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Re-theorizing Politics, Culture and Religion in Nepal: A conversation with Frederick Young and Gregory Grieve

The following discussion was recorded on June 2nd, 2006 near Taumadhi Square in Bhaktapur, Nepal. The impetus was the reading of Gregory Grieve’s Re-theorizing Religion in Nepal, a book that will be released Oct 2006 by Palgrave Macmillan.

Grieve is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He co-edited Historicizing “Tradition” in the Study of Religion (De Gruyter 2005) and has published articles in Numen, Culture, Theory, Critique, Journal of Material Religion, and Studies in Nepalese History and Society.

Frederick Young is an Invited Senior Lecturer in the Literature, Communication and Digital Media and English departments at the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden. He has published on Derrida, Deleuze, ethics and politics. He is currently working on a manuscript, Transformative Technics: Animality, Politics, War.

Gregory Price Grieve: Since we arrived in Nepal almost three weeks ago, it seems to me that what our conversation has been circling around is the question, or maybe the cluster of questions of what is theory. Coming out of my own disciplinary background as a historian of religion, I tend to frame the question hermeneutically, as a problem of interpretation. You asked me . . . before we turned the tape recorder on . . . what I was trying to do in Re-theorizing Religion in Nepal. My aim in the book is to expand religious studies as a discipline by offering a critique of how the field’s theoretical methods have been used to interpret other cultures’ religious practices, especially in a situation of post-colonialism and post-structuralism.

Frederick Young: I think you are correct on one level, but there is much more to “theory” as a social force, as a way of thinking than mere interpretation—what Derrida refers to as a “transformative critique.” And I think this is mobilized in Re-theorizing Religion in Nepal . . . For me what makes the book so engaging are how your theoretical insights provide new templates for theorizing culture, and how they offer and open up ways of re-thinking politics. You’ve described your research to me as an interest in local prosaic material. Did you understand the use of local as a political move?

Grieve: I may have used the word “local” for shorthand—as a strategic conceptual category. But “local” is not a term I would use in writing. I need to think more on way; maybe you are right and I shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bath water . . .But I want to distance myself from any universal conceptions of religion . . . I’m thinking here of the interplay between Talal Asad’s essay “The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category” and Clifford Geertz’s “Religion as a Cultural System.”   For me, the core of Re-theorizing Religion is the material. That is, my ethnographic research into lived religion, here in Bhaktapur. And now that you have been working with me for a number of weeks, you know that my research here consists of specific practices: interviews, observations, archival materials, and the studying of how people make visual culture. Does that answer your question?

Young: I’m not sure if you addressed my question about the relation between politics and theory. Let me put it this way. Rather than interpretation—fixing on the possibility of meaning and all of the metaphysical coding implicit in such an operation, how would you re-theorize theory if we read “theory” through the genealogy of post-1968 Paris, whether through logic or through epistemology—really a rupture of epistemology, where the axiomatic of meaning is called into question . . . where the question itself is questioned, and only a few old ontologies . . . Platonic to fundamental . . .except the charge of the call . . . In other words, whether through Marx or through Nietzsche, theory ought to be . . . and you know that I see it as a form of praxis to conflate the ought with the is . . . a political attempt to flee a Platonic way of thinking, of not being in the world. And I realize that “world” itself should be brought into question, or at least should be interrogated at some point, if not here, as the text behind it calls for a “transcendental hermeneutic phenomenology.”

Grieve: You’re bringing up the concept of world . . . or maybe a better way to phrase it would be the practice of “worlding”. . . is an apt one for explicating what I’m trying to get at when I speak of the prosaic. Perhaps a way to re-think theory through the prosaic, would be to re-think what it means to be in the world. The generating kernel of Re-theorizing Religion in Nepal, is my attempt to illustrate Bhaktapur’s local prosaic lived world; by which I mean to model the processes by which countless and many-faceted but coherent and dependent variables contribute to a particular shared world. A lived world is a constantly changing social reality, which emerges from a particular socio-historical and geographic situation. I choose to theorize with the concept of “lived world” because I wanted to exercise the lingering spirit of Plato from ontology. That equation of apriority and universal validity traditionally ascribed to a transcendental hermeneutic phenomenology. I wanted to reveal the agency and situatedness of persons living in Bhaktapur. It is for that Reason, that in Re-theorizing Religion,. . I framed Nepali concepts and practices. . . .the nature of persons, gods and god-images, ritual practices . . . sacrifice and dance, and communal relations. . . . with the notion of a “generative matrix,” which describes those fields of discourses, practices, institutions, and technologies for making lived worlds. I wanted to approach phenomenon not through representation, but through how people make them. That is, Re-theorizing Religion in Nepal does not simply represent the city. It is more like a cookbook that illustrates the recipes on how to make the lived worlds of Bhaktapur.

