Alternative modernities

From Refashioning Iran, p 4:

Modernity can be viewed a product of a globalizing network of power and knowledge that informed the heterotopic experiences of crisscrossing peoples and cultures and thus provided multiple scenarios of self-refashioning. Whereas Europeans reconstituted the modern self in relation to their non-Western Otehrs, Asians and Africans began to redefine the self in relation to Europe, their new significant Other. But what Toulmin calls the “counter-Renaissance” search for certainty, constituted European modes of self-refashioning as archetypically universal, rational and modern. This dehistoricizing universalist claim enabled European rationalists to obliterate the heterotopic context of their self-making and thus constitute themselves as the originators of modernity and rationality. This amnesiac or forgetful assertion gained hegemonic currency and thus constituted “non-Western” modernity as “Westernization.”

The universalist claims of European enlightenment has blackmailed non-European modernity and debilitated its historiography by engendering a tradition of historical writing that used a dehistorized and decontextualized “European rationality” as its scale and referent. Iranian historians and ideologues, like their Indian and Ottoman counterparts, developed a fractured conception of historical time that viewed their contemprary European societies ahead of their own time. This conception of historical time parallels the time-distancing devices of European anthropologists who denied coevalness to their contemporary non-Western societies. Such a schizochronic conception of history informs the nationalist historiography of Iranian modernity, a historiography that assumes the non-contemporaneity of the contemporaneous Iranian and European societies.

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