A Dialogue on Eurocentrism

From World-L, March 1998

Date: Thu, 16 Mar 1995 13:49:16 -0500
Sender: World-L - Forum on non-Eurocentric world history <WORLD-L@UBVM.cc.buffalo.edu>
From: Steven L Hale <shale@DEKALB.DC.PEACHNET.EDU>
Subject: Re: Mexico,Bosnia,Turks,Slavs & Everything

Now that English teachers have been given permission to comment on world history, I'd like to reply to Dr. Yedidag's posting. I think he was suggesting that Western commentators on the Balkan situation tend to favor a European side and ignore the non-European Turkish perspective. At any rate, Dr. Yedidag's posting, along with my reading of postings on the Slavic Usenet discussion groups and the more literary works of Serbian and Croatian writers like Andric, Krleza, and Pavic, suggest to me that terms like Eurocentric, which are problematic in any case, are particularly misleading in discussing areas where many cultures have overlapped for centuries. It seems to me that the same problem arose in discussions/accusations of Eurocentrism in responses to Victor O. Story's news postings.

Sample problems:

Steven Hale
e-mail <shale@dekalb.dc.peachnet.edu>

Date: Fri, 17 Mar 1995 14:19:51 -0500
From: "Gordon C. Thomasson" <THOMASSON_G@SUNYBROOME.EDU>
Organization: Broome Community College, Binghamton, NY, USA

The eurocentric/non-eurocentric question is, I believe, intrinsically mis-leading as long as we are talking about history as a product (at least in part) of higher education institutions which all (including China—I think of the Cornell-Nanjing project of about 1927) trace their worldview back to western institutions.

From an anthropological and world religions perspective on history, I would have to say that clearly non-eurocentric perspectives would preobably not see history as a linear process. Cyclical time, reference to events "in illo tempore", etc. might be diagnostic.

On a more important level, most supposedly non-eurocentric history takes for granted one of in fact many existing and possible coherent systems of logic. But squarely within most of what I see represented as non-eurocentric history sits Aristotle, or at least his either/or logic—aka the law of the excluded middle.

Is History in itself eurocentric? Is non-eurocentric history an oxymoron?

Finally, is the modern Mayan guerrillero still as likely to sacrifice a chicken on the steps outside the cathedral as he is to attend misa inside? Do the post-Hegelian (but still intrinsically aristotelean) rhetorical categories I see used to analyze and describe his plight have any real correspondence with his actual worldview?

Gordon C. Thomasson
World History Faculty