Paradigm Shift

A Change in Our Perception of Things

                 A Change in Our Point Of View

                                A Change in How We See The World

The map above is a Hobo-Dyer Equal Area Projection Map.  This map portrays the relative size of countries and continents more accurately than the more familiar Mercator projection map does. Yet it also "turns the world upside down." Map making is highly subjective, since it depends on choices. The Mercator projection map was created in 1569 by Flemish cartographer Gerhardus Mercator. It was designed for sea travel and allowed sailors to draw straight lines from port to port, so that they could sail according to these lines guided by a constant compass bearing. To facilitate this purpose, the proportions of the land masses had to be distorted.

The Mercator projection maps show North America (Canada, USA and Mexico) as larger than Africa, but Africa is much larger. Europe (including Scandinavia) appears larger than South America, and Alaska looks larger than Mexico. Neither is the case. These maps overemphasize the Northern Hemisphere. But by the 18th century, the Mercator projection maps had become the maps of choice for most European explorers, sailors and map makers. They became the "standard" way of perceiving the world, even though they distort it.

The Hobo-Dyer map above is centered on the Pacific Ocean with the south at the top. It  gives us another perspective on the world. It calls our attention to the importance of the Pacific Ocean (and the oceans in general) and de-emphasizes the land areas of the Northern Hemisphere. In this map, South America, Australia and Africa are "on top" and the rest of the continents are "down under."

The Hobo-Dyer Equal Area Projection map challenges basic assumptions of what should be "up" and "down" in one's view of the world and its geo-political entities. This map shows Southern Africa, Australia and South America on top while Europe, Asia and North America are on the bottom. This map provides a radically different view of the world, its continents and its political territories. It places the huge Pacific Ocean in the center and confines the Atlantic Ocean to the margins of the map. Notice how diminished in importance the Northern Hemisphere, the Atlantic Ocean and Western Europe appear on this "South Up" map as a result of this change in perspective. (click on map to enlarge it)

Paradigm Shift

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in which he introduced the concept of "paradigm shift". He argued that scientific advancement is not evolutionary, rather it is characterized by a "series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions" in which "one conceptual world view is replaced by another". He called this kind of change a paradigm shift (Kuhn, Thomas, S., "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1970, page 10).

The prevailing or accepted paradigm, in Kuhn's view, is not simply the current dominant theory in any given period, but the entire world view in which it exists, and all of its implications. Thus, a paradigm shift involves a relatively radical change from one way of thinking about the world to another. It's involves a revolution, a transformation, and/or a metamorphosis in existing thinking about the world.

A scientific revolution occurs, according to Kuhn, when scientists encounter anomalies which cannot be explained by the universally accepted paradigm within which scientific progress up to this point has been made. It is driven by 'heretics' who question the accepted paradigm and by agents of change among them who challenge the prevailing wisdom. Examples of important paradigm shifts include the shift from the belief that the sun rotated around the earth to the view that the earth rotates around the sun. The "discovery" of the Americas radically changed the pre-existing views of the world and resulted in major paradigm shifts in many different fields of human knowledge — including geography, navigation, religion, science, economics and poitics.

The concept of paradigm shift has acquired broader usage in a variety of contemporary contexts, and is now often used to refer to a radical change in personal beliefs, complex systems and/or ways of organizing. It entails replacing the former way of thinking and/or organizing with a radically different new way of thinking and organizing how things are done.

The transpacific project is exploring the assumption that a radical shift is needed in the prevailing paradigm regarding the history of humanity ('world history') and particularly the history of transpacific relations. This shift would require a transformation in the prevailing world views held by many people throughout the world about the history of humanity and the relations between different societies, states and cultures across geographic regions and time periods. Many 'anomalies' have been and continue to be encountered in our current knowledge which cannot be explained by the existing paradigms.

The current dominant paradigm of human history and the accompanying prevailing views of the world (world views) are generally speaking Anglo-Eurocentric and geographically biased even when these biases are recognized and criticized. Human history, economics, politics, and socio-cultural development as well as world geography are generally viewed from the perspective of the Northern Hemisphere, particularly the North Atlantic and Mediterranean regions of the world, and greater importance has been and continues to be given to this multi-regional area of the world than to any others.

To certain extent, a paradigm shift is necessary if we genuinely want to give a more balanced view and greater attention to the relations that have taken place historically and those that are taking place today between the peoples of the multi-regional, transpacific area of our planet. Click here to see, for example, the following online article by Katrina Gulliver,"Finding the Pacific World," Journal of World History,Vol. 22,No. 1 (2011).

The following map of world trade routes between 1400 and 1800 (from Andre Gunder Frank's 1998 book ReORIENT: Global Economy in the Asian Age) suggests that a circum-global system of world trade existed centuries ago, long before the current period of economic "globalization," and that it was centered on trade with India and China.  Acceptance of this perspective requires a paradigm shift for those who hold fast to the present conventional wisdom that economic globalization is a recent phenomenon in human history and that it is the result of the integrative spread of Western ideas, technologies, forms of organization and capital to all corners of the world. (Click on map to enlarge it)

A Question of Perspective

As Kuhn and many other scholars have argued, our view of the world depends to a great extent on our perspective. Our planet appears quite different when it is viewed from the three different perspectives in the picture below — which are perspectives from 3 different points in space. This is another good example of how important our perspective is when we view and/or think about something that is large and/or complex. The Earth looks very different when it is viewed from the perspective of a point in space over Africa as opposed to a point in space over Asia and Australia or over the Americas.

