Monday, January 7, 2008
As the semester comes to an end, all my classes seem to be converging on an interesting and important subject: Modernity and Post Modernity. While it seems that these are terms we throw around all the time, I don't often have a chance to really think about them...Here are some thoughts (albeit just a few) that have been discussed, interspersed with some photos I took from the net.
Modernity can be traced to the 17th century: the scientific revolution, new technology, and transportation (railroad and steamship) which all provided for totally new possibilities. The origins of modernity are located in Europe. Progress is big! There is a whole change in the way people understand their world, in every way.
Of course, besides there being this new forward-moving direction that history was thought to be moving in, there is a dark side: Colonialism (an ideology while acceptable at the time was about racism and imposing ideas on people), WWI and its unfathomable amount of death and suffering, WWII and the Holocaust, the invention of the atomic bomb.
In contrast to modernity and post-modernity, modernism and post-modernism are aesthetic styles, referring to literature, art, architecture, music. This style is clean and simple. One example is Bauhaus architecture.
The post modern era started in the 1970s, among French intellectuals. Existentialism and questioning of what really is truth. This new outlook can be termed a"paradigm shift," where there are no more certainties in life, and the concept of progress is dead. The post modern turn can be seen in subaltern studies, cultural studies, and social history. In the post modern era, there is also a resurgence of religion (since there is nothing else to believe in!). Nietzsche is confused.
Anthony Giddens writes in The Consequences of Modernity: "living in the modern world is more like being aboard a careering juggernaut rather than being in a carefully controlled and well-driven motor car."
In my class, "Muslim Mediterranean Cities," the professor challenged us with these questions: "Is post modernity just another stage of modernity? Is it an imploding of modernism?" I don't know the answers.
In a different class ("Production of Resistance in Arab Countries"), the professor posited that there are different concepts of modernity in the West and East. Western modernity can be seen as a total break from the past. In the East, modernity has some connection to tradition as well. They are not mutually exclusive. For example, Eastern music cannot be understood without looking at traditional music styles to understand the contemporary.