Synopses & Reviews
Philosophy claims to be the search for knowledge, unbound by any fetters. Yet even a cursory analysis of how it is conceived when it exists outside the European tradition reveals a troubling bias. While European philosophy, for example is simply known as philosophy,” African philosophy is all too often dubbed ethnophilosophy.” The Western philosophical tradition simply hasnt acknowledged the vast amount of innovative thought that has flourished outside the European philosophical pedigreeand that has led to awkward, and damaging, failures to properly reckon with the ideas of people like Japans Kojin Karatani, Cubas Roberto Fernandez Retamar, or even Americas Cornel West.
In Can Non-Europeans Think?, Hamid Dabashi brings together a unique group of historical and theoretical reflections on current affairs and the role of philosophy to argue that, in order to grapple with the problems of humanity today, we must eliminate the ethnographic gaze that infects philosophy and casts Arab and other non-Western thinkers as subordinates.
Terry Eagleton once wrote in the Guardian, 'Few post-colonial writers can rival Homi Bhabha in his exhilarated sense of alternative possibilities'. In rethinking questions of identity, social agency and national affiliation, Bhabha provides a working, if controversial, theory of cultural hybridity, one that goes far beyond previous attempts by others. A scholar who writes and teaches about South Asian literature and contemporary art with incredible virtuosity, he discusses writers as diverse as Morrison, Gordimer, and Conrad. In The Location of Culture, Bhabha uses concepts such as mimicry, interstice, hybridity, and liminality to argue that cultural production is always most productive where it is most ambivalent. Speaking in a voice that combines intellectual ease with the belief that theory itself can contribute to practical political change, Bhabha has become one of the leading post-colonial theorists of this era.
In rethinking questions of identity, social agency and national affiliation, Bhabha provides a working, if controversial, theory of cultural hybridity. Bhabha uses such concepts as mimicry to argue that cultural production is always most productive where it is most ambivalent.
What happens with thinkers who operate outside the European philosophical 'pedigree'? Why is European Philosophy 'Philosophy', but African philosophy 'ethnophilosophy'? In Japan, Kojin Karatani, in Cuba, Roberto Fernandez Retamar, or even in the United States people like Cornel West, whose thinking is not entirely in the European continental tradition - what about them? Where do they fit in? Can they think - is what they do also thinking, philosophical, pertinent, perhaps, or is that also suitable for ethnographic examinations?
In this challenging and thought provoking book Dabashi pulls together a unique constellation of historical and theoretical reflections on current affairs to argue that we need to breakdown the ethnographic gaze that is evident with intellectual thinking in the Arab world.
About the Author
Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.
Table of Contents
Foreword: Yes, We Can by Walter Mignolo
Introduction: Can Europeans Read?
1 Can Non-Europeans Think?
2 The Moment of Myth Edward Said, 1935-2003
3 The Middle East is Changed Forever
4 The War between the Civilized Man and the Savage
5 Postcolonial Defiance or Still the Other
Conclusion: The Continued Regime of Knowledge