K like Kolonie, Kafka and the decolonization of the imaginary

June 4, 2020

SPEAKER: MARIE JOSÉ MONDZAIN (philosopher, research director emeritus at CNRS)

The colonial question is questioned with particular emphasis today because of the return of violent manifestations of racism and the various figures of exclusion. Decolonization, far from being reduced to the struggles for independence and access to autonomy of the former colonies, poses a very current problem which extends to the real and imaginary territories of the colonized but especially of the colonizers themselves. The abolition of slavery has still not ended hatred, enslavement and crime. It is the cruel vitality of a colonization of the imagination itself which seems to remain engraved in the flesh of the victims but also of their torturers. Reading a visionary fiction, Kafka’s Penal Colony has opened the way to a general questioning on the relation of the machine which submits, which tortures and which kills with the strategies of all domination. This reading accompanied throughout my reflection the biographical and historical journey through the signs of this carnal and passionate colonization of the imagination itself. It is a question of analyzing through a certain number of testimonies, texts and images the powerful, violent and always active bond which links colonialism to capitalism at the present heart of a globalized imperialism. However, this short meditation also seeks to recognize the emancipatory power of fictional writing and in general the place of creative gestures in the experience of freedom ‘and the joy it gives. I therefore tried in the same movement, always accompanied by Kafka, to envisage the present conditions of possibility of a decolonization of the imaginary which alone is able to operate against the oppression of the real the transformative energies and the revolutionary gestures.


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