Existing world views and paradigms make it difficult to accept and explain "anomalies" and to revise contemporary views of human history and development.  A good example is the case of the controversial Vinland Map which reveals North America was 'discovered' by Leif Erikson some 500 years before Columbus.

As the following excerpt from an online article on this subject by Wei Lu, entitled "Amazing Discoveries in Ancient Dyes, Inks and Pigments", indicates:

"There are two main reasons for the heated debate over the authenticity of the Vinland Map. First, it is a general assumption for chemists that ancient technology must have been far less advanced than modern technology. It follows that, when a relic contains a compound made by technology invented in modern times, modern scientists are likely to hold fast to their assumption and claim it to be a forgery. Second, for a historian to acknowledge the authenticity of the Vinland Map is to prepare to rewrite the history that Columbus was the first to discover North America. This is a change which modern orthodox historians are not yet willing to accept.

Many ancient relics and historical records have been discovered. Many artifacts found in ancient tombs or ancient inventions recorded in historical records were made with technology on a par with or surpassing modern technology. The Han Purple dye found on wooden and clay figures of soldiers and horses buried in ancient tombs is one genuine case that modern scientists cannot deny. Scientists once claimed the prehistoric frescos in the caves of Altamira were modern forgeries because the earth pigments found on those frescos were too exquisite for scientists to believe that they were prehistoric pigments. Scientists eventually proved the Altamira cave frescos to be authentic. This is a lesson that, if we can free ourselves from the many preconceived notions and existing frameworks of science and be truly objective in our scientific analysis, humankind might develop a more accurate and profound understanding of its own history and culture."

To read the entire article by Wei Lu, click here.

The Altamira frescos (a section of which is seen in the photo below) were painted about 14,000 years ago. After the famous Spanish artist Picasso saw these frescos, he said: “After Altamira all is decadence.” For more information on these frescos, click here.

Hybridity Theory

The concepts of "hybridity" and "hybridization" are helpful in understanding transpacific processes, connections and relationships. What is referred to as Hybridity Theory has been developed in the works of Homi Bhabha, Stuart Hall, Gayatri Spivak, Paul Gilroy and Jan Nederveen Pieterse. For example, in the work of Nederveen Pieterse, the concept of hybridity serves as a conceptual tool for interpreting the cultural dimensions of the contemporary processes of globalization. While most perspectives on globalization are confined to a relatively narrow and recent time frame in human history (modernity), Nederveen Pieterse views globalization in broader anthropological terms.

He contends that globalization “belongs to a deep dynamic in which shifting civilizational centers are but the front stage of history” while an ongoing process of intercultural interchange forms the often unperceived backdrop. Instead of viewing globalization as essentially mere westernization or "modernization", Nederveen Pieterse suggests we adopt a more evolutionary perspective. He states:

"The evolutionary backdrop of our common origins in Africa confirms that humanity is a hybrid species. The species' subsequent “clustering” in different regions of the world has not precluded large-scale contact and population movements across and between continents (Gamble 1993). This mixed heritage is confirmed by the “cultures” identified by archaeologists which in Paleolithic and Neolithic times sprawl widely and do not coincide with the boundaries of much later times."

Viewed from this perspective, the historical processes of transpacific migrations, trade, cultural interchange, etc have involved an evolutionary process of intercultural hybridization. For more information on this perspective see the Wikipedia pages on Jan Nederveen Pieterse (click here),and on Hybridity Theory (click here).

According to Portia Maultsby at Indiana University, the intercultural crossings and blendings of musical products produce both new interpretations of traditional forms and the creation of new musical styles. This process of cross-fertilization has been conceptualized in various disciplines as "diffusion, "creolization," "syncretism", "hybridization," "transculturalism," "transnationalism" and "globalization" and it has been applied in particular to music.
The globalization of music has been described as the movement of music through various stages where components of the original form are imitated, negotiated and revised in ways that reflect the values and traditions of the appropriating culture. Reinterpretation takes place as foreign musical styles and producsts are locallized by introducing and intertwining a combination of new resources, indigenous cultural values, and familiar musical elements with those from foreign sources. The resulting style or product is distinguished from the original version by varying degrees of cultural fusion that can be described as "hybridization". Thus, the foreign music is transformed as it is localized and indigenous music is transformed as it is combined with foreign elements. Click here for more information on this subject. See also the project's webpage on transpacific music (click here) for hybridized transpacific examples of reggae music.
Perhaps one of the best graphic representations of contemporary transpacific cultural hibridity is Gonkar Gyatso's 'The Shambala of Modern Times' (click on this graphic image to enlarge it).

“Having lived in Tibet, China, India and the West, Gyatso’s art proposes insightful statements on the cultural hybridity of globalization as well as the sea change of the world yet to come.”- This quote is from the artist bio. Click here to see a close up of this artwork. It provides a graphic multicultural integration of thousands of brand logos, advertisements, pop cultural icons, cartoon/anime characters, political slogans, Kanji characters, etc within the outline of an iconic representation of the Buddha. See the close up of a section of this work below:

To be continued….