Modern European culture and politics have been largely shaped
by the century-long material and cognitive relationships with several (domestic and exotic) forms of ethno-anthropological, sociological and cultural diversity according to both a spatial and a temporal dimension. The need to confront and handle ‘diversity’ did not just result from the European expansion process in the world,
but coincides with the most classic problem of politics, consisting
in the effort to harmonize different interests, groups, religious faiths, customs, languages, ethnic identities and merge them into some form of viable and durable co-existence. Approach to cultural diversity has produced two ideal extremes: suppression through assimilation or its perpetuation through radical ‘othering’. Historical experience has offered, however, a large variety of policies and of intellectual or ideological constructs of a ‘transcultural’ kind, with the transfer, adaptation and dialogue of political, religious, economic patterns of relationships. This international collection of essays sweeps over a multiplicity of such cultural experiences according to a global, transcultural outlook, ranging from European encounters with exotic, savage peoples of newly discovered lands of conquest
and colonization, to the European nation-State building process.
The book is the outcome of the European research project, “EUO-European Culture and the Understanding of Otherness: Historiography, Politics and the Sciences of Man in the Birth of the Modern World (Sixteenth-Nineteenth Centuries)” conceived and directed by Guido Abbattista with researchers from eleven European universities and sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Education University and Research (Interlink program for 2006-2008).
Guido Abbattista, Professor of Modern History and Director of the Doctoral School in the Humanities at the University of Trieste (Italy), is a specialist of eighteenth-century historical and political culture
in France and the Anglo-American world, particularly on colonial
and imperial themes and the representation of human diversity. He has written on British colonial ideologies, republican political thought and empire, French historiography and the non-European world and English political historiography. He published critical editions of works by Lord Bolingbroke, Edmund Burke, the abbé Raynal and Anquetil-Duperron, and authored books on James Mill and British India (1979), the English Universal History and colonial historiography (1989), the American Revolution (1998) and the European expansion in Asia (2002). On the cultural history of human diversity he has co-edited two previous collections of essays,
The Problem of Human Diversity in the European Cultural Experience of the Eighteenth Century (Cromohs, 8, 2003,) and Le problème de l’‘altérité’ dans la culture européenne aux 18e et 19e siècles: anthropologie, politique
et religion (Napoli: Bibliopolis, 2006). His more recent research regards ‘live human ethno-exhibitions’ in early-modern Europe
and nineteenth-century Italian anthropological culture and the perceptions of racial differences. He has been director of several national
and international research projects, among which the MIUR-Interlink
project “EUO-European Culture and the Understanding
of ‘Otherness’: Historiography, Politics and the Sciences of Man
in the Birth of the Modern World (Sixteenth-Nineteenth Centuries)”,
from which the present volume has originated.