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Re: dialogue of civilizations?
by KSamman
02 May 2002 22:43 UTC
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In agreement with Frank, the Huntingtonites of the world assume that a "people" 
or culture possess distinctive and fixed attributes and beliefs that can be 
neatly bounded as self-sustaining islands.  

I find Edward Said useful in this respect.  The civilizational discourse is 
situated in a context of power. It is a form of a discourse, a way of dealing 
with the Other "by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, 
describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it... an accepted grid 
for filtering the Orient into Western consciousness."  On the other side of 
this construction, the "oriental," in his essentialist response, filters the 
"West" in an effort to create an authentic self.  

Hence, the civilization under discussion is produced not from some internal or 
essential, compartmentalized container called Islam or the West, but from the 
back and forth traffic, or structures, that bind these two entities together.  
There is no occident without the orient just like there is no capital without 
labor.  To separate the two as separate structures is to miss the power and 
inequality that shaped and formed them. This is the problem with the 
Huntingtonites.  By missing the link (power), you are in fact politically 
favoring those who have power: they are who they are (underdeveloped, 
uncivilized, nonscientific, religious, fundamentalist, antimodernist, 
collectivist, antiliberal) and we are who we are (civilized, developed, 
scientific, secular, democratic...).  The "other" is a civilization with its 
own cultural logic.  It is where it is because of its own internal 
characteristic.  Leave me, "the West," out of it.

I'll see you all next Tuesday.


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