A “Great Divergence” of Ideas? An Asiacentric World in a Eurocentric Academy

2017 One Asia Forum Talk Series with speaker Dr. Luke Clossey (Simon Fraser University)

Event Details

Start: 02 November 2017 4:00 pm
End: 02 November 2017 6:00 pm
Venue: Room 604, Asian Centre


Twenty years ago scholars’ attention gravitated to the idea of a “great divergence” between the socioeconomic circumstances of Europe and Asia, which saw Western economic and military dominance of what had been a polycentric or Asiacentric world. This lecture considers the possibility of a parallel “great divergence” of ideas. Just as Europe’s Industrial Revolution created economic technologies that would be adopted and adapted by the wider world, so too Europe’s Renaissance-Enlightenment modernism expanded globally, overcame local resistance to achieve, in sometimes adapted forms, dominance in the world’s intellectual circles. This lecture suggests that the attractiveness of European thought and values was less in their intrinsic value and more in the economic and military prowess of its promoters. We will consider the history of Asian anticipations and rejections of European intellectual “breakthroughs,” such as scepticism, linear perspective, and philology. By tracking the distribution of faculty research interests in universities today we will explore* some of the institutional reasons for the perpetuation of the dominance of European intellectual norms. Finally, through an examination of scholars’ treatment of the 1855 Santal Rebellion in British India we will propose some tentative tactics for escaping Eurocentrism. As we appear to be entering an Asian Century economically, what are the possibilities of an intellectual Asian Century?




About the speaker:

Luke Clossey is associate professor of History at Simon Fraser University, where he teaches world history and the history of religion. His first book–Salvation and Globalization in the Early Jesuit Missions (Cambridge)–charted the activities of Christian missionaries in Germany, Mexico and China; it won the Canadian Historical Association’s prize for best work of non-Canadian history in 2008. He wrote the chapter on “Language, Belief, and Knowledge,” for the Cambridge History of the World. He is currently completing a book on the global cult of Jesus from 1400 to 1800, and is beginning a new project on transpacific Buddhist fundamentalism in the twentieth century. He is an officer of the Institut für die Späte Altzeit, a scholarly association for the promotion of research that defies the assumptions and agendas of Western modernity.