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Rethinking Modernity through Transculturality: Euro-Asia Comparison as Example

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Organizer: Fangdai Chen

Co-Organizer: Shu-mei Lin

Contact the Seminar Organizers

How was the idea of modernity or the modern conceptualized? According to Max Weber, it is originated from the secularization of Christianity, while for philosophers such as Nietzsche, it pertains to the Enlightenment reason and marks the rise of science and human rationality over theology and metaphysics. But more specifically, according to Peter Osborne, the term modernity is first and foremost a historical indicator derived from the distinction of the past as pre-modern. Contemporary scholars such as Fredric Jameson register the modern in the Marxist stages of revolution. The modern or modernity in this sense always subscribes to the temporal register. With the rise of anti-colonial consciousness and the prominent postcolonial criticism, the idea of the modern can no longer be limited to the temporal register. From the mid-twentieth century, a reflection over the conceptualization of the East-West has already been purported by Japanese scholars such as Takeuchi Yoshimi. In recent years, various efforts have been made at rethinking the issue of modernity and its relevant cultural and literary practices through border-crossing lenses, be it transcultural, transnational, transcontinental, global/world, etc.



This panel investigates the possibility to transcend or rethink the existing dichotomy between the West and the Rest in the case of modernism, a “dubious” by-product of modernization. Above all, avant-garde practices, often grouped under the nomenclature of “modernism,” deviate from existing convention. In this case, would it be possible for the avant-garde to confer the texts, the practitioner, or the artworks some autonomy to transcend the existent infrastructure or even the clearly deployed world system? Other than the text, how does the circulation of idea embody or transcend the respective geopolitical imaginary and power relations? How does the transcoding from idea to text/artwork fossilize or debunk the binary myth in the border crossing movement of both idea and text? Along the same thread, we ask if any of these attempts provides us with different angles to inspect modernist practices, and even reconfigure the idea of modernity. For the border-crossing practices, are there other ways to imagine the world other than the dichotomy of the west and the rest?  



Continuing the dialogue, we welcome articles comparing modernist practices (literature, art and/or media) in different regions as well as its border-crossing attempts. In addition, we look for papers that rethink the geopolitics as well as the concept and theorization of modernity by investigating through the modernist works. We also look forward to research concerning the translation of modernist ideas, works, and texts as well as their circulation.


Please contact Fangdai Chen (fangdai_chen@g.harvard.edu) and Shu-mei Lin (sl2688@cornell.edu). 


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