Thinking globally about history
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Islam, Constitutionalism, and the Nation State in Afghanistan: An Interview with Faiz Ahmed
Interviews | December 5, 2018

Islam, Constitutionalism, and the Nation State in Afghanistan: An Interview with Faiz Ahmed

In his book, Afghanistan Rising: Islamic Law and Statecraft between the Ottoman and British Empires, Faiz Ahmed, Associate Professor of History at Brown University, tells a story of a modern Islamic project of statecraft and legal synthesis, undertaken against a background of broader regional connections. The early legal history of Afghanistan is an account of an Islamic politics that did not, as in contemporary cases, grasp for imported European legal codes. Nor did it constitute a case of Salafi or "Wahhabi" ideologies of Islamic reform. Rather, King Amanullah's project emerged out of a rich history of what Ahmed calls "interislamic" cultural exchange and modern visions of politics, including a unique adaptation and application of the shariʿa to the form of the modern nation-state.

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Writing the Histories of People in Motion: An Interview with Laura Madokoro
Interviews | November 14, 2018

Writing the Histories of People in Motion: An Interview with Laura Madokoro

Laura Madokoro spotlights the history of migrants leaving the post-1949 People's Republic of China for the then-British colony of Hong Kong and beyond. This movement—and the millions of people who fled China—was largely ignored, especially when compared to displaced peoples in Europe. In addition to recovering these stories, Dr. Madokoro argues that framed in the context of the Cold War they can tell us much about humanitarianism, geopolitics and the shadow of settler colonialism, from the Antipodes to North America and South Africa. We met with Laura Madokoro in Montreal, where she works as a historian at McGill University, and discussed the politics of migration during the global Cold War, the revelatory nature of language when describing people in motion, and her current and future research plans.

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Development Politics and India's Cold War Triangle: An Interview with David Engerman
Interviews | October 24, 2018

Development Politics and India's Cold War Triangle: An Interview with David Engerman

In The Price of Aid: The Economic Cold War in India (Harvard University Press, 2018), David Engerman, a leading historian of US and Soviet modernization ideology and expertise, extends his focus to the intricacy of Cold War competition in India. Through an adroit study of Indian, American, and Soviet domestic and international politics regarding aid for Indian development, he analyzes the complex dance behind how and why particular development projects were built. The debates that surrounded these projects attempted to shape, and were in turn shaped by Cold War conflict and the political maneuvering of the Indian state. Our conversation ranges widely—from the arc of Engerman's remarkable intellectual career, the evolution of the historiography on development, and the relationship between decolonization and the Cold War, to that of governmentality and geopolitics.

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Exploring the History of Science and Religion: An Interview with Job Kozhamthadam
Interviews | October 4, 2018

Exploring the History of Science and Religion: An Interview with Job Kozhamthadam

Few today acknowledge the role of religion in the development of modern science and technology. But scholars have shown that religion has actively contributed to the rise of modern science. Weh sat down to discuss this and other matters with the award-winning historian and philosopher of science, Job Kozhamthadam. Kozhamthadam is one of a unique breed of scholars who specialize in the history and philosophy of science—unique, because he also happens to be a Catholic Jesuit priest. His journey from a young boy in a nondescript town in South India to being acclaimed as a pioneer in the history of science and religion in India is interesting and inspiring.

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Troubling the Empire: An Interview with Antoinette Burton
Interviews | September 6, 2018

Troubling the Empire: An Interview with Antoinette Burton

The British Empire in its various guises remains a rich historiographical field. Over the course of the past forty years, imperial history has undergone a series of changes stemming from the cultural turn, postmodernism, and postcolonial studies. A central element of this has been to break away from the male-dominated approaches to the 'Official Mind', and incorporating gender, race, and class into our understanding of Empire. Professor Antoinette Burton of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been at the forefront of this change, as part of a wider group of scholars breaking down the insular boundaries of the field. We spoke about the pitfalls of studying the Empire in the current era of revisionism and imperial nostalgia, and how we as historians can combat the challenges raised by the amnesia surrounding colonial actions. We also discussed how both collaborative projects and the field of World History can enrich our understanding of the British Empire, as well as the benefits of these approaches to early career researchers.

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Populism in History: An Interview with Federico Finchelstein
Interviews | July 24, 2018

Populism in History: An Interview with Federico Finchelstein

In his book, From Fascism to Populism in History (University of California Press, 2017) Federico Finchelstein provides the reader with an understanding of many of the most important theories of populism and how these theories stack up in the face of the 'messiness' of the global historical record. This hybrid intellectual-political history demonstrates how fascism and populism are connected but not the same, and why this matters for understanding the world today. In doing so, Finchelstein shows why we cannot afford not to have historians engage in contemporary political conversations.

