Decentering Social Theory: Volume 25

Cover of Decentering Social Theory
Subject:

Table of contents

(18 chapters)
click here to view access options
click here to view access options
click here to view access options
click here to view access options
click here to view access options
click here to view access options
click here to view access options
click here to view access options
click here to view access options
Abstract

This chapter explores the impact of the seemingly new recognition of non-Muslims in Turkey, a historically marginalized minority. In the 2000s, the ruling AKP party, a religiously and socially conservative party, made a number of symbolic gestures toward the increasing recognition of these communities. This chapter explores this ethnographically and historically by looking at the political effects of AKP’s democratization attempts on the Rum Orthodox (“Greek”) community in Istanbul. It argues that these attempts paralleled a similar language of democracy within the community particularly in the aftermath of the government’s permission to run elections in the non-Muslim community institutions (vakıfs), following a period of time during which no elections had been held in these institutions. At the same time, these attempts occasioned old and new forms of hierarchies within the community, which emerged as a result of the competing claims within it to its representation. These seemingly ambiguous effects of democratization within the Rum community emerged in the gap between the AKP’s democracy discourse that claims universal inclusion and its highly selective practice of democracy. This was so because the AKP preserved the ethnoreligious definition of national identity even while it readopted the historical legacies of the Ottoman millet system that managed society along religious confessional lines. These findings contribute to the existing theories on democratization by highlighting the inextricable link between inclusion and exclusion that emerges in the gap between the discursive claims of democracy toward universal inclusion and the selective actualization of these claims in practice. Such selective inclusion that is inherent to the politics of democracy is managed differently in different contexts due to the hybrid forms of state recognition of the population.

Abstract

The seminal literature on state formation proposes a model of “co-opt and expand” to explain the rise of centralized nation-states in modern and early modern Europe. Building on this literature’s distinction between direct and indirect rule, other analysts have expanded the scope of this model to explain patterns of state building in the non-Western world, particularly in the construction of centralized authority in postcolonial and postimperial contexts. According to this literature, the failure of central rulers to co-opt local elites has frequently produced weak states lacking capacities of rule in their peripheries. Using archival materials to examine the Albanian state’s relatively successful penetration of the country’s highland communities during its early decades of national independence, this article suggests that state building can proceed along an alternative path called “co-opt and bind,” in which state builders “bind” peasant communal institutions to the institutional idea of the nation-state to legitimize and implement state building goals. The article identifies three mechanisms used by early Albanian state builders to generate legitimacy and institute political order in its remote communities, including disarmament, the institution of new forms of economic dependency, and the invocation of peasant cultural codes of honor.

Abstract

The traditional postcolonial focus on the modern and the European, and pre-modern and non-European empires has marginalized the study of empires like the Ottoman Empire whose temporal reign traversed the modern and pre-modern eras, and its geographical land mass covered parts of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Asia Minor, the Arabian Peninsula, and North Africa. Here, I first place the three postcolonial corollaries of the prioritization of contemporary inequality, the determination of its historical origins, and the target of its eventual elimination in conversation with the Ottoman Empire. I then discuss and articulate the two ensuing criticisms concerning the role of Islam and the fluidity of identities in states and societies. I argue that epistemologically, postcolonial studies criticize the European representations of Islam, but do not take the next step of generating alternate knowledge by engaging in empirical studies of Islamic empires like the Ottoman Empire. Ontologically, postcolonial studies draw strict official and unofficial lines between the European colonizer and the non-European colonized, yet such a clear-cut divide does not hold in the case of the Ottoman Empire where the lines were much more nuanced and identities much more fluid. Still, I argue that contemporary studies on the Ottoman Empire productively intersect with the postcolonial approach in three research areas: the exploration of the agency of imperial subjects; the deconstruction of the imperial center; and the articulation of bases of imperial domination other than the conventional European “rule of colonial difference” strictly predicated on race. I conclude with a call for an analysis of Ottoman postcoloniality in comparison to others such as the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, Persian, Chinese, Mughal, and Japanese that negotiated modernity in a similar manner with the explicit intent to generate knowledge not influenced by the Western European historical experience.

Abstract

This chapter shifts contemporary debates on Eurocentrism from its focus on European social theory to an analysis of its moorings in non-Atlantic sociological traditions and especially those within ex-colonial countries. It discusses the sociological/anthropological visions of two first generation sociologists/anthropologists from India, G. S. Ghurye (1893–1983) and D. P. Mukerji (1894–1961), within Orientalist-Eurocentric positions and explores how these are reinvented in the work of contemporary sociologist T. N. Madan (1933–). It suggests that colonial processes and its institutions together with “derivative” nationalist ideas have played and continue to play important mediatory role in organizing these Orientalist-Eurocentric visions.

