Journal Article

Historical Agency and the Coloniality of Power in Postsocialist Europe

Published 1 January 2013 / By Dace Dzenovska

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In this article, I analyse the ways in which coloniality as a racialized and racializing rationality of government and knowledge production shapes political and historical subjects in postsocialist Europe. I analyse Latvian attempts to establish historical presence in European modernity through appropriation of 17th-century colonial pursuits of the Duchy of Courland into Latvian national history, as well as interpretations of this historical appropriation by Western scholars and travellers. I argue that Latvian identification with Europe’s colonial past not only renders visible the continued salience of coloniality in European politics but also illuminates the mechanisms through which Europe attempts to renew its moral superiority in the global arena by relegating colonialism to a past that Europe claims to have overcome and that Latvians are required to overcome to become fully European. I argue that in order to understand how coloniality continues to inform political life in contemporary Europe it is necessary to move beyond analysis of national histories and deploy a relational approach which traces how contemporary political subjects are constituted in racialized and racializing fields of power relations. It is also necessary to analyse postsocialist Eastern Europe not only in relation to the socialist past but also the global present.

Dzenovska, D. (2013), 'Historical Agency and the Coloniality of Power in Postsocialist Europe', Anthroplogical Theory, 13(4): 394-416