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Negotiating Maritime Power in Early Modern East Asia: An Interview with Adam Clulow
Interviews | July 5, 2018

Negotiating Maritime Power in Early Modern East Asia: An Interview with Adam Clulow

Clulow's work on the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and its role in the turbulent political environment of East Asia challenges standard views of power relations in the diplomatic encounter between early modern Europe and East Asia. Looking at conflict and negotiation between a European overseas enterprise and a powerful military government in Japan, Clulow questions analytical categories such as state and company, piracy and privateering, diplomacy and violence. The VOC, he shows, was a master shapeshifter, altering its appearance whenever it needed to. When it came to Tokugawa Japan, the Company was in fact relatively small and weak. Clulow's work challenges widespread notions about early modern relationships between Europe and East Asia, and the evolution of modern state institutions.

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Echoes of Weimar in American Cold War Politics: An Interview with Daniel Bessner
Interviews | May 30, 2018

Echoes of Weimar in American Cold War Politics: An Interview with Daniel Bessner

In Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual , Daniel Bessner tells the story of a previously little-known German sociologist who changed the way we think about the role of intellectuals in American public policy-making. Speier worked as a lecturer at the Hochschule für Politik, a college of worker's education. With the rise of Nazism, Speier's infatuation with Marxist theory, socialism, and the people waned. Democracy, after all, had put Hitler in charge. When Speier moved to America, he brought the trauma of the crisis of Weimar with him. This crisis was the result of excessive trust placed in an inherently untrustworthy demos. He consequently advocated expert governance as an alternative to broad-based popular rule. To defend democracy against both Nazis and Soviets, Speier argued, the United States had to become more authoritarian. His story traces the rise of the American "defense intellectual" as well as the emergence of what has come to be known as the U.S. "military-intellectual complex."

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The Human Condition and the Laws of War: An Interview with Tanisha Fazal
Interviews | April 25, 2018

The Human Condition and the Laws of War: An Interview with Tanisha Fazal

Fazal argues warring parties have stopped filing formal declarations of war and signing interstate peace treaties in order to create ambiguity as to whether the laws of war apply. An important reason for this development, she claims, is the growing split between the 'lawmakers' (humanitarians) and 'lawtakers' (soldiers). With the declining percentage of military representatives at lawmaking conferences, the laws of war have become increasingly restrictive on those applying them in times of war.

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Guns, Spies and Empire, Or, Why Good People Do Bad Things: An Interview with Priya Satia
Interviews | April 23, 2018

Guns, Spies and Empire, Or, Why Good People Do Bad Things: An Interview with Priya Satia

Priya Satia argues that the making of Britain's "covert empire" was bound up in intelligence-gathering tactics pioneered by British agents in the Middle East (Arabia and Iraq, specifically). The ultimate tool of covert empire—aerial surveillance—came to be used far beyond the Middle East; but, Satia argues, its initial deployment there resulted from the marriage of a cultural epistemology peculiar to British agents in Arabia with the emergence of mass democracy, and a new suspicion of empire, in Britain itself.

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The Arabic Freud: An Interview with Omnia El Shakry
Interviews | April 4, 2018

The Arabic Freud: An Interview with Omnia El Shakry

The Arabic Freud, then, explores the multivalent encounters between psychoanalysis and Islamic thought, turning and returning to the question of the unconscious and the modern subject. At once disruptive of the oppositions that drive narratives of incommensurability between psychoanalysis and Islam (i.e. attempts to "put Islam on the couch" and civilizing missions of psychoanalysis) and conductive of the epistemological resonances between discursive traditions, The Arabic Freud offers and inspires ethical possibility.

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Global Histories of Neoliberalism: An Interview with Quinn Slobodian
Interviews | March 21, 2018

Global Histories of Neoliberalism: An Interview with Quinn Slobodian

Quinn Slobodian reveals how neoliberal thinkers developed a vision of global free trade in goods and capital, though not necessarily people, during the crises of the 1930s and the era of decolonization. In his book, Globalists, he argues that neoliberal thinkers did not oppose the state and prize individualism, but rather sought to use rules to encase the market away from democratic governance. His discussion with us also presented a chance to explore neoliberals' interpretations of the nexus between law and economics as well as current debates over the significance of racism to neoliberal thought. Slobodian explained the role of Central Europe in the global history of neoliberalism and the legacy of the Habsburg Empire for neoliberals' understanding of political economy. Slobodian addressed the critical conflation of neoliberalism, economism, and pretensions to all-knowability in the recent historiography of the "invention of the economy."

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When the Ottoman Empire Scrambled for Africa: An Interview With Mostafa Minawi
Interviews | March 14, 2018

When the Ottoman Empire Scrambled for Africa: An Interview With Mostafa Minawi

Taking the Ottoman Empire out of the Middle East area studies prison to which it's so often confined, Mostafa Minawi has traced, in detail, many of the long-missed connections between the Sublime Porte – the center of Ottoman governance – and sub-Saharan Africa. More specifically, his research has demonstrated how those links played into the Ottoman Empire's participation in the late nineteenth century "scramble" for territory by European empires on the African continent – an episode in which, Minawi argues, the empire played a much more active role than has previously been assumed.

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