Saturday, October 20, 2012

Question of Historical Theory

I am posting a question here I posed to the public at Academia.edu:

I am interested in feedback regarding a novel twist on some standard theoretical approaches. To-wit, can the rise of the use of the terms "professional" and "amateur" in the 18th and 19th centuries be considered a lynch-pin of European exceptionalism? Might this be one of the chinks in the armor of Modernity presaged by Michel Foucault, particularly with regard to its origin in Christian early modern Europe?

I could generalize and say that historians and scholars writing in that era would look at earlier times and exotic examples of specialized labor and hierarchies of knowledge and say, "Ah, but they were not professionals like ourselves." In this case, is the word 'professional' just a weasel word for "European?" It seems that the pre-Enlightenment baggage of Christianity (i.e. the baggage of the word professionalism and its roots in monastic and other religious orders) has done much to obscure and challenge other areas of the world and other periods other than the "Modern West."