Young: You want to exercise Plato, but exercise has at least two definitions. One is to dispel a specter, or perhaps, really, to counter a Platonic ontology with a hauntology (to put it crudely); the other is an activity designed to develop or hone a skill or ability. To escape Plato involves an exact appreciation of the price we have to pay to “exercise” ourselves from him. It assumes that we are aware of the extent to which Plato’s specter, insidious perhaps, is close to us; it implies a “knowledge,” in that which permits us to think against Plato . . . of that which remains Platonic. We have to determine the extent to which our anti-Platonic possibly one of his tricks directed against us, at the end of which he stands, motionless, waiting for us. Perhaps. And as Derrida remarks somewhere in the Archive Fever, Politics of Friendship and Specters of Marx, deconstruction is nothing other than the affirmation of the “perhaps.”   

Grieve: In our discussions here in Bhaktapur, especially in trying to come to grasp as an American with the Maoist movements, we keep coming back to the concept of the “perhaps.” Maybe it is time that we explicate what we mean. Perhaps, you could say what you mean by a “political theory of the perhaps?”

Young: Let me tie it into your book, because by explicating the “perhaps,” I think we can also answer our questions on theory as a transformative critique. Let me start right here [Young points to the square in front of them]. I am beginning to see your concept of the local as similar to Benjamin in a crucial regard. Not as a fixed theory that can be applied from above to a thing, what Bloom once called a “literialization of anterior mythologies,” but rather I see an epistemological rupture of the local. In other words, I think your ethnography opens up interdisciplinary boundary issues. The local function in my view reveals a radi
cal historical possibility, or a moment . . . in other words, to meld our language, a “lived perhaps.” Of an opening of a future to-come.” Really, the easiest way for me to see your work is as, at least in part, as a counter to the “empty historical time,” as ethnography that encounters something that might exceed it, opening up an eminent historical and transformative critique? I am losing my train here a bit, but I see the local as not a political within a fidelity to its concept, but a modality of a praxis that sets the polis in motion. I want to get back on track with a political theory of the perhaps

Grieve: Before we get back on track with your “perhaps,” let’s wander the prosaic city with Benjamin for a moment.   I think I am starting to see what you mean by a theory as a type of transformative critique. Let me give an example from Re-theorizing Religion in Nepal. It was Benjamin’s notion of “empty historical time” through which I was able to re-theorize “tradition” in Bhaktapur . . . especially the political element. As you have probably become aware from living in Bhaktapur, the notion that it is a traditional city is crucial for the national government, the local municipality, tourist organizations, tourists and the people who live here. Yet, what do all these groups mean by “tradition?”    I would argue that rather than a survival from an earlier era, Bhaktapur’s current form of tradition has been compiled from a number of social forces that I label prosaic tradition and romantic tradition.

Young: Is this what you were talking about the other day, when we were speaking with the architect that lives up near Nag Pokari?

Grieve: Yes. This mixing of traditions has much to do with historical reconstruction of monumental architecture in the city. What is interesting, and what I argue in Re-theorizing Religion in Nepal, is that this Romantic tradition is made possible by the ideology of an empty historical time. On one hand is a romantic-historicist view that posits tradition as a passive ontological essence that will, over time, develop into “modernity.” On the other is a local prosaic form that chronicles the pragmatic use of those past social practices that are currently effective. In a sense, along with an “empty historical time,” one can also speak of Benjamin’s critique of an “abstract space,” the space of railroads, and department store windows.   And drifting through Bhaktapur, like walking through the Arcades, erases any notion of the necessity of basing a polis on a Cartesian Grid.   Perhaps, one can imagine a city without street address . . . . To “exercise” an empty view of tradition I highlight “prosaic” religious practices.   I contrast these with the “scripturalist” bias that scholars bring to the study of religion in South Asia. I argue against the presupposition that Nepali religion today . . .or any religion . . . can be approached only through canonical or elite written sources.   Rather, I focus upon the common and physical dimensions of religion. I draw upon material from classical books and elite thinkers, but these are balanced and contrasted with critical historical work, observation of daily activities as well as festivals, and interviews with people from diverse parts of Nepali society.

