075: Cemil Aydin, 38


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

75: Cemil Aydin, 12-2-07

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Post-Doctoral Fellow, Princeton University, Near Eastern Studies Department (2007-2008); Assistant Professor of History, University of North Carolina-Charlotte (August 2004-Present).
Area of Research: Modern Middle Eastern History; Modern Japanese History; Alternative Visions of World Order in International History; Literature of World History
Education: Ph.D. in History and Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, November 2002.
Major Publications: Aydin is the author of Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought (New York: Columbia University Press, Global and International History Series; 2007).
Cemil Aydin JPG Aydin is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including: “A Global anti-Western Moment? The Russo-Japanese War, Decolonization and Asian Modernity” in Sebastian Conrad/ Dominic Sachsenmaier, eds., Conceptions of World Order, ca. 1880-1935. Global Moments and Movements (New York City: Palgrave Transnational History Series, 2007): 213-236; “The ‘Question of the West’ and Alternative Visions of World Order in Interwar Era Japan and Turkey: What Does a Comparison Teach Us?” in Toshihiro Minohara and Kimura Masato, eds, Turbulent Decade: Japan’s Challenge to the International System of the 1930s (University of Toronto Press, Forthcoming in 2007); (co-authored with Juliane Hammer) “Introduction to the Special Issue on the Critiques of the ‘West’ in Iran, Turkey and Japan”, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. 26:3 (Fall 2006): 347-352; “Between Reverse Orientalism and the Global Left: Islamic Critiques of the West in Modern Turkey,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. 26: 3 (Fall 2006): 446-461; “Beyond Civilization: Pan-Islamism, Pan-Asianism and the Revolt against the West,” Journal of Modern European History, Vol. 4:2 (Fall, 2006): 204-223; “Overcoming Eurocentrism? Japanese Orientalism on the Muslim World (1913-1945),” Princeton Papers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, (Fall, 2006): 139-164; “The Politics of Conceptualizing Islam and the West,” Ethics and International Affairs, Vol. 19:1 (Winter 2005): 93-100.
Aydin’s works in progress include a book project on “From Arnold Toynbee to Ali Shariati: Islam and the West under the Shadow of the Cold War,” -Sponsored by a Fellowship from Princeton University Near Eastern Studies Department, and the “Selected Works of Ismail Kara” (Translation of eight selected articles by a leading historian of late Ottoman-Turkish intellectual history).
Awards: Aydin is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Princeton University, NES, Post-Doctoral Fellowship;
University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Faculty Summer Research Grant, Summer 2006;
Symposium Grant, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, April 2005;
Academy Scholar, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, October 2002-December 2003;
Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Supplementary Dissertation Grant, September 2001-May 2002;
Graduate Student Associate at Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, September 2000-June 2002;
Harvard University GSAS Dissertation Grant, September 2000-May 2001;
Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Summer Research Grant, Summer 2000;
Toyota Foundation, Dissertation Research Grant, Fall 1999;
Japanese Education Ministry Fellow, September 1997-April 1999;
Middlebury College, Japanese Summer School, Language Study Grant, Summer 2006;
Mellon Foundation Grant for the Study of Arabic, Summer 1995;
Graduate Study Fellowship from Center for Islamic Studies, Istanbul, 1992-1996;
Fellow of International Institute of Islamic Thought & Civilization, Kuala Lumpur, 1991-1992;
NATO Student Workshop Fellow, Brussels, June 1991.
Additional Info:
Formerly Academy Scholar, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies (Oct.-2002-Dec-2004), and Assistant Professor of History, Department of History, Ohio State University (January 2004-July 2004).
Collaborative Research Projects include German Research Foundation (DFG), “Conceptions of World Orders in Global History,” June 2004-June 2007, and Shibusawa Foundation, “Turbulent Decade: Japan’s Challenge to the International System of the 1930s,” September 2003-June 2006.

Personal Anecdote

Growing up in Istanbul, I always found it awkward to read the “Welcome to Asia” and “Welcome to Europe” signs at the two ends of the less-than-a mile long suspension bridge over the Bosporus waters. These innocent looking continental demarcation signs meant very little to the millions of commuters, supposedly moving between continents every day. In high school, we were taught that Turkey is an important bridge between East and West, as well as Asia and Europe. I remember one time joking with friends that we needed to tidy up our ties and jackets while crossing the bridge from the Asian to the European side of the city, sarcastically reflecting predominant judgments associated with the two continents. I would have never predicted that I would later spend years during my graduate study examining the history and politics of the historical construct of Asia and Europe (or East and West) and its impact. And ironically, but not unsurprisingly, while I was trying to historicize these civilizational and continental categories, stereotyped civilizational identities (think clash of civilization thesis…) embellished with new political and cultural inflections gained popularity in public discourse.

