Towards World Critical Theory? Interventions from the Global South
Call for papers
Towards World Critical Theory?
Interventions from the Global South
Concept for the 2023 PSAGS (Postcolonial Studies Association of the Global South) Annual Conference
New World Critical Theory on the Occasion of the Centenary of Frankfurt School Critical Theory 4-
5 December, 2023
Could the normative constructionist approach of critical theory as argued by the Frankfurt School
– which marks its one hundred years in 2023 – be enriched by accommodating other world views
which believe in more empirical, immanentist, and polyphonic methodologies? Could critical theory
itself, in the spirit of the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Weltliteratur project, be elevated to, or even
be ennobled as World Critical Theory? Recent debates around Left Hegelian or Kantian theodicy
that ground history through a developmentalist and progressive moral-political project have evoked
the counter-argument of the “end of progress”, asking for an “internal decolonization of critical
theory”, underscoring therefore, a composite “ethnology” of our normative commitments (Allen,
2016). But that disaggregated and contingent notion of normativity is certainly not the end of the
story. Critics of the Frankfurt School have themselves been criticized for falling prey to the very
trappings of the thinking traditions they seek to undermine (Jay, 2019; Steinmetz, 2020). The
epistemic arsenals asking for a decolonized critical theory, too, fail to nomadize beyond the
European canon, even though they make recurrent references to postcolonial thinkers. Recent
scholarly opinions assign primacy to the genealogical models of the first generation Frankfurt
School, especially Adorno and his theory of negative dialectic. Amy Allen’s (2020) argument on
incorporating psychoanalysis for an effective mode of critical theory is a seminal attempt to
foreground the importance of psychoanalysis in fortifying a more realistic and empirical stratum of
critique. But on this account too, the primary corpus is beholden exclusively to the Western canon
of Freud, Lacan and Melanie Klein. This representational asymmetry arising through the absence
of Global South prevents the possibility of what Rainer Forst describes as subaltern “justificatory
equals” or the recognition of peripheral epistemes in whose name decolonization is fought.
The real decolonial agenda, therefore, entails incorporation of heterogenous vernacular
modes of critical philosophies practiced in divergent thought geographies. These are simpler forms
of people’s subversive thoughts, militating against established norms, practicing radical immanence
and heterodoxy in the domain of cultural ontologies and hermeneutics of power. Thinkers like
Jalaluddin Rumi, Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, W.E.B DuBois, the medieval Sufi
thinkers and the Baul minstrels, indigenous cosmologies, etc offer innovative yet analytically
challenging philosophical insights. Any project of decolonizing critical theory, or of “unlearning”
the canon to attain “epistemic humility” should attend to these smaller voices lying beyond the
panoply of the Anglophonic world, making space for Africana Critical Theory or Social
philosophies from the Arab and the Asian World or the larger Global South. This is not a plea for
undermining the Frankfurt School’s theory of critique, rather it asks for a more composite dialogue
among different traditions of critique practiced in other locations, enabling the assemblage of a
World Critical Theory. As has been rightly argued, “the no to false foundations is [also]
foundational” (Forst, 2019, 26) and “reified forms of Enlightenment thought” cannot be replacedb y equally “reified forms of anti-Enlightenment thought” (Forst, 2019, 27), and therefore any
project of normative reconstruction necessitates the quest for immanent normativity or
deconstructive normativity leading to a Republic of critical optics. Such a dialogic agenda invokes
planetarity of critical voices and the current conjuncture of democratic decline and Anthropocentric
crisis demands conjoined efforts of convivial thinking, or “tentacular thinking” across different
locational and cultural boundaries. Scholarly debates on the actual definition of World Literature
have facilitated the inclusion of many erstwhile “micro-voices”, and in similar vein, the idea of a
World Critical Theory demands the worlding of “minor” critical voices to forge a Republic of critical
Tentative Areas of Focus:
New frontiers of critical theory in the Anthropocene and Democratic Crisis
Role of new frontiers of psychoanalysis in fortifying critical theory,
Towards a new deconstructive or contingent normative order?
Inclusive and convivial World Critical Theory or a Republic of critique
Africana critical theory, Sahajiya Critical Theory and critical theory from the Arab World
Early career Researchers and young faculty members are asked to submit a brief abstract of
not more than 200 words focusing on any one of the mentioned sub-themes or related sub-
Dr. Manas Dutta (email@example.com),
to Dr. Mursed Alam (firstname.lastname@example.org) definitely within 14 August, 2023.
Selected abstracts will be notified within 30 August, 2023.
Two modest travel bursaries are available for two outstanding proposals.
Accepted proposals will be asked to submit their full paper (5000 words maximum) by 20 November,
Do register yourself as early as possible.
2023 PSAGS Annual Conference on December 4th & 5th at ILSR, Kolkata, India
Registration fees: For faculty members (Rs. 1500) and for PhD scholars (Rs. 500).
For further queries, contact through the given email addresses.