Young: I think we are drifting off track here—not that I don’t like to wander through the city. But let me try to re-frame my question about theory by returning to your work. There is no doubt that your ethnographic work is extremely perceptive. It reveals a complexity, irony, and contestation at the everyday level of practice. Not coming from a background of ethnography, it seems to me that much of your work resembles “psychogeography.” As you hinted at above, the book moves through Bhaktapur and mandalas the way a Situationist might move through a city . . . I have rarely read a scholarly book in which those from another culture appear so witty, curious, and challenging. A child points at a stone and asks, “What is a god?” A secretary defines the complex concept of shakti by replying, “Shakti is shakti, stupid!” A sagely teacher explains sacrifice by asking, “Where were you the year before you were born?” You do not romanticize such responses, but rather exposit their complexity in relation to your own observations concerning religion and society. In other words, you theorize with the people of Bhaktapur, and not only about them . . . I would argue, however, that this theorizing is not merely interpretation but something more . . . It is this something more that, by invoking the perhaps, works as a transformative theory . . . which, to get back to our original question, opens up the perhaps.

Grieve: You are correct in the underlying psychogeographic element; I love to drift through these streets, and I have played overtly with that concept as a way of understanding Bhaktapur’s lived world,   But I think we should work at the politics here from another theoretical perspective. Besides Benjamin I can sense a Deleuzean stand in your differentiation between knowledge and thinking. And I would love for you to come back to that, especially in questions about ontology and politics. But I’m not sure if such a politically charged theory exists in America at the moment. As theory is practiced in America it is a much more pedestrian affair. Theory in the American academy has come to mean little more than an interpretation of literature. As I see it, “theory’s” genealogy . . . as most academics would read it . . .begins with classical Greek poetics and rhetoric and traces itself back to18th century, aesthetics and hermeneutics—I’m thinking of Baumgarten’s Aesthetica, Kant’s Third Critique and Schleiermacher’s understanding of religious experience.   In the 20th century, “theory” has become a framing category for a variety of scholarly apparatuses for reading texts, most of which are informed by various strands of Continental philosophy. While this may or may not be anti-platonic, there is little in the current American use of theory here that could be called “political.”

Young: It is timely that we seem to be stuck on politics . . . Especially considering the demonstration of Maoists that will occur later today in Kathmandu . . . Though, I think that what you’re really suggesting is an institutional violence operating at the level of the university—what Derrida has called the process of “auto-immunization” in which a small dose of theory is accepted to defend the institutional body from an sustained critique.   This is probably more obvious in the case of Marx, though any radical thought is subjected to this violence. But look, as we speak here, the Maoist insurgents are moving into the capital right now . . . there is at least the name of Marx here. Though we don’t know if the goal is a republic, and in the midst of this situation, it is almost impossible to put one’s head around it . . . perhaps we should stay clear of appliances . . . but seriously, there is a genuine possibility here for a new republic if Pachandra’s demands for a constitute republic take place. As an outsider, and not speaking the language as you do, it is hard to get a good grasp of the situation, though in the middle of this event, I am not sure if anyone really can predict the future. What has stuck me is Pachanrda’s tika . . . It would interesting to read this combined with Nepal being 15 minutes ahead of India, suggests an attempt to throw time out of joint . . . not to mention the teletechnological experience of Warhol’s subject.

Grieve: [interrupting] It is hard not to think of politics when there are bus loads of Maoist activists zooming down the highway waving red banners and chanting the International. Political praxis seems to seep into every aspect of Nepalese life. But to pun off of Barthes, reading o
f sex in Empire of the Signs, in the United States, political praxis seems to be everywhere except in politics.

Young: The problem here I think is with the understanding of “politics.” I don’t want to limit theory to a vulgar Marxist understanding of the Avant-garde intellectual. The theorist’s role is no longer to place oneself somewhat ahead of, or even to the side of, society so as to express the stifled truth of the collectivity. Speaking truth to power might work here [in Nepal] . . . although armed resistance seems to be what is occurring . . . but in America, intellectuals must struggle against the forms of power that transform them into objects and instruments of knowledge, truth, consciousness, and any non-reflexive dogmatic discourse. Politically minded theorists have to struggle against the very Platonic notions that currently drive thinking—and I’m thinking of drive in a very psychoanalytic sense. In this sense theory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is a practice. But it is local and regional, to use your terms, and not totalizing. Theory “opens up” new possibilities.

