chapter  7
A new cosmopolitanism: Toward a dialogue of Asian civilizations
Pages 8

Asia is a geographical, not cultural entity. Though many Asians have defined their continent culturally during the last 150 years, that definition can be read as an artefact of Asian reactions to Western colonialism rather than as an autonomous search for larger cultural similarities. In this respect, the Asia of anti-imperialist intellectuals like Rabindranath Tagore is much like the Africa of the likes of Leopold Senghor. The difference is that while cultural definitions of Asia have been mainly a psychological defence against the internalized imperial fantasy of the continent as a location of ancient civilizations that had once been great and were now decadent, decrepit and senile, the idea of Africa as a cultural area has been mainly a defence against the internalized fantasy of the continent as an abode of the primitive and the infantile. Both definitions have been shaped by the imperial metaphor of the body, built on European folk imageries of stages of life as taken over and remodelled by nineteenth-century biology and social evolutionism.