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Encounters Old and New in World HistoryEssays Inspired by Jerry H. Bentley$
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Alan Karras and Laura J. Mitchell

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824865917

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824865917.001.0001

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Close Encounters of the Methodological Kind

Close Encounters of the Methodological Kind

Contending with Enlightenment Legacies in World History

(p.165) Twelve Close Encounters of the Methodological Kind
Encounters Old and New in World History

Laura J. Mitchell

University of Hawai'i Press

Professional and public perceptions of history remain deeply influenced by the discipline’s Enlightenment roots. Without a set of common assumptions, the field would be paralyzed, but unless scholars acknowledge the Eurocentric legacies that shape our thinking, historical understanding among scholars and the public will continue to erroneously universalize locally-rooted processes, such as the creation of the Westphalian state system, as an inherently human characteristic. This essay turns the methodology of cross-cultural encounter pioneered by Jerry Bentley on scholarly practice, examining a counter-factual map of “un-colonized” Africa and the public reaction to it in order to illuminate unexamined, Enlightenment-based assumptions that shape world historical inquiry.

Keywords:   Jerry Bentley, enlightenment, Eurocentrism, universal history, world history, public history, counter-factual history, cross-cultural encounter, historical method, disciplinarity, African history

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