The Question of Epistemic Reorientation: What Would Happen When the Orient Becomes Tianxia?

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The project of epistemic decolonization and reorientation has attracted intellectual attention in recent decades. Historians and philosophers have turned their gaze to the non-West and non-European worlds, such as Africa, South-America, and Asia, to re-think the question of decolonization and search for different modes of modernity and alternative epistemologies. These epistemological decolonizing and reorienting projects have demonstrated the fact that the Enlightenment knowledge, with its modernity project, was developed in a particular context and a specific moment in Western Europe, but was considered as universal value and was disseminated globally, through the capitalist expansion and imperial colonization, even has shaped the epistemological structure and the worldview globally. In order to challenge the Eurocentric knowledge production and the intellectual imperialism, scholars tried to excavate the plurality of different historical processes, present different perspectives, to resurrect the ignored and subalternized knowledge from the non-European world, and so on.

The assumption that another epistemology outside of the modern/Western world such as Confucianism, Africanism or Latin American indigenous wisdom can offer some alternative, I think, falls precisely into the trap of the myth of a spatialized perception of knowledge and a typical anthropological apparatus of area partitions. When people redirect the gaze and look at the East, when we re-orient ourselves and try to unearth the forgotten and overlooked Oriental world that has been subalternized, as some scholars suggested through their project of epistemic reorientation, with the effort to decolonize the Eurocentric and Occidental domination, we are bound to face the same questions: Where is the Orient? What is the substance of the Orient or the Far East or Asia? This paper examines the operation of the epistemic reorientation toward the East or the Orient and the inherent coloniality within the discourse of Confucian tributary ideology particularly concerning the concept of tianxia (天下), all-under-the-heaven, a borderless realm, with no outside (無外wuwai).
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 3 Sep 2019
EventOrient, Orientation, Disorientation. - Galatasaray University, Istanbul, Turkey
Duration: 3 Sep 20186 Sep 2018


ConferenceOrient, Orientation, Disorientation.


  • Epistemic decolonization
  • Orient
  • Orientation
  • Reorientation
  • Tianxia


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