1st Tobunken Staff Seminar (Academic Year 2018) "Global history and area studies : mariage, divorce or illicite love ?"

Date & Time: July 19, 2018 (Thu), 2:00-4:00 p.m.

Venue: Conference room 303 (3rd floor), Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo

Title: Global history and area studies : mariage, divorce or illicite love ?

Speaker: Alessandro STANZIANI (Visiting Professor, IASA)

Chairperson: NAKAJIMA Takahiro (Professor, IASA)

Language: English


Unlike current attitudes, Global history and area studies are not in opposition if we accept to discuss both their methods and aims.

For sure they are incompatible if 1) we define global history as world history using only secondary sources; and if 2) we acritically accept standard definition of area studies, based upon language, philology, civilization and a given space.

This lecture intends to show how philology is not one given tool established once and for all, but that it was conceived and practiced at the connection of multiple worlds in Europe and Asia since the early modern times. Then since the nineteenth century onward, a Eurocentric approach to philology and the invention of both “Europe”, the nation, and area studies became dominant and, as such, they opposed to social sciences, philosophy of history and “global” approaches.

This attitude is under attack since the 20th century, with the raise of “local philologies” in India, China, Islam and the contemporary attack to western “global” notions in social sciences. Paradoxically, two attitudes are at work: one the one hand, language and area studies encourage the raise of new “isms” beyond eurocentrism, for example: indo-centrism, sino-centrism, islam-centrism (and japan-centrism?). New nationalistic histories bring together language and the presumed specificity of an area. At the opposite, global history denies this orientation, but it often re-introduce western notions as universal categories.

In order to escape these limits, we must endeavor two main actions:

1. put language and philology under critical scrutiny, admit their located, not universal, value, and still use them as tools to show the variability and flexibility of areas, not their atemporal definition. We will therefore have critical area studies.

2. global history must accept the existence of critical area studies, overcome its hostility to multiplicity of worlds even under globalization. And, most important, global history must contribute to re-orient presumed universal categories as advanced in social sciences. Critical historical social sciences correspond to this aim.