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Geopolitics of knowledge – histories, heritages, and futures: East-central Europe and South America in a comparative perspective

Publicado em: Geopolitics of knowledge – histories, heritages, and futures: East-central Europe and South America in a comparative perspective



Geopolitics of knowledge, or how power and cognition intersect to produce hierarchies between forms of inhabiting and knowing the world, has become a primary keyword in contemporary humanities. It is no coincidence that this concept acquired such centrality in the past several years, given the growing awareness within mainstream academic practice of the limits of environmental exploitation and different forms of social and epistemic injustice, such as colonialism, racism, and sexism. In this regard, an ongoing appeal emerged for cooperation with ethnicities, groups, and entire cultures which have long been ignored or excluded from central-Western mechanisms of knowledge production. However, far from leading to a consensus, this plea for cooperation and mutual understanding brought forth a need to deal with various obstacles, from institutional exclusion and material inequalities to conceptual and linguistic barriers that marginalize indigenous epistemologies not only in the Centers of the West but also within the so-called world peripheries themselves.

The urgency of discussing such issues moved the participants of the international colloquium Geopolitics of Knowledge: Histories, Heritages, and Futures to gather in Poznań, Poland, on January 22, 2022. This encounter worked as a forum where discussions emerged on the possibilities of a more ethical balance between power and knowledge in contemporary global humanities. As a common ground, a double decolonization project first came to the fore: the need to decolonize, on the one hand, locations regarded as intellectually peripheral in relation to privileged centers of knowledge; and, on the other, small research institutions often perceived as marginal as opposed to flagship academic centers. Therefore, several contributions touched upon topics such as the applicability and limitations of concepts emerged from those privileged centers and the necessity of making the methodologies of the humanities more sensitive, inclusive, and sustainable.

All colloquium participants originate from East-Central Europe and South America, regions that, for the reasons discussed below, still suffer from various processes of exclusion and silencing regarding the financing, production, and diffusion of knowledge. Thus, the colloquium aimed to probe the yet unexplored epistemic potentialities existing in local traditions while seeking to establish a horizontal dialogue stemming from places considered as epistemic peripheries vis-à-vis the privileged position of central-Western scholarship.

However, bridging diverse non-hegemonic perspectives is an effort that demands rethinking the critical concepts and approaches of the humanities to a much larger depth. This comprehensive conceptual redefinition was the objective of the first contribution in the colloquium, Taynna Marino’s discussion of the role of empathy in restraining the claims for the supremacy of Western knowledge. While reframing the importance of empathy in counteracting epistemic racism, Marino argued for a conceptual device based on cooperation and coexistence between Western and non-Western ways of knowing. Nonetheless, such endeavors also demand reevaluating the measuring sticks used in comparative studies that conceptualize the difference between intellectual traditions. To this end, revisiting the theoretical foundations of comparative and global studies was the objective of Hugo Merlo’s contribution. By focusing on the possibility of producing comparisons that are not ‘center-centered,’ his presentation aimed at opening possibilities of dialogues between the intellectual peripheries of the world. Still dealing with the same topic, Marcelo Durão analyzed the latest transnational and self-reflective trends within global conceptual history. His paper highlighted the nonlinear and polychronic perspectives on time that could arise from conceptual approaches to the past in Latin American historiography, focusing, for instance, on the potentialities it could unleash for a South-South comparative dialogue. Finally, with a similar objective but dealing with the Brazilian case, Julia Freire delved into the history of the concept of metahistory to highlight the global-theoretical possibilities stemming from Brazil’s tradition of historical thought.

Reevaluating Western thought also implies expanding the range of research objects and bringing a different view on traditional ones. This topic was at the core of the colloquium’s second round of presentations. For example, studies on the influence of past and present sound phenomena are still scarce. Aware of the inadequacy of orthodox methodologies in dealing with the topic, Jarosław Jaworek proposed synthesizing the subdiscipline of sound history while sketching a set of issues that could work as common ground to the diverse literature in this field. A similar principle applies to the study of water as a natural-cultural heritage. Based on a case study of the Warta river in Poland, Michał Kępski argued for the need to conceptualize the idea of water heritage as a means of redefining responsibilities and social practices associated with natural and cultural resources.

After debates on approaches and objects, the positionality of the epistemic subject returned as a central theme of discussion, but now with particular regard to topics such as public heritage, the tearing down of monuments, and holocaust studies. Mikołaj Smykowski analyzed recent contributions to the latter by shedding light on a new subdiscipline: the Environmental History of the Holocaust. While exhibiting the resounding criticism against Polish contributions to the field, Smykowski demonstrated how East-Central Europe is usually regarded by Western scholars as a site for the extraction of source material, but is rarely acknowledged as a partner in theoretical discussions. In her turn, Monika Stobiecka used the Polish case to confront UNESCO’s idea of World Heritage sites with the specific type of heritage practiced in local museums. Her study of the Polish case served as an example of a decolonial heritage practice that goes against the expectations and ideas of Polishness accepted and promoted by UNESCO. This reflection on imposed forms of relating to the past and heritage was also at the core of Moira Pérez’s contribution, which considered the importance of knowledge, including historical knowledge, as a part of the colonial project. Pérez examined the role of monuments, and interventions on them, within the “cognitive empire” imposed by coloniality in both colonizers and the colonized, and suggested that certain approaches to removing and/or intervening monuments can provide alternative understandings of our past and, as a consequence, of our present and future.[1]

Exploring each of the topics mentioned above would result in a volume of its own. However, given the richness of the encounter and the variety of points of view emerging from the ensuing conversations, participants concluded that sharing this discussion could be of interest to scholars invested in a global conversation about the relevance of the geopolitics of knowledge in contemporary scholarship. Besides benefiting from an up-to-date and multi-focal debate on issues relevant to the humanities and academic practice at large, the following pages also encourage its readers to consider the implications of such dialogues not only for other peripheral areas of the globe (including other non-hegemonic languages, historiographies, and traditions of thought), but for the centers of knowledge production recognized in various parts of the world today.


A failed project? The prospects and consequences of decolonization 

Ewa Domańska (ED): Let us begin our discussion on the geopolitics of knowledge. We heard several contributions, which we can consider as case studies with very different approaches, such as conceptual history, heritage, genocide, and monument studies. Let us think about how these case studies might help us to discuss the geopolitics of knowledge and what we might contribute to the current discussion on this subject based on our research: what might be changed and revised and how we, as representatives of so-called epistemic provinces, might contribute to the knowledge building of these fields of study. Who wants to initiate the discussion?

Monika Stobiecka (MSt): Our discussion made me think that, to a certain extent, the project of decolonization may fail. I refer here to my observation of critical heritage and museum studies, especially the project of decolonization that has become a priority in both theoretical and practical actions and undertakings of museums. However, I can already see a dangerous pattern developing, which has to do with restitution. We all remember the great book by Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Potential History,[2] where she explicitly claims that restitutions are not solutions, definitely not ready solutions, for the violence performed on all the colonies and many dependent states. Furthermore, she states that it is somehow easy to return objects and make the restitution act, but admitting empty spaces in museums is not easy. I suppose that, in a sense, these practical gestures of museums -the actual restitutions that we observe now- might have severe implications if followed by scholars. The question is whether Western academia is ready to handle and theorize such actions, and I believe it is not. The restitution act ends up leaving empty spaces in museums. I fear that the same blank spaces may paralyze Western academia as it is not ready yet to decolonize its methodologies and frameworks. Here, I refer to my observations of various postulates, for instance, vocalized within the posthuman turn, namely the declarations of including more diverse views (i. e. decolonizing Western views), trying to transcend humanism and anthropocentrism. Some of these attempts end with a flat engagement with non-Western thought. Unfortunately, these neither reach toward non-Western epistemologies and ontologies nor challenge European humanism. This declarative layer of many theories parallels museum restitutions: it is the most immediate action one can take. Therefore, decolonization should operate in a slow science framework that can fill all the blank spaces in theory (humanities) and practice (i.e., museums, heritage) with significant activities. This decolonial move would be similar to Moira Perez’s idea of collective creation related to those monuments that she claims should not be demolished. Demolition would be, in this case, the equivalent of restitution. As Moira presented, collective creation opens the dialogue on empty pedestals and spaces, both materially and theoretically. To conclude this thought, I am convinced that we can provide a meaningful form of decolonization, but not the immediate one. Moreover, I am curious to know what you think about this idea as a starting point for the discussion.

