MEI Arabia-Asia Cluster: Where Does a Comparative History of the Modern Middle East and East Asia Take Us?   
Date: 23 May 2017 Time: 04:00 PM - 05:30 PM  
Speaker(s): Assistant Professor Raja Adal
Department of History
University of Pittsburgh
Venue: MEI Conference Room, Level 6
29 Heng Mui Keng Terrace
Block B #06-06
Singapore 119620

(This event is organised by MEI’s Arabia-Asia Research Cluster, as part of its quarterly public speakers series.)

Abstract: What can comparative history bring us? When I was writing a comparative cultural history of Japan and Egypt, interlocutors in both places were often skeptical of its value. More than just useless, comparative history was often considered dangerous. For Egyptians, a comparison with Japan's rapid modernization could only highlight the failure of their own modernization, while for Japanese the comparison, if any, should have been with the developed West or with Asian neighbors, not with Egypt. For many Japanese and Egyptians, the comparison was haunted by the specter of economic unevenness. This presentation asks what happens if we bracket this concern with global economic hierarchy. By paralleling the experiences of societies on the receiving end of Western expansion, it argues that we can acquire a fresh perspective on surprisingly similar and revealingly divergent ways in which the history of non-Western societies unfolded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


About the Speaker: Raja Adal is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. His research interests are in global social and cultural history, with a particular focus on  the Middle East and Japan.  Adal received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and has most recently been a Japan Foundation Research Fellow at the University of Tokyo in 2015-2016 and a Council of American Overseas Research Centers Multi-Country Research Fellow in 2016.  He has published articles in Theory, Culture, and Society and Comparative Studies in Society and History and is currently preparing for publication his first book entitled The Enchanted Modern: Japan, Egypt, and the Global History of Aesthetic Education. 


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