My undergraduate years coincided with exciting debates on Eurocentrism and post-modernism in Istanbul college classrooms and coffeehouses. It was in a senior seminar paper on Jürgen Habermas’ critique of anti-modern thinking that I first remember arguing for a more global history of modernity and world order. My plan was to go either to China or Japan to have a non-Eurocentric comparative look at the question of the West and how Asian intellectuals have debated the universality of modernity in the last two centuries. But, to my frustration, the visiting Japanese professor whose guide to Istanbul I had become and who I hoped to study with in Japan told me not to come to the Far East, Tokyo, but to go to the Far West, to a university in America, if I was that interested in non-Eurocentric perspectives on global history.

Only after my first semester at Harvard did I realize the wisdom of his advice. History departments at many American research universities have experts covering all the regions of the world, with ideally half of the faculty teaching non-Western fields. This intellectual presence not only provides perspectives into the different regional histories, it also allows for important insights into world and global history. Of course, I also made it to Japan where I spent two years learning Japanese and searching archives and bookstores. Looking back, I had a wonderful time during the eight years of my graduate school education, having a chance not only to immerse myself in East Asian and Middle Eastern histories, but to learn a lot about the modern histories of Africa, the Americas and Europe. I became addicted to the 4 pm seminars, accompanied by coffee or tea and cookies, though I had to limit my attendance to 2 seminars a week to be able to finish my dissertation and keep my weight.

By the end of my graduate school years, I had become optimistic about the scholarly integrity and public mission of the historical profession. The events of and developments after September 11, 2001 did not change my confidence in my discipline. Yet, many of the achievements of my colleagues in dispelling historically rooted prejudices and misunderstandings among different societies were swept away by a flood of reasserted popular stereotypes about anti-Western Muslims and imperialist crusading Westerners. The ‘us vs. them’ dichotomy as well as the ‘what went wrong?’ and ‘why do they hate us?’ questions forced many in the academic community to take a stand. The increased public interest in answers, explanations and lessons from the past in order to understand the current situation better has affected my research as well as my teaching.

Last summer, a leading European politician sympathetic to Turkey’s potential membership in the European Union suggested that the Istanbul Municipality remove the “Welcome to Asia” sign on the bridge over the Bosporus, arguing that the sign and its implication of the “Asian” side of Turkey would weaken Turkey’s case in the European Union. Despite my awareness of the Eurocentric constructedness of these continental borders, I realized that I would not be happy to see the “Welcome to Asia” sign go away, at least not in this way. My admittedly idealist internationalism makes me want to hold on to this feeble continental tie between Istanbul, Calcutta and Tokyo. After all, our problem is not in the borders, or continental imaginations themselves, but in the value judgments and political projects vested in them. I could not help but smile when I saw the welcome signs on both sides of the Bosporus bridge during my last visit to Istanbul.


By Cemil Aydin

  • The idea of the West was not first born in Europe and simply spread to other parts of the world. It was partly a product of reflection and rethinking by non-Western reformist intellectuals during the
    The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought JPGnineteenth century. While we are familiar with the grand theories on the civilization of the West formulated by Montesquieu and other European thinkers, we should recognize that non-Western intellectuals found these theories insufficient and noninclusive and insisted on a more universalist interpretation of the secrets of Europe’s progress. The result, as best seen in the writings of Fukuzawa Yukichi and Namik Kemal during the 1870s, was an optimist reformist ideology of progress and civilization that refuted any permanent association of universal civilization with climate, Christianity, race, or even imperialism. This global vision of non-Western intellectuals tied their reform projects to a fine formulation of the relationship between a vision of universal civilization and the historical experience of Europe that exhibited the culmination of this universal process of progress. Their vision of a universal West was closely linked with a desire to become equal members of the perceived civilized international society and to benefit from the security and prosperity this globalizing international society promised. — Cemil Aydin in “The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought “

