Alternative Modernities

Alternative Modernities

a Public Culture Book

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Book Pages: 376 Illustrations: 19 b&w photographs, 4 figures Published: June 2001

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

To think in terms of “alternative modernities” is to admit that modernity is inescapable and to desist from speculations about modernity’s end. Modernity today is global and multiple and no longer has a Western “governing center” to accompany it. The essays in this collection, therefore, approach the dilemmas of modernity from transnational and transcultural perspectives.

The idea of “alternative modernities” holds that modernity always unfolds within specific cultures or civilizations and that different starting points of the transition to modernity lead to different outcomes. Without abandoning the Western discourse on the subject, the contributors to this volume write from the standpoint that modernity is in truth a richly mulitiplicitous concept. Believing that the language and lessons of Western modernity must be submitted to comparative study of its global receptions, they focus on such sites as China, Russia, India, Trinidad, and Mexico. Other essays treat more theoretical aspects of modernity, such as its self-understanding and the potential reconcilability of cosmopolitanism and diversity.

Contributors. Homi Bhabha, William Cunningham Bissell, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar, Michael Hanchard, Beatriz Jaguaribe, Leo Ou-fan Lee, Claudio Lomnitz, Thomas McCarthy, Tejaswini Niranjana, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Shahzia Sikander, Charles Taylor, Andrew Wachtel


“This volume examines phenomena as diverse as legal controversies over the definition of Aboriginal heritage in Australia, modernist architecture in Brazil, and the ideology of citizenship in Mexico, with a view to elaborating the dialectic of sameness and difference in a variety of cultural and national experiences of modernity from the middle of the nineteenth century to the end of the twentieth. Within the limits of this paradigm, the contributors offer numerous rich and careful readings of texts, practices, and ideologies that form a welcome addition to discourses of modernity that remain focused on London, Paris, and New York. . . . Alternative Modernities adds a wealth of comparative detail about a wide variety of societies over the last two centuries to the continuing discourse of modernity, helping to expand and refine this discourse through the careful accumulation of close readings. It will prove an important resource for scholars in cultural studies, urban and architectural history, anthropology, and literature who are eager to incorporate a comparative dimension in their work.” — Alexander Des Forges , Journal of Asian Studies

"Gaonkar has rendered valuable service in bringing these scholars together in a single volume." — John Xiros Cooper , Canadian Literature

“Creative and vitally important. The authors don’t just note that modernity is more than a single, homogenous thing, they explore the fissures and fault lines and assess the implications for both scholarly understanding and public discourse. In doing so, they offer a hopeful and intellectually supple alternative to the often repackaged notion of a ‘clash of
civilizations.’ ” — Craig Calhoun, President, Social Science Research Council

“If ‘modernity’ is an invention of the North Atlantic, then so is the desire to escape, negate or transcend it. Going forward would seem to demand that we critically imagine the possibilities of alternative modernities. There is no question more important for cultural studies, or for progressive politics. This volume is a major contribution to this project. It needs to be read and extended.” — Lawrence Grossberg, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar teaches Rhetoric and Cultural Studies at Northwestern University and is Co-director of the Center for Transcultural Studies.

Table of Contents Back to Top
On Alternative Modernities / Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar 1

Settler Modernity and the Quest for an Indigenous Tradition / Elizabeth A. Povinelli 24

Translation, Imperialism, and National Self-Definition in Russia / Andrew Wachtel 58

Shanghai Modern: Reflections on Urban Culture in China in the 1930s / Leo Ou-fan Lee 86

Adda, Calcutta: Dwelling in Modernity / Dipesh Chakrabarty 123

Miniaturizing Modernity: Shahzia Sikander in Conversation with Homi K. Bhabha / edited by Robert McCarthy 165

Two Theories of Modernity / Charles Taylor 172

On Reconciling Cosmopolitan Unity and National Diversity / Thomas McCarthy 197

Camera Zanzibar / William Cunningham Bissell 237

“Left to the Imagination”: Indian Nationalisms and Female Sexuality in Trinidad / Tejaswini Niranjana 248

Afro-Modernity: Temporality, Politics, and the African Diaspora / Michael Hanchard 272

Modes of Citizenship in Mexico / Claudio Lomnitz 299

Modernist Ruins: National Narratives and Architectural Forms / Beatriz Jaguaribe 327

Contributors 349

Index 353
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2714-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2703-5
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