Developments in DIN

DIN has embarked on a trajectory to use ICT-technology in organizing the network. A survey on about the viability of a Decolonial Academic Network (DAN) showed that there is a need for a digital infrastructure for the network. DIN has found an IT company to sponsor this infrastructure. Recently Amrit Applications has started building a database of past, current and future research and a database of vacancies for academic positions.

DIN has also found a project manager in Egypt who has volunteered to lead the decolonial university project, a Moodle based online university. She is currently working to set up a first course on decolonial pedagogy.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission, member of DIN, is launching a toolkit that provides an actionable Counter-Islamophobia Toolkit aimed at combatting the numerous facets of growing Islamophobia across the EU. The launch will be held on September 26th  in European Parliament in Brussel.

Israel denies visa for talk on decolonisation exposing Einstein

The Palestine Technical University, Kadourie, Palestine, is organizing the Sixth Palestinian Conference on Modern Trends in Mathematics and Physics PCMTMP-VI, 5th-8th August 2018.

Decolonial mathematician Prof. C.K. Raju was invited to give two plenary talks (scheduled on 7th and 8th Aug) on
Decolonising mathematics: how and why it makes science better (and enables students to solve harder problems).

Israel denied him a visa. Read more.

White feminisms, non-white feminisms: assessing the aftermath of the Tariq Ramadan affair

Houria Bouteldja

I would like to dedicate this talk to the African-American singer, Billie Holiday. I will explain why at the end.

Because what I am talking about is the subject of an ongoing legal case, I wish to make it clear that I am not interested in the basis for this affair, but in its political effects.

In France since the beginning of the 2000s, we have witnessed the emergence of new feminist dynamics that aim to question hegemonic feminism, which as you know is white; “white” in the sense that, for the most part, it defends the interests of white women.

Following the hijab affair, we have seen the emergence of an Islamic feminism that has challenged the idea of the supposed incompatibility of Islam and feminism. Later on, with the appearance of the decolonial movement and of political antiracism, we have seen the arrival of intersectional feminism. There is a whole array of non-white feminisms today, including Islamic feminism and Afro-feminism. It is important to note that these very dynamic movements only represent a minority of women of postcolonial migrant origin because, in reality, the more women are crushed by their condition, the less politically active they are. The same can be said for the decolonial activism that I am a part of. We are but a vocal minority.

I would like to closely analyse the reactions of these different feminist groups to the imprisonment of Tariq Ramadan in order to test them against their politics and their stated objectives. Let me make it clear that non-white feminisms stand between two poles: white feminism, which belongs to what Sadri Khiari has theorized as the ‘white political field’, and the decolonial pole that represents Indigenous power as it is currently emerging and which is based on a political, theoretical and organizational break with the former. The hypothesis which I am going to try and defend here is that the majority of non-white feminisms struggle to keep their promise of effectively articulating gender oppression and oppression on the basis of race and defining a really emancipatory strategy for Indigenous women that resists being coopted by those in power.

Tariq Ramadan is an activist and a world-renowned Muslim intellectual who has been very active in France for twenty years. He is known for being a reformist Muslim thinker. He promotes the idea of adapting Islam for modernity while remaining loyal to the Quran and the prophetic tradition. We are rather sceptical of this approach, given that the decolonial project rejects the paradigm of modernity. Nonetheless, we should recognise the fact that he has been successful – while the French integrationist model is in crisis – in promoting the idea of a citizen Islam whose followers do not have to choose between their Muslim identity and their French citizenship. This challenged the project of pure assimilation (aka whitening).

Last October, he was accused of rape by two women, and then by a third. Since, February 2018, he has been in jail awaiting trial.

This affair has unleashed strong emotions, firstly because if his notoriety as an intellectual but also because these alleged rapes put his religiosity into question in the eyes of the Muslim community. Despite the Me Too campaign being at its peak, other political and media personalities accused of sexual harassment have not been not pursued by the legal system.  These powerful men are still free or awaiting trial despite being accused of similar crimes as Tariq Ramadan. Some even have the support of those in power, while the trial by media of Tariq Ramadan took place well before the legal process, so that he has already been presumed guilty. What has been the feminist reaction?

First, white feminists: I am not going to give a holistic overview of white feminisms and their various approaches. Suffice it to cite Simon de Beauvoir who declared in The Second Sex on the subject of white feminists: ‘Bourgeois as they are, they stand in solidarity with the bourgeois and non-proletarian women; white as they are, they stand with white men and not with black women.’

This quote is extraordinary for more than one reason. First, because it shows de Beauvoir’s extreme lucidity. She deserves out thanks because her words are surprisingly relevant to us today. The ‘Balance ton porc’ (‘Call out your pig’) campaign in France has allowed millions of women to raise their voices against the massive amount of sexual violence that they endure. At the same time, an article published in Le Monde and signed by famous bourgeois women, including the actress Catherine Deneuve, says that women should allow men to ‘hit on them’. In this way, they defended the men in their milieu who have come under attack by the ‘Balance ton porc’ campaign.

