Boyle, Mark and Kobayashi, Audrey
Metropolitan anxieties: a critical appraisal
of Sartre’s theory of colonialism.
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, NS 42.
Within postcolonial studies there is now a well-established wariness of the Eurocentric
or metrocentric tendencies of postcolonial theory itself. For some the charge that postcolonial
theory continues to interpret the history and culture of non-European societies
through European frames of reference can be traced to the provocative theory of colonisation
developed by French philosopher, novelist and political activist Jean-Paul Sartre.
We subject Sartre’s theory of colonialism to critical scrutiny and question this claim.
We locate Sartre’s philosophical works and political activism against the backdrop of a
twentieth-century Parisian intellectual life marked by fierce struggles over the future of
Marxism. Sartre’s metrocentricism was tempered by his tortuous efforts to write existentialism
into the Marxist canon, a theoretical endeavour that led him to replace Marxism’s
eschatology and linear teleology with a series of circular histories based on the
complex ways in which separate anti-colonial movements spiral off following their
own contingent, creolised and anarchic trajectories. Sartre’s desire to contest and
rethink rather than submit to and seal metrocentric framings of colonialism and anticolonialism
derived from his weddedness to a historicised phenomenology of existence
as spatial. Critical interrogation of the complicity of postcolonial theory in the global
march of metrocentric ontology affords both geography and postcolonial studies a new
impetus for dialogue. Any project that aspires to a transcendence of metropolitan
modes of knowing must first better understand the situated production and complexities
of such modes of knowing. Before scrutinising how the colonising tendencies of
postcolonial theory might best be handled, there is a need to map historical geographies
of the different theoretical projects and practices that have emerged in different
metropolitan locations and at different times.
||Sartre; colonialism; postcolonialism; existentialism;
Marxism; spatiality; metrocentricism;
||Faculty of Social Sciences > Geography
||20 Jan 2012 12:10
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