Ontologicidal Violence; Modernity-Coloniality and the Muslim Subject in International Law
chapter in: M. Woons & S. Weier, Borders, Borderthinking, Borderlands: Developing a Critical Epistemology of Global Politics, (Bristol: E-International Relations Publishing, 2017), Forthcoming
11 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2017
Date Written: September 1, 2016
Frantz Fanon, in correspondence with Ali Shari’ati, commented on the Iranian sociologist’s theology of liberation and affirmed that ‘Islam has, more than any other social forces and alternative ideologies, an anticolonial capacity and anti-western character’ (Fanon 2015, 543). For both the Martinican and the Iranian, recovery from the alienation and denial of agency caused by the colonial matrix of power was through the affirmation of one’s identity. Most importantly, ‘identity’ required, for the existentialist thinkers, a ‘Self’ to assert, a capacity for one to understand the world that remained, at its core, immanent, embodied and unmoved by the alienation caused by the project of modernity/coloniality. In this paper, I argue that the ‘ontologicidal’ push of this project was given effect through the technologies and modes of operation of international law, a Eurocentric normative pattern of social/inter-social relations. The underlying claim I put forward is the ethical failure of the Eurocentric world-system centered on the structure and technologies of international law.
I will argue that the concept of sovereignty had, in the context of the rise of the late 19th and early 20th century Islamicate nation-states, a modular and relative value, or a structural pattern that was based on Eurocentric premises. My proposition is that this specific conception of sovereign power and its afferent principles (such as, for example, the principles of secularism and later that of permanent sovereignty over natural resources, which I will not have time to explore in this piece) furthered the European modern/colonial project by integrating a form of Orientalism in the project of international law. This project then instituted an international legal ‘common sense’, a ‘hubris of point zero’ (Castro-Gómez 2005) that presented the European experience as the only possible ground for the establishment of ‘equal’ relations between polities, or quite literally, a standard of civilization. I will finally propose that legal Orientalism, the medium of this misrecognition of the Other, can be destabilized through the resurgence of a Muslim subjectivity.
Keywords: International law, decoloniality, Islam, Iran, eurocentrism
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