The End-Game Failure of Westphalia?

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

RoTCS

An extremely important essay written by white male Jamie Bartlett, director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think-tank Demos based in London.

Here’s a brief extract:

Try to imagine a world without countries – you can’t. Our sense of who we are, our loyalties, our rights and obligations, are bound up in them.

Which is all rather odd, since they’re not really that old.

Here is a link to the essay which is hosted by Aeon.

Peace

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A Sparrow Alighted, A Soul in Flight

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

It is now five years since my late father, (Al-Hajj Al-Haafidh) Syed Shahid Ali, passed away. (In this connection, interested readers might want to read the tribute I wrote to him on Friday 24 May 2013.)

Similarly to what I stated in a post commemorating my reflections last year entitled “The Lark’s Ascending and The Soul’s Ascension“, much has happened in the intervening period, some of it good and some of it not so good, but all of it as viewed from my limited human perspective.

In what follows, I want to reflect briefly on some of the apparent good that has taken place since the post from the previous year. Once again, I have been blessed by God/Allah with a number of opportunities to further develop and apply my (Islamic) decolonial thinking in various settings.

  1. I delivered a talk entitled “The (Un)bearable Whiteness of Informationalist Religion” at the OURS2018: Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective: Publics and Performances conference which was held at The Open University from 19-21 February 2018, Kents Hill, Milton Keynes, UK. The abstract is here.
  2. I have been invited to be guest editor for a special issue of ReOrient: The Journal of Critical Muslim Studies dedicated to exploring “The Decolonial Question Concerning Technology.”
  3. I presented a paper entitled ‘White Crisis’ and/as ‘Existential Risk’: The Entangled Apocalypticism of Artificial Intelligence at the AI and Apocalypse conference organized by the Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM) which took place in 5-6 April 2018 at the Panacea Gardens in Bedford, UK. I have subsequently been invited to submit this paper for publication in a special issue of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, the oldest and pre-eminent journal in this field.
  4. I was invited to become the convenor of the newly formed Critical Information Studies (CIS) research group based in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University, UK in April 2018.
  5. I have a chapter entitled “Heidegger and the Islamicate: Transversals and Reversals” in the forthcoming book Heidegger in the Islamicate World edited by Kata Moser and Urs Goesken and published by Rowman & Littlefield.
  6. I have a chapter entitled “Prolegomenon to the Decolonization of Internet Governance” in the forthcoming book Internet Governance in the Global South edited by Daniel Oppermann and published by the University of São Paulo.
  7. I presented a paper in the session on ‘Critical and Political Issues’ at Philosophical Hermeneutics in the Islamicate Context, an International Conference held at Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium May 9–11 2018. The abstract is here.
  8. I presented a paper in the panel on ‘Colonising and Decolonising Data’ at Data Justice 2018, an international conference hosted by the Data Justice Lab at Cardiff University May 21-22 2018. The abstract is here.

Truly a huge barakah from The Most High.

Unfortunately, I have not yet had an opportunity to visit the grave of my father at the Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery this year due to work commitments but will visit soon, insha’Allah.

I should like to end this post with the following piece of music which I dscovered this past year and which made me think of my father when I recently listened to it (the composer himself passed away earlier this year):

Peace

Decolonizing ‘Datafication’ Discourse

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Photo of Me

Dr Syed Mustafa Ali, Lecturer in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University (UK), presented a paper in the panel on ‘Colonising and Decolonising Data’ at Data Justice 2018, an international conference hosted by the Data Justice Lab at Cardiff University May 21-22 2018.

Here is the title and abstract:

Decolonizing ‘Datafication’ Discourse

It has been claimed that the ‘datafication’ of society has resulted in the emergence of a new set of power dynamics requiring investigation and critique. While conceding that the paradigm of ‘Big Data’, coupled with other developments such as the Internet of Things, data mining and deep learning, indeed gives rise to changed sociotechnical formations, building on arguments made in connection with the proposal for a ‘decolonial computing’ (Ali 2014, 2016, 2017), I suggest that this claim needs to be interrogated with a view to exploring the continuity through change of power relationships between different groups in the world system. Adopting a critical race theoretical and decolonial perspective, I want to draw attention to certain ‘silences’ / ‘erasures’ in discourses associated with the ‘critical’ literature on algorithm/data studies which tend to be framed, tacitly or explicitly, against the backdrop of a world system understood as capitalist / neoliberal, thereby obscuring its origins in racialized colonialism, a long durée project that continues into the post-colonial era through the persistence of ‘coloniality’ – that is, structuring colonial logics. Notwithstanding a certain rhetorical overkill of the ‘datafication’ discourse by its proponents – a form of deception that arguably affords rhetorical power to hegemonic coloniality – such developments can – and do – contribute to maintaining, expanding and refining modern/colonial domination. For this reason, I argue for the need to consider both the rhetoric and the techno-scientific socio-material reality and affordances of ‘Big Data’ and associated developments engaged by both its proponents and critics alike.

