Saturday, October 7, 2017

The El Telegraph, the Community Activist and Same Sex Marriage: When the editor-in-chief of a Lebanese-Australian paper produces hate speech

A couple of weeks ago the Arab Council Australia issued this statement:

Arab Council Australia is proud to stand together with other groups in support of marriage equality.
People who identify as LGBTIQ are an integral part of our community and are entitled to the same freedoms and rights and the recognition before the law as every other citizen in this country.
Arab Council Australia stands by its values and works tirelessly on combating discrimination. inequality and injustice in all its forms.
As Arab Australians, we know all too well the pain of exclusion and discrimination. In knowing this, how could we stand by and allow this hurt to be inflicted on to others – let alone our own?
We acknowledge the diversity of views in our community on the issue of marriage equality. This diversity reflects our democracy and the freedoms we enjoy. We also recognise that equality for some is not equality at all and that selective equality is fundamentally against justice.
Arab Council Australia believes that a survey of the population was neither necessary nor desirable. However, we are here now. Let us hope that the outcome upholds the principles of human rights, justice and equality.
We look forward to the day when we are not as driven by our fears but more by our love and wanting the best that life can bring to all peoples.
Please join us in ensuring that everyone is treated fairly and equally under the law.


Last week, Mr. Antoine Kazzi, the editor in chief of the Lebanese Australian newspaper El Telgraph, used his paper to publish this attack on the Arab Council and on its CEO, Randa Kattan. Here is what he wrote:

Et tu Brute? The Arab Council or the Arabic Communities Council has lost its eligibility to shoulder the trust the community has placed in it. It no longer represents its aspirations and it is no longer the voice that raises its concerns. Rather, its CEO now chirps away as she pleases, speaks in her own name and presents her personal opinions while deluding people into thinking that she is speaking for the Council.

Her excellency, the CEO was not satisfied with supporting same-sex marriage, which the vast majority of the community rejects, in her individual capacity, but she issued an insolent statement expressing her pride in saying «yes» to same sex marriage under the banner of the Council, singing out of tune and against the direction of the communal tide.

There might be many reasons behind this “courageous” position, one being that the council has been falling apart for many years now, has lost its shine and has become just another name added to the names of many surviving on Government grants. So perhaps the CEO, using the method of ‘go against the tide and you’ll be noticed’, thought that this was the chance to strike to bring the council back into centre stage and give it back some of its fading shine. But her move destroyed whatever was left of its credibility.

We ask her excellency the CEO who is so dying to say “yes” what will Arab Council now do on international women’s day which it used to celebrate every year and where awards were distributed to highly achieving women and what word will be used to refer to this event?

Goodbye Arab Council. God has mercy on the one who knows his limitations and stops at them. And the last and most important question we ask it to the board, who include some mature and sensible people: Does the opinion of the Arab Council’s  CEO represent them or has she deluded herself into trying to build up whatever is left from the council? Or does the board want a new Clover Moore in the midst of our community? For if liberation, open mindedness and modernity look like this, we are proud to remain on the list of the reactionaries and the culturally strict… those who have a male father and a female mother.
And who knows maybe her Excellency might decide to open an Arab Council branch on Oxford Street in Paddington to serve the needs of those who she’s proud of.

This is a deplorable text on so many levels. But before I say anything about it let me say to the English reader that if you found part of the editor’s text incomprehensible it is not because I am bad at translating from Arabic to English. It is because the Arabic text itself is in places seriously incomprehensible and badly written and edited. I know I am already putting the chief editor in a bad light saying that his piece is neither well written nor well edited but that is unfortunately the case. Another technical deficiency of the text in so far as it is written by a journalist is that it lacks the most basic research: Why wonder if the CEO is speaking for herself or for the Arab Council when a simple phone call would have been sufficient to know how the statement came about? In my case a simple conversation on messenger allowed me to know that the Arab Council’syy board voted on this text and it was endorsed by seven out of ten board members. But I suppose a clear-cut fact would not have lent itself to the poetics of innuendos that Mr. Kazzi engages in.

