Modernity’s Witchcraft Practice
Beyond necessary personal confession and committed political action, confrontation and transformation of white “race-work” requires serious theoretical interrogation of the ways and wiles of whiteness. In 1983, African American Historian of Religions Charles Long reiterated his long-standing challenge to the Western academy to understand the entire postcolonial situation as an intercultural encounter demanding not so much scientific elucidation as “serious human conversation” (Long, 1983, 102). Where scientific categorization has historically tended to “fix” meaning (African cultures are “undeveloped,” native peoples are “primitive,” etc.) rather than explore it, human conversation opens up the possibility of mutual hermeneusis and the prospect of (re-)discovery of oneself in the eyes and words of one’s other. Long’s challenge finds its root concern in his insistence that colonial contact resulted in modes of experience that were qualitatively different on different sides of the colonial divide and gave rise to modes of meaning-making commensurate with those differences of experience. While the West has been quick to scrutinize, categorize, and analyze its various subjects of conquest, it has been considerably less sanguine about learning of itself from the representations and figurations of those others. What would happen if the gaze and its “knowing” were reversed?
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