What of the supposedly universalist hegemonic feminism that says it defends all women? It mainly supported all the ‘Me Too’ and ‘Balance ton porc’ campaigns. Obviously. It squarely denounced the barefaced impunity of these powerful men. To this point, all is as it should be. But how has hegemonic feminism reacted to the fact that Tariq Ramadan was imprisoned while the other men were not? Let’s be honest and admit that they did not jump on the bandwagon and that they even tacitly refused to be instrumentalised in the service of racism, for which we should be grateful. I believe that, due to the progress made by the decolonial and non-white feminist movements, they have understood that they cannot play with fire. Nevertheless, most of them have not denounced the abusive incarceration of Tariq Ramadan or at the very least campaigned for the other men to be treated in the same manner, which in the end comes down to being complicit with state racism. The only exception I am aware of is a letter, entitled ‘Open letter of support: Tariq Ramadan Case – Calling on Impartial and Equal Justice’. The signatories include Joan Scott and Christine Delphy.

Secondly, non-white (Muslim or intersectional) feminists. There have been two types of reaction: either silence or all-out support for the plaintiffs. Let me point out that all of these feminisms are intersectional in their approach, that is they refuse both the racist instrumentalization of sexism and the sexist instrumentalization of racism. In other words, they seek freedom both from state racism and from the sexism of their communities.

The first, those who remained silent, are those who did not want to go along with the racist instrumentalization of the case but who were still trapped in their feminist identity. How to defend Ramadan’s presumption of innocence and remain a credible feminist, especially when you are an Indigenous woman suspect of being a ‘communitarian’? How to defend the plaintiffs when the dogs have been let loose on an Indigenous man? Silence was the only way out. Say nothing so as not to lose the trust of Indigenous people on the one hand, and that of feminists on the other and, I should add, of all the other important milieu (the university, the Left, the media). This approach is even more of a feat given that Muslim feminists, for example, spend their entire time having to prove that Islam is not incompatible with feminism. If they were to support Tariq Ramadan’s presumption of innocence they would endanger their entire strategy, which is to make themselves respectable in the eyes of progressive whites. But by taking a stance in favour of the women, they put in danger an entire feminist rhetoric whose aim is to convince the Muslim masses that feminism is not a Western invention, but actually inherent in Islam. These strategies do not really convince anyone… The association Lallab paid the costs for this recently. Its activists regret not having been consulted ‘about the other sexual violence cases that appeared at the outset of the “Balance ton porc” movement.’ ‘As though we were Muslims above being women,’ the Mediapart website reported. Ismahane Chouder, a Muslim and an avowed feminist, recounts a similar experience that, from memory, goes: ‘Despite many years of feminist activism, the media never considered me as such because of my hijab and so it’s surprising that the Ramadan affair suddenly made of me a “great feminist” for obvious reasons.’ The only thing they wanted is to hear me rubbish Tariq Ramadan’s presumption of innocence.’ This sums up those who kept their silence.

The second group, starting from the principal that a patriarchal society always sides with men, gave their unconditional support to the plaintiffs and some even went so far as to reject the burden of proof, proclaiming ‘believe women’, the slogan of many white feminists. As we can see here, feminism is seen as superior to antiracism which in fact goes against the aims of intersectionality.

Opposing both the white and the non-white poles of feminism, there is the decolonial position which I identify with. Our position was as follows: Because the law is racist and sexist, we must firstly treat the affair in a dispassionate manner and analyse it from a dialectical point of view. We know that 80% of allegations of rape are well-founded and that the grand majority of women do not lie when they report a rape. The statistics are undeniable. But we also know that impunity in rape cases essentially benefits powerful men and that, in contrast, the law has no compassion for marginalised men, especially when they are Black or Arab. We also know that racism and the prison system produce ultra-toxic masculinities and that these masculinities, which we could also call ‘non-hegemonic masculinities’, are as damaging for men themselves as they are for women and those around them because they lead to all kinds of pathologies including violence which is most often turned against women and children within the family.

We should re-read Rita Segato who explains that predatory capitalism turns women’s bodies into battlefields. In her view, within a context of general precarity, the position of men is weakened: ‘He cannot achieve, he cannot have, he cannot be.’ But at the same time, he has to prove that he is a man. In this way, men are submitted to a ‘masculinity mandate’ that, in order to exist, obliges them to demonstrate strength and power: physical, intellectual, economic, moral, military, etc. For Indigenous men who live a precarious existence, the masculinity mandate often translates into a mandate of violence which is exactly what Indigenous women observe in their every day.

