BLACKS AND ASIANS IN THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD
AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
APRIL 11-13, 2003
The African American Studies Program at Boston University announces its second annual international conference on global intercultural relations. Following on the success of our inaugural conference “Blacks and Asians: Encounters Through Time and Space,” April 2002 we seek to convene an interdisciplinary assembly of scholars to explore how African and Asian descent populations have influenced the development of the modern world from the fifteenth century. Specifically, we are interested in comparative studies of their role in the development of the world economy and the culture(s) of modernity including religious, artistic, literary, philosophical, and political expressions such as democracy, humanism, socialism, ethical thinking, and rational thought. We want to examine how categories such as race, ethnicity, civilization, culture and nation continue to limit our understanding of the role of “non-European” people in world history. This includes addressing the problematic nature of putative collective identities such as Black and Asian. Central to our enterprise is the study of gender and gender relationships outside of the West and among Black and Asian people inside Western societies. We want to encourage proposals for papers that reveal the contributions of Black and Asian women to modernity; examine gender relations in the historical experiences of Asian and Black people; and grapple with the implications of privileging Western feminist theories in understanding gender in the Third World. We invite proposals for single papers and complete panels from scholars in all social science and humanities disciplines.
The modern world and the culture of modernity are typically seen as entirely European and Euro-American in origin. In Western narratives of world history modernity, including such hallmark features as rational thought, the capitalist system, the ideal of individual liberty and the quest for gender equality, begins in Europe and is carried around the world by Europeans. This view assumes that people outside of the West and people of color within it played little role in the development of modern economy, society, or culture beyond providing labor power and serving as consumers. While Europeans have indeed played a major part in generating the modern world, they did not do so alone. Africans and Asians were not only present at the creation but were often the principle creators. In addition, they have had significant impact on the formation of “western culture” itself. Unfortunately, their participation remains under-investigated despite the pioneering work of such scholars as John Thornton, Jack Goody, Ann Douglass, and K.N. Chudhuri. This failure is partly the result of exaggerating Europe’s uniqueness. It is also due to our habit of studying people and societies in terms of discrete, relatively well-demarcated racial, cultural, and national groups that can be traced to 19th century Europe and America. Thinking about human society in this way obscures interaction between peoples that is the moving force in world history and hides the degree to which economic, cultural, and intellectual developments are the result of borrowings, conflict, struggle, and cooperation.
This conference will investigate the role of people of African descent and people of Asian descent globally in terms of exchanges. By comparing the experiences of these two populations we hope to avoid glib generalizations about the role of either group, while highlighting commonalities and differences. We invite proposals for single papers and complete panels from scholars in all social science and humanities disciplines.
Please send a 250 word abstract together with a current curriculum vita to Ronald K. Richardson. You may submit by email to Dr. Christine Loken-Kim. To be considered proposals must be received no later than November 15, 2002. Electronic correspondence is encouraged.
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