What’s Left? On the Prohibition of Language: An Interview with Samir Gandesha

Image: Claire Fontaine, “They Hate Us For Our Freedom” (2008)

by Emily Laurent-Monaghan

This conversation with Samir Gandesha, public intellectual and professor of Humanities at Simon Fraser University, is the first in a series of dialogues with thinkers, writers, and activists conducted by the PICT Student Ambassador Program. The conversation explores how tolerance coincides with its opposite—such as a liberal and permissive “openness” regarding others—and forces us to create distance between ourselves and others. Before the pandemic, and certainly now that we are living its effects, there seems to be a ubiquitous fear of harassment (otherwise put, a desire for safety) that subtends our social existence. As such, philosophers and theorists have drawn from psychoanalysis to understand how liberal hedonism’s “openness” doubles as the site of profound prohibition, especially where language is concerned. The interview has been edited for style and clarity.

Emily: You have been active throughout the pandemic; I want to discuss some of the articles and talks that you’ve put forth. In May 2020, you wrote “The Gift of Covid-19,” in which you tease out the association between the English word “gift” and the German “das Gift” (“poison”). We’ve been presented with a poisonous lesson, or “brutal universalism,” as you call it, that issues from the shadowy double of philosophical wonder. That is, philosophy as a traumatic incursion. If the pandemic is a poisoned gift, insofar as the moment of crisis is utterly decisive, would you say that we have allowed ourselves to be sufficiently poisoned?

Samir: That is a very provocative way to frame the question. I would maybe turn it around a little bit and ask whether we have adequately received the “gift” in the English sense, and that means, have we been able to consider all the ramifications of the pandemic for our present and future? The pandemic has revealed many, let’s say, “hidden truths” about our society—about our late capitalist order—that were certainly known before it struck, but were easier to deny. But now it seems that these dimensions are increasingly difficult to deny. And we could talk about a wide range of things, everything from policing and surveillance to the weaknesses that we have in our public health care system, which is admittedly better than that of the United States. But we’re seeing the problems within the Canadian public health care system—the country’s inability or zero capacity for the production of vaccines, which we know we’re going to need in the future on an ever-greater scale. This is not just the first pandemic and it won’t be the last. How prepared are we for future pandemics? We’ve seen how the pandemic has overarchingly and disproportionately affected the most vulnerable members of our society: women, racialized communities, Indigenous peoples. What lessons are we going to learn from this going forward? I think this is a crucial question. But it’s not just one of theory (which means originally “to look on”), it doesn’t mean the sort of passive observation of the contours of the present, but it calls for a kind of intervention because, to quote Joe Strummer, “the future is unwritten.” And I think we have to make interventions to secure the kind of future that we want and that we need.

Emily: Right. In terms of the discourse that has emerged in the pandemic, I was hoping we could talk about the rhetoric of “safety first,” which has become a key bookend within university discourse, but also within the pandemic lexicon. How has the pandemic deepened or affected the political membrane of the classroom, as many of us are now in an online world? And perhaps you could speak to how online education has affected your thinking about safe spaces, and safety alongside the necessity to defend a pedagogy that can suffer, to put it dramatically, negativity and otherness.

Samir: There are quite a number of questions here. And I think, first off, we do need to think about safety in a broader sense, obviously, in terms of public health protocols. They are changing. Obviously, as you know, we have [Covid-19] “variants” of concern, as they’re called, released into our ecosystems, and so on. To this end, we’re witnessing an increasing challenge to these protocols, not so much from, let’s say, the Left, but from the far Right: from Neo-Nazi organizations, from conspiracy theorists, from white supremacists. And that means all kinds of questions about why this might be. That’s quite a big discussion.

One dimension that might tie into some of the other questions that you were asking could have to do with the way in which safety has been a kind of slogan for the left for a long time now. As I’ve pointed out in several of my writings, interviews, and discussions, there is an over-inflation of the problem of harm and an attempt to say that if you offend me by your speech, you have done me harm. I think this is a false equation. What has happened, in other words, is that you’ve had a situation for the last couple of decades now, if not longer—I mean I could trace it back to the mid-90s, sort of a zero tolerance for offensive speech in classrooms in Ontario, for example—in which there’s been a lot of crying wolf going on, right? And so now when you really need words to matter and you need people to adhere in a very serious way, in an urgent way to genuine safety protocols, you have the Right flouting them.

