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Levinas Meets the Postcolonial: Rethinking the Ethics of the Other

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The Ethics of Subjectivity
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Abstract

To what extent can Levinas’ thought be useful, to engage with and perhaps learn from, non-Western and postcolonial ethical frameworks and conceptions of difference and alterity? An encounter between ethical metaphysics and “other” non-Western, postcolonial philosophies of alterity seems critical in light of the fact that all of Levinas’ philosophical labors have relentlessly been dedicated to uncovering the violence at the very heart of Western philosophy — the reductive tendency of the Self to reduce, subject or “colonize” any and every form of otherness it comes into contact with. Within the canon of contemporary Western philosophy, his has been one of the most prominent (if not the first) voice(s) to initiate the ethical turn towards the Other, insisting upon the inherent responsibility we bear towards others. With this insistence, Levinas decisively reconstrued the decentered subject of the second half of the 20th century in terms of its fundamental relatedness to the Other. This Other is not merely the one who appeals to me in the face of the beggar, the orphan or the widow. More radically, this Other is conceived as an alterity lodged within the self. When considering the possibility of a critical encounter between Levinas and non-Western and/or postcolonial conceptions of the other, however, one runs up against a number of challenges.

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Notes

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© 2015 AB (Benda) Hofmeyr

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Hofmeyr, A. (2015). Levinas Meets the Postcolonial: Rethinking the Ethics of the Other. In: Imafidon, E. (eds) The Ethics of Subjectivity. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137472427_16

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