East Asian and Middle Eastern history may be more similar than you think.
Yesterday afternoon at Logan Hall, Cemil Aydin, Princeton University post-doctoral fellow and assistant professor of History at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, gave a lecture entitled, "East Asia and the Middle East: What Can We Learn from Comparative Approaches to Global History?"
His talk was based on his most recent book, "The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought," in which he challenges prevalent notions of anti-Westernism as a reaction to Western values or response to Western imperialism. Instead, he argues that such sentiments originate from a fear of a Eurocentralized global civilization.
"We don't usually think about the Middle East and East Asia in relation to each other," he told an audience of about 20, comprised of graduate students and scholars of East Asian and Islamic history. "We should actually institutionalize comparison. We should look at the period from 1880 to 1920 both as a period of modernism and social sciences," he said.
Aydin drew heavily upon intellectual history in his analysis of the evolution of thought and rhetoric in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian societies.
"The modern idea of being Muslim and of the Muslim world is a product of the 1880s," he said, noting several important dates and events around that time including the fact that geopolitics of global civilization entered in the years 1876 to 1886.
Aydin also drew several comparisons between Muslim and Asian societies by focusing on the internationalist "discourse of civilization" that has pervaded modern discussion. Regarding the related discourse of humiliation, for example, he noted that people are generally quicker to associate Muslims with victimization than Chinese, although the latter has felt victimized since the Opium Wars according to Aydin.
He closed by lamenting that current discussion continues to focus on the "clash of civilizations," though he noted optimistically that "we're also moving beyond that," as writers have started to rebel against the aforementioned discourse of civilization.
College freshman Gregory Pollman, who attended the lecture for his class on the modern history of Japan, enjoyed Aydin's unique commentary
He "presents a refreshingly different view of the inevitable clash of civilizations as opposed to the apocalyptic views of many pundits today," he said
The lecture was part of the Humanities Colloquium and was co-sponsored by the Middle East Center.