The text’s obsession with ‘who represents the community?’ and the idea that ‘the community’ is some kind of monolithic entity is one of the least helpful illusions fostered and encouraged by the multiculturalism of the late twentieth century. It is a fantasy that has always united racists and people who have aspirations to be ‘community leaders’. It has no basis in facts but clearly some people find it hard to let go of the idea.

The fact of the matter, as is obvious to any reasonable person, is that Arab communities in Australia show similar tendencies as the rest of Australia. Certainly, Christian and Muslim religious organisations are important and they have a large population that is more likely to be conservative in outlook on same sex marriage. But they are far from being the only game in town. Arabs like all Australians are more likely to support same sex marriage if they live in the inner city rather than in the suburbs or in the country, they are more likely to support it if they are secular rather than religious, they are more likely to support it if they have an urban rather than a rural background and they are more likely to support it if they are tertiary educated than if they are not and the list goes on. Even if we accept the editor in chief’s argument that an overwhelming majority of Arab Australians are not supportive of same sex marriage, and this is not as much of a foregone conclusion as he likes to think, are those who support the yes vote not supposed to have ‘community organisations’ that speak in their name? Mr Azzi’s text shows a disturbing logic of communal excommunication towards anyone who is contemplating to support the yes vote in the plebiscite.

Take me for instance, when the Arab Council issued this statement I saw it on Facebook and was heartened to read it. I left a message expressing how happy I was that they’ve written it. I was not the only one. Hundreds of Arab-background Australians liked it. Many Arab-background gay people commented to thank the council for their stand. Now all of these people myself included might not be the majority of Arabs but Mr Azzi needs to get out of his conservative communal hole and stop thinking that we are negligible. We are not. And it is he who has to adjust to our existence, not us who need to think of ourselves as communally illegal because the Bishop, the Sheikh, the newspaper editor and the three or four conservative financiers who finance community newspapers think so.

Historically, the Arab Council has always offered a different kind of leadership within the community to the conservative leadership of the church and the mosque and the local media financed by moneyed Arabs with a conservative bent. The Arab council was ‘Arab’ when narrow nationalists wanted it to be Lebanese. It was secular when others wanted it to be religious. It has had a healthy number of women among its leaders when other Arab institutions remained as ever male dominated, it has been vocally anti-zionist when other institutions had opted for quietism, and most importantly it has invariably articulated the struggle against racism towards Arabs to as many others Australian struggles for justice as is possible, be they the struggles of indigenous people or women or refugees or other excluded and mistreated minorities. And sure enough it has a long history of supporting struggles against homophobia. In short let me then reiterate that the Arab Council represents the outlook of many Arab-Australians and actively helps many more in their struggle to lead a decent life. It certainly has never made a claim to represent ‘the community’ as if it is some unified entity. But nor should anybody else make such a ridiculous claim.

This, however, is the least disturbing aspects of Mr Kazzi’s text. What is worse is the attempt to humiliate a woman who has a long and brilliant record as a community activist. The mocking, ‘her excellency’, ‘chirping’, all this smacks of seriously unchecked misogyny that extends towards Clover Moore. Apparently Clover Moore is not a suitable model for Lebanese background women to follow. Nor would the ex-governor Marie Bashir be by those standards. Perhaps Mr. Kazzi thinks he is. He is after all supposedly concerned about the fate of ‘International woman’s day’ (though I am still struggling to understand what exactly he is saying here). Mr Kazzi should know that this pseudo-caring about women like the eternal ‘we put women on a pedestal’-mode of thinking does not fool anybody: it has accompanied misogynistic discourse forever. He should apologise to Randa Kattan for this ridiculous mocking tone.


