“Concepts without borders”: Reversing the Gaze at the VAD Conference

Watch the roundtable and panels convened by our project members at the conference of the Association for African Studies in Germany (VAD) in Freiburg im Breisgau (7-10 June 2022).

Rose Marie Beck, Patricio Langa, Ralph Weber, Peter Ronald DeSouza and Elísio Macamo at the roundtable “Concepts Without Borders”, VAD Conference in Freiburg i.Br., 8 June 2022

Concepts without borders: Reversing the Gaze at the VAD Conference

Roundtable chaired by Elisio Macamo (University of Basel) and Ralph Weber (University of Basel)

Speakers: Patrício Langa (UWCUEM), Peter DeSouza (Retired Professor), Rose Marie Beck (University of Leipzig), Claudia Derichs (HU Berlin)


The politics and epistemic value of positionality

Panel convened by Lerato Posholi and Ralph Weber


Translating concepts from Africa to Europe

Panel convened by Winnie Kanyimba and Matthias Maurer Rueda


Research Colloquium, Spring Semester 2022: “Working with the state”

In this semester, the colloquium will focus on the ways in which academic and non-academic interpretations of the concept of ‘the state’ vary in different contexts. Drawing from case studies of the research project “Reversing the Gaze” as well as guest talks, the sessions will shed light on research endeavors involving the travel and translation of concepts across different regions, disciplines and research foci.


program

Mon 14.03.2022, 12:30-14:00
Is the state an ideological power?
Tebuho Winnie Kanyimba & Matthias Maurer Rueda (Centre for African Studies Basel/Department of Social Sciences, University of Basel)


Mon 28.03.2022, 12:30-14:00
The Postcolonial African State in Transition
Lerato Posholi (Institute of European Global Studies, University of Basel)


Mon 11.04.2022, 12:30-14:00
Retribalization and the State in Switzerland
Tebuho Winnie Kanyimba & Matthias Maurer Rueda (Centre for African Studies Basel/Department of Social Sciences, University of Basel)


Mon 25.04.2022, 12:30-14:00
A Colonial History of Pensions: The East India Company and One Genesis for the Welfare State
Geeta Patel (Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Cultures/Women, Gender & Sexuality, University of Virginia)


Mon 09.05.2022, 12:30-14:00
The State, Infrastructure, and Populism
Stephan Hochleithner (Department of Geography, University of Zurich)


Mon 23.05.2022, 12:30-14:00
Review session
Stephan Hochleithner (Department of Geography, University of Zurich)


The colloquium takes place online via Zoom. If you are interested in participating, please register via email to: rtg@unibas.ch.


PhD candidates and advanced MA students can earn credits (3 ECTS credit points). In order to do so, participants should write a report on one of the sessions.

PhD candidates and students at the University of Basel can register for the course via MOnA (course no. 64025-01).

PhD candidates and students at other Swiss universities can register via the University of Basel Student Administration Office.

Book Chapter: ”Comparative philosophy and comparison” by Ralph Weber

Comparative philosophy is lively and the field is diverse and assembles different, sometimes even contradictory views. In his contribution to the edited volume ”Comparative Methods in Law, Humanities and Social Sciences”, Ralph Weber presents these different views and then proceeds to deal with the current conceptualisation of the logic of comparison, with specific attention for diminishing bias and the adequacy of bases of comparison. He helpfully states that one way of investigating the inner dynamics of a given comparison is to ask a set of questions: Who is performing the comparison? What commonality supports the choice of what has to be compared? What is being compared with what? In what respect(s) does the comparer compare that which they compare? What relation results from comparing what the comparer compares in that particular respect? How does the choice of the pre-comparative tertium restrict the realm of possible tertia comparationis? How does a chosen tertium comparationis qualify the comparanda? And what role does the comparanda play in the result of the comparison? Each of these questions reveals an enormous complexity, and the answers may be subject to criticism or require further clarification and substantiation. Moreover, most if not all of these questions are highly relevant for comparative legal research too. Weber also deals with some specific issues, such as generalisation, one-sidedness, and the identification of similarities and differences.

Call for Papers “Post-Pandemic Mobilisation and Management of Social Welfare Funds”

Project members Sruthi Herbert and Deval Desai host a workshop on “Post-Pandemic Mobilisation and Management of Social Welfare Funds: Implications for Equity and Citizenship” at the annual conference of the Development Studies Association (6-8 July 2022). They discuss the fiscal and administrative practices that emerged in public welfare spending after the COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of equity and citizenship.

