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Japan’s Global Claim to Islam: Transnational Nationalism & World Power 1900-1945
Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 7:00pm
Japan’s Global Claim to Islam: Transnational Nationalism & World Power 1900-1945

Smith Memorial Student Union, Browsing Lounge (238), 1825 SW Broadway

The history of Imperial Japan’s interplay with the Muslim world reflects a history of transnational nationalism that is part of  the inception of twentieth century world power behavior. By using the Islam card  primarily through diaspora transnational  actors, the pre-war Japanese global claim to Islam  reflects the interlacing of intellectual history with that of intelligence  in global strategic ambitions. The  Japanese experience deserves attention as  it  reflects familiar aspects of post-war hegemony building legacy in the twentieth century. After the opening of Japan in 1953, the first phase of  Japanese interest in the world of Islam primarily was  to find out about the global  rivalry  of the Great Powers in Eurasia and situate Japan’s best strategy toward the  unequal treaties.  The 1873  visit of  Fukuchi Genichiro and Shimai Mokurai to Istanbul and Cairo  was part of the Iwakura Mission’s aim to investigate the  real conditions of European consular court privileges in the Ottoman Empire. The 1880 Yoshida Masaharu mission  to Kajar Iran and Ottoman Turkey was the first official  encounter with the economic and political reality of the Muslim Middle East in response to Muslim rulers  who also extended an  invitation to the Rising Star of the East as a new potential player in world politics of Western empires. After the Sino-Japanese War of 1895 and the Triple Intervention, the second phase of Japanese interest surfaced as the  Meiji Japanese leadership’s  new imperial strategy against Russia that incorporated the Muslim world as a component. The Balkans and the Middle East became  potential markets for the burgeoning  business interest in  international trade. The 1892  foundation of Nakamura Shoten  in Istanbul served as the informal center  of commercial as well as political interests that became the station of Japanese information gathering with the outbreak of the 1904 Russo-Japanese War  within the  transnational network of Asian intelligence according to General Fukushima Yasumasa.  Admiration of victorious Japan among Muslims in Russia,  the Middle East, and Asia interconnected with Japanese Pan-Asianist partnership with political actors among Muslim Pan-Islamists and nationalists against Western imperialism and colonialism in a shared vision of revolt against Western imperialism and colonialism. The career of Muslim activists such as Abdurresid Ibrahim  thus  represents the global moment of mutual collaboration between Japanese nationalists and Muslim counterparts reflective of  a transnational vision of romantic nationalism that is translated into networking and public relations of Japan as the savior of Islam. The  third phase of Japanese interest in  the world of Islam during the Showa era turned the Meiji vision into the practice of the  global claim to Islam as an empire building strategy in mainland Asia of anti-Communism  and Imperial Way ambitions including the plot to enthrone an Ottoman Turkish Prince in Xinjiang that was coeval to the 1932 foundation of the puppet Manchukuo regime. The crescendo of the Japanese global claim to Islam  was during the Second World War as an intelligence and propaganda measure to inculcate regional Muslim support for the South Seas invasion of the Dutch Indies. 

Ayşe Selçuk Esenbel is Graduate Student Advisor in the Department of History at Bogaziçi University. Esenbel completed her undergraduate degree in History in the International Christian University (Japan) and George Washington University. She received her master’s degree from the Department of Japanese Language and Linguistics at Georgetown University and a PhD in Japanese history from Columbia University. She is a Professor in the Department of History at Bogazici University.

Esenbel helped establish the Japanese Studies Association in 1993 and consolidated the organization as a Board Member. She became its third president in 2002 and has since contributed to academic and intellectual exchange between Turkey and Japan through the organization and hosting of various conferences and lectures.

Esenbel contributed to the establishment of a Japanese language department at Ankara University in 1986 and a Japanese language teaching program at Bogaziçi University in 1988, and the Japanese Studies Certificate in 2002. Her major publications in English include Even the Gods Rebel: The Peasants of Takaino and the 1871 Nakano Uprising in Japan and The Rising Sun and the Turkish Crescent (co-authored). Her articles in Japanese are published in such books as Kindai Nihon to Toruko sekai and Ibunka rikai no shiza: Sekai kara mita Nihon, Nihon kara mita sekai. Her articles in English are published in journals such as the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (UK), and The American Historical Review (USA).

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Presented by the Centers for Japanese and Middle East Studies. Co-sponsored by the Center for Turkish Studies and the Department of History

The Center for Japanese Studies, housed in the Institute for Asian Studies at Portlaqnd State, supports research on Japan and the Japanese-American experience. The Center for Japanese Studies provides a forum for related academic activities and the free exchange of ideas. The Center is commited to preparing Portland State students to become leaders in business, government, arts, and the academy by fostering cross-cultural understanding. It seeks to facilitate understanding of Japan as well as the Japanese-American experience among students, faculty, and the greater Portland community through a variety of curricular and outreach programs. | 503-725-8577

The Middle East Studies Center at Portland State University promotes understanding of the people, cultures, languages and religions of the Middle East. As a National Resource Center for Middle East Studies under the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI program, the Center serves as a resource on issues pertaining to the Middle East through activities that reach students and scholars, as well as businesses, educators, and the media. The Middle East Studies Center supports academic conferences, workshops, cultural events, lectures, and a resource library. | | 503-725-4074