Moira Pérez (MP): Thank you, Monika, for your comments, which give us much to reflect on and discuss. First of all, I agree with the issue of restitution and thank you for laying out those connections, which go in the same direction I was trying to stress in my presentation. Indeed, some people dealing with restitutions are working with this idea of avowal I mentioned. Actually, I took this idea from Achille Mbembe,[3] who stresses that restitutions must come with an avowal of what was done and what is still being done, with monetary compensation, and so forth. My proposal expands this notion to our reflections and interventions on monuments. As for academia, it is a very compelling point you are making, but why would we say that the blank spaces will appear after we do the work of decolonization? If we think of how hegemonic academia functions now, we are working on the illusion that the categories produced in the North can fill all those blank spaces.

The illusion that the category of gender, for example, can explain human relations in every part of the world everywhere when it is not the case. So, the blank spaces are already there. We have to get people to understand that those categories do not help explain what we are trying to explain. Perhaps other categories not originating in the North could explain some of those things. However, there are also things for which we still need an explanatory category that does not exist (yet). In any case, the spaces, the blank spaces, are there now. What will happen if we expand the task of decolonization, I think, is we will gain consciousness of those absences and start working collectively in filling them in some way. But this task must be always situated in its specific context, as it cannot fall back into universalization.

Nevertheless, you began by saying something fundamental: decolonization might be a failed project. I agree, and it is okay because we will never arrive at its end. If we think we have succeeded, we may sit down and rest. That is what happened with the Enlightenment, for example, at least to a certain extent, and we know how that went. In sum, decolonization must be aware that it will always fail because otherwise, we think it is over at some point, so we put down our critical practice. Our horizon must always be in the future.

MSt: I want to reply because we are talking about two kinds of blank spaces. For the ones you explained now and the others I was referring to, blank spaces appear after we perform those significant erasure gestures. For instance, let us think about decolonizing different approaches in European or Western Academia. There is always this postulate to eliminate oppressive categories used in the past. Scholars perceive them today as violent towards some groups or other modes of cognition. This critical review is why I earlier referred to posthumanism. Because I see some similarities between some projects and actions undertaken by academia and the cancel movement in popular culture. Both are important, but all too often, they quickly get rid of concepts, phenomena, or specific names. The speed of those processes makes it impossible to fill the blank spaces with new, meaningful content. On the one hand, this trend is also what fast science encourages: immediately replacing one non-relevant concept with a new one. Furthermore, on the other hand, we already have those blank spaces that you mentioned.

Hugo Merlo (HM): I have a question. If we need to feel the blank spaces and think allegorically or metaphorically, I do not know; I think of an empty pedestal, for example, if it really represents a blank space. Although they are not there anymore, in a tangible form we can touch, their absence is explicit. So, do we necessarily have to fill the empty spaces? Another question could be, is it always good to fill the empty spaces?

ED: What you mention aligns precisely with James E. Young’s definition of the concept of a counter-monument. He describes it as, “brazen, painfully self-conscious memorial spaces conceived to challenge the very premises of their being.”[4]


The positionality of the knowing subject I: holocaust studies, indigenous knowledges, and the presence of the past

Marcelo Durão (MD): Mikołaj and Ewa, while listening to your talk, I could not help remembering a polemic that happened in the 1990s and was quite akin to what happened to you, namely, when Hayden White tried to make a similar point while discussing the possibilities of representing the Holocaust. By that time, just like in your case, White was misinterpreted and suffered strong attacks by different parts. This reactive stance some historians have is a topic we discussed earlier today. However, it seems that, overall, sometimes, professional historians embrace a very conservative posture regarding the possibility of updating some of their traditional modes of doing research and dealing with specific topics. In this regard, given that you, Ewa, have a background of a very proficuous dialogue with White’s work, do you see yourself somewhat trying to bring an answer to an issue that has not yet been answered since the publication of Metahistory (1973)? In other words, do you perceive any continuity between those polemics in the 1990s and the research you have been carrying on today?

ED: Our project, “The Environmental History of the Holocaust,” does not focus on the representation of the Holocaust but on its enduring presence. This initiative aims to align with new trends in the humanities by emphasizing the ongoing impact of the past, rather than its absence or representation. Furthermore, our objective is to go beyond memory and trauma studies and to explore distinct themes, such as the interconnection between the Holocaust (human genocide) and ecocide—the destruction of the environment. Thus, this is the footnote. We have not engaged with the issue of Holocaust representation, and I do not perceive this project as an extension of that discussion. The criticism directed at Hayden White emerged from a different debate context on representational matters. In another instance, we faced allegations of neglecting human victims and focusing too much on the environment.[5]

Mikołaj Smykowski (MSm): Some scholars accused us of comparing the pain and suffering of people, to what happened to the natural ecosystems in the mass killing sites. However, in writing environmental histories of the Holocaust, we try to turn towards different kinds of evidence, both written – memoirs, testimonies – and also material ones – topography of violence, forensic landscape, and plants -, and broaden the scope of historical sources, that ecologically oriented scholars might find helpful in the complex and coherent study on the post-holocaust spaces. So we are working on various types of evidence, not just the representations since we seek the victims both in the human and non-human domains.

MD: Accusations emerged against White, claiming that he diminished the voice of the victims while posing new possibilities for the representation of the Holocaust. So, in some aspects, I see some continuity in the position held by some historians, who sometimes react in a very conservative way not only against matters of historical representation but also vis-à-vis the possibility of expanding history’s traditional subject matters.

ED: Well, White was talking about Primo Levi, and, as you know, Levi said in his “If This is a Man”[6] that everything he is saying is true. In his article “Figural Realism in Witness Literature” (2004),[7] White argued that it is metaphorically true. White analyzes how Levi describes Henri (i.e., one of the four types of survivor he sketches) and how various strategies of figuration and metaphors work in his testimonies. So it was the problem of the truthfulness of testimonies and how to consider this kind of writing. However, this kind of interpretation was not well received.

As I mentioned earlier, our project does not refer to a discussion on the representation of the Holocaust. The most significant aspect of our discussion today is the unique potential some world regions hold for addressing specific issues. For instance, the Holocaust’s occurrence on Polish territory presents a space to which we, as Polish scholars, should feel particularly connected in comparison with scholars unfamiliar with Poland’s history, culture, and language. I wish to emphasize that this perspective does not claim any epistemic privilege for Poles in Holocaust studies but rather asserts our place within the field. Fields such as the Holocaust, genocide, post-socialism, communism, and post-dependency studies are areas where we can make significant contributions to global discussions and offer approaches and theories originating from this region. What kind of research and approaches are currently emerging from Latin America? They might, for example, relate to the postcolonial, decolonial, and indigenous turn, correct? I note how scholars like Walter Mignolo and others from Latin America are gaining increased visibility in global academia and contributing to the construction of global knowledge.

MP: But they are not based in Latin America, which is a crucial point. None are, except for the Colombian philosopher Santiago Castro-Gómez, whom someone mentioned earlier. The rest are working in the US or Great Britain, which provides them with professional and material conditions that are unimaginable for most academics in Latin America. However, still, they are read as speaking in the name of Latin America. So I think that is relevant, and it is a tough decision as well (both staying and leaving) because, as academics, we want to be visible. We want our work to circulate because we want it to contribute to issues that concern us.

