Glocal Asian Studies Lecture Series: Lecture 3 | Alternative Modernities: The Russian Empire and the Muslim World in the Long 19th Century

On October 21, 2019, Prof. Zan Tao from Peking University, Prof. She Gangzheng from Tsinghua University, Prof. Shi Yue from Peking University, Prof. Wen Shuang from Beijing Foreign Studies University and Prof. Yuan Jian from Central University for Nationalities as the presenters, and Prof. Cao Yin, Associate Professor from Tsinghua University as the host , brought the lecture of “Alternative Modernities: The Russian Empire and the Muslim World in the Long 19th Century” at the Institute of International and Area Studies (IIAS) of Tsinghua University.

Professor She Gangzheng discussed the historical interaction and relationship between Russia and the Levant. He focused on how the Russian government used diplomatic and political means to influence the Orthodox and Christian communities in the Levant of the Russian Empire in the 19th century, and compared this phenomenon with modern Russian policies in the Middle East.
By discussing the book “Russian Hajj”, Prof. Shi Yue explained how Muslims in Russia made Hajj in the Arabian Peninsula and Medina in the 19th century. Through the analysis of the Hajj route, he showed how the new modes of transportation and national surveillance in the 19th century affected the cross-border movement of these Muslim groups.

Prof. Zan Tao discussed the communication between the Ottoman Empire and Central Asia in the 16th and 19th centuries. Through the analysis of the original Turkish local archives, he showed that the Ottoman Empire still had a considerable degree of understanding and control over Central Asia until the 19th century.

Prof. Wen Shuang analyzed the research and cognition of Japan by Egyptian intellectuals during the 1904-1905 war between Japan and Russia. These intellectuals reformed Egypt by studying the Japanese military system and economic policies.

Prof. Yuan Jian reviewed the emergence of Russia’s perception of Central Asia. He believed that after Russia’s disintegration of the Soviet Union, there was a break in Russia’s research and cognition of Central Asia, and therefore China’s knowledge of Central Asia had a break. He noted that China should have an original understanding of Central Asia, and this work should start from the inspection of my country’s northwestern border and Xinjiang.

Finally, Prof. Cao Yin responded to Prof. Shi Yue’s Hajj story and pointed out that in Southeast Asia, the British Empire and Russia were in the territory of the local colonies, and there were similarities in the control and discipline of the Muslim groups in the territory.

The Glocal Asian Studies Lecture Series hosted by IIAS of Tsinghua University was launched in Fall 2019. It aims to provide scholars participating in the events with a platform of dialogue and learning with top scholars studying Asia history and culture from all over the world. China’s area studies have been vigorously developed in the context of the “Belt and Road” Initiative in recent years. However, the current area studies are often a rigid superposition of country studies and lack intra-regional and inter-regional connections and comparative studies. The root cause is the missing of a long-term historical/cultural perspective in current area studies in China. The lecture series will invite top-notch and young scholars in the field of Asia studies at home and abroad to give special lectures on their latest research findings and communicate with participants. This will serve as an opportunity to cultivate area researchers’ transnational and global perspectives, and encourage them to reflect on the traditional research paradigm based on country.

By Cheng Yao