Towards a Global, Fractal (Post)Colonial Theory

Interrogating the Colonial Matrix Through Explorations of Space and Consciousness

Essay, 2016

15 Pages, Grade: A


Towards a Global, Fractal (Post)Colonial Theory: Interrogating the Colonial Matrix Through Explorations of Space and Consciousness

In her 2016 essay Fractal Thinking, theorist Denise Ferreira da Silva addresses the contemporary, reactionary leftist and neoliberal pathology to (mis)understand histories of colonialism through a line of linear thinking. Though mainly focused on how mechanisms of raciality and coloniality intersect and engage with the (re)production of global capital, Silva also argues for a rethinking of history. According to Silva, linear thought is beholden singularly to Western European philosophy and theory (in the vein of Žižek and Badiou). Thus, conceptions of history and modernity are formed through patterns of restrictive, Western European-centric linearities. To Silva, brutal and traumatic events such as slavery and colonialism are not relegated to a remote, bygone past as linear thinking suggests. Instead, they are foundational and omnipresent in our collective modern psyche: the conception of the present is grounded in the ontologies of the past. The violent edifices of hegemony, captivity, and supremacy that distinguished the ages of colonialism and slavery so too birthed the Enlightenment quest for “emancipation” and “egalitarianism” and forged global capitalism as we know it today. In response, Silva articulates an alternate mode of thought which she terms “compositional thinking” (Fractal Thinking). Compositional thinking “…[is the understanding that] what happens is also a composition (or de-composition or re-composition), always already a reassembling of what has happened before and of what has yet to happen” (Fractal Thinking). Indeed, history is not that which lurks discursively in a bygone era, it is rather the material of our past, present, and future. Silva’s compositional thinking seeks to understand this complex history with a four-dimensional perspective. Instead of simply looking at where and when something happens, “One can attend simultaneously to all four dimensions: space (depth, width, and length) and time (Einstein’s fourth dimension)” (Fractal Thinking), allowing the subject to “[attend]… to four dimensions without privileging time, which imposes directionality on thinking…” (Fractal Thinking). Compositional thought subverts reductive lines of linear thinking in favor of comprehending events as “constitutive elements, which may also be part of other compositions (what has happened and has yet to happen) comprising similar elements” (Fractal Thinking). Through four-dimensional analysis, patterns throughout history are exposed which:

“ …enables a kind of material thinking capable of reading symmetries, or correspondences. Images of poethical [compositional] thought are not linear (transparent, abstract, glassy, and determinate) but fractal (immanent, scalar, plenteous, and undetermined), like most of what exists in the world” (Fractal Thinking).

Thus, to understand the paradigmatic complexity of incidents of domination, subjugation, and sovereignty, those events which compose our histories and underly all global experiences, one must think fractally/compositionally/poethically. Analysis of patterns and symmetries without privileging the measure of time resituates our theoretical discourse into a “global context shaped by the previous and future repetitions of founding violence…” (Fractal Thinking).

Compositional thinking then conceives of the global as an appendage of the universe, thereby doing away with the notion of the global as “constituting the ultimate ontic and ontological horizon for thinking” (Fractal Thinking). Since compositional thinking considers the global as a component of the cosmos, events are “both an expression of, and expressed by, whatever exists under, above, and alongside; what has already passed, and what is yet to come” (Fractal Thinking). This rejection of linearity is revolutionary in that it directly maps the relationship of the “colonial-racial machinery” (Fractal Thinking) to not only time, but the various forms of space and place. In compositional thought, modes of colonialism are inextricably bound up with the geographies of bodies and lands. By uncovering the connective tissues between consciousness and space, compositional thinking works outside of typical theoretical frameworks and therefore “cannot be indifferent to racial violence in all of its iterations and expressions” (Fractal Thinking).

Drawing on Silva’s theory of compositional thinking and Kapil Kapoor’s Decolonizing the Indian Mind, I wish to briefly interrogate the relationship between consciousness and space, and more specifically, probe the connections between identity and geography in the context of colonialism. Further, building on the work of Jacques Derrida and Katherine McKittrick, I aim to address some of the failings of contemporary critical and (post)colonial theory in regards to how modern leftist, linear theories of the colonial subject persist as detrimental, hauntological renderings. Next, influenced by McKittrick’s Mathematics Black Life, I intend to deploy a decolonial interpretation that actively revokes and opposes imaginings of anti-indigenous violence rather than sustains it. I train my sights on the anti-colonial work of Kapoor to identify and dwell on instances and spaces of indigenous freedom and resistance. Ultimately, taking into account Kapoor’s criticisms of the Western economy and by putting Kapoor’s and Karl Marx’s work into conversation with each other, I will analyze how Marxist thought situates itself within a linear context and is unable to extricate itself from the colonial matrix.

Selfhood, and more largely, society, are ontologies inextricable from the geographies and localities from which they sprout; societies and cultures bear inexorable spatialities which are key to their very subsistence. (For example, though law itself may be a social construction, it requires a physical space to operate effectively. Law would be obsolete if it were not malleable enough to be situated and disseminated across spaces and bodies.) Here, I would like to make clear that I do not equate law with selfhood. However, before attempting to understand the interplay of space and consciousness on an individual level, it is pertinent to examine how societies interact with their respective geographies as a collective. On the societal level, law is one of the most glaring examples of how people interact with their surroundings. It is an attempt to structure not merely minds and bodies, but to merge doctrine with the physical. Alongside the human compulsion to create systems of code and law, there too exists a similar compulsion to demarcate land and manufacture cartographies. (Law acts as a valuable tool for constructing such boundaries, and ultimately enforcing them.) Consequently, the dualism and symbiosis of geography and law produce a praxis of policing and surveilling geographical demarcations. In line with Silva’s theory of compositional thinking, I am observing the interplay between geography and law not on a linear timescape, but as patterns of thought and mechanism which occur as a global experience. Each society and culture intimately negotiates its relationship to the space it occupies, and in many cases, the application of law and legislation onto physical geographical planes is a mode of making sense of, customizing, and finding meaning in locality. Comparatively, colonialism works to disrupt and restructure indigenous geographies. Colonialism compounds territorialism and capitalism (among other driving factors) while simultaneously utilizing markers of physical geography to reproduce itself, essentially racializing the land it consumes. (Racialized thought conflates race and geography, maintaining that “different” [Other] people are naturally segmented into different, Other places.


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Towards a Global, Fractal (Post)Colonial Theory
Interrogating the Colonial Matrix Through Explorations of Space and Consciousness
Seminar III
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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421 KB
Denise Ferreira da Silva, kapil Kapoor, Jacques Derrida, Katherina McKittrick, Karl Marx
Quote paper
Lena Dassonville (Author), 2016, Towards a Global, Fractal (Post)Colonial Theory, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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