IMER’s world. Social scientific universalism and /post/colonial hegemonies
IMER studies in Sweden have been vocal in unearthing data, proposing analytical frameworks and seeking out theoretical perspectives that counter racism and Swedish ethnocentrism. In this contribution, the discussion of post-colonial theory, universalism and hegemony will be grounded in an examination of IMER research and of how it relates to social science as an international field.
Contemporary social science works within Western hegemony. Heuristically, I think of three hegemonic layers here, each with its intrinsic forms of racism. First, the US hegemony of the post-colonial era. Second, the British hegemony that has lived on from the colonial era to be surprisingly strong today. And finally, a third hegemonic layer centering upon Western Europe.
So one central question motivating my contribution is, how does IMER position itself vis-à-vis these layers of world hegemony?
This means turning the searchlight 180 degrees, to fall upon ourselves as practitioners. The examination does not so much dwell upon what we say (describe, analyze, theorize) as upon what we do: which authors we cite, whom we invite as keynote speakers to our conferences, where we go for empirical research or for guest scholarships, the international networks we build and so on.
Social science operates on the premise of universalism. I don’t think here of the grand universalism – universal truths, science as supreme knowledge, and so on – that post-modernist and social constructionists have done so much to dismantle. But rather of the mundane universalism of everyday social scientific practice. We assume that social scientific theories, methods, textbooks, foundational canons and so on do not stop at linguistic, cultural or national borders. (We do not map out theoretically in which countries discourse analysis is an appropriate methodology, and where not.) And no geographical limitations are articulated when such terms as supply, demand, identity, gender, social capital, ethnicity, social structure or society are used to delineate research fields (”international migration and ethnic relations”), bring people together for conferences, give name to journals (”Ethnic and Racial Studies”), and serve as keywords for scientific articles.
So we will look at the way this universalism operates in social scientific practice and go on to ask, what role has social scientific universalism in maintaining the three layers of Western world hegemony?
The research presented in my contribution is based on the examination of IMER events, IMER publications, and the trajectories of scholars. This is mapped upon centers and peripheries of the three layered world hegemony as outlined above. For instance, from the citations in key IMER publications I map out the geographical areas where cited authors have their professional affiliation, and more specifically from which places empirical parallels are drawn, and where we find theory. If the subaltern speaks, do we listen?
In the concluding discussion, I use the results of this research to address the workshop’s defining question about post-colonial theory and racism.
Structural racism, International publishing, Colonialism, Postcolonialism, Hegemony