The Dacre Lecture 2024: Dmitri Levitin on The Origins of Modern Eurocentrism

The Al Jaber Auditorium, Corpus Christi College, 10 May 2024, 5pm

All are welcome at this year’s Dacre Lecture, which will be held in person at Corpus Christ College, Oxford. This year the lecture will be given by Dmitri Levitin, Assistant Professor at Utrecht University and Fifty-Pound Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. The lecture is entitled ‘The origins of modern Eurocentrism: erudition, theology, philosophy, and race, 1700-1800’.

ABSTRACT

In 1800, German writers started offering genealogies of modernity running from classical Athens (especially its philosophers), through early Christianity (considered a Greek rather than a Jewish phenomenon, at least in spirit), to modern ‘enlightened’ Protestantism. A century earlier, this genealogy would have been unthinkable. For in 1700, every European intellectual would have agreed that Greek philosophy was not qualitatively different from its ‘oriental’ counterpart, and that Christianity had emerged directly from Judaism. 

Combining intellectual and social history, this lecture will provide a new account of how this peculiar Eurocentrism emerged, and why it proved so successful, coming to be deployed in political debates about Jewish emancipation and the abolition of Atlantic slavery. Moreover, it will identify the origins of some long-lasting concepts and ideas: (1) the distinction between ‘Pauline’ and ‘Jewish’ Christianity; (2) the distinction between ‘pre-’ and ‘post- Socratic’ philosophy; (3) a ‘Greek miracle’ in intellectual history; (4) the earliest full conspiracy theory about a Jewish politico-economic plot to take over the world; (5) the first fears of a ‘Great Replacement’ of native Europeans by immigrants. It will suggest that the parallel appearance of these concepts was not unconnected.