Reorientating European Imperialism: How Ottomanism Went Global


In: Die Welt des Islams
Author: Isa Blumi 1
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  • 1 Department of East Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies, Stockholm University


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Scholars have long studied Western imperialism through the prism of pre-World War I literature and journalism. Characterizing this literature as Orientalist has become programmatic and predictable. The sometimes rigid analysis of this literature often misses, however, the contested dynamics within. This is especially the case with analyses of Ottoman contributions to the rise of a Western colonialist ethos – orientalism, imperialism, and racism – reflecting the political, structural, and economic changes that directly impacted the world. Essentially, colonial pretensions – servicing the ambitions of European imperialism at the expense of peoples in the ‘Orient’ – were articulated at a time when patriotic Ottomans, among others, were pushing back against colonialism. This article explores the possibility that such a response, usefully framed as Ottomanism, contributed regularly to the way peoples interacted in the larger context of a contentious exchange between rival imperialist projects. What is different here is that some articulations of Ottomanism were proactive rather than reactive. In turn, some of the Orientalism that has become synonymous with studies about the relationship between Europe, the Americas, and the peoples “East of the Urals” may have been a response to these Ottomanist gestures.


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