What the Rest Think of the West: Since 600 AD

 
9780520285774: What the Rest Think of the West: Since 600 AD
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Over the past few centuries, as Western civilization has enjoyed an expansive and flexible geographic domain, Westerners have observed other cultures with little interest in a return gaze. In turn, these other civilizations have been similarly disinclined when they have held sway. Clearly, though, an external frame of reference outstrips introspection―we cannot see ourselves as others see us. Unprecedented in its scope, What the Rest Think of the West provides a rich historical look through the eyes of outsiders as they survey and scrutinize the politics, science, technology, religion, family practices, and gender roles of civilizations not their own. The book emphasizes the broader figurative meaning of looking west in the scope of history.

Focusing on four civilizations―Islamic, Japanese, Chinese, and South Asian―Nader has collected observations made over centuries by scholars, diplomats, missionaries, travelers, merchants, and students reflecting upon their own “Wests.” These writings derive from a range of purposes and perspectives, such as the seventh-century Chinese Buddhist who goes west to India, the missionary from Baghdad who travels up the Volga in the tenth century and meets the Vikings, and the Egyptian imam who in 1826 is sent to Paris to study the French. The accounts variously express critique, adoration, admiration, and fear, and are sometimes humorous, occasionally disturbing, at times controversial, and always enlightening. With informative introductions to each of the selections, Laura Nader initiates conversations about the power of representational practices.

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From the Inside Flap:

"There are things that only outsiders can see, and the true promise of anthropology has always been to use such insights to allow human beings to understand more of their shared humanity, to understand how we are the same through our differences. This only works if everyone gets to play the outsider and everyone gets to take their turn as the observed. So far, geopolitical inequalities have ensured this kind of genuine, liberatory anthropology has not yet really emerged. But books like this―and this book is far and away the best and most thoughtful collection of its kind yet to appear―are a crucial first step in the process of creating one."―David Graeber, author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years

"Intellectual exchange between the West and Asia has long been one-sided, handicapped further by lack of translations. This superbly introduced and edited anthology, which shows the diverse ways in which visitors from Asia perceived modern Western society and culture, fills a big gap in our self-understanding."―Pankaj Mishra, author of From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt against the West and the Remaking of Asia

"'To see ourselves as others see us' isn't just a famous line from Robert Burns; it's an urgent requirement for the global twenty-first century. In this eye-opening book Laura Nader tracks, over the course of more than a millennium, a wide range of Eastern travelers' cultural impressions of Europe and America. These frank, sometimes brutal observations, augmented by Nader's thoughtful commentary, raise essential questions about how we shift the frames and practice of anthropology at a time when the 'we' and 'they' distinctions that traditionally governed the discipline have given way to new modes of representation, dialogue, and collaboration, albeit still in contested and too often violent contexts."―Nicholas B. Dirks, author of Autobiography of an Archive: A Scholar's Passage to India

"This book is a valuable resource for students and scholars seeking to understand the complex relationship between the West and the rest of the world. The comparison of perspectives from China, India, Japan, and the Muslim countries offers a unique and varied collection of ideas, insights, and observations available in no other single source."―Jack Weatherford, author of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

About the Author:

Laura Nader is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.

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9780520285781: What the Rest Think of the West: Since 600 AD

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