Philosophical Hermeneutics and Comparative Political Theory

This paper examines Hans-Georg Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics and its appropriation by Fred Dallmayr as a powerful alternative to Orientalism and political theory’s parochialism. Drawing on Gadamer, a number of comparative political theorists similarly invoke the tropes of provocation, self-disruption, and self-dislocation to highlight the benefits that ensue from cross-cultural dialogue and the encounter with non-Western texts. But absent a more concrete theorisation of how dialogue may unsettle and disrupt our self-understandings, the repeated invocation of this trope remains just a phrase. The aim of this paper is to problematise the easy separation of dialogue from power that prevails in much CPT literature. To this end, I use Joshua Casteel’s account of the encounter between an interrogator and detainee in his Letters from Abu Ghraib as an example of the kind of transformative self-disruption that comparative political theorists invoke but do not theorise.

Evgenia Ilieva

Assistant Professor, Politics at Ithaca College