The essay by Naoki Sakai on post-colonial analysis portrays the west and Europe as entities that are more or less similar in nature, and they can be used interchangeably at times, but effort must be placed in the aim of distinguishing them geopolitically. He perceives the west and Europe as any other civilization that yields knowledge, but the main difference lies in the unique way of operating in the production of knowledge.
Naoki portrays the western people as being relatively superior to other people in the world. He says, “Unlike ‘empirical anthropological types’ such as Chinese, Indian, Eskimos, or even the Gypsies who roam territorial Europe, he continues, Europe is a historical unity of peoples who share a certain kinship or a certain modality of being human, European humanity, which distinguishes them from humanity in general” (Naoki, 2). They undermine the history of other people namely Chinese and Indians as not being theoretical.
The west has been portrayed as comprised of barbarians who would like to see nothing else less than an inferior minority following her cultures and norms. With this perception, they have blinded the whole world into associating their culture with modernity. Most people perceive the American culture as modernity. Therefore, when Asia negates the western side of the world perceives them as having lacking prospects of modernity. Naoki states, “To be modern for Asia, therefore, meant appropriating the essence of Western modernity by resisting the West without, and by overcoming the reactionary heritage within. In other words, Asia modernizes itself by negating both the West and its own past,” (Naoki, 4).
The west has been depicted as being self-centered and absorbed into itself. The west has been accused of enjoying the global standards in the geopolitical naming as depicted by the words of Naoki, “what is abnormal, then, is the modern system of geopolitical naming, according to which the West has enjoyed centrality in the global standard” (Naoki,.7).
Naoki in her analysis tends to argue that the west thinks that the bulk of history belongs to them. He proposes the idea of investigating the idea that theory exclusively belong to the west by saying, “Rather we should concern ourselves with the question of theory and the West, and with how theory came to be understood as the exclusive possession of the West,”(pg. 9). He continues to argue that the west strongly claims that most history belongs to them and that it is from their culture that defines modernity. The west regards themselves as the sole origin of the commodities used in carrying out business activities and they also think that they are the major owners of the scientific knowledge and ideas and world class institutions. They tend to regard themselves as the best in the market with technological, political and economic superiority.
Again, the western people are not referred to with the ethnic terms to imply that they are not defined by their status a specimen of study. Naoki says, “It serves to mark a distinction between the areas and peoples that can be objects of ethnic and area studies, and those that cannot. People in the West do not ordinarily receive the attribute’ ethnic’, because, supposedly, they are not to be defined in terms of their status as an object of study,”(Naoki, 13). They are expected to take an active role in the process of knowing, recognizing and studying before being known, studied and recognized too. He expects them to apply their own means of comparison, analysis and classification instead of acting passively as he says, “they are supposed to apply their own means of inspection, classification, comparison, and analysis to some object, which might well be themselves,” (Naoki, 13).
On the other hand, the essay of Mignolo entitled, “The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference” has also portrayed the west in a similar way but has used a different perspective. The author brings out the critic’s thought of post modernism. He denies the fact the issue of modernity is not a central matter that strictly belong to a certain people, but it is a planetary occurrence that excludes other major contributors who deserve an acknowledgement. Mignolo points out the fact that, “"modernity" is not strictly a European concept, but a planetary phenomenon to which the "excluded barbarians" have contributed, although their contribution has not been acknowledged.” (Mignolo, 1). This reasoning is contrary to the one presented by Naoki earlier that attributes modernity to a given state.
Mignolo attributes modernity to philosophy, literature and ideas of history while the modern world structures are connected with the social sciences and vocabulary. He justifies his statement by saying, “First, "modernity" is associated with literature, philosophy, and the history of ideas,whereas "modern world-system" is associated with the vocabulary of the social sciences” (Mignolo, 2). Fals Borda also argues that the social sciences gained ground during cold war by means of the cultures related to scholarship (p. 1-10). This is different from Naoki’s presentation that associated modernity to the cultural practices of the western people.
The western civilization is attributed to the restitution of Germany by the legacy of the Greek. The two scholars tend to agree that the expansion of the west was characterized by both economic power and political power as well as intellectual and educational prowess. The Americans are portrayed as barbarians too who delight in the downfall of the rest of the world whom they exploited to realize their success that they currently delight in.
The westerners are accused of constantly failing to learn to view the world from a spatial point of view while giving considerations (Mignolo. 63). This would have helped them explain the difference in colonialism and the disparity that exists in the epistemology, religion and in the global relations. Here the current designs and orientations of the globe are attributed to history and time that arose due to the wants and needs of a given people at a given place in history. It does not attribute development of the west to their intellectual capacity as Naoki postulated.
Mignolo's essay argues that the process of searching for truth that is identified as the pillar of development is clouded by the motive of maintaining of social structures that are unequal and hierarchical in various ways that aim at the expansion of capitalism to the world. He says, “The search for truth, proclaimed as the cornerstone of progress, and therefore, of well-being has been, at the very least, consonant with the maintenance of hierarchical, unequal, social structure in a number of specific respects. The process involved in the expansion of the capitalist world-economy,” (Mignolo, 11). This is accomplihed by the languages that are imposed on learners in different nations and the cultural influences. This kind of centralism of the west is also depicted in Naoki’s essay.
The west is portrayed as colonizing the social sciences as opposed to philosophy. Therefore, in opening up the social sciences it is troublesome when the issue of differences in colonialism comes into the limelight. Mignolo says, “The social sciences do have a home in the U.S. as well as in Europe, which is not thecase for philosophy,” (Mignolo, 12)
In both essays, the west have been viewed as colonizers of the social sciences, and they work to influence and shape the theory of the world to favor their endeavors while sidelining the principle contributors of their development breakthrough.
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Fals-Borda, Orlando. Cienciapropia y colonialismointelectual: los nuevosrumbos. Bogotá: C. Valencia, 1971.
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Mignolo, Walter D.. ": The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference." Social Epistemology 19.1 (2005): 111-127. Print.
Sakai, Naoki. "Theory and Asian humanity: on the question of humanitas and anthropos." Postcolonial Studies 13.4 (2010): 441-464. Print.