Freedoms Yet to Come

Freedoms Yet to Come

Freedoms Yet to Come 

Freedoms Yet to Come 

Lisa Lowe, The Intimacies of Four Continents

“Freedoms Yet to Come”

  1. What is meant by a history of the present? (see especially pages 136 and her discussion of James’s The Black Jacobins on 163 as an example)

According to Lowe, a history of the present does not involve “a historical construction that explains or justifies our present.” Rather, it refers to critical inquisitiveness seeking to expose the constructedness of the past and to release the present from the dictates of the past. Accordingly, Lowe conceptualizes the history of the present through an investigation of the narratives of progress and development in modern Europe and their underpinnings in postcolonial Africa, Asia and the Americas. She focuses on the deep-rooted effects of colonialism in non-European countries. She discusses the predicament of a Chinese in James’s The Black Jacobins, who portrays a fleeting union forged through collective common commitment. While the Chinese runs a successful business in the European capitalist society, he still does not feel free unless he is interacting with his Chinese people.

2. How does Lowe (drawing on Cedric Robinson) define racial capitalism? (see pages 148-149 especially)

Drawing from Cedric Robinson’s work, Lowe perceives racial capitalism as a modern world system which has evolved from a combination of capitalism and racism. Capitalism was racial by the fact that racialism was already ingrained in the Western feudal system, thus leading to the justification of imperialism, violence, and slavery.

3. Lowe discusses a past conditional temporarily where” multiple contingent possibilities are all present, yet none inevitable.”As she writes, “a past conditional temporality suggests that there were other conditions of possibility that were vanquished by liberal politics reason and its promises of freedom, and it suggest means to open these conditions to pursue what might have been” (175).

Discuss what she means by “past conditional temporality.” How does a past conditional temporality open up different possibilities for history and for understanding the present?

In line with Lowe’s suggestion, a past conditional temporarily refers to the alternatives that might have been overlooked in the past which if they had been adopted would have relieved the world from the present problems. Lowe’s approach to the present post-colonial challenges is a thorough investigation into the gaps and loopholes of the past historical times and a consideration of possibilities to adopt alternatives which were unthought of in the past with the aim of making right the historical wrongs.

4. The syllabus for this course is framed by the concluding paragraph of Lowe’s chapter. She writes, ““The contemporary moment is so replete with assumptions that freedom is made universal through liberal political enfranchisement and the globalization of capitalism that it has become difficult to write or imagine alternative knowledges, or to act on behalf of alternative projects or ways of being. Within this context, it is necessary to live within but to think beyond this received liberal humanist tradition, and all the while, to imagine a much more complicated set of stories about the emergence of the now, in which what is foreclosed as knowable is forever maturing the ‘what-can-be-known.’ We are left with the project of imagining, mourning, and reckoning ‘other humanities’ within the received genealogy of ‘the human’” (175).

How do you interpret Lowe’s passage within the context of our class? Discuss one connection between Lowe and another assigned reading. This response should be at least one paragraph.

Lowe’s passage elicits sense of determination to inquire into the injustices perpetrated during the colonial times and which are still affecting the world in the postcolonial era. Colonialism had profound effects, which combined with the current racial capitalism, it becomes a very complicated to tackle the effects. Nevertheless, Lowe challenges historians not to look at solutions for the history of the present by establishing and pushing for adoption of the alternatives that were overlooked in the past.


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