Abstract

Abstract:

Sylvia Wynter ends her monumental essay “‘No Humans Involved:’ An Open Letter to My Colleagues” (1994) with an urgent call to address the dire condition of the jobless and poor: “We must now undo their narratively condemned status.” Who are “we”? The sentence separates the university and its “narratively condemned” other. In fact, what the pronoun “we” in the open letter refers to is situated and far from universal, for it is “we in academia” that institute the Western imperial constructs of race and class through “rigorous elaboration” of the present order of knowledge, the one that fails to register its misfits as humans, thus demoting them to the category of N.H.I. (“no humans involved”). I take Wynter’s letter as a point of departure by attending to its mode of address, its conscious use of the pronoun “we,” in light of her genealogy of the Eurocentric conceptions of humanity fundamentally entrenched in university vocation. In so doing, I re-raise the ethical and existential questions around the university, that is, its accountability for the enduring abjection of the N.H.I.-categorized Other, as well as the purpose and very reason for its being as an institutional structure.

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