I take the opportunity at the this point to return to a passage in my book that caused a stir. I related the experience of a Black women from the United States and who explained that she wouldn’t press charges because she couldn’t stand for a Black man to be thrown in jail. My detractors turned my description into prescription which, by the way, says a lot about their deep mediocrity (except in this case maybe it was a signal of their panic?) and that of a certain readership that laps it up. This example, which can be extended to a non-negligible number of non-white women, shows that moralizing standpoints on what is good and what is bad won’t change anything. One thing is clear: taking action against the specific oppression of Indigenous men will lead to dismantling the mechanisms that thwart women’s agency, deepen men’s oppression and we will only make matters worse for women. In contrast to what a certain branch of (white or Indigenous) feminism says, I am firmly on the side of Indigenous women. But it is true that I don’t speak their language, I invent my own.

That is why when the charges against Tariq Ramadan were made public and then he was jailed, I made three statements on my Facebook page.

These rigorous and balanced public statements were fraudulently misinterpreted as benefiting ‘the porcs’ by some in the media and by certain progressive websites in the name of ‘believing women’ above all else.

In fact, faced by this case as decolonial actors, we say the following: In a racist and sexist society and taking into account 1) the personality and unsettling significance of Tariq Ramadan in the struggle against Islamophobia and for Palestine, 2) the nature of his enemies: the French political establishment, 3) the massive reality of sexual abuse, it should be non-negotiable both to respect the word of the plaintiffs, who are the presumed victims, and that of the accused, who is presumed innocent. So, the Tariq Ramadan affair should not be subject to any kind of political or media instrumentalization. In addition, it is untrue to say that the French legal system remains a patriarchal one when the accused is Black or Arab.  It is patriarchal when the white patriarchal order is put under the spotlight but, with Tariq Ramadan, on the contrary, those in power had nothing to fear. As the Fanonian philosopher, Norman Ajari has correctly analysed, the Me Too campaign created a divide among whites, while the Campaign against Tariq Ramadan has tendentially reintroduced unity among them.

Consequently, despite a marked hostility, we have insisted on remaining true to what we have theorized as the basic principles – the spine – of a decolonial, materialist feminism. Our starting position is that feminism is a political phenomenon born in a ‘West’ which was under construction, part of the dialectical moment of the formation of European nation-states and the conquering of the world by colonialism. So, feminism appears to us to be a major political event within modernity whose prime objective is to resolve the contradictions between white men and women, all citizens of imperialist democracies and complicit with their elites in the exploitation of the South countries. White women, oppressed by their local patriarchy, nonetheless benefit from North-South relations and they were integrated into the Nation on the basis of being white.

To understand decolonial feminism I would like to share five important orientations:

  1. Domenico Losurdo: ‘The history of the West is faced with a paradox. The clear line of demarcation between whites on the one hand and Blacks and “Redskins” on the other, benefits the development of equal relations within the white community.’
  2. Sadri Khiari: ‘The principle of capitalist democracy is individual freedom and political equality. The races are the negation of this. They are also indissociable from it. Bourgeois modernity, becoming established between the 18th and the 19th centuries, develops via the crossing of two contradictory but complementary movements, the freeing of individuals from the straitjacket of indispensable statutory hierarchies to the affirmation of the modern state and the spread of capitalism, as well as the expansion of imperialism which is necessary for both.’
  3. Simone de Beauvoir: ‘‘Bourgeois as they are, they stand in solidarity with the bourgeois and non-proletarian women; white as they are, they stand with white men and not with black women.’
  4. Chester Himes: ‘As I am not considered a man in the factories, I should at least be one in bed. Everything I can’t be in the factories I will be in bed.’
  5. James Baldwin on the violence of Black men towards women and on the necessity of their transformation: ‘It will require redefining the terms of the West.’

These points form a sort of plumb-line that begins with the birth of capitalist-imperialist democracies and the emergence of the idea of equality (a concept that should be challenged by decolonial thought), and the consequences it has for relations between white men and women, between whites and Indigenous people and between Indigenous men and women.

I would like to conclude by reflecting on what I call the reign of sacred political ideas. Activism often gives birth to ideas that we are often not allowed to question. So imagine when these ideas have been produced by white progressives! Feminism is not left out of this picture and one of the sacred ideas it has produced is ‘My body is my own’. There is a lot to say about this highly liberal, and almost dogmatic, idea. Another example: during the Me Too campaign, women’s words were taken as gospel. Most feminists considered a woman’s word to be sacred and that she should never be seen as suspect. When women declare they have been raped, we need to believe them.

This position is indeed justified in most cases. As I said before, 80% of reports of rape are well founded which supports feminist claims.

But, there is a but. I find the way in which we treat this question in a racist context damaging, even among those who claim to link different forms of oppression to each other. I find this theoretical weakness of applying equivalent positions to white and non-white contexts damaging.

Let’s take the example of the lynching of Black people during segregation in the United States. Are we aware that many Black men were lynched after being denounced by a white woman? It was often sufficient for a white woman to declare that a certain man had looked at her lustily to unleash white men’s rage, leading to him being found hanging from a tree. The famous song by Billie Holdiay, ‘Strange Fruit’ delicately and poetically immortalizes the memory of these men, who were the victims of another, crueler, implacable and superior patriarchy.

