Thinking Spaces versus Knowing Places

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To understand the works of Aristotle or Descartes, it is generally not deemed necessary to travel through Macedonia or France. But recently, on a flyer of a philosophical department introducing a lecture on racism seen from the standpoint of African philosophers – it read that the speaker, a recognized Kant scholar, had recently gained expertise in African philosophy by ‘travelling extensively in West Africa.’ The view underlying such a legitimation - that African philosophy can be known or understood through travel experience is a late effect of the ‘gaze’, described by Saïd (1978), that still is seen to rule the epistemological relations between (formerly) colonizing and (formerly) colonized peoples and places. The politics of epistemology at work here has for centuries declared that knowledge systems originating in certain (‘white’) places are ‘universal’, to be understood through themselves, while others, originating in (‘black’) places are ‘local’, and should be understood through their cultural and geographical background (cf. Masuzawa 2005). In my paper I propose an intervention to counter this situation: an alternative understanding of all thinking as showing both locality and nonlocality (cf. Radder 2002). To escape the opposition of universality and locality I propose to see geographically distributed philosophies as ‘thinking spaces’. These are gateways to understanding reality that open up within cultural, geographical and historical coordinates that by definition are also open to communicating with spaces with different coordinates. Understanding all philosophies as rooting in as well as transcending locality should first make a truly postcolonial and intercultural dialogue possible.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2018
EventShifting the Geography of Reason: Ways of Knowing, Past and Future - UCAD II, Dakar, Senegal
Duration: 19 Jun 201822 Jun 2018


ConferenceShifting the Geography of Reason
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