Recently I read an article in a British newspaper about the decision of a Scottish school to cancel from its curriculum the reading of a famous book by Harper Lee, “How to kill a Mockingbird.” Published in 1960 and awarded with the Pulitzer Prize, this book was inspiration for the Oscar winning screenplay of the homonymous film directed by Robert Mulligan in 1963. The reason why James Gillespie’s High School in Edinburgh suspended the reading of this work is simple: For the director of the school’s English department, the book promotes a colonialist narrative of the “white savior”. Therefore, along with other classic novels, such as John Steinbeck’s book “Of Mice and Men” (due to its outdated representation of the African American population), “How to kill a Mockingbird” should be replaced by “less problematic” texts.
Of course, the cancellation of these classic texts from the curriculum has caused a series of controversies. Those who support the measure consider it adequate to reform educational aspects that implicitly promote colonialist and therefore racist narratives; other groups, however, judge the measure as inappropriate because they consider that reading these types of classics would actually allow exploring and debating the issue of racial injustice, so suspending its academic use would be counterproductive for the training of students. Furthermore, taking advantage of this debate, some conservative groups have joined the protest, arguing for their part that the action is a censorship measure that eliminates access to the reading of classic works to students, and that this should not be the role of an educational institution.
I am not sure at this moment which of the two scenarios —to prohibit their reading or to keep these books in the school conversational dynamic —is the most favorable for students to understand the anachronism and abhorrence of this type of colonialist and racist narratives. But what I am sure of is that keeping these types of books in the academic curriculum solely because they are classic novels would be counterproductive to the efforts of many schools to decolonize their curriculum, which, as in this case, try to distance their students from a historically misrepresentation of African Americans, and from stereotypes of white racial superiority.
But what I am sure of is that keeping these types of books in the academic curriculum solely because they are classic novels would be counterproductive to the efforts of many schools to decolonize their curriculum
In addition, by doing so, they would be somehow justifying maintaining Eurocentric positions in educational institutions. Without thinking these issues through, these books continue to contribute to this type of narrative indoctrination, based on the idea of a supposed Western superiority in the curriculum through literary works. Eurocentric positions are also then reinforced through issues related to the scientific field, as we can see today with the controversy of non-Western “produced” SARS CoV2 vaccines.
The term ‘Eurocentrism’ can be applied to any attitude or ideology that is based on a historiographic approach of social evolution that implicitly considers European culture as the center of world civilization. It can be seen as a form of ethnocentrism, as an “idealized” and evidently mistaken manifestation of a vision in which European history is the guide of the cultural flow of other peoples, which without its influence would have had incomplete or deformed formations of their own histories.
It can be seen as a form of ethnocentrism, as an “idealized” and evidently mistaken manifestation of a vision in which European history is the guide of the cultural flow of other peoples, which without its influence would have had incomplete or deformed formations of their own histories.
For authors like Samir Amin (1989), it is a basically phenomenon of Modernity, whose roots emerged during the Renaissance, and were consolidated during the 19th century. Therefore, it is an ideological dimension of capitalism, a modern European hegemonic vision, based on two absurd main myths, “the image-idea of the history of human civilization as part of a linear and unidirectional evolutionary trajectory, a kind of Scala Naturae, or great chain of being, that starts from a state of nature and culminates in Modern Europe, which also gives meaning to the differences between Europe and non-Europe, as differences of nature (innate / raciological) and not only as a history of power ” (Quijano, 2000).
It is an ideological invention that, as Dussel (2000) mentions, abducts the Greek era as exclusively European and therefore renders it Western. It seeks to legitimize European racial superiority by advancing the idea that Greek and Roman cultures were the center of world human history, de facto forgetting what was happening at that same time in the rest of the world. Further, since the 18th century it delegitimizes other peoples’ types of progress by timidly recognizing other cultures as its “other”, specifically the people of the East, and the “Indian” peoples of America and the “black” peoples of Africa, seen simply as primitive.
At present, as David Slater (2008) proposes, there are three constituent features of Eurocentrism anchored in the Anglo-Saxon world: (i) a tendency to present the West in terms of a series of special or primary attributes of self-development, such as rationality, democracy, modernity, and human rights that cannot be found elsewhere; (ii) the essential matrix of attributes that supposedly only the West possesses is considered intrinsic to European and North American development, and not as the product of any crossed cultural encounter; and, finally, (iii) the development of the West is considered to constitute a universal step for the whole of humanity.