About Cemil Aydin

  • “Cemil Aydin, The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of the World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan Asian Thought (2007) locates itself at the conjunction of debates about modernity as a universal category of our time (that is, modernity as a periodizing device about the world we live in today) as opposed to modernity as a specific autochthonous quality that defines a certain civilization (the West) and is lacking in the others, who must learn it from the West. Focusing on the crucial formative period of modern nationalism (1880-1945), Aydin brings a transnational vantage point to a key question in the intellectual history of Japan and Turkey, and more broadly that of modern Asia and Europe, namely the genesis of civilizational identity politics. Particularly interested in the impact of Japanese Orientalism on Islamic Asia, the proliferation of Asianist ideologies and consolidation of global links between East Asia and West Asia in the inter-war years, this erudite work draws on a dazzling range of primary source materials in Japanese and Turkish to explore Pan Asianism-Pan Islamism that was articulated in a novel formulation of anti-Western internationalism. This is a singularly significant contribution to modern international intellectual history and salient global debates on race, empire, civilization and progress.” — Sucheta Mazumdar, Duke University, reviewing “The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought”
  • “Cemil Aydin’s book, The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia is a timely and significant contribution to our understanding of major intellectual forces that shape discourse about the West throughout the world. Focussing on the specific cases of Ottoman and Japanese imperial responses the the challenges posed by the West in the modern world, Aydin presents a carefully researched, historically grounded argument for the persistence of anti- Westernism in cultures that are otherwise socially and religiously quite distinct. One cannot read this stimulating work without re-thinking prevailing assumptions about what “the West” and “Asia” signify and why they still retain such popularity among many intellectuals today. — Kevin M Doak, Nippon Foundation Endowed Chair in Japanese Studies, Georgetown University reviewing “The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought”
  • “This volume is a rich intellectual history revealing the fascinating ways in which Pan-Islamism and Pan-Asianism were intertwined.” — Matthew Connelly, associate professor of history, Columbia University reviewing “The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought”
  • “Cemil Aydin has written a fascinating book of exceptional scholarly quality. It explores elegantly, with impressive learning, the responses of Japanese and Ottoman civilizations to the West in the period 1880 to 1945. This study in the history of ideas is surprisingly relevant to such current concerns as ‘the clash of civilizations’ and ‘the future of world order.'” — Richard A. Falk, Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law and Practice, emeritus, and emeritus professor of politics and international affairs, Princeton University reviewing “The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought”
  • “Cemil Aydin presents a profound analysis of anti-Westernism that transcends simplistic polemics about ‘why they hate us’ and offers a significant contribution to understanding intercultural relations in the modern era. Combining expertise in Middle Eastern and Asian studies, Aydin joins a clear global perspective with an in-depth historical study. The result is a comprehensive understanding of one of the major themes of modern global affairs.” —John Voll, professor of Islamic history and associate director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University
  • “Cemil Aydin’s work brings fresh insight to Middle Eastern, Islamic, and world history. His Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia is a major, and highly original, contribution to all of these fields, and it will set the standard for comparative work in modern Islamic intellectual history. Aydin’s current project, on which he is working as a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies, focuses on 20th century discourses on the idea of civilization. Influential Western as well as Muslim thinkers were among those contributing to this civilizational discourse before and during the Cold War, though its contexts and themes, as well as the ways in which these intellectuals interacted with and influenced one another, have not been much studied so far. Nor has the highly interesting question, at the forefront of Aydin’s work, of how this civilizational discourse may have shaped facets of Islamist (or fundamentalist) thought across Muslim societies. Like Aydin’s first book, this is an innovative project, and it is certain to contribute much to the study of religio-political trends in modern and contemporary Islam. — Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Niehaus Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Religion, Princeton University reviewing “The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought”
  • “Dr. Cemil Aydin is, as his new book The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia shows, an erudite scholar destined to continue to make significant contributions to field of global history in general and to Middle East and East Asian Studies in particular. He is also, however, an excellent teacher. Dr. Aydin, through the use of textual analysis and class discussion, forces his students to confront the stereotypes held by many Americans and, unfortunately, portrayed by mass media concerning the Middle East and Islam. Additionally, Dr. Aydin is one of the most approachable professors I have ever encountered. His door was quite literally always open to assist students. I was the beneficiary of much of this assistance while working toward my B.A. in History (2006) at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. It was Dr. Aydin’s classes and advice that helped me decide to pursue a graduate degree in Middle East Studies. I, unfortunately, held many negative stereotypes of the Middle East when I first entered Dr. Aydin’s survey of Middle East History. That class, however, avoided becoming what Roger Owen described as “another breathless account of battles, murders, and the rapid rise and fall of different dynasties” by engaging students with primary texts from the first day of class. It is virtually impossible to continue to view Islam or the Middle East as monolithic, unchanging, religiously fanatic entities, as the legacy of Orientalism has conditioned many students to do, when confronted with alternative methodologies of history that incorporate social, economic, and political factors often written by Middle Eastern scholars rather than Westerners. I am indebted to Dr. Aydin for opening my eyes to the more complex, but ultimately more accurate, history of the Middle East and I have no doubt that he will continue to be a positive influence on students and scholars alike for years to come. — Alan Bradley Campbell, M.A. Student in Middle Eastern History, NYU
  • “As a double-major in Political Science and History and a minor in Islamic Studies, I can confidently state that Dr. Aydin is undoubtedly one of the finest professors on campus. In addition to being an exceptional lecturer, he is also a phenomenal source of knowledge in Middle Eastern and Japanese studies. His unique approach in the classroom always stimulated meaningful discussions and encouraged students to actively engage the texts and concepts presented. Although I benefited greatly from the attentive structure of course content and the incorporation of a wide spectrum of reading selections, what I most appreciated about Professor Aydin’s courses was his ability to provoke original thought in his students. Professor Aydin’s genial demeanor and sense of humour has lent him a reputation of being approachable and won him high regard among students. He was consistently objective and never allowed his personal beliefs to hinder open discussion and a respectful atmosphere. Professor Aydin is truly a brilliant example for my generation’s young aspiring scholars.” — Narcisa Popovici, Senior Student, Major in History and Political Science, UNCC

Posted on Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 9:34 PM

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