ED: So, is it the only solution to become a postcolonial intellectual, which means that you come with your background and study or work in centers in the United States or Western Europe? This question concerns me because I also consider myself a postcolonial intellectual, but I have returned to Poland.

MSm: In a subversive way, we all have to ask ourselves this question. 

MD: Besides, it is almost mandatory to publish in English. Otherwise, you run the risk of gaining no recognition in international academia. So I completely understand your point, and I agree with it to a large extent. However, I am also worried about the probable or possible essentializing slippery slope that would derive from that.

MP: Absolutely. Because when we ask, for example, if Latin American or Argentine, or Polish intellectuals or aspiring intellectuals can contribute to a given debate from a different perspective, to some extent, we must create a figure of what an Argentine intellectual or a Polish intellectual is. And someone could say well, you need to be an intellectual who lives and/or works in this country. On the other hand, however, we could have Argentine or Polish intellectuals who do not work with the perspective we are trying to put forward here, who are not interested in that, who are just using frameworks from the North and not dialoguing with the people around them. Intellectuals for whom thought, problems, and questions are produced elsewhere. So I am very cautious when people say that because someone is from Poland, Argentina, or whatever, because they live in that context, then they can talk about it in a way that’s different from what the North is producing. I think we must be very aware of what shape this idea of being an intellectual from a specific context will take, apart from the somewhat trivial statement “I am in Poland.”

ED: What I mean is that the work being done in Poland on the Holocaust—even when published in English— is not very visible. I am not suggesting (and I stress this again) that I am entitled to speak about the Holocaust simply because I am a scholar from Poland. However, I am frustrated that a considerable amount of knowledge on this subject has been developed in Poland, yet it remains largely unrecognized. Julia mentioned that there are discussions about metahistory in Brazil, but who is aware of them? Thus, we find ourselves in a similar predicament. Discussions taking place in our countries are relevant to global discourse, yet they lack translation and promotion. Consider, for example, the attention Bruno Latour brought to Viveiros de Castro; it was Latour’s spotlight that propelled Viveiros to prominence.

MSt: Yes, because this is very important also in terms of experiential and materialist approaches. It is visible in your discussion in the Journal of Genocide Research, which also relates to Moira’s words about these scholars who left Argentina or Brazil because this is about the material and very embodied experience. Not only as scholars but also as people, we are set in very particular locations. Let us think now, for instance, about those scholars from the United States who are coming to research Auschwitz or other death camps. They generally stay in Poland for a limited period. They do not live here and are not rooted here. I know that some conservative and nationalist discourses have hijacked the idea of the term ‘roots,’ but still, we must be rooted (somewhere). In many aspects, our experience and approach to our locality materially set us and always endow us with a particular setting. This determinism is actually why what happened with your discussion on environmental approaches to the Holocaust is paralyzing, because it only proves that these experiential, embodied, and material aspects of theory building are not relevant to Western academia. Moreover, this also refers to my case with the UNESCO World Heritage List and the sites listed in Poland. If we look at it closer, those are the ideas that people would have if they came to Poland for one week, and they are entirely unrelated to the embodied experience of the past (and heritage) that people have here.

ED: I cannot fully agree because of the idea of the epistemic privilege of the oppressed, which suggests that experiencing oppression places one in a privileged position to generate knowledge about that oppression. However, it does not function in that manner. Therefore, I am not asserting that my position as a Pole, living in the country where the genocide occurred, grants me a privileged perspective to discuss the Holocaust. Instead, our stance raises a different issue: we should be active participants in global discussions, contributing to the development of new approaches, theories, and concepts.

MSt: Maybe a misunderstanding happened because I did not mean any privileged position by the oppressed. I referred instead to this shutting down discussion that we saw in the case of the Journal of Genocide Research: when a silencing process occurs against people from specific locations and certain settings, even though sometimes they have this precious information or approach because it is rooted in a material experience we have as people who are based somewhere. Thus, for me, it is just unfortunate because, in a sense, it says something about these embodied theoretical practices where you can construct knowledge only out of the books or when you have this concise, superficial contact with(in) specific locations. Moreover, it diminishes all the new materialist approaches, like this very close material contact with the object or a place.

MSm: I will add something because Ewa raised the question of the ethnicity of scholars who deal with the problems connected to the Holocaust. I can sense a second layer of these forums and those commentaries because it is not a direct accusation but disguised and hidden somewhere, as I understand it. For example, the Journal of Genocides Research is a journal that undertakes comparative studies on genocides. However, some conservative historians are against that, arguing that the Holocaust is a unique and paradigmatic event, incomparable to any other genocide. I partly agree with that statement, but there is always a question of differences; the comparative perspective uncovers new ways of understanding these differences (on many levels, such for example extermination procedures, aftermath, and perpetrators, survivors, and victims dealing with problematic pasts) and strips it from the political connotations.

Nevertheless, there is also the returning accusation against scholars involved in researching or investigating problems concerning the Holocaust. Accusations claim, for instance, that our Environmental history of the Holocaust group has no Jewish predecessors and that we did not lose anyone from our families in any Death Camp; ergo, we share no Jewish perspective. So, that is maybe what I sense in the background of this discussion. Are we in a position to speak about Holocaust if we do not have, in fact, any variously understood personal involvement in this matter?

MP: There is also the added premise that if you are not a Jew, you do not have any personal involvement in the matter, which in itself is something that needs to be argued.

Blas Radi (BR): And the other side of it: if you are a Jew, you could only talk about genocide, and that is it.

ED: This argument mirrors the one found in discussions about indigenous knowledges. The question arises: if one is not indigenous, does one have the authority to utilize indigenous knowledge, or does this constitute another form of colonization? Some indigenous scholars express frustration that as Western humanities lose their dominant position in knowledge buidling, there is a shift towards leveraging indigenous knowledge to address contemporary issues.

Taynna Marino (TM): Using indigenous knowledge does not necessarily mean appropriating it, but instead recognizing its value and the lesson that indigenous people have offered us since their encounter with the European colonizers. Our knowledge is always situated.[8] Our positions, although different, do not prevent our dialogue; on the contrary. Nevertheless, the problem is this Western utilitarian obsession. In the current context of climate change and ecological disasters, how far does this so-called utility go? How far are indigenous knowledge, their ways of life, and what they represent taken to their ultimate consequences?[9]


The positionality of the knowing subject II: who is allowed to theorize?

ED: I’d like to share a brief anecdote. During my first visit to the United States to collaborate with Hayden White, I discussed my research focus with him. At that time, I was working on poststructuralism, narrativism, and similar themes. White’s response was, “Why not work on Polish issues?” It seemed that, as someone from Poland visiting the United States, it would be more appropriate to investigate topics pertaining to my homeland. Colleagues at the Center for Eastern European and Eurasian Studies at Stanford asked why I was teaching courses in the Anthropology Department on continental philosophy, critical theory, and the latest trends in the humanities and social sciences. They thought that I should teach a course on Poland, addressing the Solidarity movement, the fall of communism, or other Central European subjects. I responded, “But that is not my area of expertise.” This illustrates that there’s an expectation from those on the center to adopt a native perspective when abroad (“native” in the sense of originating from a specific country).

TM: I can relate to that feeling. In my education in Brazil, I always had strong theoretical inclinations, so early on, historical theory became my field of interest. However, when I came to Poland to pursue my doctoral studies here, people expected me to be able to teach about the history of Brazil just because I am Brazilian. Even though I did not consider myself qualified for it, and it was not exactly something I wanted to do, I should be able to do it. So I wondered if this was not a natural move, and then, I started to question how my research interests shaped my identity. Suddenly, I found myself reading about subjects in Brazilian history that had only caught my attention shortly before, and I became even more interested in indigenous cosmologies and epistemologies.

