Law and Critique

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 63–85 | Cite as

The Politics of Hope and the Other-in-the-World: Thinking Exteriority

  • Jayan Nayar


The paper offers a critical interrogation of the politics of hope in relation to suffering in the world. It begins with a critique of the assumptions and aspirations of ‘philosophies of hope’ that assume a Levinasian responsibility for the suffering-Other. Such approaches to thinking hope reveal an underlying coloniality of ontology, of totality/exteriority, which defines Being and Non-Being, presence and absence, in totality. Consistent with past colonial rationalities, the logics of salvation and rescue define, still, these contemporary envisionings of the ‘white man’s burden’ in relation to the suffering Other. A decolonial ontology of Exteriority, of an incommensurable radical Other-Being against Totality, is instead presented. The focus here shifts from the passive suffering-Other that is the object of rescue, to the Radical Other that is the author of encounter. By returning Exteriority (the Radical Other-in-the-World) to theory and by opening up theory’s locations of enunciation, the implications of responsibility, in thinking hope, become open also to interrogation and vulnerable to unsatisfactory conclusions.


Coloniality of ontology Levinas Politics of hope Radical other Totality and exteriority Useless suffering and responsibility for the other 



I am grateful to Alan Norrie, Flavia Gasperetti, Upendra Baxi, Sam Adelman, Raza Saeed, Abdul Paliwala and Dwijen Rangnekar for their generosity in conversation on the themes considered here, and for their useful comments on earlier drafts of this essay. A further note of thanks to Raza Saeed for his help in preparing the essay for publication.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

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