Perhaps Mr. Kazzi feels so strongly about this issue of same sex marriage that it has made him lose all sense of proportion. He certainly goes way more than the usual ‘we don’t care who you love we just want to protect the institution of marriage’-type of conservative opposition to same sex marriage. His pride in those who have ‘a male father and female mother’ is a discourse of homophobic hate destined to hurt every child who doesn’t have a father and a mother, before being a discourse of hate for those who support plural forms of familial arrangements. At the end of the day, this is the worst aspect of this unfortunate piece of editorializing. It is hateful. It teaches people that you need to try and mock, humiliate and obliterate those you disagree with. If I was the Australian state looking for what fosters a culture of ‘radicalisation’ among young people, I would consider this culture where people are taught not to differentiate between disagreeing with someone and wanting to humiliate and obliterate them, as just as responsible as the radical Imams preaching their discourse of hate. Mr. Kazzi’s text does not differ much in its tone and in its content from this kind of murderous preaching. And it is very concerning that this is a text produced by the editor in chief of an important community newspaper.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The struggle is fractal


I came to think about fractal cultural forms when thinking about patron-client relations in Lebanon. Indeed I was thinking it before I came across the word fractal, while reading Marilyn Strathern, to refer to it. 
My  thinking about Lebanese patron-client relations was this. If class systems divided society between capitalist class and a working class. Clientelism did not divide Lebanese society between a class of Patrons and a class of clients. It was more that every client often was himself (mostly a he, but not exclusively) a patron to another layer of clients. As importantly, culturally, every client aspired to be a Patron of a network of. This was a crucial aspects of Lebanese Diasporic culture for me: so many migrants leave Lebanon cursing its clientelism and celebrating, if they are based in the west, the 'rights'-based access to social services etc... of their society of settlement, but no sooner do they accumulate some wealth that they begin to act, almost instinctively, at establishing a network of clients. It helps that 'right' based societies are nowhere near as right based as they appear and that there are always cracks and room for a lot of clientelism within them. Immigrants who have accumulated a certain amount of wealth often find themselves a niche in those cracks. But these immigrants also go back to Lebanon and use their wealth to establish new clientelism networks. Clientelism in this sense is a bit of generalised cultural disposition. You don't fight it by simply fighting against a delineated clientelist class. In this struggle every national space has room for clientelism. Indeed every scale and every dimension is infused with some form or another of clientelism that one needs to struggle against. Clientelism is a national and an international phenomenon, it is a social and a personal formation. It is that makes anti-clientelism a fractal struggle.

I think many of our struggles today are fractal in this sense: one has to fight them in all spaces, and at all scales including within oneself. Anti-racism, anti-colonialism even anti-patriarchy. The feminist 'the personal is political', and the 68-ish slogan 'the change begins with you', seem all to denote an awareness of this fractal nature. And that in the struggle against racism one has to fight the way one has oneself internalised racist formations and the way they exist within us is acknowledged in all the classical writing beginning with Du Bois and Fanon.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Ends of Nostalgia: waiting for the past-to-come (From my afterword to Andreas Bandak and Manpreet Kaur Janeja, Ethnographies of Waiting, forthcoming from Bloomsbury. A book to look forward to)




As anyone who has worked on the phenomenon knows, nostalgia is a lot more than a yearning for the past. Firstly, nostalgia is a yearning/waiting for a past that is perceived to have been lost (that is, perceived to be lacking) in the present. Secondly, it is not a yearning for any kind of past, it is a yearning for an idealised past. Thirdly, it is an active and/or passive yearning/waiting which entertains the possibility of, and as such is hopeful that, such a lacking idealised past will materialise in the future. All of this is part and parcel of the Lebanese migratory yearning to return. First, in the process of migration, Lebanon or the village, the land one imagines to have left behind, ‘back home’, is often slowly yearned for and perceived to be what is lacking in the migratory present. Second, this ‘back home’ is quickly idealised as a place of plenitude and well-being in opposition to the harsh land of migration where a kind of reality principle prevails. Third, most Lebanese emigrants strongly believe in the eventuality of return, even if not all of them are capable of actively pursuing it. The nostalgic waiting for return is therefore a yearning to return to a past that never existed but that is hopefully yet to come. It is in this sense that nostalgic waiting can be called a hopeful waiting for a past-to-come.  It therefore takes this general imaginary structure (in the sense of the way it is thought by the nostalgic subject in the present):

