D – Transregional connections and entangled regions

On the margins of area studies: Spotlighting islam in East Asia

Event Details

  • Date

    Saturday, 27 June - 11:00 – 13:00

    Saturday, 27 June - 14:00 – 16:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    D – Transregional connections and entangled regions
Convenor
  • Ulrich Brandenburg (University of Zurich)
  • Noriko Unno (Chuo University)
  • John T. Chen (Columbia University)
Chair
  • Noriko Unno (Chuo University)
Commentator
  • Ali Merthan Dündar (Ankara University)
Panelists
  • Ulrich Brandenburg (University of Zurich)
  • Noriko Unno (Chuo University)
  • John T. Chen (Columbia University)
  • Ali Merthan Dündar (Ankara University)
  • Alexander Jost (Salzburg University)
  • Junichiro Ando (Toyo University, Asian Cultures Research Institute)

Papers

  • Ulrich Brandenburg
    Uniting Two Asias: Chinese Islam between Orientalism and Imperial Politics

    Uniting Two Asias: Chinese Islam between Orientalism and Imperial Politics

    The Japanese intellectual Okakura Tenshin famously coined the phrase, “Asia is one.” For many European Orientalists, however, Asia was divided into two distinct spheres of Islamic and Buddhist dominance (or along similar lines). The growing awareness, in the late nineteenth century, that substantial Muslim communities existed in China posed a challenge to such conceptions and led observers to deliberate on the particular strategic importance of Chinese Islam as a bridge between two separate halves of Asia. As a consequence, religious entrepreneurs, academic Orientalists, as well as political decision makers tried to make sense of Chinese Muslims’ existence with reference to different imagined communities and spatialities. This paper highlights the ways through which Chinese Islam was introduced into global consciousness. In particular, it will discuss two instances when Chinese Muslims made international headlines as a potentially disruptive element in imperial politics: first, the dispatch of an Ottoman Muslim mission to China during the Boxer rebellion at German initiative; and second, Germany’s efforts to be recognized as protector of Ottoman subjects in China (and, potentially, Chinese Muslims) after 1908. Both instances were regarded as German attempts to extend the reach of pan-Islamism into East Asia by using the Ottoman caliphate to co-opt the Muslims of China. By examining the global discovery of Chinese Muslim and debates about a potential Islamic future for the Chinese Empire, this paper will show how it was ultimately the marginal position of Chinese Islam with regard both to the Islamic world as well as East Asia that was fascinating to observers. Based on this ambiguous position in-between, Chinese Islam was construed as a central element in struggles for power over the entirety of the Asian continent.
  • Noriko Unno
    Preparing for War: Japan’s Early Plans to Win Over Chinese Muslims in the Early Twentieth Century

    Preparing for War: Japan’s Early Plans to Win Over Chinese Muslims in the Early Twentieth Century

    In the first half of the twentieth century, Japanese politicians, military officers, and Pan-Asianists sought to exploit Muslim networks across Asia to conquer and control the continent. They recognized the strategic importance of Chinese-speaking Muslims, who are roughly equivalent to the present-day Hui ethnic group in the People’s Republic of China, and took conciliatory measures towards them. Pro-Japanese Muslim magazines published in North China in the 1930s became tools for propagating Japan’s pro-Islamic attitude and garnering support for Japan’s scheme to establish an anti-communist puppet-state in Xinjiang where Turkic Muslims (i.e. today’s Uyghurs) lived. Previous scholarship has examined Japan’s attempts to win over China’s Muslim communities during the 1930s and 1940s but has largely overlooked the earlier stages of these campaigns. Through an analysis of Chinese Muslim periodicals and Russian Muslim travelogues as well as archives of the Japanese Imperial Army, this paper shows that, already in the 1900s and 1910s, Japanese secret agents and foreign Muslim collaborators from Russia, Egypt, and India were in contact with Chinese-speaking Muslims. They built Islamic schools for Chinese-speaking Muslims who regarded Japan as a role model for the Chinese nation-state and urged Islamic religious leaders in China to cooperate with Japan to elevate their social status within China, which set the stage for the expansion of Japan’s Islamic campaigns in the 1930s. Thus, this paper sheds light on Japan’s early plans to win over Chinese Muslims and its consequences for international relations in modern Asia.
  • John T. Chen
    Unite, Divide, and Rule: Chinese Muslims and the Question of Xinjiang, 1927-49