The parallels with today are striking: the word of women who speak out against members of the dominant patriarchy is immediately disqualified. When they denounce the Indigenous patriarchy they are lauded, whether they be white or non-white women.

So, decolonial feminism is an equalizing feminism. And, above all it is the only one that really articulates. Because, as Malik Tahar-Chaouch makes clear, ‘the decolonial approach enables us to think about the concrete conditions for common struggles within the world system, made in the image of colonial modernity, against the abstract and paradoxical symmetries of the progressive dogma of the White Left.’

I will end with another snapshot of colonial history. You all are aware of the story of American Wasp immigrants who, in order to tame native tribes and to get them to prove their loyalty, made them deliver one of their own people’s scalps. A handful of them did it. A sizeable number of them, who refused to betray their people, remained silent. Another sizeable number (probably the majority) defended the accused by decrying the conspiracy and destroying the credibility of the presumed victims.

Decolonial feminism has taken the riskiest route: refusing both to deliver the scalp of an Indigenous man to white power and attempting to protect the word of the majority of women (of all ‘races’) who do not lie and who effectively become the collateral damage of the racist instrumentalisation of the Ramadan affair because it sustains the much more powerful, more embedded and more definitive patriarchal system: that of white power.

Taking all this into account, we call for the liberation and fair trial of Tariq Ramadan.

 

Results of the survey on the Decolonial Academic Network

DIN has conducted an online survey among the reader of its newsletter to get an idea about the viability of a Decolonial Academic Network (DAN). The survey was put online on February 7 2018; 111 respondent who filled in the survey. This number is enough for DIN to base a policy for DAN.

On the basis of this survey the Decolonial International Network has decided to set up the Decolonial Academic Network (DAN). The practical implications of this decision are:

  1. DIN is going to invest in a digital infrastructure for DAN. This infrastructure will consist of the following parts:
    1. A digital academic journal.
    2. A database of past, current and future research.
    3. A database of vacancies for academic positions.
    4. Digital meeting rooms for different commissions of DAN.

In the coming months DIN will draw up proposals for the functionalities of the digital infrastructure and will engage the respondents of the survey who expressed their willingness to get involved, to develop these functionalities.

  1. A research program for social movements. DIN will engage with social movements to link DAN with activism by setting up relevant research projects that activists can use in their daily struggle.

The first priority will be to set up a steering committee of DAN who can take the responsibility to develop DAN in close cooperation with DIN. They can be the counterpart for setting up the digital infrastructure and the research projects.

Read the report here.

Houria Bouteldja: White progressivism or Indigenous « fertile regression »? Get your hands dirty and go beyond the dilemma

In het speech at the Bandung of the North conference in Paris Houria Bouetldja from the Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR) tackled the question: Are we the progressives they dream of us to be, those presented to us as our natural allies, the Left? Are we anti-capitalists, feminists, ecologists? Are we for gay rights? Welcoming of migrants? In brief, are we good people according to the Left’s criteria? Instinctively, I would answer that we are not. This isn’t a timeless or definitive « not ». It is a temporary « not ». In other words, a complex « not ».

Read the whole speeach here.

Selim Nadi: Why do we need an Indigenous Party in France?

Selim Nadi from the Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR) explains why the building of an autonomous political force for people of color in France is needed. In January 2005, several anti-racist activists and organizations sent out a call – l’appel des Indigènes de la République. This call was sent out in a context of very strong racial tensions in the French Hexagon : girls wearing hijabs were thrown out of school (2004 – but this issue goes back to the 1990s), the French banlieues were rising up (2005), etc. … The aim of this call was to mobilize activists around the balance of forces deriving from the colonization. Thus, the call was saying that “France was a colonial state, France remains a colonial state”. This call received around 3000 signatures in a few weeks. After this call the Movement of the Indigenous of the Republic (M.I.R) was created, an organization that intended to be a political one. Nadi tracks the history of the PIR in the context of the theoretical and practical question: how to build an autonomous political force.

Read the article here.

Freedom of speech under attack at the University Of California Berkeley – again

On 17 April, Bazian facilitated an event at UC Berkeley with Haneen Zoabi, a member of Israel’s Knesset. Zionist students are calling for the university to take disciplinary action against Bazian for hosting Zoabi and defending the content of her speech. This latest attack is part of an ongoing series of targeting BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions movement) activists and individuals who continue to do work on Palestine in the US. The group behind the smear campaign at UC Berkeley is Tikvah, a Zionist campus group that has a long history of smearing Bazian and Students for Justice in Palestine. Students for Justice in Palestine launched their own petition to defend Bazian against the mischaracterization, bullying and blatant racism of Tikvah and off-campus Zionist groups in their continued attempts to suppress open discussion and honest academic analysis of Israel’s occupation.

Read more.

