The Discourse of Occidental Studies: A Perspective from Malaysia

Product Code: 9789674121495
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  • 2013. ISBN 9789674121495
  • (paperback). 60 pages
  • Shanta nair-Venugopal. Bangi Public Lecture

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More recently, Occidentalism has complemented discussion on Orientalism as an emerging field of intellectual discourse with contracts being drawn invariably between Orientalism an Occidentalism. However, a distinction needs to be drawn between Occidentalism and Occidental Studies as a field of academic discourse. Towards that end, this lecture is structure around five mutually dependent questions that have arisen from what is posited as the global conversation on both Occidentalism an Occidental Studies. Like any conversation, the one on Occidentalism is not completely under the control of either one of its partners, referred to here by their short hand terms East and West, but is determined by the discourse itself. The first of these questions attends to how discourse is to be understood in the context of Occidental Studies and the second to what constitutes Occidental Studies. This is followed by the third on whether, or not. Occidental Studies, is, in fact, predicated on Occidentalism. The fourth and penultimate question gets to the heart of the matter by asking what constitutes the discourse of Occidental Studies. The last examines hoe Malaysia can contribute to this discourse in relation to the role IKON can play as a Malaysian canter of Occidental Studies that can contribute to the global conversation. Hermeneutics has been incorporated as a general theory of human understanding to understand the discourse of Occidental Studies because it helps to explain human understanding as a dialogic relationship that is embedded within the historical traditions of human though. The discourse itself can be understood as the global conversation about the role, power, influence, ideologies, practices and identities of Europe and America, and their associates as the West, which are revealed within the peculiarities of the narratives of history, both old and new. It is significant that the conversation is taking place at a time when Asia is resurfacing prominently on the global horizon and three issue have emerged on the horizon. They are the idea of post-Western Europe, cosmopolitanism, and intercultural and intercivilizational dialogue. While the idea of post-Western Europe hinges on the rationalization of the rise of Asia, cosmopolitanism stands for the potentiality of human engagement for the common good of all, with intercultural of intercivilizational dialogue as the premise of such ab engagement. The most seductive ideas is that of a post Western Europe with the prospect of Asia, particularly East Asia, overtaking the West because it appears to take the edge out of the impetus for Occidental Studies. However, the true appeal of Occidental Studies must lie in studying the West, as it is, in all its representations and by providing a countervailing stance to the multivalent gaze that the East has received since antiquity. More recently, fueled by the ascendancy of China as a world power, the tianxia system, from the world of classical Chinese philosophy, has been promoted as an alternative to Kantian cosmopolitism that can influence international relations. Other Asian options are also available as cosmopolitisms of a global consciousness. Nonetheless, it is in the mutuality of the gaze between East and West on the horizon of a more equitable distribution of global political and economic power that East-West relations can improve, and Occidental Studies develop and flourish autonomously as a field of academic discourse. 

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