The Invention of Humanity: Equality and Cultural Difference in World History

The Invention of Humanity: Equality and Cultural Difference in World History

by

, Nonfiction, History, Philosophy

For much of history, strangers were routinely classified as barbarians and inferiors, seldom as fellow human beings. The notion of a common humanity was counterintuitive and thus had to be invented. Siep Stuurman traces evolving ideas of human equality and difference across continents and civilizations from ancient times to the present.

Despite humans' deeply ingrained bias against strangers, migration and cultural blending have shaped human experience from the earliest times. As travelers crossed frontiers and came into contact with unfamiliar peoples and customs, frontier experiences generated not only hostility but also empathy and understanding. Empires sought to civilize their "barbarians," but in all historical eras critics of empire were able to imagine how the subjected peoples made short shrift of imperial arrogance.

Drawing on the views of a global mix of thinkers--Homer, Confucius, Herodotus, the medieval Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun, the Haitian writer Antenor Firmin, the Filipino nationalist Jose Rizal, and more--The Invention of Humanity surveys the great civilizational frontiers of history, from the interaction of nomadic and sedentary societies in ancient Eurasia and Africa, to Europeans' first encounters with the indigenous peoples of the New World, to the Enlightenment invention of universal "modern equality." Against a backdrop of two millennia of thinking about common humanity and equality, Stuurman concludes with a discussion of present-day debates about human rights and the "clash of civilizations."

Title:The Invention of Humanity: Equality and Cultural Difference in World History
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780674971967
Format Type:

    The Invention of Humanity: Equality and Cultural Difference in World History Reviews

  • Andrew

    There is no other book that does what this book tries to do: to tell a global history of ideas about the unity of the human race. The breadth which this requires is astonishing; the organized rigor wh...

  • Jan

    "How and in what historical circumstances did cross-cultural humanity become thinkable? How could it happen that people can to see foreigners as fellow human beings or even as equals?" are just 2 of ...

  • Max Bodach

    overuses the phrase “Janus-faced”very good for exploring equality through the “anthropological turn”...