there are lots of competing positions – or, I guess, views - on what decolonising means. I mean, some people I think – and it's quite a common view – tend to think of decolonising, you know, the curriculum or, you know, culture or whatever, as kind of recovering certain non-Western ideas or traditions or practices that have been kind of, you know, erased or, you know, neglected and so on. 


I tend to kind of think of it differently. So in my book, in my work in progress, I sort of follow [? 07:56] to choose work and thinking about decolonisation as a pursuit of equality. So this builds on nicely on what Desiree was saying about how colonialism is a sort of like a particular way of like people relating to each other – as like an institutionalised way of relating to each other that enables domination and exploitation. So if we understand colonialism in that sense – in the sense of like a set of racialised hierarchies of domination and exploitation – then decolonising I think means, you know, sort of like a transformation of those relations to relations of equality. 


And what that means for me is at least sort of recovering equal agency. So it's less about recovering specific kinds of ideas, but more about empowering groups that are historically oppressed to engage in cultural production, engage in economic production or economic self-determination, and so on so forth, regardless of whether, you know, those folks end up drawing on, you know, so called Western or non-Western ideas. So it's more for me it's more about sort of centring – like, sort of marginalise or, if you want to use like a technical term, like subaltern agency.


Emily McTernan  09:12

Let's get this applied to a couple of concrete cases. 


So let's start with the British Museum. So this is one of the topics at the conferences. What do we do about the British Museum? We're just around the corner from it as we're recording here. It's filled with things taken from other countries. 


So what does decolonising the British Museum look like? How does that relate to your ideas of equality there? 


Shuk Ying Chan  09:34

Yeah, thanks. I mean, so the museum is something that I think I'm still trying to think through. But at the conference, so Professor Linda Alcoff gave a really fascinating paper and I think one of the suggestions that she made there was for sort of collaborations between the British Museum and sort of, you know, the peoples from which these objects and artefacts were taken. 


And so it's, I guess, my understanding of her argument is that, you know, it's only through kind of bringing in the agency of these groups, then we can sort of further the project of the museum, which, I guess, you know, their self-defined mission is to kind of further human understanding, discover, you know, new kinds of knowledge and so on. 


And so I thought that that was actually like a very nice way to think about it. Again, it's about whose voices, you know, are centred, and who gets to tell the story about the context of an object and what it means and so on, so forth. If you guys have other-


Chong-Ming Lim  10:37

Yeah, so I think that's right. I think Professor Alcoff was also saying something about, you know, the ideas that make it such that we can safely ignore the agency of some groups of people, or we can underplay, you know, the importance of their testimony or their standing or the positions to understand and to interpret the world. 


So I think part of, you know, wanting to enable the agencies of the subaltern is also to kind of do something or try to do something to dismantle some of these ideas, right – to kind of make it such that we don't buy into some kind of vague or crude idea that we can know things about the world or about certain kinds of artefacts from very different places without, I think, also, at the same time, being embedded in a place where, you know, these artefacts have a certain life of their own. Yeah.


Emily McTernan  11:30

Let's go from the case of museums to thinking about immigration – another key theme of the conference – and what decolonising immigration might look like. 


So Desiree, I wonder if you could speak to this, because I know that your forthcoming book on immigration and social equality has a part that's going to consider skill-selective immigration and colonialism. 


I wondered if you could talk us through a bit about what's wrong with this kind of migration policy where states are only letting those with particular skill sets that they need in?


Desiree Lim  11:56

Yeah. So I'll begin with talking about my book and then I'll try my best to connect that to the themes of today's podcast. 


So the core argument in the book is that it's a kind of wrongful discrimination to prefer highly-skilled migrants over low-skilled or so-called unskilled migrants. And you might think that, at the most fundamental level, the real problem is not the immigration policy in itself, but really how we organise and how we think about skills. Because there are loads of things that might be officially classified as low skill when, in fact, they do involve an enormous amount of skill, caregiving work being one of them. 


And of course there's a highly intersectional element to that as well, right: it's not just that the job is considered low skilled and is performed disproportionately by, say, women of colour from the global south, but it's perhaps considered low skilled because it's performed by low-skilled women from the global south. 


So I think we have to begin by really rethinking how we categorise jobs. I don't have any inherent objection to countries choosing migrants on the basis of jobs that are scarce within the country. 


