By Hamid Dabashi
In Can Non-Europeans Think?, Hamid Dabashi brings jointly a distinct crew of historic and theoretical reflections on present affairs and the position of philosophy to argue that, which will grapple with the issues of humanity at the present time, we needs to put off the ethnographic gaze that infects philosophy and casts Arab and different non-Western thinkers as subordinates.
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Anthropological and philosophical knowledge is half the story. Anthropologists are in the main Western professionals making sense of the rest of the world for a Western audience. Thus, non-Western people, scholars and intellectuals (that is, people who think, regardless of whether or not they are philosophers or anthropologists in the Western provincial disciplinary sense) are by default left outside, watching. That was the case in the long history of coloniality of knowledge of being – for knowledge molds subjectivities, the subjectivity both of those who “feel” they are working for the Global Secretary of Knowledge and of those who felt, and perhaps still feel, that they should be recognized by the Secretary.
Humor is a crucial epistemic dimension here. It is not philosophy that is in question but a certain imaginary, from which philosophy is not exempt. The imputed discourse is that of anthropology and Western television anchors. The line of the argument is how Western anthropologists and news anchors relying on them make sense of an Iraqi throwing a shoe at George W. Bush in Tehran and, later on, an Egyptian enacting the same gesture. However, the target in the latter case is not Bush but Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
It is not trivial because epistemic racism crosses the lines of social and institutional spheres. Both questions indeed unveil epistemic racism hidden beneath the naturalization of certain ways of thinking and producing knowledge that are given the name Eurocentrism. Racism is not a question of one’s blood type (the Christian criterion used in sixteenth-century Spain to distinguish Christians from Moors and Jews in Europe) or the color of one’s skin (Africans and the New World civilizations). Racism consists in devaluing the humanity of certain people by dismissing it or playing it down (even when not intentional) at the same time as highlighting and playing up European philosophy, assuming it to be universal.