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Arif Dirlik

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Arif Dirlik

Arif Dirlik (born in Mersin, Turkey in 1940) is a Turkish American historian who has published extensively about the historiography of China, the formation of the Chinese Communist Party, the history of Chinese anarchism, and post-colonial globalism. Dirlik received a BSc in Electrical Engineering at Robert College, Istanbul in 1964 and a PhD in History at the University of Rochester in 1973.

From 1971 until 2001 he was a member of the History faculty at Duke University. In 2001 he moved to the University of Oregon as Knight Professor of History and Anthropology where he also was appointed Director of the short-lived Center for Critical Theory and Transnational Studies. He retired from Oregon in 2006. He was a Visiting Professor in Summer 2006 at the Central Bureau for Compilation and Translation in Beijing, a Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies in the Netherlands,[1] and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of British Columbia.[2]

Dirlik has been a visiting faculty member at UCLA, University of Victoria, BC, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Soka University of America.

Positions and critiques

Dirlik came to the United States to study science at University of Rochester, but developed an interest in Chinese history instead. His PhD dissertation on the origins of Marxist historiography in China, published by University of California Press in 1978, [3] led to an interest in Chinese anarchism. When asked in 1997 to identify the main influences on his work, Dirlik cited Marx, Mao, and Dostoevsky.[4]

Dirlik spoke on his approach to history and the theoretical issues of historiography in a 2002 interview. As a "practicing historian" Dirlik said, "I continue to practice history not just because it is a way to make a living, which is an important consideration, but because I think that there is some value and meaning to historical understanding." He goes on to say that "I am also appalled at the arbitrary magisterial judgments on history encountered frequently in contemporary literature; a kind of licence that postmodernism seems to legitimize: since we cannot know anything, anybody can speak about everything." [5]

The interview goes on to criticize the field of postcolonial studies, which he took up in such essays as "History Without a Center? Reflections on Eurocentrism," [6] Prasenjit Duara in 2001 replied to Dirlik's charge that diasporic scholars from the former British colonial world had used the concepts of "postcolonialism" to become embedded in Western academic "strongholds" and that they did not represent the majority of the population in their former countries. [7] Likewise even a sympathetic review of the field objected to Dirlik's framing of post-colonial scholars as "agents of capital." [8]

Dirlik was also critical of the "Beijing Consensus" which presented China's economic development model as an alternative — especially for developing countries — to the Washington Consensus. Dirlik argued that this "Silicon Valley model of development" ignores the fact that "the exploitation of China's labor force by foreign countries was a major part of the Chinese development." [9]

Jerry Bentley's 2005 account in the journal World History provides a cogent summary of Dirlik's critiques of the field and his own disagreement. Dirlik, he says, has leveled a "challenging critique" of the field of world history, charging that it "naturalizes capitalist globalization by turning it into human fate" and that scholarship in the field "perpetuates Eurocentric knowledge even as it seeks alternatives to Eurocentric explanations of the global past." Bentley continues that Dirlik has identified genuine problems, but has "harnessed his scholarship to a political agenda." Dirlik "overstated the problems and overgeneralized his critique," falling into the "trap of an originary fallacy," in which he "confuses origin with fate," assuming that historical scholarship must inevitably follow lines established at the foundation." [10]

Selected publications

Representative articles

References and further reading


  1. ^ Biography at Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS)
  2. ^ [1] at Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of British Columbia
  3. ^ Dirlik (1978).
  4. ^ Arif Dirlik: A Short Biography & Selected Works Perspectives on Anarchist Theory Vo1 1 #2 (Fall 1997)
  5. ^ Dirlik (2002), p. 10.
  6. ^ Dirlik (2002).
  7. ^ Duara (2001), p. 81.
  8. ^ Loomba (1998), p. 250.
  9. ^ Dirlik, Arif. University of Oregon. "Beijing Consensus: Beijing 'Gongshi.'"
  10. ^ Bentley (2005), p. 70-71.

External links

  • Dimensions of Chinese Anarchism: An Interview with Arif Dirlik
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