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Breaking the Wall to a Paracolonial Paradigm

Falling Walls Foundation | Dilip Menon


How humanity’s destiny can be framed by shared heritages through oceanic connections

How can we think of the world as composed of categories derived from particular spaces and lifeworlds, rather than a space with categories seen as universal? How do we move beyond contingent formations, like nations and the triad of pre-, colonial, and post-colonial, to think about connected paracolonial histories between Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean? Dilip Menon is currently the Mellon Chair of Indian Studies at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. As a historian of ideas, he was educated at the universities of Delhi, Oxford, and Cambridge. His research focuses on oceanic histories and epistemology of the global south. At Falling Walls, Dilip will talk about creating a paracolonial framework that goes beyond the nation state, and that looks at the ways in which humanity’s destiny is framed by shared heritages through oceanic connections. In a time of global warming, the rising waters, and vast human migrations, we need a politics of affinity that moves from the idea of stranger to that of friendship.


Dilip Menon is the Breakthrough of the Year 2021 in the Social Sciences and Humanities category.

Dilip Menon

University of Witwatersrand

Currently the Mellon Chair in Indian Studies at the University of Witwatersrand, Dilip Menon was educated at Delhi, Oxford and Cambridge. He is a historian of ideas and his research focuses on oceanic histories and epistemologies of the global south. He has worked collaboratively with scholars from Africa, Asia, and Latin America to develop a conceptual vocabulary for the social sciences from traditions of intellection in these spaces. He works with the idea of paracoloniality; of what always exceeded the colonial encounter in the making of the modern world.

Dilip Menon’s latest publications include Elementary Aspects of the Political: Histories from the Global South, Ocean as Method: Thinking with the Maritime, Changing Theory: Concepts from the Global South, and Walking on Water: Globalization and History.

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Radialsystem Berlin
Holzmarktstraße 33
Berlin, 10243 Germany

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