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Decolonising Friendship

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Nordin, A.H.M (2020) AMITY: The Journal of Friendship Studies (2020) 6:1, 88-114. doi: 10.5518/AMITY/32

ABSTRACT: What might it mean to decolonise friendship? This article argues that friendship studies should take ‘decolonisation’ seriously. To decolonise scholarship means not only to critique the fact that ideas and historiographies deriving from ‘Western’ thinkers and experiences have informed the basic categories of social and political thought. It also means to challenge the mechanisms that have created the dominant imaginings of friendship. Through the example of writing on friendship in international relations, the article addresses three common assumptions that derive from European tradition: (1) friendship is the less important, residual, and feminised other of enmity; (2) friends need to be significantly similar to the Self; and (3) friends are valuable because they affirm a stable sense of Self. As a complement or counterpoint, the establishment of a postcolonial friendship studies would draw on a variety of sources to decentre Europe, and articulate alternative ways of thinking based on a variety of traditions of thought. The article draws on Chinese thought to illustrate one such alternative. In contrast to the assumptions made under the European egis, such a view of friendship would build on the premise that: (1) friendship is a central category for theorising global political relations, and should not be primarily understood in binary relation to enmity; (2) friends need to be significantly Other to the Self; and (3) we can have positive friendships with an unstable, flexible, and fluid sense of Self. Accordingly, this article proposes an interdisciplinary research agenda for a postcolonial friendship studies, centred on the entwinement of the histories, anthropologies and philosophies of friendship with those of North-South relations.

Keywords: decolonization; Eurocentrism; North-South relations; Chinese thought