It is clearly a universalist claim of the current “Euro-Americancentrism”, which has been particularly reactivated since the 90s of the last century, based on its geopolitical, geocultural and, of course, geoeconomic modalities. Its arguments are based on defending the supposed superiority of the policies implemented in the West, where the scientific truths of the Western market are the only applicable alternatives in the rest of the world. The governments of the world have no choice but to accept the laws of neoliberal economics and act based on them (Wallerstein, 2007).
Eurocentrism is still in force beyond the social imaginary, and today we can still see its harmful effects in relation to vaccines against COVID 19. Many people around the world, for various reasons, ranging from hoarding, or the little availability of some western biological compound, have received doses of Russian, Chinese or Indian vaccines, which, even without being accepted by the European Union and the United States, have empirically demonstrated their effectiveness, having drastically lowered the rates of severe illness and death due to infection caused by SARS CoV2 in populations inoculated with its formula. Both the European Union and the United States continue to consider only those vaccinated with the biological compounds authorized by them to be immune and protected, which, incidentally, has implications on migration, political and, of course, economic issues. It is evident, though, that not even Anglo-Saxon vaccines are totally effective against infections and the presence of mild symptoms, and in minor cases, against death.
Eurocentrism is still in force beyond the social imaginary, and today we can still see its harmful effects in relation to vaccines against COVID 19.
For example, several countries of the European Union propose to allow access to their territory to people from other countries as long as they have been vaccinated with one of the four immunizing biological preparations approved for use within the community block, that is, Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNtech), Moderna, Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca), and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). So therefore, if you are an ordinary person vaccinated in India or in the African Union, or in some country in America, other than the United States, or in Eastern Europe, you probably will not be able to easily enter the countries of the European Union, because they do not consider that you are protected, since surely you will be vaccinated with “Covishield”, an Indian version of the “Vaxzeria” vaccine from AztraZeneca, produced in Oxford, which is approved by the European Agency of Medicines (EMA), or with a vaccine of Russian or Chinese manufacture, which in addition to everything, have not made public the results of their studies in some “prestigious” western scientific publication.
It is a fact that the fundamental scientific principles, and the scientific enterprise as such, are a “product” originated in the West, but that does not mean that the West has the patent to do “good” science, as the Eurocentric vision assumes. The times of Lysenko and the Cold War have disappeared, and what remains today is a scenario in which it is imperative to understand, that it may be necessary to “kill the Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, and incidentally Eurocentrism, to build a new scholarly and scientific narrative, based on anti-colonial and anti-racist parameters.
The times of Lysenko and the Cold War have disappeared, and what remains today is a scenario in which it is imperative to understand, that it may be necessary to “kill the Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, and incidentally Eurocentrism, to build a new scholarly and scientific narrative, based on anti-colonial and anti-racist parameters.
Amin, S. (1989). El eurocentrismo. Crítica de una ideología. México: Siglo XXI
Dussel, E. (1995). “Europa, modernidad y eurocentrismo”, en Revista Ciclos en la Historia, la Economía y la Sociedad, Clacso
Quijano, A. (2000). “Colonialidad del poder, eurocentrismo y América latina”. En E. Lander (comp.), La colonialidad del saber: eurocentrismo y ciencias sociales. Perspectivas Latinoamericanas, Buenos Aires, CLACSO
Slater, D. (2008). “Repensando la geopolítica del conocimiento: reto a las visiones imperiales”. En H. Cairo y W. Mignolo, eds., Las vertientes americanas del pensamiento y el proyecto des-colonial, Madrid, Trama
Wallerstein, I. (2007). Universalismo europeo. El discurso del poder. México: Siglo XXI
Trained as a biological anthropologist, he is a doctoral student at the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH), where he studies the processes that develop creativity and innovation in humans, within the framework of institutional education, under the guidance of the professor Agustín Fuentes. He collaborates with the curatorship of the Introduction to Anthropology and Populations of America rooms of the National Museum of Anthropology, and he is also common people.