Global history needs common concepts. European concepts are deeply problematic, as Dipesh Chakrabarty has shown, because their genealogy in European experience makes them particular and universal at the same time and reduces the rest of the world to a history of lack. Taking the history of the ashraf and their relation to the middle classes as an example, Pernau's article moves beyond the impasse of European thought as “both indispensable and inadequate.” In the first step, it claims, it makes sense to use those analytical categories to create a common field of reference, while marking their use as provisional. In the second step conceptual history becomes central in two respects; investigating the history of the analytical concepts allows us to destabilize the boundary between the interpretation offered by the historical actors and the one offered by historians. To this needs to be added the history of colonial actors' concepts, taking into consideration translingual practices. The third step addresses the problem of how to transform the existing analytical concepts in order to do greater justice to the ways in which actors conceived of their world.
Research Article| December 01 2016
Margrit Pernau; Provincializing Concepts: The Language of Transnational History. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 December 2016; 36 (3): 483–499. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201x-3699031
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