About World Philosophies: Planetary Praxis

In recent years two distinct forms of resistance to Eurocentric thought have aligned themselves in political solidarity despite their apparent disciplinary disjunction – the various lineages of decolonial/postcolonial thought “versus” the resurgence of “non-Western” epistemologies reflecting the life-worlds and lived experiences of marginalized peoples, their traditions and thought-systems. This solidarity, however, continues to be interdicted within the disciplinary architecture of the humanities and social sciences, where the segregation of Eurocentric philosophy from “non-Western” modes of thinking in the academy has impeded this alliance across the board. This is manifestly enforced in the monopoly of the white Anglophone tradition in US Philosophy departments; the denial of history and politics undergirding the transcendentalist functions of “comparative” work; colonial knowledge production through geographically governed area studies; and the secularized university’s double-erasure of non-Judeo-Christian traditions from its already annexed or ghettoized theological training programs. These and other discursive practices do not just leave an institutional lacuna, but impose antagonistic conditions in which to articulate and cultivate hybrid or centrifugal philosophical and epistemic idioms.  

The primary goal of this series of colloquia, webinars and workshops is to experiment with the potential and need of a concept adapted from the later work of Deleuze and Guattari as a matrix to nourish these solidarities, namely, geophilosophies.  With this concept, we ask how the very project of philosophy can be not only pluralized but differentialized so as to shelter and animate modes of thinking and knowing that continue to be erased, discredited or ignored by dominant cultures of the global North – even at their most self-critical. There are undoubtedly as many answers to this question as there are bodies, experiences, practices, and concepts which elide and transgress the enforcement of Empire, in and out of the academy. However, we imagine the history and structure of this term to offer an open-ended organizational impulse, a node through which to route and amplify those praxes stymied by the above disciplinary dynamics. Correlatively, we wish to explore the freedom of new modes of thinking and living between and across cultures and thought-traditions, in relations to new conceptions of ‘earth’ as opposed to ‘world’ or ‘globality’, and in doing so to shift the image of thinking away from the inherent oppositionality embedded in subject-object frameworks.

To speak of ‘geophilosophies’ is also to hold in tension the incomplete promise and the risk of philosophy as the arbiter and site of multitudinous, unbound thinking potential—to untie the geo-location of bodies, experiences, concepts and practices from their distribution within the colonial hierarchy of nation-states, rejecting also the hegemonic politics by which that order was produced. This series of colloquia will, in taking a conceptual rather than disciplinary (i.e., territorialized) starting point, seek to enlist and augment ongoing efforts to embrace the differential interlacing of theoretical idioms across the globalized platforms of world and global philosophies, religious studies, ethnic studies, consciousness studies, sociology, among other internal projects to dislodge Eurocentric thought.  

Through this collaborative series we will be soliciting papers, blog-posts, and podcasts around these questions: How can a conceptual rather than disciplinary starting point afford a more welcome “home” to hold in common and furnish creative opportunity for these various endeavors? How and in what terms might “world/global philosophies” no longer be at odds with anti-imperialist politics? Papers and blog-posts may address a variety of contexts that trouble the relationship between the universalizing idiom of “philosophy” and “religion,” the persistence of colonial knowledge production and control in the academy, and assess how the diagnoses of ‘geophilosophies’ can create space for redress.

About the Project

Geophilosophies offer a space where difference can speak differently. Around the academy, in religious and spiritual venues, in the literary world and beyond, “non-Western” philosophy and religion has come to be the object of “inclusion.” That is, a variety of conversations that once insisted on granting agency and value exclusively to “Western” subjects seem to be ceding the terms of their unspoken universality to geolocated particularities: philosophy can now also be Indigenous, Asian, Indian, African and much more. This is the problem of the post-colonial function of ideas, split between universal defined by a history of Eurocentrism and imperialism, and a particular defined by a history of exclusion. While each of these disciplines, in their own way, have made some room for inclusion in the name of diversity, to what extent do the structural requirements of their fundamental operations, whether thought, political theology, secularism, or literary theory allow for a true expression of difference? To what extent does participating in existing modes of producing academic knowledge, articulating artistic production, or participating in interfaith dialogue or theological inquiry require a degree of similitude, or even ceding structural, political, or conceptual threat, in exchange for participation?

While many rubrics have been proposed to stage new encounters between non-Western or otherwise post-colonial philosophy, religion, and forms of life, this forum will offer the potential and limits of a conceptual stage, in the name of “Geophilosophies.” This term, from borrowed from the work of philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, aims to marshal the many conversion points of globally diffuse asymmetries, forms of resistance, and flight from structure. Rather than holding up forms of belonging to one another, we place “geophilosophy” at the fore to emphasize a “de-territorialization” of the Earth, which might undo the grid of relations between place, language, religion, race, and ethnicity that keep culture and politics orderly, legible, and governable to Western imperial structures. 

Our forum will test new forms and terms of alliance among those experimenting with alternatives to the unspoken imperialisms governing knowledge production, spiritual inquiry, and artistic poesies. For philosophy, this may require imagining the impossibility of multiple epistemologies, ontologies, and metaphysics. For literature, relations between language, politics, and translation could be made more malleable to regimes of expression beyond the novel or the Western traditions of movement towards and away realism. For traditions that have come to be religions, spiritualities, or practices, this might mean undoing the means of capture by which its forms of life, embodiment, and spiritual praxes have been re-organized by the categories of religion and secularity.

To actualize some of these possibilities geophilosophies also offers a space for new experiments in fiction which utilize the marginalized experience of dark bodies and black reason to innovate a radical imaginary haunted by hybrid time an impossible spaces. At the heart of this visceral process of writing is the churn of otherness churning up the lineaments of a globalized autonomy. In addition the series invites the use of autotheory as a key practice for unravelling this hegemonic form of subjectivity. Geophilosophies embraces the potential of the diasporic experience to reprocess itself, an act of kinetic reasoning which exposes the scandalous heresies of inhabited knowledge and alternative epistemologies.

Through the presentation and discussion of brief, conceptually oriented papers, we will test this form of conversation as a mode of encounter with difference. Specifically, we are interested in its potential as a way to forge solidarity between the affirmation of new modes of enunciating global traditions across existing disciplines, and the deconstruction of lingering structures of Western imperialism in all areas of life, thought, and praxis. Rather than trying to find “common ground,” we will attempt to add together and multiply means of escape from a shared challenge, that is, of needing to begin with something in common, more often than not articulated in the name of Western markers of identity. Through experiments with narrative, myth, and poetics, disarticulating genealogical threads at the core of “thinking” itself, and exploring untranslatability and unruly hermeneutic multiplicities, our hope will be to

PODCAST:  Podcast episodes will consist of an interview, conversation or debate with a scholar who has recently, or in the past, published an article with something to say to the general public. Within each episode one of our editors or guest editors will engage the scholar about her or his article through a series of questions, with the aim of translating difficult ideas into a language understandable by a wide ranging public.

WEBINARS:  The webinar is essentially a research forum for scholars to present new research in that resonates with the broader themes of the geophilosophies series. Each meeting will consist of two main presentations (30-40 min) followed by a book colloquium. We invite graduate students, established scholars and independent researchers to send us abstracts or titles of papers they may wish to present.

BLOG:  We welcome blogs from independent researchers, activists, artists and scholars on any topic related directly or tangentially to the field of geophilosophies, but especially written pieces on current fast-moving issues that require a speedier mode of communication. Blogs should be between 300 and 1500 words long.