21 June 2020
He may have received the lowest approval rating of any post-war US president at the end of their first calendar year – but Donald Trump is proving to be a game-changer in world politics.
The key impact in this regard is how Trump has exposed the fallibility in the Western-driven international relations discourse which, as Cornell West University professor Siba Grovogui avers, is based on the “hermeneutics of race in international theory”.
This is a discourse whereby, for example, the explanation of level of development or under-development of the various regions of the world is grounded in the subtle notions of race as well as their relations to progress and modernisation.
It is within this discourse that, forexample, some theorists racialise history and historical processes such as international relations through the use of analytical methods which, as Grovogui posits, “uphold ethnographic allusions associated with a hermeneutics of race and culture”.
According to Grovogui, such theorists, for example, hardly base their distinctions between civilised and uncivilised upon a comprehensive comparative investigation of the West and other regions in regard to historical traditions, political morality and cultural disposition. They instead
appeal to racial clichés and oversimplified notions of culture.
This is what has led to the current discourse about, for example, international relation wherein like the slavery for which it once stood in the 19th century, Africa has emerged to the Western public yet again as a metaphor for a number of evils: economic inequality, poverty, corruption, fratricide, and failed states. The multiplicity of these signs of evil and despair, says Grovogui, “allows for multiple allusions to race without the inconvenience of falling prey to a natural-history ontology of race, civilisation, and culture – particularly in relation to supposed regional performances and ethics”.
Through his narcissistic and racist behaviour Trump has actually upturned the applecart of the hermeneutics of race in international theory by showing the significance of the relations in determining the distribution of social power within society. He has shown that, regardless of whether those relations occur in the global North or South, if such relations have, for example, historically been based on racialised dispossession they do remain entrenched in the present.
Most importantly, Trump has shown the world that as much as those from the global South have shown the world political miscreants like the former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, the global North do have theirs like himself.
He has shown that it is through their narcissistic behaviour that these miscreants can equally so entrap their nations into a raging cauldron of fratricide, inequality, poverty and political instability.
- Lekota is an independent media practitioner.