Beyond Occidentalism: Toward Nonimperial Geohistorical Categories

Essay Excerpt

Imagining a future that builds on the past but is not imprisoned by its horror, Fanon visualized the making of a magnificent monument: "On the field of battle, its four corners marked by scores of Negroes hanged by their testicles, a monument is slowly built that promises to be majestic. And, at the top of this monument, I can already see a white man and a black man hand in hand" (1967:222).' Drawing his poetry from the future, Fanon sought to counter the deforming burden of racialist categories and to unsettle the desire to root identity in tradition in order to liberate both colonizer and colonized from the nightmare of their violent history. 

In a shared utopian spirit, here I explore representational practices that portray non-Western peoples as the Other of a Western Self. By examining how these practices shape works of cultural criticism produced in metropolitan centers and subtly bind them to the object of their critique, I seek room for a decentered poetics that may help us imagine geohistorical categories for a nonimperial world.2  (Coronil, 51-52)

About the Author

Fernando Coronil was a Venezuelan anthropologist best known for his study of the politics of oil in Venezuela.

Coronil was born and raised in Caracas, and attended the public high school Liceo Andrés Bello.[1] After early student engagements with politics there, he traveled to the US where he attended Stanford University. There, he met his future wife and frequent coauthor Julie Skurski. He earned a BA from Stanford in 1967 and, after a year at Cornell, he began work towards a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago. There, he studied with Victor Turner, Terrence Turner, Bernard Cohn, and John Coatsworth.

Skurski and Coronil had originally planned to conduct fieldwork in Cuba as part of their Ph.D. fieldwork. After returning from one trip, however, Coronil was expelled from the United States "as a subversive agent, although no specific charges were ever disclosed".[1]:559 As a result Coronil returned to Venzuela, where taught at the Universidad Católica and focused on writing a dissertation on Venezuela. He earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1987. In 1988 he became a member of the University of Michigan's society of fellows, and was then hired from this postdoctoral position to a faculty position.[2] At Michigan Coronil was known for putting "great efforts into the work of his colleagues and students" and was actively involved in the departments of History and Anthropology, the Program in the Comparative Study of Social Transformations, the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in Anthropology, and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program.[2] In 1997, Coronil's published his best known work, the book The Magical State. He also coedited a volume entitled States of Violence in 2006.

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