The Ramsay Insult

Pastiche of the Last Supper. A man sits at the centre of a table surrounded by other people who are looking at him whole he speaks.

If one wishes to engage with Indigenous and other non-western knowledges in research, writing, and teaching, certainly in Australia, then one needs to divest from the self-evident ways of being in this part of the world. It is no coincidence that my academic work, as surely most of yours, almost in its entirety, draws on western philosophical sources, as it is no coincidence either, that most of these sources were created by white men.

To fly beyond the canon one must consciously make an intellectual and no less an affective effort, and dissociate one’s work and viewpoints from the overwhelming presence of western civilisation.

Every time we invoke our favourite philosophers to help guide our writing and teaching, we do not only indulge in their wisdom but, deliberately or not, we affirm the historical – and still in force – relations of power that have enabled their works to reach our formation as the most binding and legitimate source of knowledge.

Regardless of whether or not our work is imbued with critical standpoints, the commitment to a particular variety of white philosophical legacy and preoccupations re-enacts the violent victory of the patriarchal west over the rest.

The sense that this structure of power-knowledge has been challenged during the last decades, is what motivates the creation of the Ramsay Centre. Its mission then, is not about content, which perhaps has been tested but certainly not erased. The Ramsay mission is one of structural violence. With its financial power, the Ramsay catalogue inserts itself in the midst of Australian academic life with the sole intention of eventually displacing critical, mainly Indigenous voices.

As such, it is an insult, and an act of settler colonialism.

Marcelo Svirsky is a Senior Lecturer at the School for Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong, Australia. He researches settler-colonial societies particularly Israel-Palestine, and focuses on questions of social transformation and decolonisation. He has published several articles in the journals Cultural Politics, Subjectivity, Intercultural Education, Deleuze Studies, and Settler Colonial Studies among others, and various books and edited collections: Deleuze and Political Activism (Edinburgh University Press, 2010); Arab-Jewish Activism in Israel-Palestine (Ashgate, 2012); Agamben and Colonialism with Simone Bignall (Edinburgh University Press, 2012); Collaborative Struggles in Australia and Israel-Palestine (2014); After Israel: Towards Cultural Transformation (Zed Books, 2014), and he has recently co-authored with Ronnen Ben-Arie From Shared Life to Co-Resistance in Historic Palestine (Rowman and Littlefield International, 2017).

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