Idealised                      Present as lacking idealised past                                the future
past                 à        of plenitude and where the                à                    as the past-to-
of plenitude                 yearning/waiting subject is                                        come

Undoubtedly, this is a form of waiting in that we have a subject negotiating their relation towards the future from the present and with a specific past behind them. Intimations of Arendt’s theorisation are clear (see introduction). At the same time, however, it is a specific kind of waiting where the drama of negotiating the future is staged as a desire to regain a lost plenitude. But to what extent is this waiting for the past-to-come unique to the migratory experience? It can be easily argued that this nostalgic waiting is not specific to migration as much as it is specific to modernity. Is not all modern waiting structured by a sense of loss of plenitude caused by industrialisation, urbanism, pollution and a yearning for the plenitude of the countryside? Does not modernity by its very nature stage a nostalgic subject who is forever waiting to overcome a sense of loss and alienation? This modern yearning is always a yearning for a past time as well as a past space. It could be argued that what characterises diasporic waiting and diasporic modernity is that the emphasis on place becomes greater. If the ‘classic’ modern European waiting is structured by yearning for a predominantly conceived lost time, Diasporic waiting is structured by yearning for a predominantly conceived lost place. We can easily see how this modern structure of waiting/yearning sociologically shapes other forms of waiting/yearning/seeking. Are not current forms of white nationalism in the western world structured in exactly the same nostalgic way, with the white nationalist subject imagining an idealised national past of plenitude (the nation before x, y or z ruined it) and a yearning for a national future that is precisely this idealised past now perceived as forthcoming?

Nonetheless, there are arguments to be made for the universal nature rather than the modern, let alone diasporic, specificity of nostalgic waiting. Such an argument comes from psychoanalysis with the foundational role that ‘waiting for the breast’ plays in the formation of the human subject. In its Freudian/Lacanian version, this waiting for the breast initiated what is a distinctly nostalgic structure. This is because the moment of waiting is the moment of awareness of a lack of immediacy between needing and receiving. For as long as there is no waiting there is no consciousness of one’s separate existence. It is the moment when we need and have to wait for the breast that we become aware of our separateness. However, this separateness is painful and the moment it is experienced one begins to yearn for an imagined time when it did not exist. That is the imagined moment where there was a kind of fusion between mother and baby and a sense of plenitude that comes from this lack of separateness and the absence of the need to wait. Thus, when we receive the breast, we get what we need (milk) but we do not get what we desire (a return to the state of fusion with the mother where we imagine that we did not even experience ‘need’). Consequently, the desiring subject is a subject structured by nostalgia for this state of plenitude and fusion for the mother, waiting for a past-to-come.

While claiming a certain universality, we don’t need a reminder that the psychoanalytic claim is nonetheless a western claim for universality. Integral to this psychoanalytic argument is a more general phenomenological one about the universality of the nostalgic subject: the very moment of consciousness is a consciousness of ‘separation from…’ and a yearning for lack of separation. But this kind of separation rests on a very modern imaginary of the division between nature and culture. Indeed, it does not take too much effort of the imagination to see that what is staged here is an opposition between a state of nature (no separation and plenitude) and a state of culture (separation and alienation) with the subject of culture continuously yearning/waiting for a return to a state of ‘being one with nature’. After all, one of the most fundamental manifestations of this imaginary past plenitude/present lack/future as past-to-come remains the structure of monotheist religion as it is present in the bible, where it takes the form Garden of Eden/the fall as the present of the waiting subject/heaven as the yearned for past-to-come.

