Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Centre for International Relations Research (CIRR)

NANDITA SHARMA (University of Hawai'i): 'A Reason for Rage: The Postcoloniality of Power and the Violence of Nationalism'

When:Mo 25-09-2023 17:00 - 19:00
Where:House of Connections, Grote Markt 21 Groningen

Reasoning is often defined as the 'action of thinking about something in a logical and sensible way.' Rage, then, is the appropriate mode of reasoning required to think about nationalism.

Nandita Sharma on her lecture:

Nationalism is the governing mode of ruling for what I have called the Postcolonial New World Order. Constructed after WWII, this global system is defined by the nationalization of state sovereignty, international bodies organizing the global flow of finance, and the expanded global circulation of capital. Together, these cohere into a system that has led to an enormous growth in the power of both states and capital. Although nationalism and even some small number of nation-states pre-date the era of postcolonialism, it was only after WWII when the nation-state form became hegemonic.

Now in place for well over half a century, the postcoloniality of power has been inadequately analyzed. Many theorists and political activists much more readily talk about imperial-state rule, its practices of colonialism, and their legacy in contemporary life than take a sober look at the postcolonial rule of nation-states. The result is that the national form of state power is inadequately theorized and, relatedly, its legitimacy is left intact.

As a result, the contemporary experience of the practices most associated with colonialism: expropriation, exploitation, dispossession, displacement, and denigration uncannily become reasons to argue for more national sovereignty, thereby upholding the view that national sovereignty is akin to liberation. Continued reliance on political theories of ‘neo-imperialism’ and ‘neo-colonialism’ are symptomatic of this.

In this talk, I de-link national liberation from decolonization. I develop the view of postcolonialism as not only the legacy of colonial rule or the theories analyzing this but also as the current governmentality of ruling relations, ones that contain people’s demands for freedom.

Postcolonialism is the capture of anti-colonial politics by the nation-state. I trace three moments when the postcoloniality of power has enraged me and how my rage allows me to refuse to reason with nation-state power: the governmental discourse of ‘anti-trafficking’ and ‘anti-smuggling’, the organization of unfree ‘migrant labour’ through national immigration regimes, and the proliferating discourse that views ‘migrants’ as ‘colonizers’ in the ‘native nations’ of properly and positively racialized citizens. While seemingly disparate instances of the operation of national regimes of mobility control, I argue that each is organized through a nationalist ontology, relies on a nationalist epistemology, and produces a world in which nationality or citizenship becomes a main mechanism of inequality and division.

About Nandita Sharma

Nandita Sharma
Nandita Sharma

Nandita Sharma is an activist scholar whose research is shaped by the social movements she is active in, including No Borders movements and those struggling for the planetary commons. She is the author of Home Economics: Nationalism and the Making of ‘Migrant Workers’ in Canada ( University of Toronto Press, 2006) and Home Rule: National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants (Duke University Press, 2020).

Sharma is Professor of the Sociology Department at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.