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Transitioning from Empires to Nation-states


David Lelyveld

BETWEEN MODERNITY AND NATIONALISM: HALIDE EDIP'S ENCOUNTER WITH GANDHI'S INDIA
By Mushirul Hasan
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2010, pp.267, 650.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 2 February 2012

A visitor from Mars in the sixteenth century, Marshall Hodgson used to say, might well have identified the wide network of 'Islamicate' societies as the most dynamic and dominant, politically and cul-turally, of all the civilizations on Planet Earth.1 The Ottoman, Safavid, and a bit later the Mughal empires were all very much on the rise, expanding and encompassing new terri-tories and diverse populations. The transition over the following three and a half centuries of a world of cosmopolitan empires to one of nation states is a standard theme of modern history. From the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic, on the one hand, and from the Mughal Empire to the Republic of India, on the other, each whittled down and reformulated, either late-comers 'to the drab nineteenth-century sisterhood', as E.M. Forster's Fielding puts it at the close of A Passage to India, or triumphs of national libe-ration, these contrasting histories are worthy subjects for historical comparison. Even with-out the other nation states that have Ottoman or Mughal roots, proximate or more distant, this is a formidable enterprise. As in most comparisons, the differences are more instruc-tive than the similarities. Though sufficiently ambitious in itself, Mushirul Hasan's book will serve to introduce and, one hopes, stimulate other scholars to take on such comparisons. His own project takes as its point of departure a two month Indian sojourn of a prominent Turkish writer, feminist, educator and political activist in 1935, midway between the establishment of the Turkish Republic from the ashes of the defeated Ottomans and the Independence (and Partition) of India in the wake of an exhausted British colonial regime. His purpose is to focus on the adjustment of these two societies, Turkey and India, to the institutions and identities associated with nationalism, parti-cularly with respect to the place of Islam and Muslims in relation to the projects of building secular states. Halide Edip Adyvar, also known as Halide Edib, (1884-1964) is a major figure in modern Turkish literature and probably most signifi-cant as the first woman to play a leading poli-tical and cultural role in the formation of modern Turkey. The daughter of a highly pla-ced Ottoman court official, she received a good education at home in Arabic and Turkish as well as English and French before going on to the American College for Girls in Constantinople. In 1901, she was the first Muslim woman to receive her B.A. ...


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