MP: What you describe also refers to what Monika said in her presentation on public heritage. External views of what we are create our national identities. So, you go abroad, and people expect you to be in such and such a way, to behave in such a way, to like certain things. In the case of the academy, this seems to be reinforced by another problem: you are allowed to teach Brazilian history, but you probably would not be allowed to or expected to teach Brazilian theory – because theory is not from Brazil. I think history is still considered an empirical field to a certain extent. It is about data, what happened in such a year, and what people do in such a social context. So, there is this expectation that we work in certain fields, not others. I mean, Ewa was asked to teach about the Solidarity movement, not about Polish theoretical perspectives on whatever thing (including the Solidarity movement). So even when we are allowed to talk about our country, we are still expected to talk about empirical information on our country because that is where colonialism gathers its raw data to create the theory.

HM: Interestingly, something similar happens in peripheral countries, too, not only when outside of them. It reminds me of how Deleuze and Guattari define ‘minor literatures’ as those literary traditions marked by collectiveness and politicization.[10] Collectiveness is an effect of the condition of being minor. Every act of enunciation is collective because the condition of being in the margins, in the outskirts of a canon, pushes minor traditions away from any form of individual enunciation or ‘cult of personality,’ as they would say. Talking about theory, every act of theorization also becomes collective and dispersed in this logic. Whenever we theorize, we theorize not amongst ourselves but against the canon; it is like the Brazilian literary critic Silviano Santiago (1936 -) suggests, “to speak, to write,” under the rule of cultural imperialism, “means to speak against, to write against.”[11] Writing against the canon narrows the scope of what should be talked about. This restriction is clear to anyone who looks into the history of Brazilian theory; it is tough to trace back clear lineages of theoretical reflection. Sometimes it is even hard to find where theoretical discussions occurred, given their degree of dispersion. Most of the time, Brazilian writers responded to theoreticians from other places and did not talk amongst themselves, and this passiveness only changed recently.

MP: Well, there are two things there. One refers to the role of canonical theories from the North: Dipesh Chakrabarty makes this very clear when he talks about “provincializing Europe.” We need to provincialize Europe, but this does not mean we will no longer use European theory. We will return it to the place where it belongs: along with many other theories. However, in another sense, one problem that emerges from what you say is that this dialogue with our peers is impossible. Because if we produce from the margins (be it for the margins or seeking acknowledgment from the center), the center does not read us -we have been talking about this- but our peers do not read us either because they are reading authors located in the center (or the few from the margins whom the center platforms). So we are just talking to ourselves.

HM: Some authors are disregarded as egocentric because they are doing theory and writing first person – like authors from the global North do all the time. Some are regarded as being Eurocentric. There are all kinds of barriers to writing theoretical works in marginal countries. One device often used is the idea that to write theory, you must be an expert historian, a connoisseur of the historiographical practice. This trend probably occurs in many other traditions. After all, expertise relates to translating meta-knowledge (theory) about a particular activity (history or historiography, in this case).[12]

Nevertheless, the strength of this kind of argumentation in Brazil was ridiculous. In the end, nobody could talk about theory because nobody is expert enough to talk about theory. Luckily enough, this changed drastically in the last two decades,[13] and there are many scholars – junior or senior – in Brazil writing theory with no shame or fear to do so. In any case, theory is generally a small niche compared to the whole field of “History” everywhere. However (and whenever), there are all these kinds of sophisticated devices to create obstacles to theorizing, and we are not even talking about addressing the whole field! We are talking only about addressing ourselves, the scholars interested in the theory and philosophy of history.

MP: That is what the idea of “cognitive empire” proposed by decolonial theorist and historian Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni (1968-) is all about.[14] It is inside us. We do not need to go to the metropolis to feel less valuable.

ED: The field of historical theory is changing. It is also thanks to Berber Bevernage and the International Network for Theory of History. INTH represents a younger generation of scholars, organizes significant intellectual events, and invites people worldwide. The editors of Rethinking History (including Kalle Pihlainen, who also cooperates closely with INTH) have made this journal a hospitable platform that does not care about where you are and whether you are a Ph.D. student or a professor. The most important is the innovative potential of your article. Beginning with Alun Munslow and Keith Jenkins, the editors of RH are open-minded. They created a truly democratic space for presenting ideas from very different places and proposing avant-garde approaches.

HM: Fortunately, we have those spaces, which are becoming more popular. It is something that is spreading slowly, but it is spreading. As I said about the Brazilian case – and I believe this applies to many different cases – twenty years ago, it was still difficult to discuss theory in Brazil. Not only outside of Brazil but in Brazil, for Brazil, it was not easy to talk about theory.


Theorizing from the margins: some academic strategies and escape routes

MP: There is also an element of laziness in that. Because in our research and writing, when we read and cite canonical work, we assume that it is good work (at least good enough to engage it, even when we might disagree). So we use it because we know that, in a way, it is already “approved” by the intellectual community we are talking to. However, when we read a paper from someone who is not canonical, we must go through the trouble of asking: is this good? We are the ones who must decide. This example does not mean that canonical work is necessarily good, but just that no one will question us or tell us: you cannot cite this; this is terrible. Whereas if I read a paper by some of my peers who are not hegemonic, not generally validated, I have to read it and engage it and think, well, is this well-argued? Is this solid? Does this make sense? So it is more work than just resting on the argument from authority. I think there is something like anxiety that you could be citing the “wrong” things.

ED: But what do you mean by “wrong”? You will have, fortunately, where many people worldwide are uploading their work. I appreciate that platform because it can help to make science more democratic and involve people who are not well-known but do fascinating and significant research and create excellent stuff. In my research, I cite more scholars that I do not know by name and have never met, but I find their works inspiring. So it is changing.

BR: I would like to be able to disagree, but I cannot. The whole idea of the peer review was meant to be helpful for these cases. We know that peer review still carries biases and does not do the work it was supposed to do. However, originally (and people who still defend it say this as well), the idea was that the academic community should evaluate scientific communication. So, in ideal conditions, a paper published in a refereed journal that becomes canonical is valuable not due to the author’s reputation but because it was evaluated by the expert community in the field and improved from their inputs. But, of course, the ideal conditions are rarely met, and today’s publication practices – including the peer review system – are highly questioned in terms of epistemic responsibility.[15] No wonder various online pages allow people to review articles and post publications; some journals also do that. ResearchGate, for example, is open, more democratic, and not anonymous. So, the comments of the reviewers are much better as well. Moreover, they are enriching for people who are doing the work and those who are reading it.

HM: It is important to remember that these websites still work according to a programmed algorithm. So, for example, when we Google stuff, the results we get are organized according to many criteria that we sometimes are not aware of. These algorithms have already been accused of being Eurocentric, which is another issue we now have to account for, but not here; otherwise, we would be running the risk of moving too far away from the point. Still, these websites are more open than what we had before.

ED: For example, we have CEEOL (Central and Eastern European Online Library). I use it a lot. Furthermore, there are articles in English written by recognized thinkers, but you often bump into great articles published by unknown scholars. Using such platforms is also a matter of self-discipline and attentiveness to locally created scholarship; you make careful decisions about citing (and promoting) substantial works written by colleagues from your countries, universities, and especially young researchers, who are not famous (yet). It is possible to access this database through the university’s libraries (the institution pays for it), and CEEOL is an excellent platform. It does not cover only East and Central Europe. You have journals from Croatia, Serbia and Scandinavia, and Russia (among others). It is a rich resource, but not many scholars know it. They are instead searching for Jstor, Taylor and Francis, or Willie. However, these are not platforms where you can find stuff published in the “epistemic provinces.”


