After the Deluge: New Universalism and Postcolonial Difference

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This article probes the promises and anomalies of a new universalism proposed by Dipesh Chakrabarty as an apparent retort to the challenge of the Anthropocene. Revising established understandings of temporality and human agency imagined within modernity, the new universalism depicts a radically different horizon shaped by interconnections produced by the subsumption of human history into natural history. A key element of Chakrabarty’s new universalism is his dramatic repudiation of the reputed postcolonial claim of difference which hurriedly dissolves the afterlife and persistence of coloniality on a global scale in favour of a yet-to-be-forged planetary consciousness. Chakrabarty’s new universalism raises profound questions for rethinking International Relations (IR). However, without due cognisance of sedimented difference, Chakrabarty ends up reciting the secular-liberal story of one-world universalism. It is argued here that a differentiated universalism organised around the notion of human finitude can simultaneously attend to postcolonial concerns and the challenge of the Anthropocene.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-373
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Relations
Issue number3
Early online date28 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2020


  • Anthropocene
  • new universalism
  • postcoloniality


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