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The Ethnological Imagination

A Cross-Cultural Critique of Modernity

2004
Author:

Fuyuki Kurasawa

The Ethnological Imagination

A significant intervention in contemporary debates about cross-cultural understanding

Fuyuki Kurasawa unearths “the ethnological imagination,” a countercurrent of thought that contests Western modernity’s existing social order through comparison and contrast to a non-Western other.

Accordingly, Kurasawa critiques, through this prism of cultural alterity, the writings of some of the key architects of this way of thinking: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Max Weber, Émile Durkheim, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Michel Foucault.

A radical and surprising work that could have profound implications for contemporary theoretical debates about post-coloniality and social science.

Jeffrey C. Alexander, Yale University

Fuyuki Kurasawa unearths what he terms “the ethnological imagination,” a substantial countercurrent of thought that interprets and contests Western modernity’s existing social order through comparison and contrast to a non-Western other. Accordingly, Kurasawa traces and critiques, through this prism of cultural alterity, the writings of some of the key architects of this way of thinking: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Max Weber, Émile Durkheim, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Michel Foucault.

In the work of these thinkers, Kurasawa finds little justification for two of the most prevalent claims about social theory: the wholesale “postmodern” dismissal of the social-theoretical enterprise because of its supposedly intractable ethnocentrism and imperialism, or, on the other hand, the traditionalist and historicist revival of a canon stripped of its intercultural foundations. Rather, Kurasawa’s book defends a cultural perspective that eschews both the false universalism of “end of history” scenarios and the radical particularism embodied in the vision of “the clash of civilizations.” It contends that the ethnological imagination can invigorate critical social theory by informing its response to an increasingly multicultural world—a response that calls for a reconsideration of the identity and boundaries of the West as well of modernity itself.


The Ethnological Imagination

Fuyuki Kurasawa is assistant professor of sociology at York University, Toronto. He was named a Young Canadian Leader by the Globe and Mail newspaper in 2000.

The Ethnological Imagination

A radical and surprising work that could have profound implications for contemporary theoretical debates about post-coloniality and social science.

Jeffrey C. Alexander, Yale University

The Ethnological Imagination sets a new perspective from which the logic of Western social-scientific history can be interpreted.

Zygmunt Bauman, University of Leeds

The Ethnological Imagination heralds the arrival of a major new voice in social theory.

American Journal of Sociology

A fine contribution to the ongoing discourse on how critical, liberatory social theory is still possible and indeed necessary in our rapidly differentiating yet structurally resistant postmodern condition.

Thesis Eleven

Kurusawa’s writing is densely packed prose, but refreshingly readable. He is accurate and yet there are moments of quiet beauty too: moments of sudden pleasure that came from being drawn into a line of thought that unexpectedly twists to form a graceful flourish. A fine example of how social theory is an ongoing process of communication and debate with previous work.

Topia

A pleasure to read. Kurasawa’s fluency with the language of theory is impressive, as is his capacity to produce an interpretive narrative at once nuanced and coherent.

American Journal of Sociology

Kurasawa traces the limitations of western social theory through a historical reflection.

Theory, Culture & Society