So the example I give in the book is, if there's a massive drought and there aren't really any drought specialists to mitigate the drought, then surely one can prioritise drought management specialists from other countries. And we saw this during the pandemic with medical workers for some countries. So that's definitely not the argument I want to make – that countries can't be selective at all. 


But I do think that there's a very strong rhetorical tendency on the part of politicians to say things like: we want the best and the brightest; we want the most meritorious people in the world to come and help our country compete in this race for global talent. And it's quite important to note that, while it's relatively easy, I think, for highly skilled migrants, including people like me, to take up residence in various countries all over the world, especially in the global north, that's accompanied by it being harder and harder for low-skilled migrants to enter, even though the work they perform is no less essential. 


So that's basically the essence of the book and the issue that I'm trying to draw people's attention to, because it's quite surprising that loads of philosophers have explicitly condemned racist immigration policies that select people on the basis of race. In theory, it could be completely wrong as well to prioritise people on the basis of religion or culture. But they've typically regarded a skill as something quite neutral and desirable when I want to show my book that that's definitely not the case. 


And so to bring this back to colonialism, the anchoring point of the book is the idea of social or relational equality, where I think of justice as – well, as a society as most just – where people in it are able to relate to each other socially as equals rather than inferiors and superiors. So that's where I begin from. 


And we can quite clearly see that the low-skilled versus high-skilled hierarchy would be a very clear-cut example of a lack of social equality. But so would colonial relations between immigrants and citizens, as well as between different kinds of non-citizens themselves, right. 


So if we were to adopt a decolonial approach to immigration, we might start thinking crucially about the sites of power that, again, still have that colonial residue, and how that affects how we see and how we do immigration policy today. And going back what Ying was saying: to decolonise, it would be to really perform a deep analysis of those sites and see what we can do to change them. 


And one quite interesting and provocative idea is that, because the spoils of colonial wealth happen so unevenly distributed, one way to make it up to people from formerly colonised nations would be to give them the right to enter former colonial powers so that they too can share in the wealth that their countries contributed towards. So that's one example the decolonial policy.


Emily McTernan  16:59

Interesting. Is there some worry that that might have consequences for the country from which they came that could further create issues in that home country? 


So I'm thinking here of kind of classic brain drain worries. So your case is: okay, it's fine if we take the medical workers if we really need those. But of course if one does that, that will leave other countries without medical workers that they need. And they're likely to come because likely the pay is going to be higher, owing in part to that colonial wealth – that's why they can pay more. 


How would you speak to that? How do we fit that into your thoughts? 


Desiree Lim  17:28

Yeah, so that is something I do address in my book. And I think it's a very real worry. So just because you have the right to something doesn't mean that you ought to do it. 


But I again want to centre to the agency of the subaltern, and I don't think we should really be in the business of telling people: well, perhaps you should just stay where you are, because we just want to instrumentalise your labour. I think that's quite mistaken. 


But on the other hand, I don't want to just, you know, in a hand-wavy kind of sense dismiss the very real worry that that's going to leave developing countries without skilled workers, as well as unskilled workers, just to push back on my own accidental hierarchy there. And I think it's really just a deeply complicated issue. 


And I want to add as well that this kind of reparative immigration is certainly not the only tool we have in our toolkit. And it may not even be the most appropriate one. But it's an idea that should be put at the table.


Emily McTernan  18:39



And now I wonder if we could turn to statues. So a popular topic of contemporary discussion, of course: what are we going to do with all these statues that are everywhere of slave owners and colonisers.


And CM, I know that your work has focused on commemoration and on vandalising commemorations. And in your talk, you offered us a really nuanced sense of what's going on here. 


So I wondered if you could talk us through one of the cases that you offered us. So particularly because we're based in London, let's talk about the statue of Churchill in Parliament Square. I wonder if you could talk our listeners through why some people object to the statue and how we should be understanding the way that statue is communicating


Chong-Ming Lim  19:15

Sure. So I think some people object to the statue because they think – or rather, they don't think – that Churchill is worthy of, you know, commemoration, they don't think that he's worthy of being honoured, you know, primarily, I think, because of his racist views and his policies. 