Grieve: Thinking of theory through the local, let me run a thought experiment here. What would happen if we re-theorize theory, by re-turning to the Greek etymology of the word “theory.” I’m thinking of this re-turning more through Raymond Williams and keywords then through the Heideggerian return to the Greek. That is, I do not want re-turn by decoding the internal logic some of preconceived authentic original symbolism but of restoring its practical necessity by relating it to the real conditions of its genesis. In a round about way, I am trying to get at how Deleuze uses film to get at Bergson’s conception of time and movement. I want to get away from the homogenous de-singularizing space of “any-space-whatevers” and move theory into practice. . . . From a movement-image into a time-image . . . . the local becomes, what Deleuze calls a crystal-image.

Young: The “crystal image” is a crucial concept for Deleuze, though I’m not sure what you’re getting at in this content. Perhaps you can come back to that in a bit. Moreover, I would agree that there is a trace of nostalgia at work in Heidegger but I know your past, and I know your own fascination with him and phenomenology. If we have time, I want to come back to Heidegger’s latter poetic work and its relation between theoria and techne—especially in light of Bernard Stiegler’s work. I think some of the political elements I talked about before will be resolved if we think in that direction. As Heidegger writes, in Introduction to Metaphysics, and here the political context should be considered, “Questioning attains its own ground by leaping.”

Grieve: I don’t think I’m leaping so much as “compiling,” or “drifting” to continue our metaphor, so bear with me.   Let me try to compile the perhaps with Deleuze and film, and perhaps you can tie that into theoria and techne . If I remember correctly, the word “theory” comes from the Latin theoria, and means “conception, mental scheme.” Through Jerome, if I recall, this comes from the Greek theorein “to consider, speculate, look at,” which originates from “spectator,” from thea “a view” and horan “to see.” There is a second possible etymology that traces the word back to “to theion” (divine things) and “orao” (I see). In its original context, however, theory was not an abstract term—it was an embedded religious practice. In the 4th century BC Greece, it was those professional thinkers—philosophers—who borrowed a traditional cultural practice to legitimize philosophy—“theoria.” In theoria, a person—the theoros—made a pilgrimage abroad for the purpose of seeing festivals. When a theoros returned to his own polis, he delivered a report on what he saw. Theoria encompassed the entire journey, leaving home, the viewing the event, and the re-entry. But the main act of seeing, generally focused on a festival or temple. Which is not “reading” the social symbols over the “natives” shoulders, so much as a lived form of a crystal image—they bring up the flow of time . . . the past and the present and the future . . . at the same time crystallizing it, or as I theorize it in the book as compiling.

Young: Let me add to your experiment. What I’m really getting at is this return of theoros to the polis as an event or way of looking at techne, as the polis constantly engaged in a transformative theoros by the techniques of the artist, the theorist or any member of the community. In this regard, I think my conception of the polis, however crudely conceived at this point, shares similarities with your notion of the local as the locus of production. But to pick up on another thread, I’m assuming that you don’t think we need to return theory to its religious origins but rather you are interested in the embedded local practice of theoria—and you are probably also referring to your and my own present journey here in Bhaktapur. You are thinking of us as “theoros.” I think this is really closer to Heidegger’s thinking about the Greeks than you put on. But I also think that you are limiting Heidegger. In his Heraclites Seminar, Heidegger clarifies that Heraclites’ “becoming” is not to be equated with modern notions of “process.” Or in a political sense, praxis is not simple a practice. . . .

Grieve: [interrupting] . . . and praxis is not simply a locus of production, although I am fascinated with the concept of social construction as an alternative to transcendental hermeneutic phenomenology . . . “social construction” is not a panacea. There needs to be a caveat in the notion of production, because the concept of production itself needs to be social situated. Different times and cultures not only different notions of production, but different modes of production. For instance, take the notion of action . . . which is the simplest translation of “karma” . . . in much of Nepali religion. As I detail in >I>Re-theorizing Religion’schapter 4, karmic acts are not the purely conceptual occurrences that the English “action” implies. When one writes the word ‘action’ to translate the concept, one unwittingly introduces into karma the connotations of non-substantiveness and non-materialness which are habitually associated with the abstract noun ‘action’.”

Young: Again our conversation is becoming diffuse. Let’s return full circle, and let me again ask you the question that began our conversation; that is the question I asked before we turned the tape recorder on twenty minutes ago How do you approach “theory” in Re-theorizing Religion in Nepal?