The question of cultural specificity/universality of the structure of nostalgic waiting ties into the sociological argument presented above: to what extent have we internalised this macro nostalgic structure of waiting and hoping? And to what extent does it play a role in shaping all the micro modes of hoping we engage in. As I write, I am passively and actively waiting for this afterword to finish. Am I also unconsciously imagining in my very waiting and yearning for an end, a state of plenitude, a return to a state of fusion with the mother, a return home and a being one with nature all in one? Indeed, can one yearn/wait non-nostalgically? Perhaps this is an important political question we are facing today.

If nostalgic waiting is structured among other things with a hopeful fantasy of being one with nature ‘once again’. Is not this kind of waiting and hopefulness beginning to crumble in our Anthropocenic age where we have to confront the impossibility of this fantasy of one-ness ever coming to be fantasised again? And if this kind of macro structure of waiting has a determining effect on other micro forms of waiting, expecting, yearning and seeking, perhaps we are in the midst of one of the most radical transformations of the way we experience our position ‘between past and future’.



Monday, April 17, 2017

Reading Trump's Foreign Policy with Bourdieu-ian eyes

A good understanding of Pierre Bourdieu's differentiation between a state of 'symbolic violence' and a state of 'orthodoxy' can help us understand an important dimension of the various dispositions already exhibited by the Trump administration in the domain of foreign policy. The centring of the idea of 'America first', the willingness to engage in an exhibitionist flexing of muscles and the cultivation of an aura of unpredictability.
States of symbolic violence and states of orthodoxy are for Bourdieu two states of domination.
They differ first of all in degree. A state of symbolic violence entails a far more complete domination than a state of orthodoxy. 
If you are representing, upholding and defending a way of living A with a set of beliefs x, y, z and you are struggling against someone representing, upholding and defending a way of living B with a set of beliefs a, b, c. You have a state of symbolic violence when your way of living A and your beliefs x, y, z so decimate the way of living B and the beliefs associated with it that the latter become insignificant. Symbolic violence is a state where a dominant reality and a dominant set of beliefs dominate so completely that they stop being perceived as dominant, they become the norm, what goes without saying, the way things are, 'common sense' as Gramsci would say. It's like when you ask someone for the date in a western or westernised country today and they say it is 18 April 2017, they will not say 'It's 18 April according to the Gregorian Calendar'. Not many think of that date as embodying the history of the domination of the Gregorian over the Julian Calendar or the solar over the lunar calendar. A date is the end result of a long history of domination of a particular way of thinking the date that becomes so dominant that it successfully hides its history as a process of domination. It does so by absenting any alternative reality and beliefs from its orbit so much so that it becomes just the norm.  We can look at the colonisation of Australia, Canada and the US as a way in which a European mode of life displaces and eradicates indigenous ways of life to the extent that the latter becomes largely invisible and insignificant (except in a limited touristic way) and a European way of life becomes so dominant that it is perceived to be the norm. Your everyday tourist to Sydney will not experience the Europeanness of Sydney as the end result of a history of domination, extraction and colonisation. Symbolic violence is a violence that hides its original violence such as it no longer appears as violent domination. Its when your order of things becomes the order of things such that when you are defending your own particular interests you are defending 'the order of things' and vice versa.
A state of orthodoxy for Bourdieu is a lesser complete mode of domination. It is still a mode of domination, to be sure where there are dominant ways of life and beliefs and minor/dominated ways of life and beliefs. However, in a state of orthodoxy the dominant never manages to 'naturalise' their way of life (to make them look as if they are natural, unquestionable and normal). It is a state of orthodoxy because there is a significant heterodoxy which is continually challenging those who are dominating. It is not that it stops them from dominating but a heterodoxy is nonetheless always there, in the way, stopping an orthodoxy from dominating so much that it no longer appears as if it is dominating. In a state of orthodoxy, the dominant order of things is not experienced as 'the' order of things but as the dominant's order of things, and when the dominant's defend their interest they appear as doing exactly that: defending their interest.
