I composed Levinas and the Postcolonial: Race, Nation, Other fairly quickly, compared to other books I’ve written. It was a result of two very different forces. First, my intimate familiarity with the work of Emmanuel Levinas, a thinker I’d worked on and with for many years, dating back to my first year of graduate study. But I also needed to chart a clear path far away from Levinas’ work. My guide for that was actually the later work of Jacques Derrida, whom I often describe as more Levinasian than Levinas, and his remark that deconstruction is a form of anticolonialism. That claim animates the book, quietly. Second, the book is driven by my broad literacy in anti-, de-, and post-colonial theories of reading and interpretation. I put an eclectic group into critical relation to Levinasian ethics and politics in order to think about Europe, identity, and the boundaries of thinking. It marks my last serious engagement with European thought and, in that sense, enacts a own process of decolonizing my library, my literacy, and my forms and content of analysis as a philosopher. One could say, really, that this book clears the conceptual space for the kinds of thinking and interpretation I do in Glissant and the Middle Passage.



“Drabinski resolutely places himself in the unacknowledged double bind between the ethical and the political in Levinas’s work and, with an impressive and erudite humility, attempts to rethink Levinas for ‘those of us with a materialist sensibility.'” Gayatri Spivak, Columbia University 


To think postcolonial critique as a philosophy of difference and an ethical relation to the Other is inconceivable without taking into account the work of Emmanuel Levinas. Levinas and the Postcolonial refuses all theoretical ghettos to bring welcome intellectual rigor, depth, and insight to the critique of global colonialism. – Nick Nesbitt, Princeton University

“I do not myself have answers to all the questions I have raised, and I admire Drabinski’s book in many ways, not the least of which is the fact that it goes a good distance in getting us started thinking about such questions. More than that, though, the book is an impassioned, detailed and successful effort to bring Levinasian and postcolonial thinking about otherness together and to show the need that each has for the other.” – Deborah Achtenberg, University of Nevada

Full review at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“In Levinas and the Postcolonial, John E. Drabinski tenders a unique and provocative contribution to the sometimes parochial and conservative-minded field of Levinas scholarship, as well as the field of postcolonial thought, and phenomenology more generally. […] An overarching theme in Drabinski’s comparative investigation of Levinas is a materialist consideration for the experience of difference in the world as an event engineering an ethical encounter within ontology.” – Andrew Renahan, Concordia University

Full review at Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology

“[T]the central excellence of the book lies in the fact that it is the first major study putting Levinas in conversation with postcolonial philosophers in a way that does not simply read one in the terms of the other. I am a student of Levinas who learned a good deal about postcolonial thought in the course of this book. I think it would likely serve as well to inform postcolonialists about Levinas. Drabinski’s analyses are not introductory but, in his hands, familiarity with one strand of thought facilitates understanding of the other.The two strands meet here not as antagonists but as friends.” – Oona Eisenstadt, Pomona College

Full review at Twentieth-Century Literature

“[W]hat does the philosophy of the French philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, have to say to postcolonial studies? And is this a conversation worth having? These and related questions are at the heart of John Drabinksi’s [sic] Levinas and the Postcolonial: Race, Nation, Other (Edinburgh UP 2013), the central argument of which goes as follows: to decolonize Levinasian ethics, Levinasian thought must be decoupled from ‘the colonial provincialism of a fantasised Europe’ … Levinas and the Postcolonial is an interesting, ambitious book that will be of interest to scholars in the fields of postcolonial studies, francophone cultural studies, and continental philosophy.” – David Marriott, Penn State University

Full review at Critical and Cultural Theory

“The central problem, according to Drabinski, is this: Levinas’ conception is enmeshed in Eurocentric and transcendental moulds such that it forecloses meaningful engagement with ‘the other Other’ (p. xiii), that is, the empirical life-world (involving history, culture and poli- tics) across postcolonial/transnational contexts. Drabinski therefore employs the method of ‘A Levinasian thinking’ or ‘thinking with, yet beyond, Levinas’s texts’, (p. 21) devised in chapter 1, and eruditely engages with paradig- matic cases of postcolonial/transnational politics in the subsequent chapters which are nicely schematised, with each signifying a successive progression in the reconfiguration of Levinas’ work.” – Ngoru Nixon, Jawaharlal Nehru University

“John E. Drabinski’s study, Levinas and the Postcolonial: Race, Nation, Other, proceeds from the exemplarity of Emmanuel Levinas to western philosophy in general and the philosophy of difference in particular and the need to rethink his legacy in the con- text of postcolonialism and globalization. The philosopher of the Other, of “radical difference” par excellence, Levinas is the author of a body of work deemed to have invaluable potential for postcolonial critiques of cultural identity. Drabinsky [sic] explores how Levinas’s radical phenomenological ethic can inform the framework of postcolonial alterity if it can be purged of its colonial inflections. Reading Levinas’s ethic against postcolonial theories of difference, Drabinsky [sic] argues that Levinas’s thinking needs to be decolonized for it to elicit an authentically Levinasian vision of self and other.” – Adriana Neagu

Full review at Journal of Postcolonial Writing