The Atlantic Crossing and the "New World": The "odd political theology" of Modernity

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This essay assesses the continuing utility of the Atlantic Crossing and the discovery of the “New World” in Western conceptualisations of contemporary globalisation, which, following Heidegger, Arendt and Sloterdijk, it characterises as a reductive “world picture” designed to legitimise a Modernity defined by colonialism and its epistemological avatars. The essay reflects on the discovery of the Americas as a periodising trope that re-situates the medieval European past in the “present” of the fifteenth and sixteenth century “New World,” and explores the continuing valency of “new worlds” in the self-representations of the “Moderns.” Drawing on Peter Sloterdijk’s grand narrative of “terrestrial globalization,” the essay contests the virtuous alignment of translation, hospitality and mobility, contending that, in the context of a global migrant crisis and the ecological conditions of the “Anthropocene,” the terms function as shibboleths of neoliberalism. Alternative models of translation, drawn from the “Amerindian perspectivism” of anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, are assessed as a potentially radical alternative to the spent models of cultural encounter that accompany liberal humanist and postmodernist understandings of contemporary global mobility. The multiple ontologies proposed in the “epistemologies of the South” have the potential to revivify what are described as pre-modern conditions of epistemological, and hence ethical, humility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315
JournalAtlantic Studies: Literary, Cultural and Historical Perspectives
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jul 2018
Publication statusEarly online date - 10 Jul 2018


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