Grieve: I do NOT want to re-think theory by returning it to its religious roots . . . . but, after the category “religion” has been re-theorized, I DO want to re-think theory through “religion.” This is possible because religion is not some universal definition, but rather a socially and historically constituted term. While there have always been gods, rituals and people, the category of “religion,” is really not that old, and has a genealogy that is tied into colonialisms . . . both internal and external to European culture. Religion . . . from cargo cults to the Vatican, from New Age to Militant Islam . . . seems to signify, and gather together, all those systems of thought and practice which operate on schemes which are other than a rational enlightenment model. This is why in our current historical situation religion, more than any other category, religion has come to house . . . to use your language . . . the “perhaps.” Perhaps, this is why religion has not died out, as the 19th century scholars had proclaimed . . . as a survival from the past . . . as a fossil from by gone days. Instead, religions are popping up like m
ushrooms. And as become common place to note, these are not re-emergences of ancient regimes but contemporarily “invented traditions.” People are not stupid. They know what they are doing. For better or worse, in the post-soviet, post-modern, post-colonial world religion is being used to crystallize a whole assembly of values, practices and modes of being in the world.

Young: Quickly. Greg, I am not sure I’d use the term “house” here to describe the operation of the perhaps as if the perhaps were already there. The perhaps would be more of a situation, not in a context but that which would challenge or open up the context and contingency of the context—perhaps must also have a temporal register. But I think I understand how you are using “religion” here. Showing that people in Bhaktapur have creativity . . what you call religious agency in the final chapter of Re-theorizing Religion in Nepal, and how the categories used are created in a dialectic between your self and other scholars and Nepali society, is one of the most salient features of your book. You show how prior scholarship has affected development projects in Bhaktapur. You note that people often read the same books that you are critiquing, and that, like the person we interviewed yesterday, they sometimes even pull out those books when asked about their religion.

Grieve: I guess I want to make two things clear about how I am approaching religion and its relation to Nepal. First, I do not intend the book to be just another Saidian critique of Orientalism, or another clever deconstruction of a familiar category. My aim not is to argue that “religion” does not exist, or that it is purely a colonist fantasy. A Western category imposed upon other people. While “religion” as a category may have sprouted . . .sorry about the organic metaphor. . . in the western imagination, it is not solely the product of Europe. It is now a complex hybrid . . . again sorry about the organic metaphor . . . creation of east and west, of scholarly and popular imaginings. This said, while religion is a hybrid, it is a category that is dominated by western thought . . . . and by this I mean a Platonic way of thinking, what Derrida would call “logocentrism.”   To continue my organic metaphor, if the branches of religion are the various global traditions, they have been grafted to the category’s trunk; which is primarily of western, pious protestant origins. As I have argued elsewhere, this forces religion into a scripturalist mode.

Young: I am not sure where you are going. It seems to me that what you are worried about is that “religion” as a category limits how people might live . . .

Grieve: [interrupting] Before you go on let me quickly add something. Why I am so focused on the making of mandalas. . . . What I am worried about is that the very media by which we communicate, that are mediations, are not neutral conveyers of meaning, but play a fundamental part of in the message. In the book, I call this the mediating effect. Media always rely upon the material. Even speech the most reified of media, relies on the material of air and the human body.

Young: Let me continue with my last thought. Your understanding of religion seems like you see in it the alternative to certain enlightenment models, but that your are concerned that religion as it currently stands just re-inscribes itself as the shadow of the enlightenment, as a form of logocentrism, even post-colonialism. I think if we look through techne we can see how such thinking effects the polis, and maybe come to squeeze the perhaps out of “religion.” What I am getting at is that Aristotle saw techne , or art or skill, as the virtue of poiesis . . . of making. Modern technology , however, belongs not only to poiesis, but to both poiesis and episteme . . . the poetical origins of modern technology are lost. What you offer are ways of making the city that are poetic?

Grieve: I argue that to understand how Bhaktapur is made, that is its techne, that because of the mediating effect of scripturalism, we need to concentrate on how mandalas are made. In Re-theorizing Religion in Nepal, using ethnographic accounts of the making of mandalas, I attempt to illustrate the making of lived prosaic worlds that interrupt how religious studies normally operates. In the book, I described these as “generative matrixes” . . . those fields of discourses, practices, institutions and technologies for making lived worlds. I argue that generative matrixes tend to be visceral and tacit, and that they do not reflect an underlying reality, but are brought into being and maintained through practice.

