Carolyn Rouse, “President Obama: Post-colonialism and the pragmatic turn”


The lecture engaged with what President Obama’s election means with respect to race relations and political idealism in the United States. The talk described the value of pragmatism as a theoretical approach to understand the presidencies of Barack Obama of the United States and John Mills of Ghana.

Professor Carolyn Rouse is a cultural anthropologist interested in development, medical anthropology, visual anthropology, resistance, critical race theory, consciousness, North America and Ghana. Her fieldwork focuses on four domains; religion, medicine, education and development. She examines race and inequality in the discourses and practises that are used to rationalize forms of suffering as well as to negate them. Her research draws attention to why people accept systems of inequality or alternatively find difficulty in recognizing power and mystification in their own backyards.


The pragmatic approach is not concerned with right and wrong. It is concerned with using cultural and material tools to make things better, not right.


Studying forgiveness and reconciliation as cultural forms instead of as right and wrong frees us to study why violence happens, and makes us realise the value of individuals and their experiences.

Asked about the current US presidential polls:


Americans are just so…. Well, I cannot speak for all Americans.



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