The center-periphery relationship: aporias and attempts of definition

TM: If it is possible to return to the previous subject, I would like to know your opinion on a topic that is transversal to everything we have discussed so far and that also helps us think about prospects. As “peripheral” intellectuals doing theory, to what extent do you think we are challenging and transgressing the Eurocentric basis of Western historical knowledge? Furthermore, if history is inherently Eurocentric due to the Western origins of the academic discipline, are we doomed to reproduce its Eurocentrism once we speak (albeit against) the West?

Jarosław Jaworek (JJ): The academic system came from a Western world. So, it is a trap. We cannot eliminate this issue, and there is no solution. We are all connected to the articles and all the books we publish. We relate to the classics, a way of thinking that is for very long consolidated. We cannot afford not to mention, for example, Rosi Braidotii, Hayden White, or Dipesh Chakrabarty, the big names of scholars who contributed to our thinking about our disciplines. So, this thinking about the Western academic system traps us in an unavoidable form.

ED: Julia presents an excellent example. On one hand, we have the concept of metahistory, popularized by Hayden White. On the other, there exists a local understanding of metahistory. This raises the question: How did it happen that Hayden White utilized this term without delving into its prior uses or researching who and how it was used before? When I believe I have originated a concept and plan to introduce it into scholarly discussion, I conduct thorough research to determine whether the term has been previously used and, if so, in what context and with what understanding. In such cases, I can still employ the term. However, I should acknowledge its original usage and delineate how my interpretation diverges, as in the case with the previously mentioned concept of the “epistemology of heritage.”

Julia Freire (JF): In the case of metahistory, Hayden White probably used it after Northrop Frye, who associates the concept with speculative philosophers of history such as Toynbee and Spengler.[16]

ED: Yes, but this is what I mean. We find out that a scholar from Spain uses the term “epistemology of heritage.”[17] Of course, you can use it in your way, but there is a responsibility to say that this concept is used differently by this and that scholar. And not just ignore it. There is a big chance that Hayden White was not researching who used metahistory before him. Do you know what I mean? For example, White was talking about the “practical past”; this is Oakeshott’s concept, and White always admitted it. However, some Polish scholars in the 19th century were also talking about the practical past, but who cares?

MP: Well, it is the entitlement that comes with being at the center, right?

JF: This may be different from your point, but what disturbs me in my research about the concept of metahistory is the possibility of associating it with a global historical approach. For instance, a few days ago, we attended an introductory course about research on global history. It was disturbing to notice that, albeit very up-to-date in terms of theoretical discussions, this research field is still a lot attached to a “Europe first” form of conceiving the history of historical knowledge. In what refers to reflections on the means of historiography, Western Europe remains the central reference point, and most discussions ignore other historical perspectives and traditions of thinking. For this reason, I want to think about a global approach to the history of historical thinking from a different perspective. For example, to think of a Latin-American perspective or a South-South dialogue could pose Brazil in closer contact, for instance, with Africa, given that we have so many elements that bound our historical experiences together. Unfortunately, however, we have to deal with very narrow interpretations regarding the theoretical-methodological tools of historiography as having solely Western European origins, and this prevents us from delving into alternative ways of understanding the peripheral chapters of the history of our discipline.

ED: Any solutions and proposals for the future?

MD: Events like the one we have today in Poznan bring about solutions or a new horizon to think about different forms of approaching the geopolitics of knowledge from a peripheral perspective. It is known, for instance, that to start a conversation on historical theory, we always need to depart from places of enunciation in the Global North. In other words, it is common to think that a direct dialogue between Poland, Brazil, East-Central Europe, and Latin America can only occur with central-Western references, concepts, and institutional intermediaries. So, for example, we have mentioned the need to establish discussion forums mainly in journals located in central-Western institutions that establish English as the mandatory and sole language of communication. However, despite the prevailing arbitrariness of monolingualism and Eurocentrism, it is becoming increasingly common for the so-called world peripheries to start talking directly among themselves. So, for example, today, we had the chance to refer to authors, intellectual traditions, concepts, and languages that are far from being hegemonic in present-day discussions on historical theory and historiography. By having this kind of opportunity to talk “from the borders,” so to speak, we can maybe build up some references that are not one hundred percent independent, of course, but at least are already beginning in terms of attempts at building up alternative forms of conceiving the history of historical knowledge and dialogue possibilities in the humanities as a whole. In this sense, our encounter is excellent for showing that we possess several common interests and aspects from a theoretical point of view and that our historical experiences become entangled in what refers to our marginal stance vis-à-vis Western Europe or the United States. So trying to bring about these commonalities and alternative points of enunciation is already a good departure point.

HM: I have a question for everybody: what we have in common is being a periphery to the same center?

ED: Yes. However, is this the main issue? We are here out of a particular frustration because we all have the potential to do something substantial in our field, but it is tough to pass into the mainstream. Moreover, the question is how to present ourselves in these mainstream humanities. The problem is recognition; we want to be recognized as equals. For instance, I have never felt subaltern intellectually when I go to Latin America, Mexico, Argentina, or Brazil. However, you go to the United States and fall already, like, boom, in the lower position. It comes out of the blue. You do not need to say anything. You would not feel like that in East-Central Europe. You would not feel like that in Scandinavia and Greece. Maybe this is only an impression; perhaps it is a false impression, but I have this feeling of “epistemic injustice” to use Miranda Flicker’s expression.

TM: Even if we say that we are peripheries to the same center, this relationship does not happen similarly among the peripheries, with their own centers and peripheries. There will always be marks of difference, even though the difference does not have to be synonymous with hierarchy. Still, if you are a non-white and non-European person in academia, this sense of “epistemic injustice” is even more common. Nevertheless, my point is: in our discussions about the geopolitics of knowledge, we are generally concerned with overcoming – or at least challenging or going beyond – Eurocentrism, but we never touch on the issue of embodiment. For instance, it is also valuable to address whiteness and how we can go beyond whiteness in knowledge building.

MP: Thank you so much Taynna for raising that point. It is crucial. We need to get past this resistance we have against addressing our own whiteness, and confront the fact that when we talk about coloniality, certain forms of coloniality do not damage us (or affect us differently) if we are white. South-South dialogues can be a way of addressing this. In fact, some years ago we wrote with Blas Radi an article on North-South relations in queer and gay-lesbian studies.[18] Interestingly, it was born from our frustration with academic practice, more or less the same process that gave birth to this meeting here. And it was kind of fascinating because in the peer review process itself, we met exactly the same obstacles we were addressing in the paper. For example, one of the reviewers said we had to talk about “Latinx” experiences in the US; we replied no, we are talking about South America, which is not the same as being Latinx in the US. So we had this discussion back and forth. Finally, the peer review process took so long that we did not get to publish the paper as a part of the special issue for which it was intended (and accepted). They published it later because the peer reviewers were so keen on making us talk about the US and could not believe we were discussing something that was not centered in the US. So, bringing this back to your question: how do we deal with this?

I think, for example, of how I relate to queer theory, one of the fields I specialize in. Very often I wonder, why do I say I do queer theory if I am so critical of the field and think a lot of it is not what I would like my field to be? As I see it, we have two options there. The first option we have is to say: ‘I will not use this term. I will not say I do queer theory (or global history, or whatever). I will do something else’. And then the other option we have is to say, yes, I do queer theory, or conceptual history, or global history, and this is global history because I am doing it (not by that mere fact, of course: I also know and follow the basic premises of the field, and so on). So I say: I do queer theory, and this is what I do. I try to do it in an anti-colonial way. And I know that is not the way in which 90% of queer theory is done. However, I believe that if I say I am doing queer theory and know the field, but also do it decolonially and from the South, this displaces queer theory as a field. So if you do global history and you do it from a South-South perspective, and other people do it as well, that can also turn into a strand within global history. Of course it will not be hegemonic, you will not have a place in the Routledge Handbook of Global History maybe, but you will be transforming what the field is. So I feel that, when we do these things, we transform the field in a way, especially if we get to do it collectively.