In what way is this helpful to understand Trump's foreign policy orientation in the world? For a long time, the United States acted in the world as if it was aiming for, and upholding, a state of symbolic violence. It wanted and tried to achieve, and acted as if it had achieved, a state where its interests and its order of things became perceived as the order of things, where it's order became the 'world order'. This has never been completely successful nor has it been a linear history of success. It can be said that the American capacity to define the 'world order' has fluctuated between a state of symbolic violence and a state of orthodoxy. US presidents have always vacillated from being the upholders of an international state of symbolic violence to upholders of a state of orthodoxy.
When Trump says 'America First', only the most naive would think that before that declaration US foreign policy was 'America Second'. Of course it has always been 'American First'. Nonetheless, it would be equally naive not to note that in explicitly declaring 'America First' one is changing the way in which the policy of having America first is being pursued and the way 'America's firstness' in the world is being conceived. What we are seeing is a clear move from a politics of symbolic violence to a politics of orthodoxy, form saying I want to protect 'the world order'  knowing very well that the world order is precisely your order writ large to saying I want to protect myself and my interests in the world come what may.
The modality of rule in, that is, the ways to uphold, a state of symbolic violence and a state of orthodoxy are very different. The mode of rule in a state of symbolic violence is in a sense quite perverse because the dominant assumes both the position of a fighter in the ring and the position of the referee. You act as if you are regulating the game while at the same time fighting to win the game. You have to look at your enemy both horizontally, face to face the way fighters face each other, and top down as a regulator, the way a 'world's sheriff' is supposed to look at a conflict. your wars are always fluctuating between a warring and a policing operation: it is never clear whether you are fighting a war that looks like a police operation or a police operation that looks like a war. The mode of fighting to maintain one's dominance as an orthodoxy does away with the transcendental, policing, position. You therefore can shed your 'reasonable' aura necessary for someone who acts as a judge and a regulator. you become a pure fighter needing to flex your muscles and exhibit your power in a different way. If as a regulator of world affairs you need to exhibit wisdom, establish and be seen to be following rules and regulations, as a warrior you need to be unpredictable: one cannot fight if one's enemy knows what one's moves are going to be well ahead. It is hardly surprising that this is precisely what we are seeing Trump doing today.
From Bush to Obama we have a series of presidents who have been confronting a clear decline in the capacity of institutionalising American power in the form of symbolic violence. And while the United States' dominance of world affairs is unquestionable, its mode and degree of dominance certainly is. Obama was the last president trying to maintain the aura of a world policeman while US power is clearly no longer projecting itself as 'world order'. That is Obama is the last president to act as if the US was presiding over an institutionalisation of symbolic violence while it is in fact struggling to dominate as an orthodoxy.  Trump, on the other hand, is the first to assume responsibility for this state of orthodoxy. In this sense he is more of a realist than the presidents who preceded him. This mode of accepting a far more realist sense of the kind of domination that the US is capable of exercising in the world might end up being one of the defining dimensions of international politics in the first half of this century.











Monday, April 3, 2017

The world-(that’s)-to-come(-to-an-end): a ‘subvival’ guide. Some comments on Déborah Danowski and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro 2017. The Ends of the World (trans. Rodrigo Nunes). Polity Press, Cambridge, UK.

