“To think in terms of alternative modernities does not mean blithely abandon the Western discourse on modernity. That is virtually impossible. Modernity has traveled from the West to the rest of the world not only in terms of cultural forms, social practices, and institutional arrangements, but also as a form of discourse that interrogates the present. Whether in vernacular or cosmopolitan idioms, that questioning of the present which is taking place at every national and cultural site today, cannot escape the legacy of Western discourse on modernity. ... One can provincialize Western modernity only by thinking through and against its self-understandings, which are frequently cast in universalist idioms. To think through and against means to think with a difference — a difference that would destabilize the universalist idioms, historicize the contexts and pluralize the experiences of modernity. But what is that difference? ... What difference, if any, does a site-based reading of modernities make in our understanding and questioning of the present?”
Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar, from “On Alternative Modernities,” in Public Culture, 1999
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Credits: Photos from “Brasilia-Chandigarh: Living with Modernity” by Iwan Baan.