SOAS University of London

SOAS Festival of Ideas

Capital and Conflict - Panel Discussion


Date: 22 October 2020Time: 1:00 PM

Finishes: 22 October 2020Time: 3:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Panel Discussion

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Conflict wasn't born with capitalism, for sure, but it has acquired a different shape and intensity as well as a global character with the advent of capitalism. Born in Western Europe, capitalism was predicated upon the plunder and subjugation of the rest of the world through colonialism and imperialism. However, the decentering of Western Europe followed nowadays by the decentering of the global West, which is the dominant part of the Global North, are shifting the emphasis of global struggles increasingly towards universal social and political emancipation.

This panel considers how the process of globalisation affects the Global South and what are the exclusionary practices of capital that increase the gap between the rich and the poor? Expert Panelists look at specific examples of states and their participation in the global political economy. What are the global systems of production that determine international relations and how do politicians and policy makers mediate conflict? To what extent is the crisis of capital in the Global North connected to histories of colonialism, war and nationalism? How can we mediate the flow of knowledge through a Global South perspective when it comes to labor-capital conflicts?

The panelists include:

  • Professor Steve Tsang, SOAS University of London
  • Dr Gilbert Achcar, SOAS University of London
  • Geeta Patel, University of Virginia
  • Terry Cannon, Institute of Development Studies
Steve Tsang

Professor Steve Tsang is Director of the SOAS China Institute, School of Oriental and African Studies University of London. He is also an Emeritus Fellow of St Antony’s College at Oxford, and an Associate Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House).

He previously served as the Head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies and as Director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham. Before that he spent 29 years at Oxford University, where he earned his D.Phil. and worked as a Professorial Fellow, Dean, and Director of the Asian Studies Centre at St Antony’s College.

Professor Tsang regularly contributes to public debates on different aspects of issues related to the politics, history, foreign policy, security and development of the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and East Asia more generally. He is known in particular for introducing the concept of 'consultative Leninism' as an analytical framework to understand the structure and nature of politics in contemporary China. He has a broad area of research interest and has published extensively, including five single authored and thirteen collaborative books. His latest publication is an article ‘Party-state Realism: A Framework for Understanding China’s Approach to Foreign Policy’, in the Journal of Contemporary China, and he is starting a new project on ‘The Political Thought of Xi Jinping’.

 Gilbert Achcar

Gilbert Achcar was born in Senegal, grew up in Lebanon, researched and taught in Beirut, Paris, and Berlin, and is currently Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at SOAS, University of London (interview). An author published in over fifteen languages, his many books include: The Clash of Barbarisms: The Making of the New World Disorder (2002, 2nd ed. augmented 2006); Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy, co-authored with Noam Chomsky (2007, 2nd ed. augmented 2008); The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (2010); Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism (2013); The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising (2013) and most recently Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising (2016) – all available in Arabic, English and French as well as various other languages. He is a frequent contributor to Le Monde diplomatique and a regular columnist in the Arabic press.


Ending fake binaries: decolonising development means erasing notions of ‘developed’ and ‘developing’

How many researchers come to Britain to do PhDs on hunger, poor health, bad education, ‘democracy’ and governance – in Britain? Why are these seen as problems for the ‘global South’ that are somehow categorised differently in the ‘global North’? Does development studies deserve to be a distinct way of framing problems. Or is this the result of a fake binary that sees most of the world’s population as existing under some different set of rules and relationships that means something has to be done (by outsiders!) to make them better? Why are the relationships involved in this outsider interference not understood as being inherently colonial? Terry Cannon reflects on these questions to suggest that Capital (and Conflict) has no sense of these binary divisions. But ‘development studies’ now engages in disguising the interconnected character of economic and political processes in order to claim its exceptionalism. This leads to collusion with Capital in not analysing the causes of why there are problems anywhere in the world, and the notion that ‘problems’ in the global South are somehow different and must be ‘fixed’ by so-called aid.

Geeta Patel

Geeta Patel is a Professor at the University of Virginia, with three degrees in science and a doctorate from Columbia University, NY in inter-disciplinary South Asian Studies (in Sanskrit and Urdu). She has published widely in both academic and popular venues on the collusive conundrums posed by bringing gender, nation, sexuality, finance, science, media, capital, and aesthetics together, and translated lyric and prose from Sanskrit, Urdu, Hindi and Braj. Her first monograph, Lyrical Movements, Historical Hauntings: On Gender, Colonialism and Desire in Miraji’s Urdu Poetry, writes the history of Indian literary modernism through its harbinger Miraji. Lyrical Movements imagines its landscape through Urdu lyric infused with sexuality that takes on the depredations of colonial incursions into literary imaginaries. Dr Patel’s second book, Risky Bodies & Techno-Intimacy: Reflections on Sexuality, Media, Science, Finance, uses techno-intimacy as the locus for interrogating capital, science, media and desire. In Risky Bodies Dr. Patel tunes into science in unexpected ways in order to investigate political economy, nationalism, sexuality, financialization, cinema. She is the co-editor of three special issues that engage several of her areas of expertise. “In Queery/In Theory/ In Deed” and “Area Impossible,” for GLQ and “Trust and Islamic Capital” for Society and Business Review. Dr. Patel is completing several other projects: a manuscript on the Muslim woman writer Ismat Chughtai using the history of scientific realism, light, quantum and special relativity as vectors; a manuscript on fantasies embedded in advertising called “Billboard Fantasies.” She is the completing research for and writing a series of small books on historical pensions, insurance, credit and debt. The first is on the first private public pension fund—the Madras Civil Fund which was started in the late 1700s and whose articulation brought Mughal and European notions of financial compensation together. This book will rewrite the commonly understood history of pensions and the welfare state – relocating it from Europe to India and backdating it by about 100 years. It will also rescript the history of capital. Her current research is on the ways in which the history of bacteriology and our relationship to our own bacterial life produces our everyday sense of nationalism as settler colonialists in our own bodies. Dr. Patel and Meghan Hartman are also compiling a monograph of their new translations of Miraji’s poetry. She has recently begun composing her own lyric under the lockdown in India.


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This event is part of the Virtual SOAS Festival of Ideas which will kick off a week-long series of virtual events. The festival includes: panel discussions, student led installations, masterclasses, keynote lectures, a public debate for/against on Decolonising Knowledge and a Verbatim performance by Bhuchar Boulevard on ‘Decolonising Not Just a Buzzword’ capturing SOAS conversations about the need to decolonise its imperial mission.

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