ED: We did a lot to introduce Western ideas into our countries. I have published three volumes of Hayden White’s works and a volume of Frank Ankersmit’s texts in Polish, as well as three collected volumes that present current problems of historical theory. I think we have to reverse this approach and publish more works by influential scholars from our countries in English that might influence current discussions in our fields. With Anna Topolska, I edited Jerzy Topolski’s collection of essays – Theory and Methodology of Historical Knowledge (2022). The book was distributed for free to the International Congress of Historical Sciences participants in Poznań (21-27 August 2022). The volume is also available for free on I do not influence if and how scholars will use it, but at least one cannot deny the existence and accessibility of Topolski’s ideas as presented in this book.

MD: So they will not have the excuse anymore to say, “oh, you do not have this in English.” By the way, who is the author of the quote, “peripheries of the world, unite!”?

ED: Piotr Piotrowski – Polish art historian, the author of In the Shadow of Yalta. Art and the Avant-garde in Eastern Europe, 1945-1989 (2009) and Art and Democracy in Post-Communist Europe (2012). The slogan you cited is the title of one of his talks[19]. Piotr was interested in using a post-colonial perspective in the research on the art history of East-Central Europe.

So my suggestion is to publish more in English. I have a fixation on grounded theory, which I use when teaching students how to develop theory from the bottom up. While studying, I was taught how to apply existing theories, but nobody encouraged me to introduce my own analytical categories and develop small or middle-range theories. I encourage doctoral students to do that, and it works. Most of my ex-Ph.D. students (Gabriela Jarzębowka, Jacek Małczyński, Piotr Słodkowski, Mikołaj Smykowski, Monika Stobiecka, Tomek Wiśniewski) defended their thesis summa cum laude, received prizes for their dissertations after they published books and also received prizes for these publications. I am not saying that to glorify myself as an adviser. I am saying that because I think I found a way to lead them to the academic mainstream. They will bring a strong voice from East-Central Europe to global academia. From that point of view, I feel very close to Veronica Tozzi Thompson, who successfully promotes an excellent group of young scholars such as Moira Pérez, María Inés La Greca, and Omar Murad.

BR: Can I bring in another question for all? I think very pragmatically about academia, and I do not see recognition as the primary objective but instead as a means to achieve other things. So, what do we want recognition for? Is it to put Brazil, Poland, and Argentina on the map of global history? Is it to change the field of global history? Is it to support local or environmental movements, for example, working with the water on the river? The answers can give us some common objectives. I am talking about practical concerns beyond the academic realm.

JJ: I will be controversial as well. I think publishing in our native language with an abstract in English should be enough. Currently, with the help of such free software as Google Translate or DeepL, there is no problem for Western scholars to read texts published in various languages. I do it myself often. For example, I find an article important for my research in German, and since I do not know this language, I try to read the text using an automatic translator. It is a shame that we always try to translate our texts into English to go beyond Eurocentrism. We should stand for where we are.

ED: Well, I am not sure. Bjørnar Olsen – an excellent archeologist from Norway who wrote an essential book, In defense of things (2010) – at some point declared that he would publish his texts only in Norwegian. Well, he survived two years. Scholars complained that they knew he published important and progressive articles but could not cite them. Google Translate is very handy and helps to find out what the article is about. However, to make your scholarship verifiable, you need an excellent translation made with contextual knowledge and knowledge of concepts with their own traditions of understanding.

JJ: From a pragmatic point of view, I understand what you mean. However, we talk here about going beyond Eurocentrism, going away from colonialism, from all this stuff that we criticize. We cannot do this without this kind of sacrifice.

MP: These comments are all connected because it depends on our aim. It depends on why one does theory. In my case, I do theory because it is probably the only way I know of contributing to the changes I would like to see happening in the world. However, the problem is that it is useless if no one reads it. So if you want to publish to have a line on your CV, you can write it in any language you want because you will have that aim covered.

Nevertheless, if you want that to circulate and have an impact, as Blas was saying, with environmental issues, you need it to be read. When you are not read outside your environment, country, or whatever, you might think, “I will never be able to achieve the aim for which I decided to study and work in philosophy.” So this would be my answer to Blas’ question. However, it depends on what you want to do. As for Eurocentrism, as I see it, there are two problems. One is an epistemic problem: Eurocentric theory is not good. I am referring to theorists who only use the South to extract examples or case studies. At the same time, they are entirely ignorant of the theoretical production and conceptual tools that have been developed outside of the four or five canonical countries and institutions. As philosophers and epistemologists, we must intervene because we realize that is not a good theory. Finally, the other problem is political, and it is that, as I said just now, I want my work to be practical, but if it does not circulate, it will never be.

MD: Being skeptical is always possible while affirming, for instance, that this whole discussion about the geopolitics of knowledge is senseless. This skeptical stance would render one stating that, in the end, we are all ultimately Eurocentric because we relate to the same matrix of knowledge, which has its roots in Europe. Thus, one could also affirm that the humanities are on a dead-end street while constantly having to refer in the first place to methods and theoretical frameworks stemming from the European context. So here, we would have to maintain that all that talk about ‘provincializing Europe’[20] is nonsense, and we would get back to that safe idea that there is nothing we can do but recognize the invariable Eurocentrism of all knowledge. However, another possibility is to recognize the advances brought about by various critiques of the humanities that emerged in the last several decades to affirm the situatedness and positionality of knowledge. This conclusion is already a consensus in various parts of the Global South at least, and discussing it and establishing a research agenda out of its implications is one of the objectives of our talk today.


Concluding remarks

ED: I suggest concluding the discussion. Let us think about a few sentences that will summarize the most critical issues discussed. Please also indicate possible solutions to the problems that we identified. Then, let us make some statements and create manifests and slogans that might function as strong chords for our meeting and guide our thinking in the future.

MSt: My conclusion and critical hope for the future that derives from our talk today has to do with understanding non-Western universities and non-Western academia as counter-models to capitalist Western knowledge production. It was visible after hearing our discussion that even when we struggle, some choices emerge: the choice to stay in our countries, the choice to somehow engage with the communities around us, and that we are part of. However, what was striking in our discussion was this resonating feeling that to join Western academia, we always need to be fast, we always need to obey Western rules, and we always need to adjust to them in that sense. It is a very affirmative and positive aspect of being here that I can choose my path. In this respect, we do not need to think about non-Western academia as backward or peripheral but as a small but accommodating one.

Michał Kępski (MK): I want to rephrase a well-known statement and say: “research globally, act locally.” By local, I mean referring to a particular place that might provide an essential local model perspective. We need more action, which is important locally.

Mateusz Chudziak (MC): I understand the task of uniting the peripheries, but we also have to maintain care for our local audiences. Thus, one thing is to be visible internationally, and another is to create knowledge in local languages and for local readers. Most of us see our work as a mission toward those people. My conclusion would be as follows: all the questions discussed are fundamental, but we have to remain careful and not exaggerate our focus on one field we are discussing.

JF: I shared with you the history of the concept of metahistory in the Brazilian tradition of historical thinking, which is an example that sums up and illustrates some of the results of the conversation we had today. Then, departing from the Brazilian case, I clarified that, despite some shortcomings, this is a vibrant tradition of thinking in pluricentric forms. Thus, it might provide several insights for overcoming ethnocentric and nationally-oriented modes of thinking historically. However, it is crucial to notice that this inclination towards pluralism is far from being a Brazilian singularity. This conclusion is especially true after hearing our talk’s different points of view. When learning about the varieties of metahistorical stances existing in East-Central Europe and Latin America, it is safe to say that we are not lacking in references when it comes to fostering alterity-oriented approaches to historical thinking and the human sciences as a whole. In sum, we need to build bridges and stimulate the creation of new points of contact, to put these peripheral traditions in touch with a strategy to pluralize our forms of thinking and relating to the past.