For example, there has been a tendency within critical data/algorithm studies to focus on methods obscuring issues of ‘positionality’ – that is, racialized location within the world system – and resulting in such discourses being framed in tacit Eurocentric-universalist terms. For this reason, such discourses must be complemented with a decolonial ‘meta-critique’ disclosing the abstract, homogenizing biases informing such narratives. Similar problems arise in connection with discourses involving ideas such as the ‘Big Data divide’, ‘data colonialism’ and ‘surveillance capitalism’, the latter referring to an ‘emergent logic of accumulation in the networked sphere’. In this connection, I want to suggest that if the analytic frame is shifted from capitalism to racialized-coloniality, it is more useful to think about such developments in terms of ‘surveillance colonialism’ and an emergent logic of domination in the networked sphere, such logic standing in a (re-)productive relation vis-à-vis historically prior yet persistent logics of coloniality and affecting differently-marked bodies located in different geo-political locations differently. I further maintain that a shift in frame from ‘surveillance capitalism’ to ‘surveillance colonialism’ provides the means by which to decolonially-interrogate developments associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) and their mobilization in ICT4D discourses; on this view, the IoT needs to be understood in terms of a refinement of the logics of domination, an ‘iterative’ shift away from overtly political strategies of control embedded in ‘participatory’ ‘aid’ projects, to one involving domination through the dissemination and embedding of standards and closed-source platforms along with what might be described as ‘data settler colonialism’ via non-human technological proxy, viz. sensor devices as ‘digital settlers’ originating in ‘the core’ of the modern/colonial world system and embedded in ‘the periphery’ – a case of ‘from boots on the ground to bits in the ground’.

Finally, I want to argue for the need to interrogate how justice is framed in calls for ‘data justice’, and the nature of the relationship, if any, between such calls and related calls for compensation / reparations vis-à-vis the ongoing ‘legacy effects’ of European colonialism.

REFERENCES

Ali, S.M. (2017) Decolonizing Information Narratives: Entangled Apocalyptics, Algorithmic Racism and the Myths of History. DTMD 2017: 6th International Conference. In: IS4IS Summit Gothenburg 2017 – Digitalisation for a Sustainable Society, 12-16 June, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Ali, S.M. (2016) A Brief Introduction to Decolonial Computing. XRDS, Crossroads, The ACM Magazine for Students – Cultures of Computing 22(4): 16-21.

Ali, S.M. (2014) Towards a Decolonial Computing. In Ambiguous Technologies: Philosophical issues, Practical Solutions, Human Nature: Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Computer Ethics –Philosophical Enquiry (CEPE 2013). Edited by Elizabeth A. Buchanan, Paul B, de Laat, Herman T. Tavani and Jenny Klucarich. Portugal: International Society of Ethics and Information Technology, pp.28-35.

Peace

Philosophical Hermeneutics and The Islamicate

Peace Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

PHiIC - 3

Dr Syed Mustafa Ali, Lecturer in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University (UK), presented a paper in the session on ‘Critical and Political Issues’ at Philosophical Hermeneutics in the Islamicate Context, an International Conference held at Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium May 9–11 2018.

Here is the title and abstract:

Philosophical Hermeneutics and the Islamicate: Transversals and Reversals

ABSTRACT

Building on earlier work exploring transversals and reversals in the context of engaging the matter of Heidegger and the Islamicate (Ali Forthcoming), in this essay I present two arguments with a view to problematizing the idea of philosophical hermeneutics in the Islamicate context and attempting to motivate its replacement with consideration of philosophical hermeneutics and the Islamicate.

In the first argument, a transversal, I explore an engagement with the thinking of a central figure in the Western tradition of philosophical hermeneutics, Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), effected by a contemporary Muslim thinker living in ‘the West’, Salman Sayyid, pointing to the various strands of pragmatist, Wittgensteinian and Rortyian interpretation of Heidegger that inform his diasporic mobilisation of a discourse-theoretical, post-‘left Heideggerian’ position in pursuit of the project of Critical Muslim Studies. Sayyid’s oeuvre is highly apposite vis-à-vis the matter of ‘philosophical hermeneutics in the Islamicate context’ insofar as it unsettles the idea that Islamicate space is coterminous with geography by pointing to postmodern/postcolonial Islamicate engagement with the Heideggerian corpus within Europe, thereby disrupting the tendency to trans-historically conceive the Islamicate as necessarily situated beyond European/‘Western’ borders. Following a brief overview of “the Sayyidian corpus”, examples of Sayyid’s mobilization of Heideggerian ideas are presented and then subjected to critique with a view to offering suggestions as to how certain perceived problems with Sayyid’s project might be overcome. Notwithstanding such ostensible shortcomings, insofar as Sayyid’s oeuvre is concerned with decentering Eurocentric universalism through a commitment to a post-positivist, post-Orientalist and decolonial perspective, I suggest that its basic orientation is both sound and productive, and seek to mobilize it in arguing that the question concerning ‘philosophical hermeneutics in the Islamicate context’ is tacitly Orientalist and Eurocentrically-universalist, and that it thereby warrants contestation through decentering.

