Abstract Abstract: Historicism has shaped global politics by projecting multiple images of development. Specifically, it has served to legitimise Western forms of hegemony by naturalising the schema of ‘First in the West, then in the Rest,’ thereby damning non-Western Others to the ‘waiting room’ of history (Chakrabarty 2000). In this light, decolonising international relations must likewise complement efforts to decolonise the stagist views of historicism implicit in civilisational history. However, this focus on stagism neglects the ways in which historicism has also been employed to assert non-Western agencies in the name of culture, and to legitimise colonialism, as it was in the case of Japan. The case of Japan thus raises the question of whether limiting the critique of historicism to that of being a stagist civilisational discourse is sufficient or not. This article argues that there are not just one but two problems with historicism in international relations: first, that the stagist view of history legitimises the civilising mission; and second, that the romantic turn to culture as a means of resisting Eurocentric history may actually underwrite a colonialist discourse as well. If this is correct, the debate on historicism must not only engage with the concept of civilisation, but also with the concept of culture as a site through which sovereignty is projected.