With the university, it seems—almost with every week, month and year that passes—there is a heightened concern around safety. Now, as an educator, I am, of course, very much aware of the need to create the conditions within the classroom for genuine searching and inquiring, where questions can be posed, and discussions can be forged. There is a relationship here between conditions of safety and the possibility of what one could call dangerous conversations where—I mean, let’s face it—education is about taking some risks, putting your most cherished values and beliefs on the line, opening them up for critical scrutiny, not least by yourself, after you have engaged with other viewpoints that are quite different. There is a kind of dialectic between the conditions of safety, safe spaces in this sense, and the possibility of dangerous conversations. The problem lies in making a fetish out of safety to the point where we lose track of what education is about. Learning happens when people feel comfortable exchanging ideas in a robust way. But if safety becomes fetishized to the point where that exchange can no longer happen, we’ve lost sight of the educational mission of the university. We’re really in danger of that. There are many reasons or many causes; it’s overdetermined. But one of the things that we cannot forget is the fact that since the beginning of the so-called neo-liberalism, say, 40-50 years ago, the university has been turned into a corporate entity which no longer has a relationship with “students,” but rather with “clients,” “stakeholders,” “customers,” “consumers”—and “the customer is always right,” supposedly. If the customer feels offended or uncomfortable, well, then something must be done.

In terms of the online and remote setting for pedagogy, for teaching and learning, it is mostly detrimental to an authentic exchange of viewpoints and ideas. I think there is a lot of anxiety that students feel around engaging in this remote setting. And of course, the conditions are not particularly propitious for students to feel comfortable. I mean, we’re all a bit on edge. For professors and TAs, as you yourself might have experienced this past year, there’s a sense of being profoundly unsettled by where we’re at. However, I do think that the online context can be quite useful in some ways as well. I’ve done this myself, you know: having guest lecturers come and participate in discussions, do a talk, engage with students (and they can be, of course, halfway across the world). For me, it’s necessary to always have a cosmopolitan perspective on the world, a grounded cosmopolitanism, insofar as one is engaging with where one lives and where one calls home—the kind of world in which one exists—but with full awareness and consciousness of other worlds, contexts, and forms of life that are quite radically different from one’s own. This recognition has a salubrious effect, as a bulwark against provincialism, and that is really important. I think in North America, we lose sight of that. We feel that we are, however decolonial we want to be, at the center of the world. And this is simply false.

Emily: Yes, and I think the idea that the pandemic is this ultimate kind of universalism—but in the weak sense—such that it binds us together despite the radical discrepancy between the way nations have been able to handle the situation, is fallacious. You might have seen our first dispatch by two fellow student ambassadors from the Paris Institute, from the Philippines and Portugal. Portugal’s doing very well. Currently, the Philippines, as you are aware, is not. So, I think the radical cosmopolitanism in the sense of taking stock of differences is essential, so I appreciate you drawing attention to that.

Samir: Yeah.

Emily: To discuss a further aspect of your many adventures and thought, I was wondering if you could speak of the need to continue the substantive critique of identity politics that you and others, such as Žižek and Todd McGowan, have launched. Why is this critique a pressing issue for the Left specifically?

Samir: That’s such an important question and one that really deserves a very long and involved answer. But I think I can give you a snapshot of one. I would say that on the one hand, it’s important to recognize the contribution of the early theorists of identity politics, such as the Combahee River Collective. The central idea here is that we must be the authors of our liberation, and this we is the identity of identity politics, which is to say, an African-American feminist, lesbian collective that recognizes that in the various formations of the Left, and no one is militating for their specific interests.

This notion is then developed into intersectionality, and I think it’s a valuable contribution to look at the different ways in which structures of oppression intersect. Conversely, identity politics has turned from this radical, socialist, feminist, transformative project into something that has been taken over by—in a very cynical way—the managerial class that has administered neo-liberalism. We saw this in 2016 with Hillary Clinton and her use of the term intersectionality. You see it now with the current Vice-President of the United States, Kamala Harris. And, of course, you know, what’s been floating around in the last while has been this recruiting video made by the CIA, which also uses the term intersectional.

There is a prehistory of identity politics. In fact, one finds, in The Wretched of the Earth, a powerful critique of identity politics, a politics that seeks to inject class into the discussion of race and nationhood. And it does in a very powerful way. So, there is this prehistory, and this aspect of Fanon is often elided because it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient.

