Revisioning modernity: modernity in Eurasian perspectives
I will pursue in this discussion the implications of the contemporary consciousness of globality for our understanding of the formations of modernity, with specific reference to developments during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), immediately following the Mongol invasions which for the first time created the conditions for imagining Eurasia as a whole (Smith 2003). Spurred on by this new consciousness, historians have turned over the last three decades to exploration of the part transcontinental interactions played in the emergence of 'the modern world,' which in the past had been viewed mostly as the creation of European initiative and activity. The recognition that others had participated in the making of modernity has challenged the assumption, deeply embedded in Euromodern historiography, that modernity was a product of developments internal to European history—which, along with the centering of history around Europe, is the fundamental meaning of Eurocentrism (Amin 1989). The shift to an emphasis on inter-societal relations in the making of modernity raises a further question that is yet to be confronted in its full complexity: what participation in the making of modernity might mean for our understanding of these other societies. Did they, too, change significantly as a consequence of these interactions, and if so, what are we to make of these changes?
Arif Dirlik most recently served as the Liang Qichao Memorial Distinguished Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. The memorial lectures are forthcoming from the Chinese University of Hong Kong Press under the title, History and Culture in Postrevolutionary China: The Perspective of Global Modernity. Also forthcoming are two edited volumes, Sociology and Anthropology in Twentieth Century China (also published by CUHK Press), and, Global Capitalism and the Future of Agrarian Society (Paradigm Publishers). A collection he has edited on guoxue/national studies will be published as a special issue of China Perspectives.