Jessica Namakkal, "Unsettling Utopia: Spiritual Settlement and Colonial Extraction "
Friday, October 2, 2020 - 9:30am to 11:00am
View Jessica Namakkal's full tgiFHI talk below!
For more on Jessica Namakkal's work, read her interview in our "Meet Your Humanities Faculty" series. Dr. Namakkal describes the importance of geography and decolonial feminist theory to her methodology, how she researches migration and the transnational through "minor history," and why utopia is a good idea but a colonial impulse.
Though historians have largely treated decolonization as an event that came to a conclusion sometime in the 1970s, colonial institutions and relationships continue to structure life throughout the world. Many colonial projects continue on past formal decolonization, however, under the guise of international development projects that invoke humanitarianism as a mission. My current research looks specifically at intentional communities (including communes and utopian projects) that were established in the 1960s and 70s to trace that ways that colonial relationships were reimagined by non-state actors after formal imperial governance came to an end. In this talk, I look closely at one such project: the utopian/intentional community called Auroville, located 8km outside Pondicherry, India, to argue that establishing a utopian community on "former" colonial land should be understood as a project of settler colonialism. This framing allows for new approaches to interrogating the continuation of empire and the persistence of global inequalities.
Jessica Namakkal is assistant professor of the practice in International Comparative Studies, Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, and History. She is a historian of colonialism and decolonization, interested in understanding how relationships and structures created by colonization continue to shape the contemporary world. Her first book Unsettling Utopia: The Making and Unmaking of French India is forthcoming in Spring 2021 with Columbia University Press.
Namakkal has published articles in the Journal of Women’s History, Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, and the Journal for the Study of Radicalism. She is also a member of the Radical History Review editorial collective, and an editor for the website The Abusable Past.