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Asien blickt auf Europa: Begegnungen und Irritationen.

Europe is not accustomed to seeing itself as an object of curiosity and inquiry by non-European cultures and traditions. For many centuries, Europe has considered itself to be that part of the world which is destined to discover, understand, and explain the others. It is much more used to "look at" others than to be "looked at" by them. Indeed, this exposure of the whole world to European or Western "understanding," research, and objectification is one of the most conspicuous and significant phenomena of modern history. The foreign cultures that Europe has thus tried to understand and explain are only gradually finding the strength and freedom to call into question the European ways of looking at them, to subject Europe to their own ways of questioning and understanding, and to respond to the global process of Westernization and modernization. Likewise, Western or Westernized scholars are gradually and with some hesitation taking notice of a reverse process of inquiry and understanding, and they are learning to listen to the actual or potential responses of Asian or other non-Western ways of thought and orientation to the West and the process of Westernization.

The present volume makes a welcome, though modest and rather impressionistic, contribution to the study of these developments and their historical presuppositions and antecedents. It brings together a series of lectures delivered in 1987 in conjunction with the 250th anniversary of the University of Gottingen. All of these lectures deal with Asian ways of looking at Europe. Some give brief historical surveys; others focus on specific texts and authors, or on particular historical events and situations. Five of the nine contributions deal with Muslim approaches, beginning with reactions to the European expansion around 1500 and leading to poetic and intellectual responses in the twentieth century. The remaining four presentations deal with Hindu India, Burma, China, and Japan. In spite of the special emphasis on Islam, the contribution by Erhard Rosner on "Europa in chinesischen Reiseberichten des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts" ("Europe in Chinese Travelogues of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries") may well be the highlight of the book. In his general introduction, the editor, Tilman Nagel, sees the contributions assembled in this book as exemplifications of the following diagnosis: "A sober and impartial analysis of the forces that promoted the expansion of Europe was, with the possible exception of Japan, almost entirely absent" (translated from the German). We may agree. However, this does certainly not mean that the encounter and "dialogue" between Europe and Asia, and the mutual ways of looking at each other, have been decided once and for all in favor of Europe.
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Author:Halbfass, Wilhelm
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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