classical literature, cartography, evangelization, colonizations, medieval and other journeys, The New World, Japan


This essay presents a cautionary tale about certain problems with systematization and abstraction in comparative civilizational studies. It advocates instead for the analysis of single works, limited events, or particular figures, within larger issues pertaining to what is understood as a “civilization” or “culture”. It prioritizes certain aspects of the civilizing process: the here, or the civilizing and interpretive gaze; the there, or the Other that is the object of that gaze; and the in-between. It further suggests that insights and methods from Mikhail Bakhtin, Hans-Georg Gadamer and others from the humanities, social sciences, and philosophy can be useful in the kind of analysis advocated here.