Others, however, I think there's some kind of pushback, right. So, you know, there are lots of people who think that it is fine to have the statue and it's fine to let it remain standing there because it narrowly commemorates Churchill for his, you know, I guess, you know, political prowess or statesmanship or something like that, especially during the Second World War. 


So the idea here is that, you know, we can have the statue there because it says something fairly constrained. It's just one narrow thing. 


So I think the several things going on here. 


The first is that, you know, we certainly can think of direct commemorative speech as being quite narrow in scope if you will. And this is quite a common thing. I don't think this is, you know, an especially controversial thing to say. You know, people are typically commemorated because of the things that they did rather than in general. So, in that sense, I think it's plausible to think that the direct speech of the statues fairly scope restricted – says only that, you know, Churchill's worthy of commemoration because of his statesmanship. So I think we can concede that point. 


But at the same time – and this is the second point – the fact that the statue focuses on and honours him for his statesmanship when there are a whole bunch of other things that he said or that he did, I think that is the thing that's problematic. So to be clear, it isn't that therefore he isn't worthy of commemoration in the narrow sense, but that commemorating him in that narrow sense suggests that the things that he did and he said, you know, needn't or shouldn't take our attention away from his great statesmanship. I think, again, you know, that's where the problem is; you know, our focus says something. Specifically, I think, you know, there's something problematic about choosing to focus on his statesmanship, in a narrow sense, when he was also, I think, you know, involved in fairly severe and serious injustice. 


And then we can add a third point here, which is: to say that this focus, you know, on some things rather than other things can often tie in with, you know, broader views which may be very prevalent in society, about whose lives are worthy of remembrance or lament, whose views are important to take seriously, who has the relevant standing to hold us accountable, as opposed to all those people who are not. 


So in sum then, I think we have good reason to regard the commemoration, you know, of Churchill in particular and other similar statues in general, as problematic, even if on the surface that direct speech is, you know, scope restricted.


Emily McTernan  22:12

So what do we do? How do we resist these statues? 


I know in your earlier work you've recommended vandalising these statues. But I think your views have shifted a little bit. Maybe there's a range of things we do. Is that right?


Chong-Ming Lim  22:23

Yeah. So I think that, you know, we resist the statues and their speech in the same ways that we resist various unjust aspects of our world, including unjust speech. 


So now I think that, depending on the context, there can be a lot of variance in terms of what's the best approach. 


So in earlier work I suggest that, you know, vandalism can be a good way of satisfying the demands of those who fight to remove statues because of their bad speech and those who seek to preserve those statues for the sake of remembering and learning from history, again, so long as, you know, those acts of vandalism satisfy certain important political constraints. So the argument there went, you know: if they satisfy these constraints, vandalism can allow us to respond to the bad speech of certain kinds of commemorations without removing the possibility of remembering or learning from the past. I think, in fact, we have reason to think that vandalism may even augment our remembrance of learning from the past. 


Now, you know, I want to spend less time, I think, hopping on vandalism. I still think it can be really good response in a whole range of contexts. But, you know, attending to the variety of ways in which commemorative speech can go wrong, I think we should, you know, be more happy to accept it. You know, maybe other responses can work: so maybe moving them to museum in some cases could work, throwing them into the river in some cases could work. So yeah, I want to kind of keep things open now.


Emily McTernan  23:56

That's fascinating, that observation that we're not then interfering with the knowledge of the history, because it's certainly true that I know far more about many of these statues now and who there are of than I did before all the contestations and vandalisms that these statues happened. It's a really fascinating point to bring to light. Thank you. 


I wonder if we could link that back to the discussion of the Raffles case in Singapore, the thought that this is a kind of name that's appeared everywhere. Is your view that one of the ways we might start slowly, slowly to deal with the huge mess that is the colonial habitus and cultural capital in those contexts to take the name off? Or do we keep the name for historical reasons? What do you reckon, Desiree? 


Desiree Lim  24:32

I think we should definitely take the name off. It's quite unlike a statue in a sense because a statue's just... Well as CM's work has very nicely pointed out, a statue is – or a monument really – is an object that says something, right. It tells you something about the person, even the way that the person is standing, his stance and the statue, And it's quite funny because I believe all the Raffles statues in Singapore have a particular stance where he's got a foot in front of himself and he looks like really, really proud with his achievements. 


