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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

Japan and Islam, 1890–1914: Between Global Communication and Pan-Asianist Movement

Responsible for the doctoral project: Dr. des. Ulrich Brandenburg
Funded by: URPP Asia and Europe
Project duration: September 2011 – August 2014 (doctorate 2017)
Doctoral committee: Prof. Dr. Bettina Dennerlein, Orientalisches Seminar/UFSP Asien und Europa
Research Field: Norms and Social Order(s)


The late 19th century was characterized by an unprecedented growth in global interconnectedness thanks to the rapid development of means of transport and communication. At the same time, almost the whole globe fell under the direct or indirect domination of the Euro-American great powers. In my dissertation project I examine how concepts of pan-Asian community were formulated within the context of an unequal world order. My analyses are informed by theories of global history and employ the tools of discourse analysis.

In my research I focus on circulations of knowledge and information within print media, and especially periodicals in the Arabic, Ottoman, Japanese and several European languages. Relations between Japanese and Middle Eastern Muslims exemplify the pan-Asianist idea in an emblematic way by joining two of the most important signifiers of the non-West. Although relations between Japan and Muslim countries like the Ottoman Empire were still very limited at the turn of the 20th century, news began to circulate after the Russo-Japanese War 1904/05 about an interest of the Japanese in adopting Islam as their state religion. Such ultimately false news reports have usually been interpreted as expressions of naïve Muslim Japanophilia in the wake of Japan’s triumph over Russia. However, talk about Japan’s conversion to Islam was not limited to the so-called Muslim World but was in the end a global phenomenon which involved Muslim circles in Europe as well as Euro-American journals, diplomats, and orientalists, and ultimately Japan. Furthermore, already from 1909 onwards a circle of pan-Islamists and pan-Asianists in Japan began to use the imagination of a Muslim Japan for its own propaganda purposes.

My dissertation looks at how news about Japan’s interest in Islam circulated, how they were commented on in different local context, and how Islam in Japan could become an important topic in pan-Asianist propaganda. In doing so, I intend to give a clearer picture of how world views like pan-Asianism or pan-Islamism were shaped by global spheres of communication.

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