This leads to my second argument, a reversal, which seeks to interrogate the distinction between philosophical hermeneutics and Islamicate thought. Consistent with the understanding that genealogies are fluid, hybrid and cross-civilizational, I do not seek to argue for a ‘reversal’ in the sense that philosophical hermeneutics can be reductively traced to and/or grounded in Islamicate thought; rather, that the distinction between philosophical hermeneutics and Islamicate thought arguably turns on a certain essentialist, Eurocentrically-universalist and Orientalist conception of the location (geographical, historical, cultural etc.) of ‘the secular’ and ‘the religious’. In this connection, I draw upon the work of Asad, Cavanaugh and others which interrogates the genealogies of religion and secularism with a view to problematizing how the engagement of Islamicate thought and philosophical hermeneutics is framed; in this sense, my argument for reversal should be seen as an attempt to further contest the tacit knowledge/power asymmetry associated with use of the prepositional ‘in’ as contrasted with the conjunctive ‘and’ to which attention was drawn in an earlier work (Ali Forthcoming). On this basis, I suggest that rather than consider how a tacitly Eurocentrically-universal philosophical hermeneutics might inform engagement with the Islamicate tradition, it is decolonially more productive to think about how a non-Eurocentrically-universal Islamicate philosophical hermeneutics might self-reflexively engage the Islamicate legacy and other-reflexively engage the contents of the ‘Western’ tradition. In this connection, I point to some pre-modern/pre-colonial and postmodern/postcolonial thinkers within the Islamicate context who operate with what can only sensibly be described as a universal philosophical hermeneutics, albeit an ‘other’ universality.

REFERENCES

Ali, S.M. (Forthcoming) Heidegger and the Islamicate: Transversals and Reversals. In Heidegger in the Islamicate World. Edited by Kata Moser and Urs Goesken. Washington: Rowman & Littlefield.

Peace

Islamic Counter-Racist Thought Food #71

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Consider this:

When we eliminate uncertainty, we forfeit the human replenishment that attaches to the challenge of asserting predictability in the face of an always-unknown future in favor of the blankness of perpetual compliance with someone else’s plan.

Extract taken from “The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism” (2016) by Shoshana Zuboff.

Peace

Islamic Counter-Racist Thought Food #70

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Consider this:

Heidegger thought that history eventuated as a poem of the world. He believed that he could recognize the trace or the origination of this poem in errancy. He thought that he had found the source of the poem. (p.81)

[Yet consider] what the philosophical fetishism of the poem ultimately produced … namely the failure of thinking in respect to its engagement with National Socialism. (p.80)

Extracts taken from Trawny, P. (2015) Freedom to Fail: Heidegger’s Anarchy. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Now consider the following signs/indicators (ayaat) from Surah (chapter, enclosure) 26 of The Qur’an [=Final Testimony of God/Allah to humanity]:

221. Shall I inform you upon whom the devils descend?

222. They descend upon every sinful liar.

223. They give ear, and most of them are liars.

224. And as for the poets—the deviators follow them.

225. Do you not see how they ramble in every style?

226. And how they say what they do not do?

227. Except for those who believe, and do good deeds, and remember God frequently, and defend themselves after they are wronged. As for those who do wrong, they will know by what overturning they will be overturned.

Peace

‘White Crisis’ and/as ‘Existential Threat’, or The Entangled Apocalypticism of Artificial Intelligence

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Dr Syed Mustafa Ali at the CenSAMM AI and Apocalypse Symposium 2018

Dr Syed Mustafa Ali, Lecturer in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University (UK), delivered the following paper at the Conference on Artificial Intelligence and The Apocalypse organised by CenSAMM (Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements), a new initiative of the Panacea Charitable Trust in Bedford, UK, which took place 5-6 April 2018:

‘White Crisis’ and/as ‘Existential Threat’, or The Entangled Apocalypticism of Artificial Intelligence

Interested viewers can watch the presentation which is available on YouTube:

Complete recordings of the two days proceedings (talks, panel discussions etc.) are available here.

Peace