Well I think that names are a little bit different. And I think we could continue to remember the unjust history that Singapore was subjected to even without the name, simply because it doesn't take up space the way that statues do.


Emily McTernan  25:30

And I wonder if we can continue this theme of resistance to colonialism but turn now to a very direct form of resistance and a very stark form of resistance that I know Ying your work has been touching on recently: thinking about what we do when reparations go unpaid. 


So it looks like one obvious and necessary answer to colonial injustice will have to be reparations for the land taken, for the resources extracted, for the violence and the rights violations. 


But Ying you've got some interesting views on what we should do when, as they are, they're going unpaid. So what happens then? 


Shuk Ying Chan  26:02

Yeah, great, thanks. 


So this nicely follows up from the discussion about migration as a form of reparation. So I think, as you and Desiree both pointed out, there are some kind of, you know, regrettable features of treating migration as a way for sort of individual migrants who have the capacity and resources to move to obtain part of what they do by literally moving to them for a metropole, right.


So one way I was thinking a different way of thinking about sort of these more unilateral ways for victims of colonial injustice to reclaim what they're owed is for post-colonial states or their citizens to engage in expropriation. 


So this would be sort of public takeovers of foreign assets. And, you know, in the paper that I presented at the conference, I sort of discussed some examples. And a lot of these examples come from the height of formal decolonisation in the 20th century, when, you know, for example, in Indonesia, where these trade unions just kind of took over plantations that Unilever and, you know, oil plantations from Shell and so on, and just basically, you know, kind of reclaimed the infrastructure for themselves. And you know, there are other obvious examples like Egypt, nationalising the Suez Canal. 


So these kinds of expropriations have become less frequent and less common today because there's now a very kind of, you know, a very sophisticated body of international law that's meant to kind of constrain the use of expropriation precisely because, you know, the global north – sort of international lawyers and countries and so on – you know, like they push back against this wave of nationalisation quite strongly. 


But there are still like indirect ways that states can engage in expropriation in half. So things like confiscatory taxations of profits, things like transferring IP rights and so on. 


And so I sort of defend this as a way of addressing some of the, you know, what I call – I mean, what a lot of theorists, for example, from Catherine Lu to Alasia Nuti, call – the 'structural injustices of colonialism'. So if you think about colonialism as, for example, a kind of economic exploitation where there were these unequal trading arrangements set up and the use of enslaved and forced labour and so on, so forth, that led to – that partly fuelled – the industrial revolution and led to the current kind of economic inequality between states, and then expropriation is really a response to that by sort of laying claim to the capital and the wealth that the former colonies were denied a chance to develop themselves.


Emily McTernan  28:54

So that seems very clear in the case of things like the Suez Canal and nationalising that – that really is a seizing back of these resources. 


The case of IP law you mentioned there – it looks interesting in this context. So IP I take it, that's a kind of intellectual property law, so things like drug patents. Is that what we're talking about? So countries making off brand versions of branded ones. 


It looks slightly less clearly tied to the history of colonialism. Is that fair or am I missing something important here?


Shuk Ying Chan  29:21

No, it's a great question. 


So I do think that it is tied to the history of colonialism in part because I think that a lot of these scientific innovations, and so knowledge production, depend on, well, first of all capital, right – so, you know, that goes back to the economic inequality and inequality of capital – but also depends on kind of centuries of European and Western appropriation of so called traditional knowledge, right? 


So that's still happening today with bio prospecting, or what people call bio piracy, where Western companies, because they have again more capital and technology and know-how, they go into post-colonial countries, and especially indigenous communities, and sort of, you know, take the kinds of knowledge that they've developed across centuries and repackage it and commercialise it as their own. And so that's the... I think, you know, expropriation is also kind of a response to that – could also be a kind of response to that – by saying: look, you know, there's such an unequal infrastructure of knowledge production and scientific discovery in the world, and in part because of this history of colonial exploitation. So, you know, by, you know, issuing compulsory licences, you know, what the postcolonial state is really doing is to kind of lay claim to the products of that. 


I mean there's like, you know, disagreement amongst international lawyers whether compulsory licencing counts as expropriation. But it is something that's protected in most investment treaties. And therefore, you know, it's something that's kind of normally off limits, unless we're very, very sort of specific, narrow cases. 


