ISBN: 978-1-39952-244-1

Morten Bergsmo

Centre for International Law and Research (CILRAP)

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In this well-written monograph, the US philosopher Benjamin P Davis presents a penetrating reading of Édouard Glissant (1928–2011), drawing also on the writings of Stuart Hall, Emmanuel Levinas, Simone Weil, Enrique Dussel, Gloria Anzaldúa and WEB Du Bois. Post-colonial narratives have become so prevalent that it is difficult to operate effectively in multilateral fora (such as the UN General Assembly or Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court) or within international organizations without some familiarity with de-colonial terminology and argumentation. Steeped in the relevant literature, Davis questions whether our current social justice tools, human rights included, are sufficient to bring about ‘needed social change, change that would honour and preserve life on earth’ and help us ‘move from a politics of charity (false generosity and tolerance) to a politics of participation (errancy and solidarity)’. He proposes reinvesting in human rights claims ‘in order to strengthen the oppositional (decolonial) elements within them’, if they can be ‘re-articulated to motivate further ethical, political and spiritual commitment’. Rights claims of the dispossessed, Davis argues, entail ‘duties of citizens of wealthy countries to live differently’, duties that should ‘bear on us’. He discusses Glissant’s ‘right to opacity’ which not only includes an irreducibility of indigenous cultural traditions and knowledge practices, but also a broader sense of ‘solidarity extending to basic areas of life’. Davis posits the goal of liberation and decolonial philosophy as being ‘the negation of the system that produces victims’. While he ascribes excessive contemporary resource extraction to our Western way of life, a result of ‘European colonisation’, he does not exonerate settler societies built through slave-economies.