One of my key arguments would be that this can only be possible if you understand, say, class, as simply one of many modifiers for a given identity. When we discuss race, gender, sexual orientation, class is included as well; although class almost seems incidental, rather unlike those other aspects of identity. Class is something quite different insofar as when you think class in a radical way, you think of its abolition. Class should be signified and placed in a political struggle—it should center in a political struggle, that is, in a dialectical way, if we are to think of the abolition of class society and therefore class as an identity. This describes the utopian horizon of socialism. The other identity markers don’t function in the same way. I mean, your sexual orientation requires recognition; you want that to be recognized and valued, and that’s very reasonable. Maybe, in a future society that will change. But there’s still something about your racial identity that you want to have affirmed (even after we recognize that race is a false category). So, I think that this kind of non-recognition of the central idea of a negative understanding of class is what makes it then possible for the Hillary Clintons or the Jagmeet Singhs of this world to use identity in ways that are quite politically opportunistic. So, it’s not just myself, Žižek, and Todd McGowan that are raising these criticisms of identity politics. There is a prehistory of identity politics. In fact, one finds, in The Wretched of the Earth, a powerful critique of identity politics, a politics that seeks to inject class into the discussion of race and nationhood. And it does in a very powerful way. So, there is this prehistory, and this aspect of Fanon is often elided because it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient. (It is one, by the way, that McGowan usefully references.)

Emily: This brings me to my next question. Why are you, in particular, poised to launch this critique? I was hoping you might share with us some of your own experiences of identity politics within and outside of the institution.

Samir: This is important to register, because otherwise it looks like what I’m trying to do is something very pernicious, if not downright reactionary. But my position is that—like the Combahee River Collective, whose protagonists are speaking from their experiences as racialized women—I also speak from or through my own experiences, which I understand to be mediated. They don’t sit there and speak for themselves, but they’re reflected upon conceptually.

I come from a family with roots in East Africa. My grandparents emigrated from the northwestern part of India, which is the state called Gujarat. The current prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, comes from Gujarat. And so, I have a good sense of where this government is coming from in some senses as a result of that. So, my grandparents immigrated to East Africa seeking a better life. I mean, this is a familiar story of immigration, of self-transformation, of existing in a kind of diasporic way. I was born in Nairobi and we had family throughout East Africa, which used to be called the East African Community, also in Tanzania, Uganda, and also, of course, Kenya.

My parents arrived with me in tow as an infant in Canada in the mid-1960s. But my extended family that remained behind in Uganda was expelled in 1972. One of the justifications for such expulsion was a matter of dictatorship and decision, the Idi Amin coup which then led to various kinds of policies of Africanization and ultimately expelling the middleman, the merchant class, which was predominately Asian in that country. So already from a very young age, I was quite aware of the way in which ethno-nationalism can lead to forms of oppression, domination, exclusion, and so on. And then, of course, I became aware of the history of the 20th century, and I put two and two together and things started to make sense to me.

At the same time, though, I was quite aware of the brutal nature of caste in the Asian community. This suggested to me that within particular communities, there are very sharp divisions, and there are forms of oppression and domination within those communities. What identity politics seems to do is emphasize the differential relations and hierarchies between communities, between identities, at the cost of understanding forms of hierarchy within those communities. While intersectionality tries to do this, I think in effect there is always reference to some larger identity that takes precedence, and from this, an ideological justification for these hierarchies, for forms of domination within the communities. So, I would say we must focus not just on the difference between identities, but also differences within those identities.

To summarize, I was very aware of the domineering and the oppressive role of the Idi Amin regime, which in many ways was responding to the horrific racism of the Asian community to the African community (here the case of M.K. Gandhi’s activities in South Africa could be referenced). That is without a doubt, and I want to make this very clear. It doesn’t justify the treatment of Ugandan Asians, but one can understand it. And that must be an important dimension of this discussion. But then one also understands the forms of domination, not least gender domination within the Asian community, underwritten by a certain interpretation of Brahminical Hinduism and so on, which we can’t get into right now. This is always the background or the backdrop to my skepticism of identity politics.

Emily: Thank you for sharing, Samir. In discussing discomfort, I’m wondering why you think it’s so important to address the phenomenon of cancel culture, while many intellectuals on the Left sidestep or ignore it. And if we could bring this into a psychoanalytic register, why should we problematize the enjoyment that we get from judging other people? Is there a way on the Left that we can hold on to critique without passing into the sort of enjoyment or jouissance of judgment?

