To think of the pedagogy of solidarity as relational is, first, to acknowledge being as co-presence, by deliberately taking as a point of departure that individual subjects do not enter into relationships, but rather subjects are made in and through relationships.
The apparent separation or distance from another is where Jean-Luc Nancy has located the illusion of individuality that pervades the modern subject. We are not who or what we think we are outside of relationships, and it is in these relationships that we are made as subjects; there is no “I” outside of “we” and there is no “we” without a “they.” Nancy (2000) develops this idea in his essay “Being Singular Plural,” in which he underscores, first, that being is always a “being-with” and that there is no existence outside of a co-existence. But what is most compelling about Nancy’s argument, and which he also develops in his essay “The Inoperative Community” (1991), is that the collective implied in “being” is never an already defined entity with stable markers of any sort. Rather, our collective being is also a being in relationship to another, with boundaries that are themselves part and parcel of being and that are constantly negotiated, redefined, extended, and encroached. Nancy provides a starting point for a conception of the human that is based, not on salvation from sin (theological) or on individual reason (rational), but on interdependency (relational).
Taking the notion of being-with as a point of departure, the question then becomes how to have relationships that are based on a solidary commitment to others, with and through whom the I is constituted, and to changing the economic conditions and the symbolic orders through which both self and other are constituted as such. This is not so much about coming to “know” the other, since the other is, according to Levinas, “infinitely unknowable,” but about attending to the conditions of possibility that produce the encounter between self and other (Todd, 2001). For Sara Ahmed this requires being alert to the conditions of the encounter that “might affect where we might yet be going” (2000, p. 145):
To describe, not the other, but the mode of encounter in which I am faced with an other, is hence not to hold the other in place, or to turn her into a theme, concept or thing. Rather, it is to account for the conditions of possibility of being faced by her in such a way that she ceases to be fully present in this very moment of the face to face, a non-present-ness which, at one and the same time, opens out the possibility of facing something other than this other, of something that may surprise the one who faces, and the one who is faced (the not yet and the elsewhere). (p. 145)
To think of solidarity relationally is to ask the question: how am I being made by others? What are the consequences of my being on others? What kinds of sacrifices are implied in the mythology of myself as being and my insistence in my individual freedom? This is ultimately about examining the particular arrangements that enable subjectivities to emerge and be constituted as individual experiences. This way of questioning “being” brings to the center material conditions and highlights inequality as the basis of present being, rather than as an accident of present conditions. It also highlights the “double-bind” of both acknowledging while at the same time undermining the very constructions of difference that make relationships, and thus the subject, intelligible (see Spivak, 1999). To confront being in this way means to ask how is this mythology of me the result of unequal circumstances and injustice; it is fundamentally, at once, about the politics of identity as well as the politics of imagining a future.
"Decolonization and the pedagogy of solidarity," Rubén A. Gaztambide-Fernández