Stiftelsen för forskning inom områden med anknytning till Östersjöregionen och Östeuropa

Decolonizing Phenomenologies

Ämne: Filosofi
Projektledare: Nicholas Smith
Startår: 2016
Projekttyp: Projekt

The project combines a decolonial critique of Husserl’s phenomenology (Smith) with an analysis of contemporary forms of subjectivation as expressed in decolonial art in postcommunist Eastern Europe (Tlostanova). Phenomenology was important in overturning the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, and can thus shed light on the formation of postcommunist experiences and imaginary. 

In order to address what is manifested in decolonial art, phenomenology has to free itself from its Eurocentrism which restricts its potential. Although phenomenology has been crucial in postcolonial philosophy and aesthetics, there is yet no book length postcolonial critique of Husserl. The investigation will first look to the exceptional role played by phenomenology in the overturning of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe (focusing on Jan Patocka). From there on, it will be necessary to analyze also other decolonial approaches that involve phenomenology, because of the Eurocentric stance in both Patocka and most other major interpreters of Husserl, including Derrida. Thus in order to understand how and why phenomenology is used in contemporary decolonial thinking, thinkers from other geographies of reason must be given a privileged role. 

In this sense, decolonizing phenomenology means disentangling it from its European roots. Analyzing the postcolonial critique of Husserl that is well under way, although scattered over many books, academic disciplines and continents is a key element of this project. Crucial here are analyses of power along dimensions of gender, colour and class, features that are virtually absent from Husserl’s work. 

The second part of the project consists in a critical dialogue between a phenomenology in transformation and Madina Tlostanova’s work on decolonial aesthetics in Eastern Europe. This part of the project will focus on modes of experience and subjectivation as manifested in contemporary Eastern European art, notably in relation to life under postcommunist regimes. What is at stake here is the conceptualization of a postsocialist imaginary, by means of decolonial options in different local histories and contesting ethnic, social, aesthetic and gender movements. Interesting new light can be shed on these processes by means of the analysis of postcommunist and decolonial phenomenologies. In return, decolonial aesthetics may indicate areas of experience and formations of subjectivity that have escaped phenomenological interpretation.

Final report - Nicholas Smith - Decolonizing Phenomenologies