Towards a 'new humanism'? Time and emotion in UNESCO's science of world-making, 1947-51

Kevin Myers, Arathi Sriprakash, Peter Sutoris

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This article examines how the newly formed United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) aimed to construct a programme of social science research that would dispense with determinist theories of racial evolution and promote a new humanism for a post-war world. As scholars and politicians debated the shape of a new world order, they turned towards apparently universal categories of time and emotion to explain both individual behaviours and collective cultures. However, the only time that counted was developmental and the only emotions that mattered were those that could be managed and utilised. This article shows how UNESCO's search for a new humanism remained constrained by racialized discourses that closed down the emancipatory potential of reckoning with the past in the present. The possibilities for open futures, generated by anti-colonial politics and by new institutions of knowledge production, would remain marginalised by the teleology that underpinned UNESCO-sponsored social science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)685-715
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of World History
Issue number4
Early online date23 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • India
  • development
  • emotion
  • time
  • psychoanalysis
  • race


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