A campaign against the exploitation of African children to raise money for white saviours

Why was I not immediately outraged when I saw the 12-year-old black African, heavily pregnant girl-child, Fridah, posing in pastel-coloured maternity clothes, in quite a sensual manner, in the Plan International Finland campaign advertisements meant to raise awareness about child pregnancies, placed on billboards, streets and public transport spaces all over Finland?”, asked Dr. Faith Mkwesha, Executive Director of the non-profit organization SahWira Africa International and researcher in gender studies at Åbo Akademi University. The advertisement campaign was awarded prizes for best advertisement.

SahWira Africa took a bold step to challenge the negative representation of Africans that perpetuates stereotypes and prejudices in the West, and demanded that Plan International Finland withdraws the campaign, and offers apologies to the African and PoC community, and return the prizes awarded to them. Plan has refused to apologise, and to return the prizes.

They started a campaign with discussion on social media, a demonstration at the office of Plan International where a petition was sent with the demands.

More information is to be found on: https://www.ruskeattytot.fi/rakenteet/protectblackgirlstoo.

See more information on:  www.sahwira-africa.org

Twitter: @sahwiraAfrica

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sahwiraafrica/

Other links:

DIN wholeheartedly supports this campaign and will help mobilize against the dehumanization of African people in Western media.

We call upon other organization to join the campaign of SahWira and offer their support for their campaign. More information: Faith Mkwesha, faithmk20@gmail.com, whatsapp: 00 35 45 66 888 75.

A decolonial critique of a colonial project

This is the text of a lecture by Sandew Hira on April 22, 2018 at the University of Amsterdam for Indonesian students on decolonizing history.

You can download the powerpoint here.

Slide 1: A decolonial critique of a colonial project

I would like to thank PPI Belanda, PPI Leiden and PPI Amsterdam for inviting me to present my views on the colonial research project of white Dutch academics on the liberation struggle of the Indonesian people. I will explain why this project does not meet basic standards of scientific research, why nonsense is presented as scientific knowledge and what the alternative can be for this colonial project. I will present my critique from a decolonial theoretical framework. I will briefly touch on some theoretical aspects of a decolonial critique of Western knowledge production before going into the aforementioned questions.

Slide 2: If you are a professor, that does not mean that you are a scientist, you can be an ideologue of colonialism

Let me start with a basic critique of the authority of knowledge production. What is the authority of knowledge production? The authority of knowledge production is the collection of institutes that assures society of what is valid knowledge and what not. In Western science professors are the authority of knowledge production. If you are a professor, you are supposed to be knowledgeable and searching for the truth. In decolonial critique we argue that if you are a professor, that does not mean that you are a scientist. You can be an ideologue of colonialism presenting nonsense as science. It is not the position at a university that determines whether you are a scientist, but the content of your argument. Ideologues are not searching for the truth, but are producing lies to cover the truth. This is a theoretic proposition of decolonial theory and does not only bear specifically on this colonial research project but on Western knowledge production in general.

Slide 3: Western epistemology

Another theoretical note I want to touch on is the difference between Western epistemology and decolonial epistemology. Epistemology deals with what is knowledge en more specifically what constitutes valid knowledge. Western science has developed in opposition to Christian theology since the second half of the seventeenth century and evolved from David Hume’s view of knowledge based on experience thought Immanuel Kant’s concept of the need to understand experience with theoretical analysis to George Hegel notion of testing theories by prediction. Karl Popper later developed this notion into the concept of falsification. And August Comte conceptualized it in the idea of positivism that holds that knowledge is solely derived from observation and reasoning and detached from ethics. The idea that ethics is not part of knowledge has now become entrenched in the canon of Western epistemology. Knowledge is about true or false and not about right or wrong.

British philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) says: “Our knowledge of truths … has an opposite, namely error.”[1] Not quite. In decolonial theory the opposite of truths are lies. The difference between a lie and an error is that an error should be corrected, while a lie should be opposed. An error is a false statement in an effort to find the truth. A lie is a false statement in an effort to block the truth. Once you realise that there is an error, you will try to correct it. A lie is produced with the intent to manipulate the mind.

Slide 4: DTM epistemology

In the theory of Decolonizing The Mind knowledge is not only about true or false but also about right and wrong.  In DTM the basic unit of knowledge is a concept. A concept is an idea that describes and explains certain aspects of the social and natural world. Knowledge is contained in concepts.

A concept has five dimensions.

The five elements of a concept are treated differently in an error, a lie and a truth. They have to be understood in relation to each other.

