What We Are Reading Today: Unfabling the East 

Updated 30 August 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Unfabling the East 

During the long 18th century, Europe’s travelers, scholars, and intellectuals looked to Asia in a spirit of puzzlement, irony, and openness. In this panoramic and colorful book translated to English by Robert Savage, Jürgen Osterhammel tells the story of the European Enlightenment’s nuanced encounter with the great civilizations of the East, from the Ottoman Empire and India to China and Japan.

Here is the acclaimed book that challenges the notion that Europe’s formative engagement with the non-European world was invariably marred by an imperial gaze and presumptions of Western superiority. Osterhammel shows how major figures such as Leibniz, Voltaire, Gibbon, and Hegel took a keen interest in Asian culture and history, and introduces lesser-known scientific travelers, colonial administrators, Jesuit missionaries, and adventurers who returned home from Asia bearing manuscripts in many exotic languages, huge collections of ethnographic data, and stories that sometimes defied belief. 

Osterhammel brings the sights and sounds of this tumultuous age vividly to life, from the salons of Paris and the lecture halls of Edinburgh to the deserts of Arabia, the steppes of Siberia, and the sumptuous courts of Asian princes. He demonstrates how Europe discovered its own identity anew by measuring itself against its more senior continent, and how it was only toward the end of this period that cruder forms of Eurocentrism — and condescension toward Asia — prevailed.

A momentous work by one of Europe’s most eminent historians, Unfabling the East takes readers on a thrilling voyage to the farthest shores, bringing back vital insights for our own multicultural age.


What We Are Reading Today: Below the Surface

Updated 16 January 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Below the Surface

  • The book explores the latest research in ethnic and racial identity and interracial relations among diverse youth in the US

Authors: Deborah Rivas-Drake and Adriana J. Umaña-Taylor

Today’s young people are growing up in an increasingly ethnically and racially diverse society. How do we help them navigate this world productively, given some of the seemingly intractable conflicts we constantly hear about? 

In Below the Surface, Deborah Rivas-Drake and Adriana Umaña-Taylor explore the latest research in ethnic and racial identity and interracial relations among diverse youth in the US, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Drawing from multiple disciplines, including developmental psychology, social psychology, education, and sociology, the authors demonstrate that young people can have a strong ethnic-racial identity and still view other groups positively, and that in fact, possessing a solid ethnic-racial identity makes it possible to have a more genuine understanding of other groups. During adolescence, teens reexamine, redefine, and consolidate their ethnic-racial identities in the context of family, schools, peers, communities, and the media.