New Directions in Post Colonial and Decolonial Feminisms

Book Talk
Unthinking Mastery
By: Julietta Singh

University of Richmond

Julietta Singh is a writer and academic who works at the intersections of postcolonial studies, feminist and queer theory, and the environmental humanities. She is the author of Unthinking Mastery: Dehumanism and Decolonial Entanglements (Duke University Press, 2017), and No Archive Will Restore You, a theoretical memoir on race, sexuality, embodiment, and love in the technological age (forthcoming, Punctum Books). Her academic writing has been published in leading cultural theory journals including South Atlantic Quarterly, Cultural CritiqueStudies in Gender and Sexuality, Symploke, and the Journal of Postcolonial Writing. Her creative work has appeared in venues such as American Poetry ReviewAnimal Shelter, Prairie Fire, Social Text, and Women & Performance.

The Book
In Unthinking Mastery Julietta Singh challenges a core, fraught dimension of geopolitical, cultural, and scholarly endeavor: the drive toward mastery over the self and others. Drawing on postcolonial theory, queer theory, new materialism, and animal studies, Singh traces how pervasive the concept of mastery has been to modern politics and anticolonial movements. She juxtaposes destructive uses of mastery, such as the colonial domination of bodies, against more laudable forms, such as intellectual and linguistic mastery, to underscore how the concept—regardless of its use—is rooted in histories of violence and the wielding of power. For anticolonial thinkers like Fanon and Gandhi, forms of bodily mastery were considered to be the key to a decolonial future. Yet as Singh demonstrates, their advocacy for mastery unintentionally reinforced colonial logics. In readings of postcolonial literature by J. M. Coetzee, Mahasweta Devi, Indra Sinha, and Jamaica Kincaid, Singh suggests that only by moving beyond the compulsive desire to become masterful human subjects can we disentangle ourselves from the legacies of violence and fantasies of invulnerability that lead us to hurt other humans, animals, and the environment.

Faculty Workshop
By: Neetu Khanna

University of Southern California

Neetu's areas of interest include theories and literatures of decolonization, global marxisms, postcolonial literature and theory, women of color feminisms, affect and queer theory.  Her book, The Visceral Logics of Decolonization, rethinks the project of decolonization by exploring a knotted set of relations between embodied experience and political feeling, a set of relations she anatomizes as visceral.

Global South