  1. In search of the truth you develop a terminology that is an adequate representation of the object of knowledge. If you make an error and you use a term that does not adequately represent the concept, you correct that and use another term once you realise the error. If you produce a lie, you intentionally come up with a term that is not an adequate representation, yet you use an inadequate term because you want to paint a different picture of the object that does not correspond with reality. Take the story of Columbus. The colonial scientist use the term “discovery of the Americas”, while the indigenous people use the term “the illegal occupation of their lands”. The Dutch would never use the term “the discovery of Holland by the Nazi’s in 1940” to describe the German invasion of their country. And they are right.
  2. Observations (facts). In search of the truth you take all relevant facts into account that relate to the concept. If you make an error, you might mistakenly leave out facts, but once you realise that, you make a correction and include these facts in making your argument. If you produce a lie, you select facts that fit into your concept and intentionally leave out or twist the facts that contradict your concept. In the case of Columbus his first crime – the fact of the kidnapping of seven Taino’s – is left out of the narrative of the colonizer but is very much present in the stories of the Taino’s.
  3. The analysis offers a framing and a storyline that makes us understand the concept. In search of the truth you develop a framing and a storyline that matches the facts and provides a logical explanation of the concept. If you make an error in the storyline, you correct it by adapting the storyline so it matches the facts and logic. If you produce a lie, you intentionally develop a storyline that matches your concept and manipulates the facts and logic so as to suit the concept. If you need to fantasise, then you put the fantasies into the storyline. The analysis use a logical framework. The logical framework of Western science is the two-value logic that goes back to Aristotle and use two values: true and false. It does not help us to understand problems of uncertainty and change. Non-Western logical systems like the Indian philosophy of Jainism use a seven value-logic that enables use to understand reality in its uncertainty and process of change. The colonial analysis of Columbus is the legitimization of colonialism in the story of discovery. The decolonial analysis of Columbus is the legitimization of the struggle to colonialism in the story of resistance.
  4. A theory is a collection of interrelated concepts that provides a bigger picture of the natural and social reality. In search for the truth you put your concept in the context of a theory that provides a factual and logical extension of the storyline of the concept. If you make an error, you correct it by looking for a theory that better matches the facts and logics of the bigger narrative. If you produce a lie, you select a theory that extends the storyline of your concept despite the facts and the logic that go against the theory. The colonial theory behind Columbus is the rise of modernity and human civilization. The decolonial theory behind Columbus is the demise of human civilization through the horrors of colonialism.
  5. A concept often contains ethics, a value judgment about what is right or wrong, good or bad. In searching the truth you acknowledge the ethics, make it explicit and defend your position. If you make an error, you correct it by acknowledging the ethics, make it explicit and move on. If you produce a lie, you hide or disguise the ethics by presenting your concept as objective and devoid from ethics. Western epistemology has hidden their ethics from science and cloaked it in notions of objectivity.

Slide 5: What happens when you hide your ethics in knowledge production?

When you hide your ethics in knowledge production, you are then able to present lies as scientific knowledge. How?

First, you present pose knowledge only in two terms: true or false and neglect the dimension of right and wrong.

Second, you claim objectivity on the basis of the authority of knowledge production, not on the basis of arguments. You present yourself as a scientist who is objective.

Third, you claim universality of your knowledge. Not only are you objective, your objectivity has a universal claim: your truth is the absolute truth.

And thus you are able to present blatant lies as scientific knowledge.

A decolonial theoretical framework enables us to lay bare the ethics behind Westernized knowledge and the fallacies it contains from  scientific point of view.

Slide 6: Critique #1: extreme and normal violence is not about facts, but about morality

Let us take a look at the colonial project of these white Dutch historians. The aims and content of the research program is defined on the website of het Koloniaal Instituut voor Taal, Land en Volkenkunde: “The program, which consist of nine parts, should answer questions about the nature, extent and causes of structural extreme (they use the Dutch term ‘grensoverschrijdend’) violence in Indonesia, seen from a broader political, social and international context. In this regard extensive attention will be paid to the chaotic period of August 1945 till the beginning of 1946 – often termed as the Bersiap – and the political and social legacy in the Netherlands, Indonesia and other places.”[2]

The first decolonial critique of the project is that is not a scientific project, but an ideological one. Why? Because it does not use a scientific concept to define the content of the program but an ideological one. In the ideological concept extreme violence is wrong and normal violence is OK. In the decolonial concept the judgment of violence depends on many factors: strategy, tactics, the nature of violence as one of oppression or one of liberation etc.

Slide 7: Critique #2: the concept of extreme violence is an insult to the victim of oppression

The second critique is that this concept of normal and extreme violence is an insult to the victims in a war of liberation. There is no extreme violence without normal violence.  How would any Dutch person feel when German historian would set up a project to assess whether the bombing of Rotterdam was normal or extreme violence? On May 14, 1940 the German bombed the Dutch city of Rotterdam which killed 650-900 victims. On February 13-14 1945 the allied forces carried out a massive bombardment of the city of Dresden which killed 25.000 German, 25 times more than in Rotterdam. How would the Dutch feel when German historians would then claim that the bombing of Rotterdam was not extreme violence but normal violence compared to Dresden? They would feel extremely insulted, and rightly so. The whole notion of normal violence which is inherent to the concept of extreme violence is an insult to the victims of this violence. What are the criteria of these white Dutch historians applied to Indonesia. Is cutting off the balls of a freedom fighter normal violence but beheading is extreme? You get into these ridiculous discussions if you use the concept of normal and extreme violence.

