Sociology, Modernity, and Colonialism

The Sociology programme are very proud to have hosted yet another fantastic ‘Engaging Sociology’ event in March 2019. We welcomed Professor Gurminder K. Bhambra, Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies, at Sussex University.

In this formulation, Professor Bhambra focuses on the Haitian Revolution in 1791, entirely led by Africans enslaved in the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue led the global demand for justice, freedom and liberty, and was one of the most successful rebellions in modern history. Even after centuries of brutality, murder, tyranny and exploitation, the Haitians as Gurminder Bhambra writes, formed a constitution that demanded citizenship be underpinned by ‘freedom from enslavement and racial discrimination’, severing the links between citizenship and race, and therefore universalising equality. 

This has been either entirely missed from most Sociology curricula (not ours!) or regarded as peripheral to the development of the very notions of equality, freedom, and citizenship that European Enlightenment ideals have been based on. In other words, the bases on which European social science, politics and philosophies have been built are fundamentally linked to the systematic enslavement, brutalising, and extraction of labour over from racialized, African populations over centuries. It is within the context of one of the most successful slave rebellions in history that we can see how histories of both particular people, and important co-constructed processes within European modernity, are erased.

Professor Bhambra’s incredibly erudite but accessible open lecture gave us all an insight into how Sociology as a discipline developed precisely in the midst of some very problematic, racial, colonial and imperial gazes, and which influenced, indeed still influence Sociology today, both in practice and in teaching. The critical movements that we can see here are more than simply re-narrating history – they are embedded inside current, global, student led movements, and Professor Bhambra’s work on Decolonising Curricula is part of a wider movement to re-situate both our Sociological lens, and the University system more widely.

Dr. Harshad Keval, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, CCCU

About the speaker

Professor Gurminder Bhambra
Professor Bhambra occupies a rather unique position in Sociological Theory – she not only critiques the very basis of Western Enlightenment philosophy and social sciences, but she makes social theory, and has for many years been formulating new ways in which to view the discipline, and all its global connections. Her talk (the room was packed, with standing room only!) was titled: Sociology, Modernity and Colonialism: Or Why the Haitian Revolution Matters and focused on how the traditional so-called canon of Sociology has fundamentally ignored and dismissed the very people and processes that helped to co-create modernity itself!



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Last edited: 26/04/2019 09:41:00