    Unite, Divide, and Rule: Chinese Muslims and the Question of Xinjiang, 1927-49

    This paper examines the ultimately failed yet revealing ways in which Chinese-speaking Muslims (Hui) participated in Guomindang (GMD/KMT) attempts to rule Xinjiang. During the years when the KMT claimed to govern all of China (1927-49), Xinjiang remained politically fragmented and only nominally tied to Nanjing, with large portions of the territory twice forming independent states, the First and Second Eastern Turkistan Republics (1933-34 and 1944-46, respectively). Less well-known is that as this was happening, Chinese Muslim KMT members from eastern China were leveraging their connections with Uyghurs, and instrumentalizing their knowledge of Islamic religion, history, and networks, to help construct a culturally sensitive alternative to Uyghur nationalism in which Xinjiang would remain part of China. This paper follows the careers of two of the most important KMT-affiliated Chinese Muslims interested and involved in the fate of Xinjiang: Jalal al-Din Wang Zengshan and Badr al-Din Hai Weiliang. Well-traveled and collectively fluent in Arabic, Chinese, English, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu, both worked as civil officials, diplomats, translators, and scholars. In the 1930s and 1940s, they and other KMT-affiliated Chinese Muslims helped make the case for Xinjiang’s Chineseness not only within China but also to the Islamic world. Thus, while Uyghur-Hui solidarity rarely featured in Xinjiang’s modern political history, to a significant extent the opposite was true: would-be Islamic solidarities were thoroughly co-opted and even co-produced by KMT state- and nation-building projects otherwise characterized by assimilationism. That is, transnational and intercommunal Islamic connections did not subvert but facilitated Muslims’ Sinicization under the KMT’s so-called “weak state.” By reconstructing this story, this paper offers new perspectives on the retention of Xinjiang as a Chinese territory, on the minoritization and ethnicization of Hui and Uyghur identities, and on the circumscription of Islamic solidarity as a politically consequential force in the age of nations and nationalism.
  • Ali Merthan Dündar
    Dai Ajia Shugi and the Turkic World: Notes on Turkic Muslim Actors in Japan’s Pan-Asianist Propaganda

    Dai Ajia Shugi and the Turkic World: Notes on Turkic Muslim Actors in Japan’s Pan-Asianist Propaganda

    Turkistan (Central Asia) was an important target in the context of Japan’s Panasianist ideology (Dai Ajia shugi). Between the two world wars, Japan aimed to infiltrate the region through Muslim and Turkic peoples. For Japanese strategists, Turkic Muslims were potential allies against Russia and the Western world. In the Japanese propaganda activities from China to Turkey, many local collaborators were employed. In 1924, after the abolishment of the caliphate, Japan attempted to get involved with the caliphate problem. One of Japan’s most important operations was to support Prince Abdülkerim Efendi, the grandson of Abdülhamit II, when he tried to revive the caliphate and the Ottoman sultanate in 1933 in Xinjiang. This attempt was comparable to the establishment of the Japanese puppet government of Manchukuo in 1932. It can be said that the Japanese Intelligence used pan-Turkism and pan-Islamism both in the eastern and western parts of Turkistan. Japan frequently used Turkic Muslims for these pan-Islamist and pan-Turkic propaganda activities. Examples are Abdürreşit İbrahim (Ottoman, Turkish, Tatar), Şehzade Abdülkerim Efendi (Ottoman, Turkish), Kemal Kaya (Ottoman, Turkish), Ahmet Kemal İlkul (Ottoman, Turkish), Molla Muhammet Abdülhay Kurbangali (Bashkir), Ayaz İshaki (Turkish, Tatar) and the Muhiti brothers (Uyghur). In this paper, I am going to provide an analysis of the Turkic Muslims and their involvement in Japanese propaganda.
  • Alexander Jost
    The Ottoman Empire through the eyes of a Chinese pilgrim: Ma Dexin’s “Hajj Travelogue”

    The Ottoman Empire through the eyes of a Chinese pilgrim: Ma Dexin’s “Hajj Travelogue”

