Decolonizing Classical Theory: A 'Contrapuntal' Reading of Auguste Comte

NOV 08, 2019 | 3:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


6112: Sociology Student Lounge


November 08, 2019: 3:00 PM




Zine Magubane‚Äč
Professor of Sociology, Boston College
Bio page

At first glance, the writings of Auguste Comte (the 'father' of positivism) would seem to offer very little of value for postcolonial sociology. Indeed, in the standard ways that Comte appears in disciplinary histories, this would appear at first glance to be true. However, this talk will demonstrate that Comte’s sociology consistently engaged with the ‘metropolitan afterlife’ of France’s colonial endeavors. In order to support this claim, I will engage in a ‘contrapuntal’ reading of Comte’s major texts. To read a text contrapuntally, Edward Said (1993: 161) explained, is to read “with a simultaneous awareness both of the metropolitan history that it narrates and of those other histories against which (and together with which) the dominating discourse acts. This talk will not only bring forward how central the revolution in Haiti was to Comte's thinking, it will also explain how and why Comte's obvious interest in the implications of the histories of slavery and colonialism to the making  of modernity have so easily been occluded in standard disciplinary histories. 

This event is co-sponsored by the Certificate Program in Africana Studies at The Graduate Center, CUNY.