Hamid Dabashi makes an argument that should have been made much earlier. So indeed, why are all the incredible voices emerging from South Asia, China, Africa and elsewhere always and consistently missing from any discussion about philosophy and society?
As Dabashi argues:
Why is European philosophy “philosophy”, but African philosophy ethnophilosophy, the way Indian music is ethnomusic – an ethnographic logic that is based on the very same reasoning that if you were to go to the New York Museum of Natural History (popularised in Shawn Levy’s Night at the Museum ), you only see animals and non-white peoples and their cultures featured inside glass cages, but no cage is in sight for white people and their cultures – they just get to stroll through the isles and enjoy the power and ability of looking at taxidermic Yaks, cave dwellers, elephants, Eskimos, buffalo, Native Americans, etc, all in a single winding row…..
The question of Eurocentricism is now entirely blase. Of course Europeans are Eurocentric and see the world from their vantage point, and why should they not? They are the inheritors of multiple (now defunct) empires and they still carry within them the phantom hubris of those empires and they think their particular philosophy is “philosophy” and their particular thinking is “thinking”, and everything else is – as the great European philosopher Immanuel Levinas was wont of saying – “dancing”.
Anyone who has read a modicum of writers from Asia and Africa will remain stunned at the ignorance of European thought. It is an ignorance that also colors and taints so much of journalist and photojournalistic works where entire generations of thinkers – philosophers, historians, intellectuals, writers, poets, activists and what have you, are completely missing. Its as if these regions and those people simply do not think, write, argue, debate, challenge, inform, and illuminate. It is as if we here have nothing to learn from them there. Or dare I say, as if we here may only be able to get it right by listening to those others there.
The arrogance is at times quite intolerable. What makes it worse is that it is an arrogance that masks ignorance – most Europeans and American have not even read a single paragraph written from outside America/Europe. At most they have read some castrated and usurped writer like Nafisi, or Hosseini or some other such ‘exotic’ who never questions the discourse of power, the structures of Western hegemony, but in fact simply regurgitate the Eurocentricity much to the excitement of the European. Coincidently, Dabashi’s is a project and he has written about this before (see:http://bit.ly/1o3NSYQ
In fact, in this piece Dabashi outlines neatly what may be one of the most important challenges facing photojournalists/journalists today:
How [can] one account for … politically expedited collective amnesia –of manufacturing consent and discarding history at the speed of one major military operation every two years? One way of decoding the traumatic terror at the heart of the codification of “9/11” is in fact to read it as a form of historical amnesia, a collective repression, that corresponds best with the globalised spectacle of its having made the apparently invulnerable evidently vulnerable. … The Armageddon crumbling of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, more than anything else, staged the vulnerability of the principal imperial memento projecting the cause of the globalised capital–its titular totem poles, phallic symbols of its monumental potency. That vulnerability was too memorable to be allowed to be remembered. Fabricating instantaneous enemies and moving targets, one on the trail of the other, thus became the principal modus operandi of the virtual empire. An empire lacking, in fact requiring an absence of, long term memory, and banking heavily on the intensity of short term memories that lasts only for about one to two years–one to two wars per one presidential election.
The preservation, excavation, declarations of historical, political, and economic continuities, the refusal to accept easy justifications, the determinations to highlight the political choices that brought us to our modern day impasse and sense of ennui, the awareness of the machinations of power and the games of capitalism, all must remain at the forefront of our efforts a reporters, documentarians, writers and citizens.