The material conditions for the “Western” Episteme: a short note

It is through colonialism that Europe constructed itself. So many of the things we take for granted today were either born in, or crystalized in the 19th century of Britain and France. Nation-states, the family, adolescence, the middle-class, science, the university (as we know it), capitalism etc. etc. One note that I want to make about how the European episteme is now the dominant paradigm of global knowing has to do with knowledge production itself. All universities around the world follow the European model and privilege European ways of knowing.  This has created a situation where, globally, the structures of how we organize knowledge, how we think and what we know, at the level of the middle-class and upper-class (and thus necessarily impacting the lower-classes), follows a historical trajectory from the 19th century. The ways we think about the world as national citizens, the kinds of institutions we accept, the discourses and categories of knowledge that we encounter and embody, are all to a greater (or occasionally lesser) degree “Western”.

With this in mind, I think it is fair to say that, today, the world is the West. Following from this, we might then say that distinctions we make between developed/developing, first- and third-world, East and West, Us and Them, are really more roundabout ways of creating a set of people to dominate at the level of discourse. Almost all discourse is Western now, regardless of the language being used, so to argue that something is not ‘Western’ is, in fact, to argue something else entirely. It is instead to establish a differential hierarchy through language. I’ll leave the reader to imagine the various consequences of this.


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