Arif Dirlik

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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[edit]

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[edit]

  • Dirlik, Arif (1978). Revolution and History: The Origins of Marxist Historiography in China, 1919-1937. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0520035410. 
  • 1989. The Origins of Chinese Communism, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • 1990. Revolution and History: Origins of Marxist Historiography in China, 1919-1937. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • 1991. Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution, Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • 1991. Schools into Fields and Factories: Anarchists, the Guomindang, and the National Labor University in Shanghai, 1927-1932, (with Ming Chan). Durham: Duke University Press.
  • —— (1993). What Is in a Rim?: Critical Perspectives on the Pacific Region Idea. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press. ISBN 0813385318. 
  • 1994. After the Revolution: Waking to Global Capitalism, Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press.
  • 1997. The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of Global Capitalism, Boulder: Westview Press.
  • 2000. "Postmodernism and China." Duke University Press
  • 2001. Postmodernity's Histories: The Past as Legacy and Project, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
  • 2005. Marxism in the Chinese Revolution, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
  • 2006. "Pedagogies of the Global: Knowledge in the Human Interest," Paradigm Press
  • 2007. "Global Modernity: Modernity in the Age of Global Capitalism." Paradigm Press
Representative articles
  • —— (1985). "The Universalisation of a Concept:‘Feudalism’to ‘Feudalism’in Chinese Marxist Historiography". The Journal of Peasant Studies 12 (2-3): 197–227. 
  • —— (1995). "Confucius in the Borderlands: Global Capitalism and the Reinvention of Confucianism". Boundary 2: 229–273. 
  • —— (1996). "Reversals, Ironies, Hegemonies: Notes on the Contemporary Historiography of Modern China". Modern China: 243–284. 
  • —— (1996). "Chinese History and the Question of Orientalism". History and Theory: 96–118. 
  • —— (1999). "Is There History after Eurocentrism?: Globalism, Postcolonialism, and the Disavowal of History". Cultural Critique: 1–34. 
  • —— (1999). "How the Grinch Hijacked Radicalism: Further Thoughts on the Postcolonial". Postcolonial Studies: Culture, Politics, Economy 2 (2): 149–163. 
  • —— (2002). "History without a Center? Reflexions on Eurocentrism". in E. Fuchs et al.(eds.), Across Cultural Borders: historiography in global perspective. Lanham MD: Rowman & Lttlefield. 
  • —— (2004). "China's Critical Intelligentsia". New Left Review. 
  • —— (2004). "American Studies in the Time of Empire". Comparative American Studies 2 (3): 287–302. 
  • —— (2006). "Performing the World: Reality and Representation in the Making of World History". Journal of World History 16 (4): 391–410. 
  • —— (2006). "Timespace, Social Space, and the Question of Chinese Culture". Monumenta Serica: 417–433. 
  • —, Anarchism, Encyclopedia Britannica.


  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.

References and further reading[edit]

External links[edit]