Slide 8: Critique #3: the concept of extreme violence is a direct legitimization of the crime of colonialism

The concept of normal violence means that Dutch racist colonizers who introduced apartheid in Indonesia are perfectly in their right to use normal violence to maintain their colonial rule. Normal violence means the acceptance of the relationship of power. Colonial power is legitimate as long as they use normal violence. This is nonsense presented as science.

Slide 9: Critique #4: the moral judgment of violence should be related to its purpose and cannot be judged in absolute terms

There are two moral categories of violence: the category of the injustice of oppressors violence and the category of the justice of the violence for freedom and liberation. The violence of a woman who is raped by a man cannot be placed in the same moral category of the violence of the rapist. The violence of Dutch freedom fighters against Nazism could not be placed in the same moral category as the violence of the Nazi’s. The violence of the freedom fighters of the people of Indonesia cannot be placed in the moral category as the violence of the Dutch racist colonizers to maintain their apartheid state in Indonesia.

Slide 10: Critique #5: the most obvious comparison is not made: extreme and normal violence of Nazism and colonialism

Scientific research often has a comparative dimension. You compare the phenomenon you want to study in different situations in order to get a better understanding of the phenomenon. In 1945 the Dutch just came out of a struggle for freedom in which they also used violence. The Dutch resistance organized violent resistance in coordination with the allied forces. Shortly after their fight for freedom from Nazism they used violence against the freedom fighters of Indonesia. If you are an objective researcher into violence, why don’t you take this obvious comparison into account?

Slide 11: Critique #6: this colonial research project is a racist project

The leader of this colonial research project, Gert Oostindie, wrote a book on this topic as a prelude to this investigation titled Soldaat in Indonesie, soldier in Indonesia. He claims to be objective and open-minded, as many racists do and contrasts his attitude to the historians in Indonesia who are not objective and open minded. He writes about the way he conducted his research on documents of Dutch soldiers who were fighting their colonial war: “Each of the ego-documents is just an individual account, but an open-minded, systematic analysis of the whole body can produce a more balanced picture and thus also more insight into the war.”[3]

So he is the white objective and open-minded researcher. This is what he says about the historians  in Indonesia: “Until now no Indonesian government has ever showed any interest in serious historical research into the war of decolonization, whether it is carried out in cooperation with the Netherlands or not. That is not strange. Open-minded research would undermine the image of a united heroic people that expelled the colonizer under the leadership of the army.”

The racism of Oostindie lies in his contradiction which he does not even notice. How can you know the result of a research that was never started according to your own account? Why is the conclusion of the white Dutch historian Oostindie open-minded and the conclusion of the historian in Indonesia narrow-minded without judging the facts of a research that was never conducted? Objectivity and open-mind means that you have to subscribe to the conclusion of the white Dutch colonial historians without discussing the fact of the research.

Oostindie is the leader of the colonial research project so he will carry his racist arguments into this project.

Slide 12: Critique #7: the legitimization of the racist colonial rule deligitimizes the fight for freedom – 1

In a debate in Amsterdam Jeffry Pondaag from Indonesia asked his panel members the basic question regarding Dutch colonialism: who gave you white people the moral right to occupy my country that is 11.000 km away from your country and oppress, exploit and humiliate coloured people? This is the crucial question that anyone should pose at the start of any discussion on colonial history. If you evade this question, you evade the crucial context that determines your position in the discussion.

Slide 13: Critique #7: the legitimization of the racist colonial rule delegitimizes the fight for freedom – 2

Colonialism was a system of oppression that used any means necessary to establish and maintain its rule: rape, theft, violence, yrs extreme violence, humiliation, occupation. They colonize by any means necessary. And when colonized people fight for their freedom by any means necessary the colonizers start to scream: you use extreme violence. That is not fair! Oostindie claims that the violence of the freedom fighter was worse than the violence of the occupier and there illegitimate. He writes: “It is clear without any doubt the Indonesian side have committed cruel crimes – probably on a much larger scale and directly mostly against other Indonesians.” Oostindie argues that without Dutch rule the Indonesians would kill each other. He writes: “An important part of violence in the Archipel can be explained by the absence of an effective (colonial) power, but reflected further local contradictions of which the Netherland was partly party to, other than in the function of the keeper of public order.” The Dutch as the neutral ruler that keeps the Indonesians from killing each other. This is belanda racism of the worst kind.

In any freedom struggle the strategy and tactics is related to the means of oppression of the colonizer. Why is the colonizer allowed to establish their rule by any means necessary and the colonized is limited in their struggle of freedom to the means that the colonizer finds acceptable? What kind of logic is this?

