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In defence of dialogue of civilisations: with a brief illustration of the diverging agreement between Edward Said and Louis Massignon

By Fabio Petito


In this article I want to put forward an intellectual defence of the political discourse of dialogue of civilisations by challenging the idea that 'civilisation-based thinking' is necessarily a conflict-generating factor and arguing that, contrary to fashionable assumptions, a civilisational dialogue that wants to contribute to a more peaceful world order requires, in a qualified way, 'stronger' civilisational identities. In particular, I take issue with the academic criticisms to dialogue of civilisations coming from the camp of the critique of the clash of civilisations and well represented by Amartya Sen's explicit and Edward Said's more indirect critiques to 'civilisation-based thinking': by unveiling their implicit endorsement of the Westphalian/secularist presumption, I will show the counter-intuitive political implications of a dialogue among 'strong' civilisational identities and traditions when framed hermeneutically as 'fusion of horizons'. Finally I provide a supplementary brief illustration to my defence of dialogue of civilisations by criticising Said's reading of Louis Massignon the great 20th century French scholar of Islam as part of Orientalism and suggesting that 'in diverging agreement' with Said, Massignon's work and life stand as a very concrete proof of the possibility of a 'dialogue of civilisations' that escapes the yoke of the Orientalist accusations

Publisher: SAGE Publications
Year: 2011
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