Contemporary civilisational analysis has emerged in the post-Cold War period as a forming but already controversial field of scholarship. This book focuses on the scholarship produced in this field since the 1970s. It begins with anthropological axioms posited by Ibn Khaldun, Simon Bolivar and George Pachymeres. Three conceptual images of civilisations are prominent in the field. First, civilisations are conceived as socio-cultural units, entities or blocs in an 'integrationist' image. They emerge out of long-term uneven historical processes. Finally, in a 'relational' image civilisations are believed to gain definition and institute developmental patterns through inter-societal and inter-cultural encounters. The book traces the history of semantic developments of the notions of 'civilisation' and 'civilisations' coextensive with the expansion of Europe's empires and consubstantial with colonialism. Early modernities are more important in the long formation of capitalism. Outlining the conceptual framework of inter-civilisational engagement, the book analytically plots the ties instituted by human imaginaries across four dimensions of inter-civilisational engagement. It also interrogates the relationship between oceans, seas and civilisations. Oceanian civilisation exhibits patterns of deep engagement and connection. Though damaged, Pacific cultures have invoked their own counter-imaginary in closer proximity to past islander experiences. Collective memory provides resources for coping with critical issues. The book also explores Latin American and Japanese experiences that shed light on the engagement of civilisations, applying the model of inter-civilisational engagement to modern perspectives in culture and the arts, politics, theology and political economy.
normative environments. By doing this we are better placed to engage with the
regulation of life and the subjugation of life to death.
1 This chapter is a modified version of an article originally published in Third World
Quarterly. I thank the editors for permission to reuse it here.
2 IbnKhaldun, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History (Franz Rosenthal trans.)
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967), p. 39.
3 Charles Tilly, The Formation of Nation States in Western Europe (Princeton,
NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975), p. 45.
agenda in civilisational analysis that will operate more closely at the intersection
of past and present.
Intersections of past and present
Debating Civilisations began with anthropological axioms posited by IbnKhaldun,
Simon Bolivar and George Pachymeres. Each axiom alludes to perceptions of
deep connectivity that pre-date processes of modern globalisation. The three
extracts in another way are anecdotes of inter-civilisational engagement pre-
dating the global age, which is one of the problems I pose and unpack in the book.
The argument I have supported, that
philosophical and practical considerations.
Scholars as far back as IbnKhaldun have focused upon the social power of religion,
which, as the twentieth century developed, became increasingly important. At the turn
of the century, religion was largely seen as a private matter, yet in the postcolonial
period, a number of regimes used the legitimising ideologies of religion to support
their claims to self-determination. Religion took on an increasing political importance,
leading to the emergence of competition between the nationalist movements of pan-
Arabists who advocated
Herodotus the Halicarnassian has learnt by inquiry is here set forth: in order that so the memory of the past may not be blotted out from among men by time, and that great and marvellous deeds done by Greek and foreigners and especially the reason why they warred against each other may not lack renown. ( Herodotus I: 1, p. 3)
The historian and politician IbnKhaldûn supplied an insightful presentation of several purposes of history in his foreword to The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History from 1377:
HISTORY is a discipline widely cultivated among nations
Civilisations debated: uses and
critiques of ‘civilisation’
It is unfeasible for human beings to dwell like animals in solitude and it is a corollary
of their nature to at all times seek collectivity in dwelling and abode. Philosophers
enthused by this sociality, have defined this circumstance by asserting ‘humans are
naturally predisposed to sociality’, and in their terminology, civilisation (Madaniyyah)
consists in the sociality of mankind [sic] on the realm of earth.
(IbnKhaldun, cited in Sentürk and Nizamuddin, 2009: 67)
Let us bear in mind that our
only the centre was in possession of civilisation and history. The primitive society was constructed as the “other”, as an antithesis or an inverted mirror image of the anthropologists’ own modern Western society (Kuper 1988 ; Friedman 1994 : 4f, 23f).
The idea that there is a linkage between power and monuments is not new. IbnKhaldûn thus took the view that monuments – large construction works – were proportionate to the original power of a dynasty. Consequently, the monument was intended to demonstrate the strength of a dynasty (Khaldûn 1958: vol. 1, Chapter
alphabetical script from the Levant are historical illustrations of the processes of transfer of cognition and communication. More deeply
engaged societies can also undergo semantic and grammatical intermixing, cross-
language fertilisation and appropriation, creative adaptation of words and concepts, and phonological transfer. It is rare for invasion and migration to not have
an impact in spreading languages. The Arab tribes of the Fatimid and Abbasid
Caliphates commemorated in IbnKhaldun’s historical accounts are one example.
A large example is the impact of Europe