The Value of Comparison
Peter van der Veer is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity at Göttingen, Germany and Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University. He is the author of several books, including The Modern Spirit of Asia: The Spiritual and the Secular in China and India.
Civilization and Comparison
This chapter goes into the problem of civilization and who belongs to it. Like the concept of culture, civilization is a complex and highly contested one, since it operates at the levels not only of scholarly discourse but also of common-sense understandings of hierarchy and difference. This chapter focuses on the exclusion of Muslim minorities in Europe, India, and China and the civilizational legitimation of that exclusion. It highlights the similarities and differences in these patterns of exclusion.
This chapter goes to the heart of civilization practice, namely the religious worship of images in India and China and especially the recurrent campaigns to destroy them. It examines the variegated histories of iconoclasm in India and China and the problem of sovereignty that is central to them. The chapter moves on to discuss the extent to which modern urban planning can be understood as a form of iconoclasm.