Cornell University

A 'Contrapuntal' Reading of Auguste Comte - Zine Magubane, Boston College

Friday, September 27, 2019 at 3:00pm to 4:30pm

Warren Hall, B73

Speaker: Zine Magubane, Sociology, Boston College

Abstract: At first glance, the writings of Auguste Comte (the 'father' of positivism) would seem to offer very little of value for postcolonial sociology. Indeed, in the standard ways that Comte appears in disciplinary histories, this would appear at first glance to be true. However, this talk will demonstrate that Comte’s sociology consistently engaged with the ‘metropolitan afterlife’ of France’s colonial endeavors. In order to support this claim, I will engage in a ‘contrapuntal’ reading of Comte’s major texts. To read a text contrapuntally, Edward Said (1993: 161) explained, is to read “with a simultaneous awareness both of the metropolitan history that it narrates and of those other histories against which (and together with which) the dominating discourse acts.” This talk will not only bring forward how central the revolution in Haiti was to Comte's thinking, it will also explain how and why Comte's obvious interest in the implications of the histories of slavery and colonialism to the making  of modernity have so easily been occluded in standard disciplinary histories.

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Event Type

Lecture, Seminar


Department of Development Sociology (DSOC)


dsoc, devsoc



Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Sarah Day


Zine Magubane

Speaker Affiliation

Boston College

Dept. Web Site

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