Young: I can see how you’ve modeled your book on others’ techne, and why you’re re-thinking of the category of religion is important. Where I found your theory most interesting where the book reveals a culture whose people (and their gods) look back at “us,” the readers, and talk. Nepalis comment on “Americans” and other tourists; they place Peace Corps volunteers in their parade floats; they paint ethnographers into their paintings. More generally, they are critically aware of the global environment with which they engage. You draw this subtle ethnographic analysis into a critical reassessment of crucial academic concepts, not only about religion but tradition, history, modernity, development, and tourism. You discuss cases when people are critical of past ethnographers’ behaviors. Building on this awareness of cross-cultural interaction, Re-theorizing Religion in Nepal argues we need to be shaped by the culture studied, not only in the content presented, but also the form of presentation. As you said, to demonstrate this, you organize the book according to the process of making a mandala, thus modeling scholarly work on the creative work that generates Nepali religion.

Grieve: Let me return to the notion of theoria, especially the act of seeing a festival or temple. You can translate the word philosophy into Sanskrit, and many of the languages of South Asia including Nepali and Newar, as “darshana.” There are six classical schools of Indian thought, six darshana, each of which is a different viewpoint on the world. A different way of looking at it. More common darshan, means to look and is a way that people describe worship. One takes darshan from a god-image. What is interesting, what is important, is not that the individual goes and sees the god-image, but that the god-image sees the person. You take darshan from the god. With this in mind, you start to see the importance of all the drishti eyes painted on temples and doors and buildings and trucks and so on, here in Nepal. This is all getting a little bit jumbled, but what this means for me, is taking darshan as a model, rather than writing about other people, I want to use other peoples’ techne to model my own writing. In Re-theorizing Religion in Nepal I call such a strategy of writing, dialexis— a dialogue at the level of style, that is a dialogue of metacommunication at the material level of techne. Unlike dialectics, which works by confrontation, opposition and assimilation; dialexis functions as a mutagenitc, resignifying, not by synthesis but by dissemination and invention.

Young: If I understand you here, and as I have read in Re-theorizing Religion in Nepal, it is this mutagenitc resignification that is the transformative critique which moves beyond simply interpretation. You are not simply interpreting mandalas, you are not writing about them, you are writing with them. This is the perhaps.

Grieve: I see now where you are coming from, and perhaps what needs to be opened up is what is meant by interpretation.   But let’s save that for another discussion. I want to close by suggesting why, in light of our conversation here, I think Re-
theorizing Religion in Nepal
is political. In the same hierarchical relation that the head has over the body, ideas over things, thinking over physical labor, in much scholarship data serves theory. In religious studies, the religious phenomenon serve the scholar’s imagination. As a remedy to this hierarchy, the book is not about Bhaktapur, but uses the structures, models, and conventions by which Bhaktapur’s lived worlds are created to structure its own writing . . . that is what we’ve been calling >I>techne.

Young: As we are beginning to come to terms with each other’s terms, I would suggest that this techne transforms the political in the sense of the polis, it sets of the operations of a fluid Bhaktapur, not arrested in the stasis of ethnographic or philosophical concept. Where this really leads . . .

Grieve: I think such an approach works as a corrective to many of the troubling problems in the current discourse on post-colonialism. Post-colonial theory tends to create Manichean binaries of colonizer and colonized, of imperial oppressor and native victim. As Aijaz Ahmad has pointed out, by oversimplifying the radical impact of the West on the rest of the world, operates as more subtle form of imperialism, which views all human history from the position of European expansion and the progress of modern Fordist capital, and post-Fordist capital. As Benita Parry has argued, many Saidian critiques tend to drain the agency, knowledge and power from the colonized.   
What may be the most important, as Dipesh Chakrabarty has argued, many postcolonial perspectives, while arguing for the liberation of the colonized still treat many local social systems as “dead” . . . . As vestiges to be over come in the name of a secular, empty and homogenous time.   Yet, while many of these social systems may be other than enlightened modernity, they are not archaic in sense of being outmoded. In Chaktrabarty’s sense, the peasant-but-modern political sphere still envelopes gods, spirits and other supernatural beings. The peasant-as-citizen does not have the same ontological assumptions which social scientists take for granted. That is, what is truly revolutionary is to engage seriously in the question of the diverse other ways of being in the world. In Chaktrabarty’s words: “a loving grasp of detail in search of an understanding of the diversity of the human life-worlds.” These other worlds, which are often glossed as religious, offer alternative ways of being in the world. And it is here, that theory, as re-thought through a re-thought category of religion, offers up a transformative critique. Moreover, it is here that I think we return to the political aspect of theory. That is that it is a way of thinking the “perhaps.”

Young: perhaps.
Grieve: I see we are about to run out of tape, so let me add this one thing . . .

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