MSm: What brings us here is how we can overcome something that we can call an ‘epistemology of difference.’ However, being marginalized in different ways (the Polish, Argentinian or Brazilian perspective), we have to think through what anthropologists called many years ago ‘equivalence in difference,’ a creative transposition—so, finding common ground to explicate and find the commonalities in our discourses of being marginalized subjects in the academic world. We must understand that we have much more in common between our standpoints than we see at first glance.

MD: Thank you for this wonderful conversation. At least since my undergraduate studies, I have heard much about the so-called “end of history” and the impossibility of theorizing or going beyond the dissolution of the Western concept of modernity. Since Francis Fukuyama[21] first published his famous book in 1992 and François Hartog theorized in similar terms while talking about the phenomenon of ‘presentism,’ there has been this talk about the collapse of the future and an enclosure of historical thought to a minimal horizon of expectations. However, what has always bothered me is that this sentencing of the end of history has always been proclaimed from a particular perspective, invariably connected with the Centers or what we refer to today as the Global North. Thus, the solutions to this alleged “end of history” are always given by the same intellectual milieus that proclaimed the existence of such a crisis, often described as an unprecedented break up of the very concept of human time. Therefore, far from being a surprise, the solutions to this crisis are overall not so optimistic, mainly because they generally stem from the same points of view ironically listed among the causes of this collapse of history. In this sense, the conversation that we had today demonstrates how arbitrary the diagnosis of such a crisis can be and that different voices can emerge, reinforcing the need for alternative modes of shaping our forms of thinking historically. Contrary to this damming of the future, our encounter sheds light on a myriad traditions of thinking, long ignored precisely for being considered deviations from the ‘linear’ standard of conceiving the relations between the past, the present, and the future. For instance, today, we heard about several concerns with the limitations of the modern regime of historicity stemming from peripheral traditions and proposals of overcoming such shortcomings that outdate present-day preoccupations with presentism by decades. What if, instead of objectifying these voices and treating them as non-relevant or exotic, historians recognize the potential inherent to the Latin-American, African, Asian, and East-Central European modes of conceiving historical thinking mentioned in our talks? Likewise, why isn’t it possible to establish direct contact lines between these various traditions that are non-hegemonic in contemporary historiography? After remaining attentive to our discussions, I can tell there is much potential in such South-South dialogue possibilities. Thus, given that there is no “end of history” after all, we can do a lot to retrieve these marginalized forms of thinking and build together what professor Ewa Domanska refers to as realistic forms of reframing our shared futures.[22]

MP: Well, one thing I want to stress from our conversations is that colonization is not only done to us but also something we do toward others and ourselves. Unlearning this process and resisting it is a never-ending task. It is long-term, and it must be collective. It involves developing a different self-awareness of ourselves as academics and an awareness about other people who surround us, some of whom are in the same situation. So engaging decolonization brings not only evident political benefits but also epistemic benefits, which I was mentioning just now. Thus, this is part of the path that will take us from being merely scholars or scientists to being, as Kabengele Munanga (1942-) says, truly intellectuals. Munanga, a Congolese-Brazilian anthropologist, defines “intellectual” as “a scientist who influences the transformation of human society”; according to him, if we “are not mobilized by what happens in society,” we are merely scientists, not intellectuals.[23]

HM: Well, I am very skeptical regarding many things, but I leave this room with a tinge of optimism. Yes, I am unsure about writing global history from any perspective that is not Western. Maybe a plain example is what is happening here. We have Argentinean, Polish, and Brazilian people, and we are speaking English, right? We still have to resort to a language other than ours. The latter is a simple example, but it tells something. This discussion reminded me of Hayden White’s commentary on Peter Burke’s ten theses about Western historical thinking.[24] White says, in this commentary, that Burke’s claims of a global or world perspective conceal a Western perspective. Pointing out that historical thought is Eurocentric and cannot move beyond Eurocentrism does not mean historical thinking is useless or inherently evil. It means recognizing our limited agency and the limitations of the thought models that we adhere to. It means putting historical knowledge in its place, stressing its ethnocentrism as we do with other kinds of knowledge. This stance also does not mean that we do not have to maneuver or try to maneuver around the problems that arise from these limitations; we should keep trying to find ways to make Eurocentrism non-hegemonic. It is not about ending with it but making it non-hegemonic. It is essential to tackle our fundamental categories and sometimes change them for categories that offer breaches to move towards something different. So yes, we have to be future-oriented. We must be optimistic, but keeping this kind of skepticism always in our minds helps us remain grounded.

BR: One of the main shortcomings of hegemonic academia is individualism. Many of us here have stressed the value of meetings like this one because of different important things. However, it is also vital to highlight the importance of collective action as epistemic resistance. So this whole process of sharing pieces of research, sharing our frustrations, and thinking together about how to challenge academia is a collective action. So, thank you because I am external to the project. Finally, thank you all, especially Ewa, for allowing me to join you today.

TM: The big task for a future-oriented history (and humanities) is to join our efforts to build communities of resistance inside and outside the academia and use the tools we have to decolonize it. Still, decolonization is not an end in itself but a process that calls for awareness, action, and constant self-reflection.

JJ: We are faced with a choice between at least two options to oppose the centers. One more pragmatic and, on the other hand, one less pragmatic. Regardless of which one we choose in our work, we should focus on our local environment without negating dominant thoughts. We should take small steps to implement the grand plan of making the province more valuable either by promoting it outside or by developing great ideas and insights.

ED: Thank you immensely for all your valuable contributions. In the realm of research and the promotion of specific categories, it is crucial to ask what kind of world we are envisioning. Furthermore, I invite reflection on which categories can be considered “futuregenic,” that is, those that mark the contours of a (potentially better?) future. In our scholarly endeavors, we should ponder whether the analytical concepts and ideas we champion genuinely facilitate the development of something novel and/or better. Do they effectively stimulate our thinking and that of others? Are they merely descriptive, or do they carry normative weight?

I have always been an advocate for “speech act theory” and firmly believe in the transformative power of concepts, particularly when they are rooted in our local contexts and environments. Even as we write in English, we implant these local concepts and ideas into a global discourse. I am particularly drawn to Walter Mignolo’s concept of epistemic disobedience. I perceive it as an exemplary, disciplining concept, or a mechanism of vigilance, to be employed whenever I find myself disproportionately citing Western scholars over non-Western ones, or male authors over female. It embodies a commitment to intellectual attentiveness and care.

Mikołaj once recommended a fascinating article by Kathleen McConnell on academic kinship, a concept I firmly believe in. “Academic kinship” describes a bond uniting scholars globally who share a similar dedication to the endeavors of knowledge creation, academic culture, and ethics. This connection doesn’t imply unanimity on all matters, but rather a shared worldview that propels us towards a similar future scenario. Let us strive to broaden this academic kinship by fostering networks and forging connections. While this idea isn’t novel, and I apologize for lacking revolutionary zeal, perhaps Julia Kristeva was accurate in her assertion that the world no longer sees revolutions, but only small acts of rebellion. Thus, we might make a minor rebellion,  practice epistemic disobedience, and exercise greater discernment in our citations—considering whom we reference, how, and to what end. I also propose that should you encounter an article contributing to the discourse on issues currently prevalent in your country, undertake a “academic community service” by translating it—every five years, translate something for your colleagues and students. Thank you once more for a productive discussion and, most importantly, for being here in full presence.





