Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

The Website Against Philosophical Provincialism

RE-ETHNICIZING THE MINDS? Cultural Revival in Contemporary Thought

(Amsterdam, New York: Rodopi, 2006)

Editors: Thorsten Botz-Bornstein & Jürgen Hengelbrock

Hb 90-420-2041-5   ----   EUR 100 / US$130





Through recent confrontations with the theme of "globalization," the idea of "ethnophilosophy" appears again as interesting and attractive. In 1997, Fidelis Okafor published an article with the slightly curious title "In Defense of Afro-Japanese Ethnophilosophy." Okafor reevaluates qualities like "folkness," the "existential outlook," and "communal mind" as characteristics of a philosophy that takes a people’s Weltanschauung as simultaneously a point of departure and an objective. Surprisingly, Okafor restricts his analyses not to Africa but claims to see patterns of "ethnophilosophy" also in contemporary Japanese philosophy. The recurring interest in ethnophilosophy is understandable at times where networks of global communication are effective in philosophy as much as elsewhere.

The predominance and global expansion of homogenizing modes of production, consumption and information risks alienating non-Western and Western people alike from the intellectual and moral resources embedded in their own distinctive cultural traditions. In reaction to the erosion of traditional cultures and civilizations, we seem to be witnessing the re-emergence of a tendency to "re-ethnicize the mind" through renewed and more or less systematic cultural revivals worldwide (e.g., "hinduization," "ivoirization," "sinofication," "nipponification," "islamicization," "indigenization," "russification," "gallicization," etc.).

How do and should philosophers understand and assess the significance and impact of this phenomenon? Authors acquainted with the contemporary situation in Africa, Asia, the Middle-East, South-America, and Europe try to address and answer this question. While some discuss the possibility of a careful "ethnicization" and judicious "cultural revival" of traditions, others point to the dangers of "ethnocentrism" and "folklorization," or alternatively to the misuse, past and present, of ethnicity and cultural chauvinism as an instrument of political or ideological manipulation and exploitation. Still others seek to revaluate the importance of language for thought and how systems of meaning and narratives of self-identity are anchored in language. Finally, a few attempt to make a case for the unavoidability and even the desirability of cross-cultural contamination and fertilization. For the most part however, the contributions gathered herein converge in the belief that cultural particularity is a necessary condition for a properly reconceived and grounded plural universal humanism, yet they also recognize that any hierarchization of differences underwritten by an exclusive focus on the latter is philosophically untenable for differences only make sense against the background of similarities.

In the final analysis, the authors of this original and groundbreaking collection of essays plead for a full critical engagement with one's own particularity while at the same time rejecting any form of cultural, national or regional chauvinism that is confined to a rationalization and indiscriminate validation of traditional worldviews, beliefs, and values. They consider various ways in which Western and non-Western, local and global conceptions as well as practices can and already do judiciously inform and positively fertilize each other. At this juncture of history, they argue, societies and peoples must articulate their self-identity by looking critically at their respective cultural resources, and beyond them at the same time.

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