Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds In this video, we will go back to how modernity was introduced and explained in week three. We will take yet another look at European modernity, but now seen from the perspective of the other. First of all, what do we mean with the other and who is Europe’s other? How is this related to modernity? In Week three, modernity was situated in time by referring to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. The questioning of authority, for instance, became a defining feature in European art, philosophy, and politics. Also, it will stress that modernity exists in many forms and manifestations. That is why we usually speak of multiple modernities– forms that do not exist in isolation, but are interrelated.
Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds When modernisation in technology and the economy takes place, these developments have crucial effects on and consequences for political, cultural, and social developments. The 19th century was a defining age for European place in the world, for instance, with regard to its contacts with Asia and Africa. Where modernity stood for progress, knowledge, reason, and technology, the other was imagined as the opposite. So that leads us to a new question. How was this Europe’s other imagined? What kind of European project does it legitimise? Science, technology, knowledge, and reason was seen as tools that bolstered the European or Western dominance, as was its military and economic power. In the debates over colonial policy, racist notions also played an important role.
Skip to 1 minute and 55 seconds Especially the contrast with Asia was highlighted. Various theories were devised that supposedly explained why the presumably static societies in the East lag behind in development. Obviously, the very rapid growth of economy and technology that took place in Asia– first in Japan in the 19th and 20th century, and more recently in China and India– made this discussion rather outdated. These developments illustrate also how these explanations can be placed in a model that wittingly or unwittingly served to legitimise the subordination of other peoples and stressed the supposedly superior achievements of the West. Yet, there is no doubt that the European influence indeed was profound.
Skip to 2 minutes and 45 seconds One could point to the economy, the education system such as universities, social welfare, and health care or the bureaucratic forms of administration. Europeanisation and Westernisation were often used as synonyms. For countries such as, for instance, Japan, that never became a colony of the West, but in the 19th century decided to embark on a modernisation project in order to become strong and avoid being dominated by the West, this posed a challenge– how to maintain its autonomy and self-confidence without giving up the Japanese culture and becoming a copy of Western countries and civilizations. The Japanese solution was to look very carefully to what system fitted best within the Japanese culture and its specific circumstances.
Skip to 3 minutes and 38 seconds Japan embarked on a quick industrialisation and modernisation course. Even though Japan adopted and adapted knowledge, techniques, and methods from abroad, it is also clear that Japan perceived the Western nations and Western cultures as the other. But what then are the consequences of this practise of othering? The consequences of the practise of othering were, and are, profound, especially after the decolonisation period that started after the second World War. A widespread urge was felt to try to avoid Eurocentric thinking and to understand world-wide historical connections and events from a global perspective. As a result, parochial views were a matter of concern. In history writing, the relations between Europe and the former colonies were put into a more global perspective.
Skip to 4 minutes and 34 seconds Next to newer forms, such as global and world history, there still was also interest in the role of empire, with questions such as what changes the empire had brought at home? What were the consequences of the colonial relationship after decolonisation, for instance, with regard to migratory movements? What effects did the practise of othering have? How could more inclusive narratives be crafted? Today, there are many groups within European societies that feel treated as the other, feel left out. It seems as if the positive effects of modernity have not touched their lives, that they are only affected in a negative way. In order to remedy that situation, it is necessary to hear their opinions, take them into account.
Skip to 5 minutes and 25 seconds In other words, to listen to their voices. But how actually can we find the voice of the other? Where do we find these voices? How is more modernity constructed from Europe’s margins? It’s not that difficult to find voices of the people who are left behind to modernisation, people who are unemployed, who feel neglected or discriminated against because of their colour, gender, religion, or class. We also see the heritage and the facts of the former colonial and imperial empire. The saying, “We are here because you were there,” shows that, for instance, there is a direct link between certain minorities in European countries and the colonial past.
Skip to 6 minutes and 10 seconds This is the case for Indian and Pakistani in England, people from the Maghreb in France, and people from the Molluccas and from Suriname in the Netherlands. Plural societies have become the dominant form in Europe. Modernisation has led to a lot of positive effects, but also to groups that were now able to cope with the new challenges. For a stable society, it is of great importance that the marginalised groups feel understood and respected and are not constantly viewed and treated as the other. In other words, it is paramount to build an inclusive society.
Skip to 6 minutes and 49 seconds If the discussion on modernity and the other has made anything clear, it is how relevant it is to further intercultural understanding, stimulate respect for fundamental values like human rights, and to allow for the co-existence for different cultures and religions. Europe should, therefore, foster its multiple modernities.
European multiple modernities and/as the Other
In this video, Professor Janny de Jong re-examines the construction of Europe through modernity from the perspective of ‘the Other’.
In Week 3, Modernity was situated in time by referring to the Enlightenment and the French revolution: the questioning of authority, for instance, became a defining feature in European art, philosophy and politics. It was also stressed that modernity exists in many forms and manifestations: that is why we usually speak of multiple modernities, forms that do not exist in isolation but are interrelated.
The nineteenth century was a defining age for the European place in the world, for instance with regard to its contacts with Asia and Africa. Where modernity stood for ‘progress, knowledge, reason, technology’, ‘the Other’ was imagined as the opposite. The consequences of the practice of othering were and are profound.
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