Interregional Linkages in a Changing Global System
Edited by Peter W. Preston and Julie Gilson
Chapter 3: Beyond Orientalism? Culture, power and postcolonialism in Europe-Asia relations
John Clammer INTRODUCTION Linkages between Asia and Europe exist, and have long existed, at a number of levels - economic, political and social. Underlying and reflecting these is the cultural level - the perceptions and representations of Asia by Europeans and of Europe by Asians. There are older and now, perhaps, less sophisticated models for characterizing this mutuality (often a distorted one based upon differential access to power), notably ‘Orientalism’1 and ‘Occidentalism’2. Both these approaches assume (as does the even older field of ‘International Relations’) two broadly defined blocs or entities between which interchange takes place. The limitation of such conceptualizations is that they predate or deflect the immense shifts in the understanding of the concept of culture itself which have accompanied late modernity and the globalizing forces that it has set in train. Leaving aside for the moment the disputes about the precise meaning of the term ‘globalization’ and its significance for the critical analysis of the contemporary world system, most commentators would agree that it contains and implies profound implications for culture, whether this is understood in terms of the migration of peoples, symbols or objects, of attitudes to selfhood and subjectivities or of the implications for everyone of such powerful Eurocentric concepts as ‘development’.3 The concern is not only that of establishing the place of culture within globalization but, more profoundly, that of questioning the meaning of culture itself in these new circumstances. While the argument for the centrality of culture to the framing of questions in...
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