Emily McTernan  31:01

So as I hope our conversation so far has revealed, there are so many interesting and important issues coming out of this conference and the work that you're all doing around colonialism and resistance. 


I wonder if we could take a moment to reflect on the position of this work within political philosophy. So I don't quite know how to phrase this question. The first way I wanted to phrase this question was something like: do you think there are particular social and political shifts that have led to this sudden resurgence or surge of interest in colonialism and resistance to colonialism? But the other way I thought about framing this was just to say: why have philosophers been so late to get to grips with colonialism?


Desiree Lim  31:37

So I'll maybe answer the latter question. 


I should add that I do think decolonial philosophy has been happening for a very, very long time. And from a more personal point of view, it was my taking up a position at Penn State that really exposed me to the work of Enrique Dussel, [? 32.01], Gloria Anzaldua, Frantz Fanon, people like that, and me realising that there are people who have been working on this for many, many years, just that we consider them to be continental philosophers.


Emily McTernan  32:17

Absolutely. Thank you so much for that correction. That's absolutely right. 


I should have said this very narrow form of Anglo-American style of analytic philosophy has, I think it's fair to say, been very hesitant to include those in the canon and to properly get going with these issues.


Desiree Lim  32:32

Yeah, so I think it was through exposure to these theorists that I realised that I'd really been missing out on a lot. And I think there's plenty of room to really marry analytic methods of pursuing philosophy – which I'm still very, very inclined towards – but also drawing on insights from these theorists, but at the same time, being very careful to read them properly, take the time to interpret them and not just cherry pick and, you know, have them speak for you because I think that would be, quite ironically, a kind of expropriation.


Emily McTernan  32:35

CM, I heard you wanted to come in on that too.


Chong-Ming Lim  33:11

Yeah. It was much of the same thing that Desiree was saying. I think, but I mean, I don't want to belabour the point. 


But I want to add that I guess there are two ways of seeing this. One is that analytic philosophy is the problem that we need to solve. The other is that analytic philosophers are the problem. 


And I want to say that maybe it's the latter – more so the latter than the former. It seems like maybe, you know, analytic philosophers, you know, many of them, you know, are held captive by the story about the history of ideas, right? So you start from, you know, Socrates and Plato all the way through, all the way through to Rawls, you know, through Hobbes and Rousseau and Locke and all the like. 


And in that story, some people are just missing, right. And I think it's no accident that people who are missing just happen to be also, I think, colonial subjects. And I think it's not out of, you know, any special malice that analytic philosophers have just, you know, neglected these people. 


You know, so I did my BA in Singapore. I studied philosophy, political philosophy, and there was none of this decolonial stuff at all, right. So we did our Plato, our Socrates, our Aristotle, we did our Locke –the whole lot, right. 


And there is a sense in which you can't imagine, I think, if we want to be charitable, that the people teaching us were, you know, animated by some particular, you know, fervour with, you know, protecting the Empire. I don't think that's quite right. But nonetheless, right, being held captive by a particular story of how the history of ideas unfolds I think leads us analytic philosophers to think that this is just one way of doing this – this is how we've done things, I need to do things this way. 


And also I want to add, you know, by way of, you know, excusing myself and others like myself is to say that that the very real pressures to write in certain ways, to publish in certain journals, in order to be, you know, recognisably categorised, right. And you need that because there are all these pressures to find work, to keep work, and so on, right. So I think these are... You know the questions of why philosophers have been so late to get grip, you know, get to grips with this problem is itself I think part of the problem that we're trying to deal with.


Emily McTernan  35:42

Absolutely. The colonialism of philosophy is very apparent. 


Thank you for your answer there and thank you for your active resistance of holdings such a wonderful and interesting conference at UCL to talk about all of the ways in which colonialism is influencing our public lives and our private subjectivities and what we might start to do to resist it. 


So thank you all for joining me today. I really appreciate it. And I hope our listeners do too. 


Next week, we will be discussing the state of US politics with Dr Julie Norman and Dr Thomas Gift.


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I'm Emily McTernan. This episode was produced by Eleanor Kingwell-Banham and researched by Alice Hart. Our theme music is written and performed by John Mann. 


This has been UCL Uncovering Politics. Thank you for listening.