02.123 Questioning Modernity in Europe and Asia

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While many people talk about “modernity”, what do they mean when they say it?  The concept of modernity is not easily defined.  Students in this course will examine different ways that a set of processes generally referred to as “modernity” have been historically experienced and conceived in Europe and Asia.  We will read, discuss, and analyze ideas and arguments that challenge conventional views of modernity as primarily a Westernizing process.  Cultures everywhere over the past two centuries have questioned, altered, and rejected their traditions, but many have also questioned, altered, and rejected the European model of modernity.  During most of this period various modernizing processes have drawn Europe and Asia into closer contact, but also created greater divergences between them.  In more recent times gaps in technology and wealth between much of Europe and some parts of Asia have narrowed, but that does not necessarily indicate that East and West are becoming similarly modern.  New scholarship on historical differences between Europe and Asia in recent centuries has led to calls for a theory of alternative modernities, as will be highlighted in the final part of the course.

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J. Casey Hammond