, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 25-55
Date: 29 Oct 2012

For a postcolonial sociology

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Abstract

Postcolonial theory has enjoyed wide influence in the humanities but it has left sociology comparatively unscathed. Does this mean that postcolonial theory is not relevant to sociology? Focusing upon social theory and historical sociology in particular, this article considers if and how postcolonial theory in the humanities might be imported into North American sociology. It argues that postcolonial theory offers a substantial critique of sociology because it alerts us to sociology’s tendency to analytically bifurcate social relations. The article also suggests that a postcolonial sociology can overcome these problems by incorporating relational social theories to give new accounts of modernity. Rather than simply studying non-Western postcolonial societies or only examining colonialism, this approach insists upon the interactional constitution of social units, processes, and practices across space. To illustrate, the article draws upon relational theories (actor-network theory and field theory) to offer postcolonial accounts of two conventional research areas in historical sociology: the industrial revolution in England and the French Revolution.