The End of the West and the Birth of the First Postcolonial Person



Hamid Dabashi


Francis Fukuyama´s thesis of "the End of History" (1989) was formulated in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Block in the late 1980´s, while the publication of Samuel Huntington´s thesis of "the Clash of Civilization" (1993) was formulated soon after the publication of Fukuyama´s thesis and the commencement of a wave of militant Islamism in the early 1990´s in the aftermath of the Soviet expulsion from Afghanistan by the Taliban.  Between 1989 and 1993, the precarious notion of "the West" was in a state of limbo, as perhaps best indicated by the vacuous expression of "the New World Order" by President George H. W. Bush (president 1989-1991) on 11 September 1991, trying to define the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the two Superpower rivalries, and the rise of the United States as a mono-polar Empire. Viewed from the global vantage point, "the End of History" thesis paradoxically points to the commencement of a renewed worldly pact with history, as nations and cultures are released from their false binaries with "the West," while at the same time "the Clash of Civilization" thesis is in fact the end of civilizational thinking and the commencement of militant provincialism in world affairs-as best exemplified by Osama bin Laden´s terrorism and George W. Bush´s war on terrorism.  Looked at from the outside world, Fukuyama´s thesis was a premature triumphalism seeking to proclaim the US the winner in the post-Soviet world affairs, while Huntington´s thesis did the same by inventing a new Schmittian Enemy for "The West."  But with the implosion of "the West," all its historically manufactured civilizational others, including the "Islam" that the Orientalists had invented, has also ended, and the era of a renewed discovery of worldly cosmopolitanism, definitive to all historical cultures, is now fast upon the world, Muslims included.  The threshold of that renewed encounter with history marks the end of "the West" as the civilizational source of alienating the world from itself, and concomitant with it the birth of the first postcolonial person. 


Born in 1951 into a working class family in Iran, Hamid Dabashi finished his college education in Tehran, before moving to the United States, where he received a dual Ph.D. in Sociology of Culture and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. He is currently the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York, the oldest and most prestigious Chair in Iranian Studies. Professor Dabashi has written 18 books, edited 4, and contributed chapters to many more. He is also the author of over 100 essays, articles and book reviews in major scholarly and peer reviewed journals on subjects ranging from Iranian Studies, medieval and modern Islam, comparative literature, world cinema, and the philosophy of art (trans-aesthetics). Dabashi is also a public speaker around the globe, a current affairs essayist, and a staunch anti-war activist.

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