'The Upside of Down?' Colonialism as Catastrophe
Posted: 29 Mar 2010
Catastrophes oftentimes not only conjure images of loss, but also of opportunity. From environmental collapse to earthquakes and other so-called natural disasters, destructive concatenation of events are then recast as opportunities in ways that correlate Joseph Schumpeter’s well-known formulation of capitalism as a dialectic of “creative destruction.” But while scholarly attention is increasingly devoted to natural catastrophes, not enough critical attention is afforded to other, long-term and often dreary catastrophes that cannot be accommodated in the logic of the event which makes these catastrophes visible. Capitalism and colonialism are two preeminent examples of catastrophes that fall from view in narratives of the event and where the dialectic of the “upside of down” at work in catastrophic discourses is clearly discernable. In this essay I seek to make a contribution to filling this gap in relation to the colonialism. Namely, I seek to thematize colonialism as an “unseen” catastrophe by means of an engagement of some currents in Caribbean and Latin American political thought, especially with the writings of Roberto Fernández Retamar and Enrique Dussel.
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