    After centuries of relative isolation, by the middle of the 19th century China’s Muslims began to re-strengthen connections to the centers of the Islamic World and to redefine their identities in cultural and religious terms. One of the central figures of this movement was Ma Dexin 馬德新, a Yunnanese Muslim who after performing his Pilgrimage in Mecca travelled the Ottoman empire for eight years in the 1840s, including longer stays at the Ottoman court in Constantinople and the Azhar University in Cairo. Upon his return he played an important role for the outbreak of the Panthay rebellion but also for the following reconciliation. Ma composed numerous writings aiming at a convergence of Islamic and Confucian values, which decisively shaped the development of Chinese Islamic thought in the following decades. His “Hajj Travelogue” (Chaojin tuji 朝觐途记) is the oldest known description of a Chinese Muslim’s pilgrimage experience and is clearly composed to encourage and enable more to follow his footsteps. In this presentation it is attempted to understand and reconstruct the circumstances and experiences related to Ma’s pilgrimage journey and to assess its importance for Chinese Muslim communities with their growing number of Hajjis towards the end of the Qing period.
  • Junichiro Ando
    Politics of Muslim ethnic economy in North China under the Japanese occupation 1937-1945

    Politics of Muslim ethnic economy in North China under the Japanese occupation 1937-1945

    An important part of the key-factors that have structured the ethnicity of Chinese-speaking Hui Muslims in North China can be found in their ethnic economy. The Hui ethnic economy has, on the one hand, enhanced the bonds among the Hui people by developing distinct goods/labour markets and wide area networks and, at the same time, embedded the Hui communities organically into the local societies by generating distinct niches within the system of local economy During the second Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945), Japan occupied a huge area of North China and aggressively tried to co-opt the Hui population (as a major non-Han ethnic group in the region) into the occupation regime. But the local Hui ethnic economy came to be confronted with a critical turning point as the occupation regime promoted the combined policies of economic regimentation and modernization, which compelled a full restructuring of the existing traditional economic system and thus undermined the Hui niches within it. In such a crisis, the major Hui ethnic businesses were re-objectified and reinterpreted (in terms of a kind of “moral economy”) as essential components of their “moral ethnicity”, being straightly linked to the religious/cultural values of Islam. The “problem of Hui ethnic economy” became a significant issue of the local ethno-politics, on which Hui Muslims competed and negotiated with Han Chinese and the authority appealing their cultural identity. This paper examines the process above in detail, focusing on the core sector of the Hui ethnic businesses in Beijing and Tianjin, the halal meat business, which had exclusively supplied beef and mutton for the inhabitants of the two cities before the war. Then it also discusses how the “politics of ethnic economy” influenced Hui Muslim’s cultural and religious identification and how its context cast a shadow over the relationships between the local Hui societies and the post-war state regimes controlled by the KMT and subsequently by the CCP, which proceeded further in “modernizing” and restructuring the whole economic system.

Abstract

The structure of area studies has tended to compartmentalize research into neatly separated world regions. Regional categories have also been used to structure global historical works between the levels of the global and the national. One of the pitfalls of the regional approach is, however, that it is often incapable to grasp the overlaps between different regional imaginaries, such as the “Islamic world” and “East Asia.” The scholars assembled in this panel contend that such categories are problematic if they are conceived as spatially circumscribed and mutually exclusive. By focusing on the presence of Muslims in East Asian polities and their contested questions of belonging, contributions will underscore how these liminal actors have acquired central roles in imaginations of spatiality and community throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. East Asian Muslims were important actors in the developments that made the modern world. From the late nineteenth century onwards, the loyalties of Chinese Muslims became coveted by different great powers, most notably by KMT China and imperial Japan during World War II. At the same time, the sizeable Muslim minority of China strove to rebuild its links to the centers of global Islam while also negotiating its place within the transformations of the Chinese Empire and the emerging Chinese nation state. Tatar Muslims, who settled down as an immigrant minority in Manchuria and Japan after the Russian revolution, subsequently became the Muslim figureheads of Japanese pan-Asianism. The activities of Japanese Muslim converts were observed attentively across the globe, as indicators of the growing worldwide importance of Islam or of Japan’s expansionist ambitions in Muslim territories. The papers in this panel intend to show that the historiography of the modern world is greatly enriched when it takes into account the established, invigorated, or developing presence of Muslim communities in East Asia. By spotlighting East Asian Islam, we want to (1) challenge ethno-centric approaches to Chinese, Japanese, and Islamic history, (2) qualify the Eurocentric character in the historiography of modernity, and (3) grasp minoritization and community-building as co-constituted processes. While discrepancies of power were important in the emergence of the nation, the empire, or the religious ecumene, we hesitate to describe these processes as mere instances of “integration” or “exclusion” within predetermined configurations of minority and majority. The cases of East Asian Muslims demonstrate that their contested “minority” status was precisely what often gave them central importance in visions of Chinese, Islamic, or pan-Asian community.