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  • Introduction: The Clash of Civilizations
  • Thomas L. Dumm

What does it mean to be civilized? What might it mean to think that civilization is specific to cultures, that there are ways of being civilized that might be considered universalizable, and others that cannot be candidates for such canonization?

Some time after the publication of Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations — when it appeared that this book was going to become what in some circles is called a “symptomatic text” — William Connolly decided that it would be worthwhile to ask some contributors to examine the book, and the phenomenon, systematically. The following essays represent responses to the call he issued. The participants in this symposium answer, powerfully and trenchantly, arguments deployed by Huntington in his efforts to privilege the claims of the West.

In the time that has elapsed since these responses arrived and their publication, certain police actions taken by the Clinton and Blair administrations in the name of civilization have been taken. Readers will undoubtedly be reminded of the relative power of some civilizations over the fates of others as they review our contributors’ efforts. At least, we hope so.


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