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Civilisations and their Mobilisation Today: Western Civilisation

The Course of Empire Destruction Thomas Cole

Date: Tuesday 6 June 2017

Time: 6.30-8.30 p.m.

Location: Enlightenment Gallery, British Museum

For more information, please see here.



Civilisations and their Mobilisation Today: Western Civilisation

Western Civilisation panel discussion

The Course of Empire Destruction Thomas Cole

Date: Tuesday 6 June 2017,

Time: 6.30-8.30pm

Location: Enlightenment Gallery, British Museum

Speakers include: Jonathan Bell (Institute of the Americas, UCL), Christopher Brooke (Politics & International Studies, Cambridge), Faisal Devji (Modern South Asian History, Oxford), and Jan Kubik (School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies, UCL).

Chairs: Uta Staiger (European Institute, UCL) and Maria Wyke (Greek & Latin, UCL)

‘Can the West survive?’ This was the apocalyptic title of a panel discussion among senior European and American government figures at the Munich security conference in February 2017. Anxiety over the political break up of ‘the West’ is matched by anxiety over the loss of its perceived values. They are being replaced (said senator John McCain) by blood, race, and sectarianism. After 9/11, ‘the clash of civilisations’ reemerged as a highly problematic catchphrase of popular political debate in order to suggest that the globe’s primary source of conflict is between cultural and religious identities, Christianity and Islam. Since the vote to withdraw from the European Union and the election of President Trump, such polemical headlines in newspapers and social media have been replaced by declarations that Western Civilisation is now endangered and facing imminent destruction.

Civilisations are emerging again on the map of modern debate, where ‘civilisation’ is used to describe a phenomenon greater than the nation, one identified by materials, languages, arts, institutions and habits of mind and body that are spread over time and territory yet remain linked to one another as an integrated system. Why does such a category have renewed value despite its compromised usages in the past? And how is it being utilized in regions such as China, Africa, Europe, the Middle East or the Americas to challenge and to remap social and political geographies? CREDOC (the Centre for Research on the Dynamics of Civilisation, www.ucl.ac.uk/civilisation) is running a series of workshops during 2017 on Civilisations and their Mobilisation Today with a view to creating a network of researchers and furthering research projects on this theme. The first workshop on Chinese civilization focused on the claim of the Chinese government to be the legitimate representative of a civilisation and to continue its long heritage.

This second workshop proposes to interrogate the contemporary mobilization of ‘Western Civilisation’ through an historical, sociological and comparative perspective. The workshop will reflect upon the emergence of the concept of ‘Western civilisation’ in the Enlightenment, and the then presumption that Western values consist in rationality, secularity, egalitarianism and liberal democracy. It will ask who now stakes a claim to the West, and to Western civilization, and to what end? And, in order to understand better how the West is being reconceived as a civilization on the brink of collapse, it will compare the reemergence of civilization in other regions as a mode of political and cultural affirmation.

The event is free and open to all but a ticket is required for entry into the British Museum.


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