This article investigates how colonial modernity frames not only the material development but also the psychic emergence of liberal subjectivity by reexamining Melanie Klein’s notions of reparation, a key concept in both psychoanalysis and political theory. The article reconsiders the recent turn in affect studies emphasizing the redemptive quality of love in the reparative process by offering a very different reading that I describe as “colonial object relations.” Attention to colonial object relations reveals the ways in which affect is unevenly distributed in the history of liberal empire and reason. It exposes how love and hate are affectively policed to create a field of good and bad objects and liberal and indigenous subjects, regulated by a colonial morality that is not the cause but rather the effect of processes of repair. What are the colonial dimensions of object relations or, more generally, the affective contours of liberal reason? These questions become especially important given contemporary definitions of reparations in politics and political theory characterizing it as a kind of corrective justice seeking to redress a long history of colonial violence and violation.
April 11, 2016