This imaginary Europe, Dipesh Chakrabarty argues, is built into the social sciences. The very idea of historicizing carries with it some peculiarly European assumptions about disenchanted space, secular time, and sovereignty. Measured against such mythical standards, capitalist transition in the third world has often seemed either incomplete or lacking. Provincializing Europe proposes that every case of transition to capitalism is a case of translation as well — a translation of existing worlds and their thought — categories into the categories and self-understandings of capitalist modernity. Dipesh Chakrabarty is the Lawrence A.

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The book was very challenging for most students, and I ultimately decided that it might be more appropriate for a graduate level course. At the same time, the work is a foundational text in Postcolonial Studies, which seeks to examine the ways in which Western intellectual history continues to shape programs and expectations in less developed countries. For this reason, most Western social theorists do not take religion seriously, nor do they necessarily question using Western concepts such as Marxism to understand the class consciousness of Indian workers.

In this sense, Chakrabarty demonstrates the Eurocentrism that runs through Western social sciences. Certain key themes —the development of capitalism and modernity- are central to these narratives. He argues that Europe is not only a geographical region, but also a body of scholarship that defines how academics view the world. This concept underpins his key theme, provincializing Europe, which entails returning Europe to its rightful place as one world region amongst many, without the privilege that it has continued to hold in academic circles; that is, Europe should no longer be considered as the template for modernity, as it is only one expression of this transition.

In this respect, his work underpins postcolonial theories, which argue that colonial relationships endure long after the end of formal empires. Chakrabarty wishes to take off these intellectual blinders by challenging the concept of historicism, which suggests that all societies pass through similar developmental stages on the path to modernity. For my students, this chapter was particularly challenging and interesting at the same time, as it led them to question their notion of what history is.

While insightful, at times Chakrabarty can be prolix, and the density of his writing can make for a challenging read. This is particularly the case in chapter two, in which he undertakes a detailed look at the Marxist conception of abstract and real labor. This argument forms part of a larger piece on how approaches to history in Western thought shapes theories such as Marxism, so that they do not reflect non-Western experiences.

This theme of the importance of context continues into chapter three and four, in which Chakrabarty examines how time and language change conceptions of history. At its core, this chapter continues to problematize traditional social science conceptions built on Western ideals, by showing how they fail to take into consideration important values in other cultures, such as that events might be interpreted in a religious context. Here Chakrabarty again returns to the Western association of modernity with secularism, and suggests that the European model may not apply to regions such as South Asia.

Again, Chakrabarty points to the limitations of Marxist thought. How do we understand a culture in which people work for religious reasons? Of course, this point has historical precedent in the West, where for the Shakers, for example, the concept of work was inseparable from their religious identity. In the final chapters in the book, Chakrabarty talks about the problems of metanarratives, a leit motif is poststructalist thought, and applies his theoretical models to a Bangladeshi cultural context.

This book has pros and cons. The negative aspect for the work is the prolixity and jargon that can turn undergraduate students away from a serious engagement with the work. We have enough challenges asking students to read Kwame Appiah or E. Sometimes it can also be difficult to see how to apply his ideas. Yes, Western concepts of time are inherent to the social sciences. But how would a non-Western social scientist create a theory modeled on a different vision of time? Were there examples that he could have drawn on to support his argument from intellectuals writing in subaltern cultures?

His work also draws heavily on the field of Subaltern Studies with a basis in South Asia. Strangely, this literature has long remained isolated from postcolonial literature in the Francophone world. Chakrabarty could have drawn on Fanon, Sartre, Cixous, Derrida and other French-language thinkers to make his arguments. Chakrabarty reveals the limitations of non-Western approaches, but remains interested in modernity and development.

He also clearly argues his point that traditional social sciences are culturally specific, and fail to reflect the diversity of global experiences and thought. It is also important to note that the developmental vision of history that Chakrabarty critiques is not only an academic construct, but also one with real world consequences, as it shapes the imposition of global capital through development practices and policy approaches.

While Chakrabarty does not make this point specifically, a Eurocentric vision of history serves to justify the power of Bretton Woods institutions the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization by suggesting that the conditionality they impose on loans is justified to ensure that non-Western cultures pass through the appropriate stages to achieve modernity.

This approach, in many respects, echoes the arguments that British made to justify their role in nations as diverse as India and Ghana. The text also leads students to think critically about such basic ideas as modernity and history.

It also has echoes of Critical Theory, in that it leads students to question the objectivity of theoretical stances, and to think about the cultural context in which they are embedded. For many of my students, this work led them to think seriously for the first time about how the social sciences may be Eurocentric.

Despite its challenging style, this work deserves its place as a foundational text, which would be appropriate for every graduate seminar in Global and International Studies.


Dipesh Chakrabarty’s Provincializing of Europe

Shelves: postcolonialism On conceptual and theoretical levels, Provincializing Europe provides a corrective to how we approach history as universalistic and deterministic. While we cannot abandon the tools of thinking made to capture the realities of European thought in examining postcoloniality, we should be aware of their limitations. The conclusion says it well. But on moral and ethical levels, the scholar is a hypocrite.


Book Review: Dipesh Chakrabarty’s Provincializing Europe

Friday, May 27, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe --I have more detailed notes and extensive quotations from the Introduction and Chapter One; ask me if you want any of those citations. I got kind of lazy after that, and skipped Part Two Ch. So only the summaries from Intro-Ch. Living in the End Times, pp. In order to write back a plural history of power into this unitary historicist narrative, which is inextricably linked to the idea of the political, we need first to question the universal nature of secular, homogeneous historical time, and reject the facile sociological explanation for gods and spirits as agents. The idea is simple enough: imperalist and third-world histories are written into a narrative of transition, which reproduces European archetypes of political modernity. Even in the case of Indian subaltern studies, the political subject is perceived in terms of lack, absence, incompleteness, which echoes an old Orientalist trope.


Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference - New Edition

Chakhrabarty offers a critique of the Enlightenment concepts of a universal human experience and of secular modernity. Provincializing Europe is set in the intersection between subaltern studies and postcolonial theory. In alignment with postcolonial theory, Chakrabarty offers a critique of historicism both as philosophical thought and a conceptual category. In other words, Chakrabarty locates a problem in Enlightenment philosophy for assuming the human as an abstract figure. Postcolonial thought, as Chakrabarty suggests, is invested in understanding the different conditions of being, which, in a way, allows one to recognize the diversity of human experiences. It is this recognition of diversity that compels Chakrabarty to describe the visions and experiences of political modernity in India as different from Europe. Chakrabarty therefore, chooses to displace the temporal structure that historicism as a mode of thinking represents.

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