Oostindie explicity legitimize colonial oppress in the following statement: “The Dutch military actions should be understood in the context that was given then by the Dutch: protection of the population en restoring law and order.” This is how the so-called scientist conceptualized a system of oppression: colonialism as the protection of the colonized and law and order as the natural way of governing the colonized. The most outrageous comment from Oostindie is to deny the role of violence in maintaining colonial rule. He writes that the Netherlands never had a strong military culture. It was always about protecting the Dutch border. If that is the case, why did you go 11.000 km from you country to occupy and exploit other men’s and women’s country? How was colonization achieved? By saying to the colonized: we come here in peace to rape your women, steal your resources, enslave your people and impose a racist aartheid system. Was this all done with peacefull means? In what kind of world does Oostindie live? What kind of colonial fantasies does he produce. Rember: if you are a professor that does not mean that you are a scientist. You can be an ideologue of colonialism and that is what this project is about: producing the lies of the legitimacy of Dutch fascist rule of Indonesia.

Slide 14: Critique #8: the colonial project turns the victim into the criminal and the criminal into the victim

A common technique in colonial the production of lies is the technique of turning the victim into the criminal and vice versa. Oostindie draws the following conclusion from his research on the liberation struggle of the Indonesian people: “Veterans reject Dutch apologies with reference to war crimes of the opponents.” Then the socalled objective researcher takes a political position in the debate: “It is clear that the other party was guilty of war crimes on a large scale.”

Oostindie turns the victim of oppression into a criminal of war crimes because of the war of liberation. While the oppressor is granted the method “by any means necessary” to impose oppression the oppressed cannot use the same method “by any means necessary” to liberate him or herself from oppression. The colonizer will put limits to the forms of resistance.

Oostindie leaves all claims of objectivity aside when he openly honor the soldiers who weer sent to put down the liberation struggle of an oppressed people. According to him his book should be seen as “a testimony of honor to these men.” What happened to the objective researcher that does not give moral judgments?

Slide 15: What is Decolonizing The Mind (DTM)?

Let me go back to the theoretical framework of Decolonizing The Mind. In this framework decolonizing the mind means three things:

  1. The articulation of a scientific critique of Western knowledge production on different levels: conceptualization, methodology of research etc. This critique exposes the lies of Western knowledge production, in this case the lies of normal and extreme violence and the lies about the legitimacy of colonialism crimes.
  2. The production of alternative decolonial concepts. If we study the period of 1945-1950 we use the concept of the legitimate fight for freedom and not the concept of normal and extreme violence to understand what has happened.
  3. The translation of the alternative knowledge in activism.

I will deal with the third point in the form of the question: what is a decolonial alternative for this colonial research project?

Slide 16: Understanding the nature of Westernized academia and the colonization of the mind

In order to develop an alternative you must understand the nature of westernized universities. You must understand the difference between education and training. Education is the liberation of the mind through free discussion and open debate, critical research and the search for the truth. Training is the imposition of limitations on the mind, disciplining the mind to think in one particular way, acquiring the skills to produce lies and developing the attitude to criminalize people who disagree with you and criticize you.

Education is related to power because education is an attack on the authority of power. We don’t accept propositions that are based on positions of power. We accept proposition on the basis of arguments.

If I talk about Westernized universities I mean not only universities in the West, but also universities in the former colonies of Suriname and Indonesia where we have Surinamese and Indonesians who are eager to defend their former masters against decolonial critique. Jeffry Pondaag can pose the crucial and basic question in every discussion on the history of colonialism because he was not trained in the Westernized university. He is a cement worker in an factory who has not lost his common sense and dares to ask: who gave you white people the moral right to occupy my country that is 11.000 km away from your country and oppress, exploit and humiliate coloured people? That is the question is ask to any Surinamese of Indonesian historians who stand up to defend his or her colonial master. What gave them the right to colonize our land, institute apartheid, enslave, exploit, oppress and humiliate our people? That is the basis of my conversation of coloured people who are trained to defend their white masters.

In 1940 the Kingdom of the Netherlands was a Muslim country; 90% of the kingdom were Muslims, yet there was a minority racist dictatorship in the Kingdom that prevented the coloured people to vote. In Indonesia racism and apartheid was instituted in public places under the banner of “No dogs and Indonesians allowed”. In Nazi-Germany Hitler instituted racism and apartheid with the banner “No Jews allowed”. At least the dogs were better off under Nazism compared to Dutch colonialism.

Slide 17: An alternative decolonial research project

My suggestion for the alternative is to organize a network of activists and academics to set up and carry out a decolonial research project into the colonial history of Indonesia. This project should systematically document the crimes of Dutch colonialism, calculate the amount of reparations that the Dutch should pay as compensation for colonialism and documents the resistance struggle against the racist colonizer. That is the most appropriate answer to this colonial project. The Decolonial International Network would be happy to support any initiative in this direction.

Thank you for your attention.

[1] Russell, B. (1912), p. 186.

[2] http://www.kitlv.nl/vierjarig-onderzoeksprogramma-dekolonisatie-geweld-en-oorlog-indonesie-1945-1950/.

[3] All references are from my review of his book in: https://www.iisr.nl/koloniale-geschiedschrijving-van-indonesie/.