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Lecture: Viren Murthy “Hegelian Master Narratives and Periodizing Japanese and Chinese Modernity”

11. July 2023, 16:00 - 18:00

Scholars of Asian studies have something of a love-hate relationship with Hegel; they love to cite him as the epitome of Eurocentrism, modernization theory and the legitimation of colonialism. Despite their prevalence, such criticisms overlook both the complexities of Hegel’s philosophy and the different ways in which Asian intellectuals attempted to turn Hegel on his head or rescue the rational kernel of his thought in a non-Western context. I contend that for much of the twentieth century, especially in Japan, but also in China, scholars engaged Hegel by incorporating and transforming his ideas. Such incorporations enabled us to see that Hegel was not merely a theorist of modernization but one of its most incisive critics. Indeed, it was precisely because of Hegel’s critique of capitalist modernity that conservatives such as Inoue Tetsujirō found him interesting. In this presentation, I will examine three attempts to rethink Hegel, respectively by the pan-Asianist, Okakura Tenshin, the Kyoto school philosopher of world-history, Koyama Iwao and the Japanese sinologist, Mizoguchi Yūzō. I argue that each of these thinkers narrates the history of Asia, while implicitly or explicitly responding to Hegel’s idea of the Orient as not having subjectivity. Against this static vision of Asia, these figures reconfigure the historical trajectories of Japan, China and the world to reconfigure both universality and subjectivity beyond Eurocentrism. Towards the end of my talk, I suggest that the contemporary “new leftist” intellectual Wang Hui, continues elements of the various thinkers mentioned above. The contemporary rise of China makes such responses to Hegelian master narratives especially relevant for our contradictory present.


11. July 2023
16:00 - 18:00




OEC 0.168


Oeconomicum OEC 0.168