Politics & Political Theory

Refracting Eurocentrism, operationalizing complicity: The Swiss Sonderfall as a vantage point

Critiques of the parochialism of urban theory have resulted in appeals for more global urban studies. Yet, the fruitful responses to postcolonial work frequently remain sequestered, reflecting the persistence of Eurocentrism as a burden shouldered largely by the so-called “South”. This paper aims to shift the work implied by critiques of Eurocentrism – from the labor of translation to the chore of representation – to those whom Eurocentrism serves. We argue that recognizing the ways academics are always already complicit in Eurocentrism by working within the academy is an important starting point. Can the functions of complicity also serve to redistribute the burdens of redress and allow cultivating new possibilities to respond? To understand the functions of complicity, we take inspiration from the historical position of Switzerland on “the margins” of colonialism. Scrutinizing the history of a formally non-colonizing country reveals multiple forms of taking part in, benefitting from and assisting in colonial efforts. Applying these learnings to institutional and epistemological possibilities of working with complicity in the academy, we interrogate the potentials and limits of these functions to address the reproduction of Eurocentrism.

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Volume 40 Issue 4

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