Mediated Imaginations: Chinese-Arab Connections in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
This project investigates the mediating role of western and Japanese powers in the intellectual, commercial, and interpersonal connections between Chinese and Arabic speaking societies during the high tide of global imperialism. Despite their geographic distance, Chinese and Arabs occupied a similar position in the world order as colonized and semi-colonized peoples in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In response to their comparable political and social situations, ideas, commodities, and people were transferred through transnational networks. Different modes of mediations—textual, material, and spatiotemporal—were involved in the processes. This phenomenon shows that the connections in an increasingly globalized modern world were not all about robust reticulation and accelerated interactions and exchanges. Rather, some of those linkages between non-western societies enmeshed in the scaffolding of global imperialism were attenuated and mediated by imperialism itself. Furthermore, the meditation processes were moving and transformative with the mediator and the mediated being in constant state of afflux. These layers of mediations constitute the mechanisms of the entanglements of the world.This new perspective on world history can provide a more nuanced understanding about the larger historical context at the turn of the twentieth century. In addition, by examining Chinese-Arab linkages, the modern histories of the Middle East and East Asia can no longer be understood as separate scholarly domains in isolation from one another. In elaborating the mediating role of imperialism that inadvertently connected the two non-western societies during the high tide of global imperial expansion, this dissertation delves into the topics of the circulation of “western” ideas on modernity and how “eastern” societies responded to them, the development of agriculture know-how, modern industry and consumer society, the travelling pan-Islamic ideas from the Near East to the Far East, the encounters of Arab and Chinese laborers in WWI working for the American Expeditionary Forces in France, the Christian missionary’s efforts to proselyte around the world, and the spread of western medicine to non-western societies. Weaving together these above-mentioned paralleled themes in the heretofore disparate historiographies of different regional specializations can illuminate many of the unknown transregional lives of ordinary peoples.
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