a dialectics of dreaming -

Anisha Sankar

Freedom, the absence of

Was it that we’re born free, but everywhere we are in chains? Or was it that we are not born free, we have to become free? The question of which comes first feels considerably less important than the underlying similarity in both: freedom is something we must fight for. I explain this to my class after they read The Communist Manifesto. We talk about the concentration of power in the hands of the few. We talk about dispossession, displacement, and debasement. The first question they ask is, ‘what are the means of production?’ And the second: ‘is there really another way?’


Our bodies inherit the traumas of colonial hunting (which is to say, we are haunted). We are in and out of History, neither here nor there. Land and labour belong not to rightful owners, but to those masters of modernity that created us in the image of their desire. Above all, violence reigns. In which dark cave does our will to liberation take refuge?


is how Aimé Césaire describes what happens in the colonial encounter, it’s the process of making a human into a thing (to be exploited). A process of colonial hunting and containment. What does it mean to capture the image of a body with skin the colour of the earth? I think that this process mimics  thingification. Don’t take my picture ever again. Did I move too fast? Let me explain: I think of the master’s tools; an array of weapons taking different forms. Some are less obvious in their intent than others, but all function similarly as a means of colonial control, working to sustain the binary distinction between coloniser and colonised that affords power only to the former - an assertion of domination of flesh and blood.


Blood, body

When history sleeps, it speaks in dreams: on the brow of the sleeping people, the poem is a

constellation of blood. . . .

– Octavio Paz, “Toward the Poem”

I think about blood and flesh, the material manifestations of history. Bones born out of struggle. I think of freedom, and how badly our bodies depend on it. I wonder how my body would move through the world if it were free.

The domain of the strange

In times of longing for a different way of being-in-the-world, I find myself drawn to the magic of surrealism. The surrealist poet Suzanne Césaire once called surrealism ‘the domain of the strange, the marvelous and the fantastic, a domain scorned by people ofcertain inclinations. Here is the freed image, dazzling and beautiful’.[1] The strange wraps me in its embrace, shelters  me in a home I have yet to find in the familiar. The strange gives light to the endless possibilities of a new world. It is a field in which explorations of revolution and freedom can exist in their richest form. And in doing so, it reveals the fundamental truths about the nature of a society in which access to the marvelous is restricted - a state of alienation from possibility.


In our dreams we are unconfined to thinking in deficit. Our desires there are not mediated simply
by inverting the current relations of power. Dreaming is a political strategy. The radical power of
dreaming is that visions of what a different world might look like helps to illuminate the very  things that are wrong with this one. The contradictions of colonial capitalism become apparent, illuminating its weakest points – clues to its surpassing. Dreams are revolutionary because they show us worlds of possibility, unhindered by the material conditions of the present. In our dreams we are empowered with the agency that was once stripped away. They give us power inconceivable in the waking hours. Dreaming collapses time and space; a rupture in colonialtemporalities and the violence of its hold.

Galactic dreaming

Where do you go in moments of suffocation?
Are your dreams galactic, other-worldly?
What can you taste here, what can you smell?


A rupture with the Real fuels the fiery spirit of the revolution.


to leave / to divide / to go away from / to die

A departure from this world is not only possible – it is an urgent necessity.



[1] Suzanne Césaire, ‘The Domain of the Marvelous’, in Surrealist Women: An International Anthology, ed. Penelope Rosemont (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998), 137.


Anisha Sankar is a Chennai-born, Awakairangi-raised, south Indian Tamil. She currently lives in Tāmaki Makaurau where she is a PhD Candidate at the University of Auckland. Her work explores the contradictions of colonial capitalism.