Jan
18

Can Non-Europeans Think? (Dabashi)

I looked forward to Hamid Dabashi's Can Non-Europeans Think? (2015), with a forward by Walter Mignolo. Although the articles are interesting, they are a disconnected set of writings over a period of fifteen or so years. Most are former journalistic publications, which leaves academic readers wanting for references to follow-up on and dig deeper. The feature of the book is probably the exchanges that took place following a 2013 Al Jazeera article by Dabashi by the same title. I found Mignolo's forward and the opening contributions the most interesting, the others are on the topic of answer the book's question, or a demonstrations of it (yes, non-Europeans can think) but are more time and topic specific (e.g. on Edward Said, Iran, Arab Spring). Journalistic editorials, while interesting in the moment seem to lose their edge when the years have passed.

A few notes:

"This is "fast knowledge" produced on the model of "fast food," with plastic cups, plastic knives, plastic forks, bad nutrition, false satisfaction. The US invades Afghanistan and these think tanks produce a knowledge conducive to that project; then the US leads another invasion of Iraq and these think tanks begin producing knowledge about Iraq, with little or no connection with what they had said about Afghanistan, or what they might say about Iran. There is little or no epistemic consistency among the three – for these forms of knowledge are produced under duress (with tight deadlines) and are entirely disposable. You throw them out after one use." (p. 18)

"The question of Eurocentrism is now entirely blasé. Of course Europeans are Eurocentric and see the world from their vantage point, and why should they not? They are the inheritors of multiple (now defunct) empires, and they still carry within them the phantom hubris of those empires; they believe their particular philosophy is "philosophy" and their particular thinking is "thinking," while everything else is – as the great European philosopher Emmanuel Levinas was wont to say – "dancing."" (p. 33)

"A colonized mind is a colonized mind, whether it is occupied by the European right or by the cliché-ridden left: it is an occupied territory, devoid of detail, devoid of substance, devoid of love, devoid of a caring intellect. It smells of aging mothballs, and is nauseating." (p. 103-104)

"What unites Kant, Levinas, and Žižek (among many others) is that their self-universalizing philosophies are invariably predicated on denying others the capacity to think critically or creatively by way of enabling, authorizing, and empowering themselves to think for the world." (p. 259)

"Humanity needs new visionaries to shape its highest aspirations. The principal facts on the ground – acting as a beacon to those visionaries – are the wretched of the earth, the millions of human beings roaming the globe in search of the most basic necessities of life and liberty or else in fear of persecution. Muslims and Africans face the same ghastly discrimination in Europe as Latin American illegal immigrants do in the United States, as Afghan refugees do in Iran, as Palestinians (now joined by Africans) do in Israel, and as Filipino and Sri Lankan laborers do in the Arab world. That fact is the ground zero of principled moral positions." (p. 283-284)

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