It was just a brief reference, a single word, made kind of en passant, in what is a critical survey of the way human thought is trying to come to terms with the ecological crisis and the end of the world as we know it. Yet that word somehow captured what to me was the issue that is at the core of the book. Talking about the environmental crisis and noting the various ways in which people are trying ‘to survive’ it, the authors stop after ‘survive’ and add, or rather to ‘subvive’. They added the word and kept going without dwelling on it as if there was nothing to it.  Yet, it is precisely what the whole of this book dwells on. The fact that the very notion of ‘survival’ even when used with a recognition of the importance of the ecological crisis such as in a formulation like ‘can we survive the Anthropocene?’ lacks reflexivity. The usage of the prefix ‘sur’ which denotes the capacity to transcend, to rise above, etc… is so full of that very macho sense of omnipotence over ‘Nature’ that got us where we are in the first place that the usage of this ‘sur’ is no longer adequate. While ‘vive’ we must, we can forget about ‘surviving’. It will be wonderful if we can manage to subvive given all that is stacked against us. The prefix sub does not only reflect being ‘under’ but also the capacity to be content with ‘imperfection’, with a diminished state of being. In fact, it can be said that the whole politics of the book lies in drawing a battle line between survivalists and subvivalists. Those who still believe in a modern, technological overcoming of ‘nature’ and those who are happy to negotiate a minimal deal with the earth so as to secure our continued existence in some diminished way or another. For this is not just an analytical book. It is a book that does not shy away from drawing battle lines, or from categorizing and even naming the enemy. In this sense this is also a book for warriors and in search of warriors suited for an end-of-the-world politics. Environmental activists will learn a lot from it, indeed, I would say: they must read it. It is heavy but lightly and beautifully written which takes me to another important dimension of the book.

Beside helping delineate the analytical and political domain examined throughout the book, the minor inclusion of this ‘subvive’ word also points to the fact that we are dealing with authors of the highest technical caliber. A point that hardly needs to be made about Danowski and Viveiros de Castro but, still, as fellow writers/craftspeople we need to stop and marvel at this capacity to embody so much critical thinking and reflection in so little. Indeed, this is an exceptionally well written book in this regard. Another point to admire from a ‘craft of writing’ perspective is the clarity and heuristic ethos of a book that is dealing with seriously difficult material. One learns a lot about the social, political and ecological issues raised by the ecological crisis. One learns a lot about the various schools of thought that are grappling with it. Most importantly we have an exemplary mode of reviewing and critiquing the works of other writers such as Dipesh Chakrabarty, Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers. It is really an admirable skill to read, explain and in some way augment the work of fellow authors, clearly laying out the central arguments they are presenting, acknowledging the various ways in which they help you construct your own argument, and once this is done, engaging in a critique that, because of what precedes it, becomes far more powerful as it becomes centered around the capacity of a certain strand of thinking to achieve the specific tasks set for it. I have an ongoing interest both as a writer and a teacher in ‘how to use theory’ (see Hage, Towards an Ethics of the Theoretical Encounter. Anthropological Theory, 2016). This is one book that I will be using in my teaching as an example of how an ethical reading and critique of other writers should be done.


As far as the content of the critique goes, at one level, it can be said to be simply an attempt to bring a colonial critique to bear on authors such as Latour and show some of the persisting Euro-centrism in their thought. This is indeed done very convincingly including a funny reflection concerning the theoretical fixation of European thinkers on Greek words. Even Dispesh Chakrabarty, in what I thought was a good moment he must have himself appreciated (he has written a blurb for the book), had his previous ‘subaltern studies’ thrown back at him. It was a reminder that even when aiming at capturing the geological impact of humans, analytical thought does not itself become ‘geological’ but remains structured by class, colonial, gender, etc. relations of power. But in some ways there is more to Danowski and Viveiros de Castro’s critique than your usual attempt at introducing a de-colonial/indigenous thought. Taking for granted the many possible ways in which indigenous people relate to modernity and capitalism, and going way beyond the usual simplistic arguments about the fear of ‘essentializing’ and romanticizing indigenous people as anti-modern etc… Articulated to reflections on the Maya as ‘end of the world experts’, the book works with a genuinely liberating and politically powerful conception of ‘indigenous’ agency as a form of subvivalism. I’ve not kept it a secret that I have a soft spot for Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s thought. Now I have to say that I have a soft spot for Danowski and Viveiros de Castro’s thought as well. Nonetheless, soft spot or not, it is hard headedly that I say that if you are a thinker or an activist concerned with the ecological crisis the issues raised by this book are unavoidable. If you think they are avoidable, it is yourself who is totally avoidable :) Voila.