The chapter presents three sets of arguments. First it suggests that in order to understand postcolonialism it is imperative to lay out the organic links between Orientalism and Eurocentrism. Eurocentrism and its mirror Orientalism mediated to frame social science language in terms of the binaries of universal (the West) and particular (the East). The particular was represented in India through the discipline of anthropology. The latter studied “traditions” through the themes of religion, caste, and family and kinship. When sociology emerged as a discipline in India in the early twentieth century, it continued to use the language organized by anthropology to analyze the particular cultural traditions of the country. Second, I suggest that these binaries also framed nationalist thought and the latter mediated in framing the sociological ideas of G. S. Ghurye and D. P. Mukerji which were embedded in Eurocentric-Orientalist principles. Third, I analyze the ideas of the contemporary social theorist T. N. Madan to indicate how his perspective continues to derive its positions from Orientalist-Eurocentric positions and ignores an engagement with critics who have questioned Orientalist Eurocentrism. Disregarding these arguments implies the legitimation of the latter perspective derived from the disciplines of sociology/anthropology.

The chapter contends that a decolonized critique of colonial social science has existed in other regions of the world including India, and that this perspective needs to be retrieved by social theorists to reformulate the sociological discourse as a study of modern India. It also suggests that contemporary analysis of Eurocentrism needs to move out from within the circuits of knowledge defined by received colonial geopolitical enclaves in order to assess the way production, distribution, and consumption of Orientalist-Eurocentric perspectives have organized sociological traditions across the world including the Global South.

Abstract

This essay critically examines Raewyn Connell’s Southern Theory. Limitations of the work include a tendency to overgeneralize about “Northern Theory” and to leave some claims about the power of “Southern Theory” unsubstantiated. Southern Theory’s most important contributions include its insights into the problematic tendencies and patterns of knowledge production in the Global North and its insistent plea to make social theory more dialogic.

Abstract

This essay critically assesses Connell’s Southern Theory. Operating from the premise that knowledge is a “project” embedded in power relations, the essay suggests that while the scope of ideas surveyed in Southern Theory is an important accomplishment, two main dilemmas can be found. The first is that Southern Theory inadvertently puts “Northern theory” at the center. The second is that the southern theorists examined tend to be educated elites from the Global South, thereby overlooking other actors in the Global South and their ways of doing theory. Struggling to change, not just the ideas, but also the ownership, vested interests and institutional actors of social theory as knowledge project might create space for much needed dialogues across differences in power.

click here to view access options
Abstract

This essay argues that Southern Theory kick-started a conversation long overdue in sociology about the colonial bounds of the sociological canon and its implications. It makes the case that Southern Theory can be used as a jump-off point to reflect on what the contours of a postcolonial sociology might look like since it argues that postcolonial difference can be used to extend theory, point to earlier theoretical misrecognitions, and to illuminate hitherto unseen logics of social organization by shifting the center.

Abstract

This essay considers the relationship between global sociology and sociological theory through an examination of the critique of Northern Theory developed by Raewyn Connell. The author accepts many of Connell’s criticisms of the formation of the Northern Theory canon, and of the false universalism of contemporary Northern Theory, but disputes the degree to which Connell has succeeded in finding a replacement for the “ethnosociology of the metropole” provided by current sociological theory. In particular, the author suggests that, in Southern Theory, Connell pursues an intellectual history of world philosophies instead of the development of theoretical concepts that could provide a more adequate global sociology from a Southern perspective. Connell leaves the reader with a reconstructed canon of classics, but without a new repertoire of middle-range explanatory and interpretive concepts with which to reconstruct our understanding of history itself. The former may be the necessary first step toward the latter, however, rendering Southern Theory an important moment in the global turn in sociological theory.

click here to view access options
Abstract

This essay responds to comments on Southern Theory by Mustafa Emirbayer, Patricia Hill Collins, Raka Ray, and Isaac Reed as part of a larger discussion about the future of postcolonial sociology. It clarifies aspects of Southern Theory that are commented upon while stressing the big claim of Southern Theory, which is that the periphery produces social theory that sociology should take seriously in order to make for a more global and democratic intellectual project of social change.

Cover of Decentering Social Theory
DOI
10.1108/S0198-8719(2013)25
Publication date
2013-08-07
Book series
Political Power and Social Theory
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78190-727-6
eISBN
978-1-78190-727-6
Book series ISSN
0198-8719