It Takes Two To Tango: Rethinking Enlightenment and Decolonization

It Takes Two To Tango: Rethinking Enlightenment and Decolonization
Date
4 July 2019, 6.00pm - 7.30pm
Type
Lecture
Venue
The Senate Room, First Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Description

Professor Mark Thurner, ILAS

‘Decolonization’ has become a voracious buzzword but few of those who deploy the term know much about its history.  Perhaps more surprisingly, and despite the presence of the so-named gallery just across the street in the British Museum, the same can be said of ‘Enlightenment.’  This blissful tandem of historical ignorance is not as innocent as it appears.  For many of our ‘postcolonial’ and ‘decolonial’ critical theorists and activists today, the Enlightenment is the very antonym of decolonization, if not its declared enemy.  Indeed, for these theorists just about everything wrong with modernity, from colonialism to racism to sexism and museums, can be blamed squarely on the Enlightenment.  In striking contrast to this critical consensus, many of the pioneers of what is now called ‘the first wave of decolonization’ (1770s-1830s) manifested the very opposite view.  For them, popular enlightenment was the sure means to global decolonization and the end of European dominance.  What gives?

In this inaugural lecture, Professor Thurner argues that the yawning gap between the enlightened hope of early decolonization movements and today’s critical theory betrays much more than a disenchantment with ‘the empire of reason’ and the mixed legacies of revolution.  It points instead to a pernicious failure to come to terms with the connected or entangled histories of enlightenment and decolonization beyond Europe.  Professor Thurner outlines the pioneering case of the Hispanic American world, where notions and practices of ‘enlightenment’ and ‘decolonization’ have long danced together.  This unheralded case, Professor Thurner argues, forces us to rethink the global history and possible meanings of ‘enlightenment’ and ‘decolonization’ past and present. 

Moderator: Professor Philip Murphy, Director, ICWS
Closing Words: Dean Rick Rylance, SAS

Discounted copies of THE FIRST WAVE OF DECOLONIZATION, Routledge Studies in Global Latin America, (New York: Routledge, 2019) will be available for purchase at this lecture.


Contact

Olga Jimenez
olga.jimenez@sas.ac.uk
020 7862 8871