[1] Apart from the authors mentioned before, the dialogue includes the input of other scholars who were part of the public, like Blas Radi and Mateusz Chudziak.

[2] Azoulay, Ariella Aïsha  (2019). Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism. New York-London: Verso.

[3] Nilsen, Torbjørn Tumyr and Mbembe, Achille (2019). Thoughts on the planetary: An interview with Achille Mbembe. New Frame. Retrieved from: (last accessed 21.01.2023).

[4] Young, James E. (1992). The Counter-Monument: Memory against Itself in Germany Today. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 18, No. 2, p. 271.

[5] Bartov, Omer (2022). What is the Environmental History of the Holocaust?, Journal of Genocide Research, 24(3): 419-428. See also: Ewa Domańska, Jacek Małczyński, Mikołaj Smykowski & Agnieszka Kłos, The Legacies of the Holocaust Beyond the Human and Across a Longer durée (In Response to Omer Bartov, Eric Katz and Jessica Rapson). Journal of Genocide Research, ibidem: 448-461.

[6] Levi, Primo. If This is a Man/The Truce. Hachette UK, 2014.

[7] White, Hayden (2004). Figural Realism in Witness Literature. Parallax, 10(1): 113-124.

[8] Haraway, Donna (1988). Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies 14(3): 575-599.

[9] This remark about the utility of indigenous thought is inspired by Ailton Krenak’s A Vida não é Útil [Life is not Useful], published by Companhia das Letras (2020).

[10] Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Félix (1986): What Is a Minor Literature? in Kafka: toward a minor literature, University of Minnesota Press.

[11] Santiago, Silviano (2001): Latin American Discourse: The Space In-Between in The Space In-Between: Essays on Latin American Culture ed. by Silviano Santiago and Ana Lúcia Gazzola, Duke University Press, 31.

[12] Robust studies on historical expertise are yet to be conducted but the idea that expertise (in any given area of knowledge) is directly connected with meta-knowledge or metacognitive skills is broadly accepted in expertise studies nowadays. See Hoffman, Robert (1998): How Can Expertise be Defined? Implications of Research from Cognitive Psychology in Exploring Expertise: Issues and Perspectives ed. by James Fleck, Wendy Faulkner and Robin Williams, Palgrave Macmillan for an overview of this issue.

[13] Within the last two decades a substantial expansion of the subfield of historical theory took place in Brazil, especially after the creation of the Brazilian Society for Theory of History and History of Historiography (SBTHH, and of journals dedicated to the study of historical theory and history of historiography, namely Historia da Historiografia ( and Revista de Teoria da História (

[14] Ndlovu-Gatsheni, S. J. (2021). The cognitive empire, politics of knowledge and African intellectual productions: Reflections on struggles for epistemic freedom and resurgence of decolonisation in the twenty-first century. Third World Quarterly, 42(5), 882–901.

[15] Gloria Origgi has deployed very lucid critiques of the academic practice of publishing in peer-reviewed journals. See Origgi, G. (2010). Epistemic Vigilance and Epistemic Responsibility in the Liquid World of Scientific Publications. Social Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy, 24(3): 149-159.

[16] Paul, Herman (2015). “Metahistory: notes towards a genealogy.” Práticas da História, 1(1): 17-31.

[17] Feliu Franch, J. (2018). Propuestas para una epistemología del patrimonio. Devenir: Revista De Estudios Sobre Patrimonio Edificado, 1(2): 10–26.

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Marcelo Durão Rodrigues da Cunha is professor of history at Instituto Federal do Espírito Santo in Brazil and was affiliated as a postdoctoral researcher to the Faculty of Modern Languages and Literatures at Adam Mickiewicz University (2020-2022). His research interests revolve mainly around the fields of historical theory, conceptual history, and global history. His current work centers on Latin-American thought and the comparative possibilities associated with non-Eurocentric ideas relating to historical thinking and global historiography. – the work of edition of this text was carried out with the financial support of Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa e Inovação do Espírito Santo (FAPES). Grant Agreements 553/2023 and 988/2023

Ewa Domańska is professor of human sciences at the Faculty of History, Adam Mickiewicz University in  Poznań, Poland and a visiting professor at Stanford University (Spring term). She is a corresponding member of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Bureau member of the International Commission for the Theory and History of Historiography (ICHTH/CISH). Her scientific work focuses on the contemporary theory and history of historiography, emerging trends in the humanities as well as the environmental humanities, ecocide and genocide studies.

Jarosław Jaworek is historian and musician-instrumentalist; He received his PhD from the Department of History at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. Studied history at the Department of History, Wroclaw University, historical anthropology at the Sorbonne-Paris IV in Paris, as well as at the Academy of Music in Wroclaw. His research interests include: anthropology of the senses and sound studies. His dissertation focuses on the role played by sound and soundscapes in historical research.

Michał Kępski is a PhD student in History at the Doctoral School of Humanities at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, and a curator and producer of exhibitions in Poznań Heritage Centre in Ostrów Tumski, Poznań, Poland. His interests include the perception of space, heritage interpretation, and the history of museology. His doctoral dissertation explores the concept of “water heritage” based on environmental history of Warta River in Poznań, Poland.

Taynna M. Marino is pursuing her PhD in History at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. She is a member of the Laboratory for the Study of Theory and History of Historiography (Lethis) in Federal University of Espírito Santo, Brazil. Her research interests revolve around historical theory, focusing on non-anthropocentric and non-Western approaches to the past, present, and future. Her doctoral dissertation explores the notion of transspecies and transcultural empathy in contemporary historical theory.

Hugo Merlo is a PhD student in Literary Studies at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. He holds a MA (2017) and a BA (2013) in History at the Federal University of Espírito Santo, Brazil, where he worked as a substitute professor from 2017 to 2019. Hugo is a member of the Laboratory for the Study of Theory and History of Historiography (Lethis-Ufes), the Interdisciplinary Group of Theoretical Studies (Niet), and the group Peripheral historiographies in a global perspective (Unicamp). He is currently working on the figurations of lack and excess in Brazilian avant-gardist literature.

Moira Pérez holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is assistant researcher at the Argentine National Council of Scientific and Technical Research and assistant professor at the University of Buenos Aires. Her work brings together practical philosophy (with a focus on philosophy of history, epistemology, and politics) and queer and anti-colonial perspectives, in order to analyze various dimensions of the relationship between violence and identity. She is currently a Fellow at the Forschungsinstitut für Philosophie Hannover, Germany, with a project that explores the global movement to tear down monuments.

Julia Freire Perini completed her PhD at Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo in 2019 and specialized in Brazil’s nineteenth-century cultural history. Her current research interests are related to the experience of modernity in peripheral territories and their impacts on the formation of historical thinking. In addition, she has published articles that address changes in the perception of time and the impacts of modernity on the ways of living of subaltern groups and segregated individuals.

Blas Radi is a researcher, a public philosopher and a trans activist. He is Faculty at the Department of Philosophy, University of Buenos Aires, where he teaches Social Epistemology. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Philosophy with a doctoral scholarship awarded by the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) in Argentina. His research focuses on epistemic injustice, active ignorance and how these affect the experience of marginalized groups and their dialogue with institutions.

Mikołaj Smykowski is an assistant professor at the Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. He is also a graduate of the international doctoral seminar Global Education Outreach Program at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN. In 2020, his PhD thesis titled “Ecologies of the Shoah” was awarded first prize by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Poland. His teaching and research interests focus on environmental history of the Holocaust, multispecies ethnography, phytoanthropology.

Monika Stobiecka is an art historian and archaeologist, an assistant professor at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, University of Warsaw, Poland. Member of the Academy of Young Scholars (Polish Academy of Sciences). She is interested in critical museum and heritage studies, archaeological theory, and methodology. Her current work is focused on the intersection of contemporary art and theoretical archaeology.


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