Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS-Ottomans Imagining Japan: East, Middle East, and Non-Western Modernity at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS-Ottomans Imagining Japan: East, Middle East, and Non-Western Modernity at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Article excerpt

Ottomans Imagining Japan: East, Middle East, and Non-Western Modernity at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, by Renée Worringer. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 372 pages. $100. "

Reviewed by Raja Adal

In Ottomans Imagining Japan, Renée Worringer gives us an overview of multiple Ottoman discourses about Japan. This work is less comparable to that of Cemil Aydin, whose writings on the Ottoman Empire and Japan are comparative and transnational, than to Alain Roussillon's study of Egyptian travelers to Japan, which is a study of Egyptian discourses about Japan.1 Worringer is not a specialist of Japan, but the depth of her archival research in Ottoman sources and the multiplicity of voices that she excavates makes this book of considerable interest to scholars and students interested in a novel perspective on Ottoman modernity and on empire.

After an introduction and a second chapter that sets the stage by giving an overview of European historicism, which plagued both Ottomans and Japanese, a third chapter turns to the story of the Tatar Muslim Abdünesid ibrahim, a long-time resident of Japan whose sympathetic portrayal of Japanese modernization and hopes for converting Japanese to Islam introduced many Ottoman and Arab audiences to Japan. If the Ottoman population was clearly enthused by such representations of Japan, the Ottoman government had a much more ambivalent experience with its Japanese counterpart. Both the Ottoman and Japanese states had signed unequal treaties with European powers and both were seeking to renegotiate them, but whereas the Ottoman government tried to do so by seeking an equal treaty with Japan that could become a new precedent with which to claim equality with European powers, the Japanese government was interested in establishing a very different precedent. It sought to affirm its superiority over the Ottoman state by demanding capitulatory privileges of its own, much like it did with China, as a way to convince European powers that it deserved a place in the exclusive club of imperial powers. The fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters describe various Ottoman discourses about Japan. Whereas the Ottoman state emphasized the morality, nationalism, and industry of the Japanese, the Young Turks politicized Japan, emphasizing its constitution and popular representation in support of their demands to the Ottoman sultan. An eighth chapter turns to Egypt, where the direct experience of British colonialism made the population even more enthusiastic towards Japan, even as the Egyptian state remained neutral. …

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