The workshop explores a matter of critical policy relevance and political importance: the fiscal and administrative practices that emerged post-pandemic to rapidly mobilise funds for the pandemic relief, and its implications for equity and citizenship. The case-study of special-purpose vehicles (SPVs) in India guides this discussion.

Sruthi Herbert and Deval Desai (Edinburgh) will be the co-convenors. They welcome abstracts for papers from scholars, writers and activists engaged in monitoring and analysing the management and use of public/earmarked funds in India or other regions of the world.

The deadline for submissions is 4 March 2022. The conference is taking place online on 6-8 July, organised and hosted by University College London.

“Decolonising Knowledge”: Interview with shalini randeria

The October 2021 edition of Global Challenges from the Graduate Institute of Geneva (IHEID) features Reversing the Gaze fellow, Shalini Randeria, in conversation with IHEID Director of Research and Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, Grégoire Mallard. The video interview “Decolonising Knowledge: A Historical Perspective from Socio-Anthropology” appears in the introduction of the recently published research webzine.

Global Challenges is a series of dossiers aimed to communicate the ideas, expertise, perspectives, and discussions generated by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies with a larger, non-specialist audience.


Shalini Randeria

Research Colloquium, Fall Semester 2021: “Making concepts work”

The focus of this semester is on the translation and operationalization of social scientific concepts in specific historical contexts and socio-cultural environments. The colloquium will engage with methodological and theoretical issues bearing on the translation of concepts across regions, across disciplines, and across academic and non-academic contexts.


program

Wed 29.09.2021, 12.15-14.00
Retribalization across time and space
Tebuho Winnie Kanyimba & Matthias Maurer Rueda (Centre for African Studies Basel/Department of Social Sciences, University of Basel)


Wed 13.10.2021, 12.15-14.00
Translating Black-Boxes
Elísio Macamo (Centre for African Studies Basel/Department of Social Sciences, University of Basel)


Wed 27.10.2021, 12.15-14.00
Unspent Funds: Mobilisation and Accountability Post-COVID
Sruthi Herbert (University of Edinburgh), Christine Lutringer (Graduate Institute Geneva)


Wed 10.11.2021, 12.15-14.00
Chatterjee Revisited: Contextualizing Political Societies
Stephan Hochleithner & Benedikt Korf (Department of Geography, University of Zurich)


New date: Wed 01.12.2021, 12.15-14.00
Translating Forms of Knowledge
Maria Paula Meneses (Centro de Estudos Sociais e Económicos, Universidade de Coimbra)


Wed 08.12.2021, 12.15-14.00
Review session
Ralph Weber (Institute of European Global Studies, University of Basel)


The colloquium takes place online via Zoom. If you are interested in participating, please register via email to: rtg@unibas.ch.


PhD candidates and advanced MA students can earn credits (3 ECTS credit points). In order to do so, participants should write a report on one of the sessions.

PhD candidates and students at the University of Basel can register for the course via MOnA (course no. 62347-01).

PhD candidates and students at other Swiss universities can register via the University of Basel Student Administration Office.

Workshop Report: Keywords for India, and Beyond?

In this report, Lerato Posholi (researcher in the Reversing the Gaze project) discusses the workshop ”Keywords for India, and beyond? Enriching the Global Social Science Vocabulary” with Rukmini Bhaya Nair (Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi) and Peter deSouza (Goa University). The event was organized by Ralph Weber (Principle Investigator of the project) and Lerato Posholi as an inception workshop in the framework of the Reversing the Gaze project.


Keywords for India, and Beyond? Enriching the Global Social Science Vocabulary

On the 7th of May 2021, Prof. Ralph Weber and Dr Lerato Posholi organized a workshop with Prof. Rukmini Bhaya Nair (Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi) and Prof. Peter deSouza (Goa University). The workshop used Bhaya Nair and deSouza’s book «Keywords for India: A conceptual lexicon for the 21st century» as a point of departure for reflecting on the core question of whether, and how, certain keywords for and from India (e.g. guru or nirvana or policy paralysis) can apply or be used to study contexts beyond India. The discussion covered some of the central themes of the Sinergia project «Reversing the gaze: towards post-comparative area studies» on the politics of conceptual travel, theoretical challenges to using concepts beyond their context of origin, and broader concerns around the nature of comparison.

