Is Thinking with 'Modernity' Eurocentric?

Seth, Sanjay. 2016. Is Thinking with 'Modernity' Eurocentric? Cultural Sociology, 10(3), pp. 385-398. ISSN 17499755 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In recent times it has been argued that thinking with the concept of ‘modernity’ entails, or at least makes one prey to, Eurocentrism. Those who are troubled by this have sought to rethink the concept such that one can ‘think with’ modernity, while avoiding, or even challenging, Eurocentrism. This article surveys some such attempts, before moving on to argue that the question of whether modernity is principally a European phenomenon or not cannot be adequately framed without considering the knowledge within which the question comes to be posed; for the knowledge through which we represent and understand modernity is itself, in its origins, European (and modern), and thus the relations between this knowledge and the ‘real’ that it purports to characterize, also need to be interrogated. Doing so, the article suggests, complicates the task of understanding modernity in non-Eurocentric terms, and leads to the recognition that the concept of modernity is not simply a means by which we describe, grasp or apprehend a phenomenon external to it, but that it is itself involved in the production of the modern. If this is so, we are (West and non-West) modern, though not in the way that we have hitherto presumed.

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Identification Number (DOI):


modern, modernity, colonial, colonialism, postcolonial theory, Eurocentric, Eurocentrism, history, world history, global

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Politics > Centre for Postcolonial Studies


October 2015Accepted
31 March 2016Published Online
1 September 2016Published

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Date Deposited:

27 Nov 2017 15:09

Last Modified:

08 Mar 2021 11:30

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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