January 2020

Ariella Aïsha Azoulay: Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism

Imaging Dissent: Towards Becoming a Common Subject

Ariella Aïsha Azoulay’s recent book Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism looks at the imperial origins of our democracies by analyzing the technologies that have been developed to support and maintain them. Azoulay details how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a text tailored to protect the rights of our imperial democracies. According to Azoulay, imperial rights are bolstered by professional fields such as photography, computer programming, and architecture, among others, which play a key role in the reproduction of the hierarchical structures created by imperialism on a global scale. Azoulay proposes a reversal of imperial rights—from “the right to” to “the right not to”—as the basis for a politics of restitution that should replace the pursuit of “progress” driven by market and empire.

Ariella Aïsha Azoulay teaches political thought and visual culture at Brown University.

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