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     Edward Said's Orientalism is a book that is familiar to most historians, as it is often invoked in the scholarship we read and its ideas are frequently repeated, even if most of us have never read the whole volume through.1 The importance of this volume was not Said's arguably authoritative account of the evolution of hegemonic notions of the "world," the "oriental" and the "west," but rather the ways in which to forced his readers to question many of their assumptions of these concepts. By suggesting that these were ideas with particular histories and real-world expressions of power and dominance, he forced us to question ideas like "oriental despotism" and "western civilization" as well as experiences like colonialism and racialized and gendered oppression. Therefore, even without specifically citing his work world historians owe a special debt to him.

     The forum presented here is an elaboration on a roundtable presented at the last World History Association Conference in San Diego, California. Its purpose is not to either endorse nor critique world history and world historians. Rather, like with Orientalism, its purpose is to contribute to a conversation in which we talk about our assumptions about both the "world" and "history." In convening this panel, my aim was to help ensure that world history remains a "forum" in which important issues are debated, rather than a "temple" in which a particular approach to the past is worshipped.

     In the opening essay, I suggest that world history is on the cusp of some very interesting developments as its mainly North American practitioners consciously seek open discussions with newly-formed organizations of global historians around the world as well as scholars and activists not formally affiliated with these organizations. I then try to raise questions as to what might happen as world history "internationalizes." My deliberately provocative assertions are then answered by a number of scholars, not only leading world historians Jerry Bentley and Patrick Manning, but also an outsider to the World History Association who teaches world history courses, Christopher Chekuri. Their responses are then followed by brief comments from observers of the original forum from around the world who have become participants now. Lucia Carter and Robert Strayer from the United States, Thembisa Waetjen from South Africa, and Yue Sun from the People's Republic of China. Craig Benjamin has provided a précis of this commentary to serve as a aid for further discussion. We would all welcome responses from the readers of World History Connected to the ideas we have put before you, which, it is hoped, with find their own way into the virtual pages of that journal.

Trevor R. Getz is an Associate Professor of African History at San Francisco State University. He is the author or co-author of several books including Exchanges: A Global History Reader and Modern Imperialism and Colonialism: A Global History. He is currently working on several volumes looking at the global past from African perspectives. He can be contacted at


1 See Edward Said, Orientalism, (New York: Vintage Books, 1978) and Gyan Prakash, "Orientalism Now," History and Theory, 34 (1995), 199–212.


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