There would be no Marxism if Marx hadn’t critically engaged with the conservative Idealist philosopher Hegel. True, Marx cancelled Hegel, but he also preserved him as well (this is what the German word Aufhebung means: to cancel and preserve).

Samir: I think I’m probably one of the few on the Left—and I very much consider myself on the Left, if that has not been made clear already—who acknowledges that cancel culture is, in fact, a thing. And the reason, I think, is that there are Leftists canceling other Leftists. Cancel culture is a phenomenon that emerges—as with many right-wing talking points—to express dismay, to put it mildly, when conservative speakers, for example, are canceled, which I don’t agree with. I think we need to know, know the enemy, know thine enemy. When people like Harvey Mansfield, the Harvard-based political theorist, the theorist of masculinity, who is also the translator and editor of Machiavelli, are canceled, I think by Concordia University, this is a big problem. We can disagree with Harvey Mansfield, but nobody is served by having people like that canceled. There would be no Marxism if Marx hadn’t critically engaged with the conservative Idealist philosopher Hegel. True, Marx cancelled Hegel, but he also preserved him as well (this is what the German word Aufhebung means: to cancel and preserve).

There’s this worry that if I use this language, I align myself with the Right, and am, indeed, taken to be a conservative; that might be the case if you don’t provide reasons and evidence, examples for your view. But I can give you many, and I have provided many examples, not least the cancelation by the Democratic Socialists of America of Adolf Reed, Jr.—an important Black radical critic of identity politics—because of his supposed “class reductionism.” I mean, what kind of socialist organization can do without at least a few class reductionists!? They keep everyone honest in a way! I do find the psychoanalytic perspective useful here in terms of the Lacanian problematic of jouissance, a kind of pleasure that tips over into discomfort or even a certain kind of pain, which one can understand in terms of a self-sacrificing logic: one feels compelled to participate in this game of cancelation while knowing deep in one’s heart that at some point one could oneself be canceled because no one occupies a  position of moral purity. We all have desires and drives, fantasies that are not pure. This is the lesson, the fundamental lesson, of psychoanalysis, is it not? And so, what happens then if it is revealed in some form of power that one steps up and says something that one shouldn’t have, or one likes a tweet that one should not have, or one follows somebody who then says something objectionable, and then one is discovered to have followed this person and then is guilty by association? So, one can see where the logic is pointing: that everybody, in a sense, is cancelable, and this is especially the case if we take a view of the present from the future. Think of our foibles today and how they might appear to a generation 10 years from now, 20 years, 50 years from now. Who will be read? Who will be morally pure enough to withstand the logic of cancelation, assuming things continue to go in this direction? I rather hope that it doesn’t go in this direction, but it very well could. So if you extrapolate this logic, then we will all be retrospectively canceled. And so maybe we should just stop writing and thinking and talking because everything we do and think is morally suspect. I mean, that is the logic, isn’t it?

Emily: One might think to pause, in a self-ironic way, to think through our moment of “world cancelation” that we are currently living. This suspension could drive us to think about why we desire these prohibitions on language. I do appreciate the psychoanalytic register that pushes us into the center of, or the opaque core of this phenomenon, because I don’t think the free speech discourse necessarily penetrates this abstract aspect of it, there’s a certain opacity at play there. Many of us do not engage, because it is, as Mary Ruti would put it, the space of “bad feelings” that we love to avoid.

Samir: The bad feelings are that we love to avoid what we also love, and I think that what we’re touching upon when we talk about cancelation when it works in the cultural realm, it really is about a kind of social death, a reputational murder, and so on. But ultimately, what does it mean? The ultimate cancelation is, in fact, death itself. So there’s a kind of a death drive at work here. And what I was getting to a bit earlier in terms of the jouissance of cancelation is precisely this sort of repetition compulsion that is beyond the pleasure principle. It is oriented towards something very dark and very destructive, I think.

Emily: Yes, and I appreciate you shining light on that, because it’s been quite hideous to see public philosophers like Nina Power and others attacked in irrational and uncharitable ways. I mean, critique must maintain some form of charitability. One can be ruthless while also recognizing the worth of having a difference of opinion.

