CURA Annual Lecture 2021

Annual Lecture: Decolonising Critique. Reconnecting critical theory with radical praxis today.

Dr. Ana Cecilia Dinerstein

Does critical theory belong with transformative struggles today? In this Lecture I suggest that present grassroot resistance and organising processes around the social reproduction of human and non-human life on the planet have become the ‘site’ of the renewal of both radical praxis and critical theory. On the one hand, grassroots movements, collectives, and communities have freed utopia from party politics’ ideological prison and, by exploring alternative ways of doing and living, they are opening new political possibilities and horizons beyond capital and crisis. On the other hand, neo-Adornian- critical theorists find difficult to understand how the creation of transformative alternatives at the grassroots is ‘critical’ of the world of capital, for they regard these collective actions as ‘positive praxis’ that contradicts the need to negate as a principle of critique. By engaging with Ernst Bloch’s principle of hope, I address this ‘epistemological disconnect’ between contemporary radical praxis and critical theory and suggest that grassroots alternatives are ‘critical affirmations’ that embody a sophisticated form of negation: the defense of life amidst a planetary destruction. This alternative understanding of radical praxis requires decolonising critical theory to connect with other philosophies and cosmologies towards a critical theory of hope.

Ana Cecilia Dinerstein teaches sociology and critical, feminist and decolonial theory at the University of Bath (UK). Her research on ‘global politics of hope’ connects Bloch’s philosophy of hope with social and grassroots movements’ autonomous praxis. She is a member of the core group of the Global Tapestry of Alternatives, and funder and convenor of Women on the Verge, the Standing Seminar in Critical theory and the Decolonizing Knowledge hub.  Her publications include The Labour Debate (co-editor, Routledge, 2002), The Politics of Autonomy in Latin America: The Art of Organising Hope (Palgrave Macmillan 2015), Social Sciences for An Other Politics: Women Theorising without Parachutes (Palgrave Macmillan, editor,  2016); Open Marxism 4; Against a Closing World (Pluto Press, editor, 2019) and World Beyond Work? Labour, Money and the Capitalist State between Crisis and Utopia (Emerald, co-author, 2021). Her books Planet Hope. The San Francisco Lectures (Kairos, PM) and Decolonising Marxism (Pluto Press) are forthcoming in 2022.

This lecture took place on Wednesday 14th April.