An Interview with Prof. Dr. Huricihan İslamoğlu

Thursday, 31 December, 2020

Huricihan İslamoğlu ile söyleşi - Eşitsizlik ve mağduriyetlerden siyasi açılımlara: Ortak bir gelecek tahayyülü


Professor Dr. Huricihan İslamoğlu was interviewed for the December 2020 issue of Birikim Dergisi.


In her latest manuscript Modernities Compared: State Transformations and Constitutions of Property in the Qing And Ottoman Empires, Prof. İslamoğlu discusses:

Modernity has long been the preserve of Europe. Social science per­spectives on modernization that have shaped the categories of histori­cal analysis since the nineteenth century have excluded the Ottoman and the Chinese empires from mappings of modernity. (Turner 1978) Instead, the two empires are designated as part of an undifferentiated and a historical domain of the East, characterized by what it lacks: individual owner­ship of property, rational organization of market activity, and rational bureaucratic forms of government. This construct of the East provides a contrast to an equally abstract domain of the West (including west­ern Europe and its extensions in the United States) privileged with the presence of modern forms. This high drama of absences and presences of idealized properties has been instrumental in legitimating European domination of the East. The notion of oriental despotism has been a central feature of that legitimation   (Islamoglu-Inan 1987 ; Perdue  2004) In Asia it facilitated the setting  up of colonial administrations that could be identified as rational and bureau­cratic, as opposed to the arbitrary rule of the despot and the constraints that such rule imposed on social and economic progress. At the same time, once Asia was frozen in an imagined straitjacket of Oriental Despotism, any indigenous transformation of statecraft in modern times was dismissed, either as not conforming to the bureaucratic rational model (as was the case for China) or as a poor and ineffective aping of the European model (as was the case for the Ottoman Empire). On the whole, Oriental Despotism became a short-hand explanation for why Asia did not develop.