Samir: One last point here: it seems that you do have figures like Adolf Reed, Jr., and other powerful figures being canceled. But, I think overwhelmingly it’s women who are bearing the brunt of this. I think of Rebecca Tuvel; I mean, notice the irony of it. The fact that philosophy is particularly unrepresentative of the population in terms of gender balance right now, you have an assistant professor at the time who writes this piece for Hypatia on the possibility of trans-racial identity. Eight hundred plus faculty, including a former supervisor, write a letter demanding retraction of this article. I mean, this is potentially very damaging. I think she was fine. She came through unscathed. But, boy oh boy, talk about somebody’s reputation and therefore future career on the line. You know, this is unacceptable, really.

Emily: As a student of philosophy at the time, I was utterly unsettled by the entire process, or lack thereof, of the terrible case and how philosophy was quite unwilling to deal with the situation or address it in any meaningful way. In turning to another point, I was hoping we could discuss your article on “Posthuman Fascism,” as the question or concept of fascism has been on everyone’s minds. How do we approach this question? One might appeal to analogy or periodization; in some cases, one might whip out a template or checklist to say this is fascism. Some are wondering whether Trump is or is not a fascist. I want to pose my question along the lines of the distinction that Alberto Toscano makes in a talk on “New Fascisms: is our current conjuncture a time of fascism or a time for fascism?

Samir: Yeah, that’s a really good question, and I have tremendous respect for Alberto’s work. I think his work on late fascism is very thought-provoking and fascinating. I touch upon it in the introduction to Specters of Fascism, but perhaps I don’t give it the justice it deserves. It is useful to think about temporality in this way: a time for fascism (the objective conditions), and a time of fascism (more so subjective), and then the time “in fascism”—and I think his conclusion seems to be what distinguishes late fascism from the fascism of the 20th century, from the 1920s and 30s. And of course, [Toscano] is arguing against this analogy, that we don’t learn anything if we just simply say that we’re back to a kind of Weimar. He rightly points this out. The analogy is not helpful. So, with Ernst Bloch, he wants to try and think about plural temporalities that are out of sync with one another, and his view seems to be that there is a greater plurality of temporalities marking the unevenness of capitalist development in the 20th century. Whereas what we find today is a greater push to synchronize. What fascism today is oriented towards is a fully synchronous temporality.

I’m not so sure I agree with that. It might be the case in the Global North, maybe in the United States, in Europe. But I’m not even sure that’s really the case either. But let’s say it might function in the Global North. It certainly cannot be said to function, though, in the Global South. I mean, if you look at Modi, for example, the attempted creation of a Hindutva imaginary in India—essentially a Hindu nation—there’s the claim that Muslims and members of other religious groups were once Hindus who were converted forcibly to these other religions; they need to be reconverted back to Hinduism or they need to leave. There’s an attempt at purity, a politics of purity and identity, politics in a certain register, which is also interesting because it presents itself as anti-colonial. It feeds off the post-colonialism and anti-Marxism of the Subaltern Studies Group and so on, because, of course, the Muslims were a colonizing force. The Mughals were a colonizing force. There’s a sort of blending of Left and Right tropes in this context. My point is, though, that it’s both. There is a hyper-modernizing language at play; you see this with the legislation that has provoked such an enormous response from the Indian farmers, which would essentially lead to a commodification of farmland and exacerbate the already difficult situation of the agricultural sector and for farmers in particular. This is part of a modernizing logic. It is very much oriented towards the future, a kind of accelerationism, you could say. But it’s one that’s also very backward-looking in terms of a refashioned Hindu identity (e.g., the notion that these ancient Ayurvedic remedies could be used now in place of certain forms of modern [European] medical science and so on).

And I think the pandemic today in India—which is absolutely out of control, it’s catastrophic—has something to do with this deep ambivalence towards modernity. You have market forces unleashed, but at the same time, skepticism of Western science and Western notions of human rights and so on. So that doesn’t strike me, in other words, as a kind of fully synchronous temporality. Rather, it’s one that’s deeply contradictory. So, it would be an interesting discussion to have with Alberto.

Emily: In your article, you pin the “posthuman” against anti-humanism, which is interesting and not something that I’ve seen very often, especially with the current left-wing embrace of post-humanism. I’m wondering if you can touch upon this article, as well as a recent lecture on “Adorno and Identity Politics” where you discuss the successful strategy of right-wing populism and its identification with or as an aggressor—which grants the illusion of having one’s enmities represented in some meaningful way. How does this “success” implicate the Left and how might we think the desire to cancel and the paradoxical need to abandon these prohibitions on language? How can we understand both “sides,” meaning both the identification with the aggressor that one finds with right-wing populism and the effect on the Left?

