Postcolonial Critiques of Modernity : Dr Ravi sinha

( New Socialist Initiative presents the 2nd Lecture* in the Series on Modernity, 18 th October 6 pm IST)

*Youtube Link to the first lecture :









Topic : Postcolonial Critiques of Modernity

Abstract :

In this lecture we will attempt a summary of and a distillation from various strands of postcolonial critiques of modernity and an assessment of the ideological temperament and political attitudes that flow from these critiques. The challenge in any such exercise is at least two-fold. Postcolonial theory is a diverse and multi-faceted body of thought that expresses itself variously in theoretical, historical, cultural and political works it has inspired. Summarising it and distilling from it is a challenge. On the other hand, modernity too is a variously interpreted and enormously contested category. Invariably its critics erect their own versions of it for their respective purposes.

The major strands of postcolonial critiques we will consider are not all integral to the concept of modernity, but they do relate to this issue – some more directly than others. The aspects we will attempt to cover can be counted as follows:

Orientalism – the deliberate and motivated construction of an image of the “East” by the western colonial establishment that served the colonial project

Euro-centrism – the European norms and standards of civilisation to be imposed on the rest of the world

Universalism – the proclamations that Reason and Science and to a lesser extent also the concepts of ethics and human rights as they emerged in the West are universal and applicable to entire humanity

Nationalism – a critique of modern nationalism, both colonial and anti-colonial

Subalternism – a critique of the history from above and of the denial of agency in the subaltern masses

Textualism – an emphasis on texts while evaluating history, a theoretical tendency influenced by post-structuralism

In our assessment of the postcolonial critique of modernity we will refer to our own conceptualization of modernity (as covered in the last lecture). In particular we will deploy the conceptual separation of capitalism from modernity as an example of our functional separation between the “system” and the “rest of society” and on this basis will present a political assessment of the postcolonial critique of modernity.

The Speaker : Dr Ravi Sinha

Ravi Sinha is an activist-scholar who has been associated with progressive movements for nearly four decades. Trained as a theoretical physicist, Dr. Ravi has a doctoral degree from MIT, Cambridge, USA. He worked as a physicist at University of Maryland, College Park, USA, at Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad and at Gujarat University, Ahmedabad before resigning from the job to devote himself full time to organizing and theorizing. He is the principal author of the book, Globalization of Capital, published in 1997, co-founder of the Hindi journal, Sandhan, and one of the founders and a leading member of New Socialist Initiative.






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