Akeel Bilgrami, the famous Indian-American epistemologist and political philosopher of Columbia University, today was on a colloquium in Rome. The colloquium was held in our university, being performed in the form of a debate between Sebastiano Maffettone and Akeel Bilgrami on post-colonialism.
First at the beginning of the meeting Maffettone read his article which was a critic of postmodern foundations of Postcolonialism. Then Bilgrami made his counterarguments by reading his own article as a sophisticated defense of post-colonialist project. Maffettone believed that postmodernism of Derrida and Foucault is not a good philosophical base in order to defend legitimate criticisms of post-colonial thinkers concerning Western imperialism, whereas accusing Maffettone of oversimplifying postcolonialist claims, Bilgrami tried to defend philosophical and historical foundations of postcolonialist project and one by one answer his objections.
After the meeting, we all went to Libreria (a book&coffee shop close to our university), to have a talk and drink. On the way towards Libreria, I found the opportunity to tell Bilgrami about what I thought to be Iranian version of postcolonialism, referring mostly to the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist theories by Shariati and other similar Iranian thinkers just before Iran's Islamic revolution.
Very interestingly, Bilgrami knew Shariati well. He told me that he had read Shariati. He called Shariati an original thinker who combined very different schools of thought (Marxism, Existentialism, Islam, etc) under the umbrella of his theory. For Bilgrami it was strange that nowadays there is no word about Shariati in post-colonialist literature, whereas peoples like Fannon are much read and referred.
I told Akeel that now Shariati is a controversial thinker in Iran and many intellectuals, specially the young generation, are critic of his political thought, accusing him of paving the way for undemocratic situation of Iran after the Islamic revolution. As an example, I added that the present leader of Islamic republic, as is famously said, claims to be interested in Shariati's thought.
Akeel was mostly listening to my objections instead of answering them. The only case in which he made an answer was his telling me that in Shariati and other postcolonial theorists' though there was an strong element of Marxism, whereas Iran's leader is not interested in Marxism at all.
Then I told him that in nowadays Iran contrary to postcolonial tradition,capitalism is mostly counted as an emancipatory power against the state-centered, semi-communist model of the economics upheld by the Iranian government in the years after the revolution.
Akeel Bilgrami's applause of Shariati was very interesting for me. Akeel is a very well known thinker, and what he says about Shariati supposedly is based on a reasonableness. Here I would like to conclude that contrary to what Seyyed Javad Tabatabai and some others famously say about irrelevance of Shariati for present situation of Iran (and then probably green movement), we can still learn a lot of things from Shariati's post-colonialist model of thinking.