Samir: I think that my theorizing of right-wing populism, populism more generally, is indebted to the Frankfurt tradition, of course, but in particular to this book by Leo Löwenthal and Norbert Guterman called Prophets of Deceit. In that book, the authors essentially say that we can classify three distinct kinds of responses to a socioeconomic situation, a crisis, and that in doing so, we can isolate the different positions on the political spectrum. In the face of a socioeconomic crisis, you have the Left: revolutionary and reformist wings of the Left both engage in a structural analysis of the conditions of the crisis and its causes and articulate two distinct programs of action. The revolutionary wing of the Left wants a total transformation of society, in terms of destruction of class society and truly equitable distribution of power and wealth. The reformist wing of the Left, of course, wants to ameliorate the conditions of inequality and the conditions that lead to the social unrest that is part of the socio-economic crisis: things like progressive taxation, redistribution of wealth, protections for workers, trade union rights, and so on.

Their [Löwenthal and Guterman’s] focus is on the right-wing approach, what we would call the right-wing populist approach, which is that of the agitator. The agitators, rather than providing any kind of analysis of the socio-economic crisis, try to identify scapegoats who can be held responsible. This also reminds me of my own experience and my own family’s experience in Uganda, 1972. The middleman is held responsible for conditions of crisis, and the experience of inequality and injustice, in order to enact measures to deal with that particular group of people. We can think about the long-standing anti-Semitism in Europe and more recently, we can think about anti-Muslim perspectives, opinions, and actions. Islamophobia is very much alive and well. So, what the agitator does is to use the discontent of the masses to further his—for it is usually, though not always, a male figure—own particular political agenda, without providing any structural analysis, but simply taking the discontent of the citizenry, of the masses, and stoking it, using it, and manipulating it for political ends.

This is how I see right-wing populism, which often has a highly visible leader with a certain kind of contradictory charisma. Who does this? I mean, Trump was a master of this, right? And Trumpism hasn’t gone away. So that’s the situation. And I think what has happened is that the Left has gotten into this game of challenging—at the level of identity politics, anti-racism, and so on—the position of our contemporary agitators, and they’ve sought to, in a way, harness or control or regulate the transgressive and offensive speech that comes from the agitator and the agitators’ followers. But it hasn’t done what it really should do, which is to provide a proper structural analysis of the socio-economic crisis. As I pointed out elsewhere, it is chronic rather than acute, it is not just a discrete event, but it has been generalized. Crisis is the oxygen upon which neo-liberalism feeds. The crisis today is that of political crisis, and the deepening of right-wing authoritarianism has nothing to do with the strength of the Right per se, but its ability to mobilize a socio-economic crisis to its own ends by blaming certain groups.

And there is no countervailing force from the Left to challenge this narrative and to provide a different sort of analysis grounded in the need for structural transformation. There’s a real failure there and this concerns my discussion of class earlier. There’s a real reluctance to address class in a structural way, which also means bringing capital and the value-form into the discussion. This is very much part and parcel of the conditions and the dimensions of the time for fascism. The objective conditions of the crisis are framed by 9/11 and the 2007/2008 financial crisis. They are two central moments of our crisis today. So that’s the time for fascism. The time of fascism has to do with a paucity of real Left alternatives. Again, the Left has preoccupied itself far too much with trying to regulate manifestations—symptoms—of fascism rather than providing real alternatives to its political agenda, and this is ongoing, really, with the defeat of Bernie in the last round of the nomination battle with Biden.

Emily: Yes, and thank you for that. I hope that those who are reading (or listening) to our conversation today, be it students, scholars, or those who are interested in these issues, might consider our conversation as a sort of call to action. And this includes the demanding work of thinking. Many of us need to take a pause, to stretch the moment between the interval and the act, as Simone Weil would say.

Samir: I want to reinforce this point, and it’s a crucial one. Increasingly, we must regard thinking as a political act because certainly unthinking is deeply political insofar as it depoliticizes people. Thinking is a political act that actually can (but doesn’t necessarily) lead to real political engagement.

You can listen to this interview at The Object Lesson, the podcast of the PICT Student Ambassador Program.