Contemporary Third World Thought Lecture Series III: Lyn Ossome
Seminar I: Legacies of violence and democratic transitions in postcolonial Africa
2016, 4/26 （二） 14:00-17:00
Mahmood Mamdani對於暴力進一步歷史化的分析，他認為反殖民的暴力不能僅僅被視為是非理性的展現。因為，當被殖民的歷史本身就是一個暴力的過程，如何要求被殖民者在被以同樣的方式捲入現代國家的時候突然從這樣的方式之中脫離出來？他認為種族衝突其實是一種政治衝突（political conflict），因此需要政治的解決（political resolution）。也就是不能僅以標定誰是受害者，誰是加害者，或在一個對與錯、有正當性與否的階序之中解決，而是看到受害者與加害者雙方之中的人性，在正視這些的前提下，尋求政治上的解決之道。同時，他也提出自由主義式民主制度本身的去歷史性，使得它無法處理變動的政治、社會脈絡，只能將這些稱之為「貪腐」而否定之。不是檢視這個制度本身出了什麼問題，去問這樣根本不考量在地特定歷史的架構，不管它定義下的「自由」概念對於這些被強加於上的人們而言是多麼不具意義，這樣的制度與思維模式本身到底出了什麼問題。
Democratic politics lays out certain ethical boundaries within which the state might be considered to be functioning as an effective democracy. The fact that various forms of violence persist in the context of participatory or popular politics as observed across many African countries suggests the existence of cracks in the very foundations of democratic practice in Africa, thus continually rendering certain groups vulnerable to violence. Indeed, experience in many countries across Africa directs attention to the link between liberal democratic politics and violence, which can no longer be considered a tenuous one. In this seminar, Ossome, with the perspective based on feminist political economy, took us through the ways in which the question of violence is been addressed or addressed to within theoretical fileds, the quite distinct debates about how are we to understand this violence that persists.
First, from Fanon’s analysis in the resistance of the colonized, we saw in Africa that the African people have been defined as non-human, backward by the colonizers through various governing techniques in a violent nature and ways. Such experiences and branding die not dissolve simply because being “independent”, for the independent are largely confined by the legacy of colonization, with elite class seize the state power, and the state formation and system remain something installed from outside. Thus a very important question: what it means to be free/liberated should be decided and developed by the people themselves. However, what happened is that the liberal democratic system are still put upon African people as the sole option for their own development, therefore calls for a dialectic of struggle, and most importantly, intrinsically deriving notions of what it means to be free, to be liberated.
In response, scholars such as Elias Bongmba collapses into the afropessimist frame, laying blame on the postcolonial project, the postindependent Africa leaders, and the proliferation of violence is because Africa is not sufficiently democratized, without questioning the notion itself. Such analysis is quite a-historical, because he never made his critic into a historical critique--everything is taken as "facts", as germane, intrinsic, to the continent or colonized people, without getting behind their roots, nature of political transition.
Archie Mafeje further explores the issue of violence, that violence should be seen as something symbolic of a struggle that is part of the modernization project, and democracy, human rights, multiparty politics truncate Africa's own march. Also, ethnic conflict and ethnicity are consequences of process of state formation in post-independence Africa. Ethnicity has been removed from the broader communities. So it's basically the elite who are transitioning to a postcolonial state, but are struggling to access the state through this definition of their ethnic entries. Also, the autocracies organized themselves around the ethnic question are a legacy of the colonial regime, you cannot understand it separate from the ways in which the colonialist organized rule, particularly "indirect rule". Democracy has shown itself as incapable of resolving the problems/questions for which ethnicity steps in as an alternative.
Bruce Berman looks at these questions from the institutionalist critique, arguing that any democratic model that doesn't account for the ethnic question is doomed to fail. Especially the liberal democratic model, that it's a-historical, it is not capable, by its very definition, of taking seriously particular histories. It treats ethnicity as something that's almost intrinsic to the ways in which certain communities are to be understood.
Mahmood Mamdani argues that the anticolonial violence is not an irrational manifestation. Since the history of the colonized has been the one of violence, at what point are they supposed to separate themselves from that very way in which they are interpolated into the modern state? Ethnic conflicts are borne of political struggles, and they have to have a political resolution. It's not about defining who are the killers or victims, or the "truth", but we have to recognize the humanities in both of the killers and the victims, and bring them together. The a-historical liberal democracy couldn't account for the changing political, social contexts except through being termed as corrupt/ed. It never questions the system, the structure upon which these rest. The fact that this structure has no logic of the particular histories that are produced, the societies for whom that liberal notion of rights still does not make sense. In a word, what is wrong with this system and line of thinking.