Two broad sets of critical insights were foregrounded in the contributions and discussions between invited speakers and participants. The first set of insights raised questions regarding the notion of ‹reversing the gaze›: what does it mean? Which gaze are we reversing? Why must we ‹reverse the gaze›? How do we ‹reverse the gaze›? Prof. Bhaya Nair highlighted that the notion of ‹reversing the gaze› commonly amounts to a call to study Europe just as Europe studies the rest of the world but proposed that ‹reversing the gaze› should go beyond this to inspire ways of seeing the world anew. She remarked that in their book, the placing of ‹big academic concepts› such as democracy and subaltern next to everyday Indian keywords such as balti (Hindi/Urdu for ‹bucket›) can provide new perspectives on the world. Prof. deSouza added a critical perspective on the notion of ‹reversing the gaze› by raising the question: «who is doing the gazing?» This question is loaded with topical issues about positionality and how it affects knowledge production.

The second set of insights surrounded the topic of concept travel. On this topic, the concern was whether all concepts can travel and what the conditions of possibility for concept travel are. Two key points were raised on this issue. The one point was that concepts can be deeply embedded in certain theoretical frameworks and socio-cultural contexts, making it difficult for them to be applicable outside their contexts of origin. The speakers emphasized that some of the keywords for India may be so embedded in Indian contexts that they are not applicable elsewhere, or may first need to be made fit for travelling, as had been the case with karma. The second point raised a word of caution against taking for granted that travelling concepts retain their original meaning in different contexts. Concepts, especially social concepts, tend to expand or change meaning precisely in their travelling. For example: the concept of human rights, some may say, has expanded and evolved precisely because the original conception of human rights has been challenged in applications of the concept in many different contexts.

Overall, the fruitful discussions from the workshops raised important questions that will help us do some ground clearing in the Sinergia project. These questions and insights call for careful clarification of what is meant by ‹reversing the gaze› in the project and an illustration of how this reversal of the gaze can produce post-comparative area studies.


This report was originally written for the monthly newsletter of the Institute for European Global Studies (University of Basel):

> Newsletter: Nr. 132 Juli 2021 | Europainstitut | Institute for European Global Studies


Peter deSouza
Ralph Weber
Lerato Posholi

Towards Post-Comparative Philosophy: Interview with Ralph Weber

In a recent interview Ralph Weber, Principle Investigator in the Reversing the Gaze project, discussed his vision of a post-comparative philosophy with Nevad Kahteran (University of Sarajevo). The discipline, he says, should allow philosophers to be informed by a global outlook and use a variety of styles and conceptualizations from different traditions.

Weber seeks to address the issues of Eurocentrism and methodological problems in comparative philosophy. His book “Comparative Philosophy without Borders” (co-edited with Arindam Chakrabarti) analyzes previous approaches to comparative philosophy and offers paths towards post-comparative avenues.


> Article: ”Towards Post-Comparative Philosophy: Interview with Ralph Weber”, Asian Studies, 9(2),pp. 211-221 (open access)

> Book: ”Comparative Philosophy without Borders”, edited Arindam Chakrabarti and Ralph Weber (2015, Bloomsbury Academic)

Ralph Weber

”In our own words – African perspectives on knowledge production and science” – lecture by Elísio Macamo

In his lecture, Elísio Macamo, Principle Investigator in the Reversing the Gaze project, discusses the field of African Studies as the reflection of how one comes to the knowledge of Africa and the ability to talk truthfully about the African continent.

The online lecture series “In our own words – African perspectives on knowledge production and science” was developed in the framework of the Pilot African Postgraduate Academy and is as a cooperation of Prof Dr Elísio Macamo, Prof Dr Mamadou Diawara and L.I.S.A.Science Portal of the Gerda Henkel Foundation. 


> See the lecture on the L.I.S.A Website

In the media: ”Fehlt uns eine gemeinsame Welt?”

In the run-up to the national vote on the Co2 law in Switzerland, a guest article in the Swiss weekly WoZ calls for the country to become aware of its role in the world and refers to the research project “Reversing the Gaze”. The author, Sindi-Leigh McBride is a PhD candidate at the Centre for African Studies of the University of Basel, with a guest article in WoZ (20 May 2021)

The article is written in German.

>“Fehlt uns eine gemeinsame Welt?” on woz.ch (paywall)