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Eurocentrism

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Eurocentrism is thoughts or practices privileging European identity, culture, and historical events over those of other regions. Implicit in Eurocentric practice is the claim that European culture and peoples are superior to those of other continents. Flamingly evident in the "Great Books" educational tradition, the distortion often conceals a dangerous denial of the origins of European culture and ideas in African and Asian traditions.

Eurocentrism is reflected in unthinking conceptions of the geographic extent of the West. In his 2009 book The Burdens of Disease: Epidemics and Human Response in Western History, author J.N. Hays discusses the Western response to disease as occurring in Europe, the countries along the Mediterranean coastline that include the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Australasia. In effect, the only part of the world that is not the West is Asia.

Examples[edit]

  • Jack McDevitt's 2009 science fiction novel Time Travelers Never Die, in which a pair of mid-21st century Americans spend years using their monopoly on time travel technology to visit important historical events and persons, all of which occur in the United States, modern and early modern Europe and the ancient eastern Mediterranean. In the thinking of the Eurocentrist, the cultural achievements of ancient Greece, Egypt, and Mesopotamia are claimed as source material for modern European culture despite the obvious discontinuity and the claims of people from other cultures on the same material.
  • Where and when did World War II begin? According to European (and American) history books, it began when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. This after Hitler had annexed Austria and Czechoslovakia over the previous 18 months.
However, Japan invaded China in 1931. Just before midnight on 7 July 1937, the Japanese army -- after agreeing to give notice of upcoming night maneuvers -- began unannounced night maneuvers in the vicinity of the Lugou Bridge near Beijing. The Chinese army sporadically returned fire. Within an hour, the shooting stopped. But then the Japanese command noticed that one of their officers was missing. They called the Chinese commander to ask for permission to search for him. The Chinese commander refused because the Japanese hadn't notified him of the night maneuvers. Within an hour of that, the Japanese army opened fire on the Chinese, and a full-fledged shooting war began. Over the next three years, the United States and the Soviet Union sent troops and portions of their air forces to fight for China, making this something more than a conflict between two Asian nations. Yet, while 7 July 1937 is considered the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War -- which later "merged into" the Pacific Theater of World War II -- most Western historians would not consider this date as the start of World War II.[1] And Ethiopia... well, that one's at least arguable.
  • Perhaps the most widely spread example of Eurocentrism is the discovery of America. Even in American countries, Chistopher Columbus is regarded as the man who discovered America, thus ignoring the millions of people who had lived and died in America for thousands of years before 1492. More recently, Mexican textbooks have begun to call the event "Encounter of Cultures" instead of "Discovery of America".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Furthermore, Western historians tend to refer the "Lugou Bridge Incident" as the "Marco Polo Bridge Incident," in reference to the thirteenth century Italian explorer. All this could be avoided if World War II history put more emphasis on separating individual theatres of war.