Empire, Islam, and Politics of Difference

Ottoman Rule in Yemen, 1849-1919

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Historians of the Middle East in the long nineteenth century have often considered empire-building the preserve of European powers. This book revises this picture by exploring how the Ottomans re-conquered and ruled large parts of present-day Yemen between 1849 and the end of World War I, after more than two centuries of independence under local dynasties. Drawing on a wide range of sources and on recent scholarship on empire and colonialism Empire, Islam, and Politics of Difference shows how the concepts and practices of Ottoman imperial rule were shaped through the encounters between Ottoman officials, their European rivals, and local communities. The result is a fresh look at the nature of governance in the late Ottoman Empire more generally.

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Biographical Note
Thomas Kuehn, Ph.D. (2005) in History and Middle Eastern Studies, New York University, is Assistant Professor of Middle East History at Simon Fraser University. He has published extensively on the politics and culture of late Ottoman imperial rule in Arabia.
Review Quotes
'Thomas Kuehn's remarkable book breaks new ground by drawing the late Ottoman Empire into comparative imperial studies. His history of late-nineteenth century Yemen examines Ottoman methods of conquest and rule that drew as much on the experience of European colonial empires as on Istanbul's own practices of ruling remote Arab lands. Drawing on the widest range of Ottoman archival sources, reinforced by contemporary Arabic references, Kuehn presents a lucid and persuasive analysis of the successes and shortcomings of the Ottomans' civilizing mission in Yemen. The sectarian order the Ottomans left behind has proven a divisive legacy that marks Yemen down to the present day. A brilliant book that deserves the widest possible readership among scholars of late nineteenth century empire and the Ottomans' place in that order'.

Eugene Rogan
St Antony's College, Oxford

'Thomas Kuehn's book is an illuminating contribution to scholars' efforts to study empires not simply in comparison to each but in relation to their interactions and rivalries. Ottomans, he shows, did not govern Yemen in the same way they governed other parts of their empire in the era of Tanzamat reforms; they marked the "difference" and "backwardness" of the people they now ruled, rather than seek to integrate them into a homogenizing Ottomanness. But what Kuehn terms "colonial Ottoman" was not Ottoman colonialism. It borrowed from but did not copy policies of a "civilizing mission" and "indirect rule" from French and British colonial projects of the time. Ottomans administrators balanced incorporation with differentiation, efforts to change Yeminis' way of life with tacit and shifting arrangements with local elites. They did not implement in Yemen the censuses, cadastral surveys, and conscription mechanisms that were hallmarks of Ottoman rule elsewhere, but when an Ottoman parliament sat, representatives of Yemen were included. Kuehn shows that Ottomans shared other imperial powers' interest in the production of knowledge of the societies' they conquered, but that the forms of knowledge were part of a distinct repertoire of rule. By stressing the differences and similarities in forms of imperial governance within the Ottoman empire and between different empires in the same era he reveals to us how particular imperial systems functioned in a world of competing imperial powers. The result is a book that will be of great interests not just to Ottomanists, but to any reader interested in rethinking the nature of imperial rule in 19th and 20th centuries'.

Frederick Cooper
co-author of Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference

' Empire, Islam, and Politics of Difference examines the roots of modern Yemen during the incorporation and consolidation of southwestern Arabia by the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. Thomas Kuehn brings into play cutting edge theoretical insights on colonial constructions of difference in this textured narrative based on painstaking research in primary Ottoman documents and other contemporary sources.

The author inserts the Ottoman state into the age of new imperialism not only as an actor resisting European expansionism but also one selectively adopting and implementing elements of European colonialism in its own efforts to extend imperial reach to outlying areas. He assesses under the rubric of "colonial Ottomanism" the discursive and political strategies devised to maintain an intricate equilibrium between incorporation and differentiation. This hybrid policy, Kuehn argues, while premised on perceived cultural inferiority of local society in southwestern Arabia, differs from forms of European colonialism in its inclusionary and non-discriminatory thrust.

The book analyzes Yemen as a site of Ottoman modernity, where incorporation (e.g., the implementation of the standard Ottoman provincial
organization) and institutionalized differentiation (e.g., a judicial system cognizant of local religious tradition) were deployed to uphold Ottoman rule. The very strategies, in turn, primed local society for its empire to nation transition during the post-World War I twilight of the Ottoman state.

'Empire, Islam, and Politics of Difference is a richly researched and theoretically informed contribution to recent scholarship on the Arab provinces in the late Ottoman Empire, and more broadly, to comparative empire studies. The book's nuanced intervention into debates on internal colonialism is compelling for historians. The wealth of new historical information on Yemen presented with an accessible prose makes this a timely book for the general reader interested in the history of modern Yemen'.

Hasan Kayali
University of California, San Diego

'Kuehn skillfully weaves several themes together to demonstrate the tensions of Ottoman rule in a frontier province in the age of high European imperialism. He draws clear and convincing comparisons between the European colonial and imperial enterprise in the late nineteenth century and the modern Ottoman endeavor to create what he dubs “colonial Ottomanism” in Yemen. The Ottoman bureaucrats and military men that conquered and then created the administrative structures of Yemen employed techniques of government built on a set of distinctions between tribal and civilized, between rural and urban, between governance according to “local” Islamic norm and governance through modern administration. In their attempt to govern Yemen, the late imperial Ottomans looked similar to the late British imperialist. Their colonial enterprise, however, was distinctly Ottoman. It was from the beginning shaped by the fact that the Ottomans viewed themselves as Muslim rulers bringing into the imperial fold a Muslim frontier threatened by European encroachments. Their bureaucrats viewed the Yemenis as subjects that needed to be turned into modern Ottomans loyal to the only surviving Muslim state.
Kuehn’s book should be of great interest to historians and graduate students focused on the study of comparative empires as well as scholars who work on imperial frontiers. Is it a welcome edition to the growing and exciting field of nineteenth century Ottoman history'.

Dina Rizk Khoury
George Washington University
Table of contents
CONTENTS

Acknowledgements ............................................................................ ix
Note on Transliteration and Date Conversion ............................. xv
Abbreviations ..................................................................................... xvii
Maps ..................................................................................................... xix

1. Introduction .................................................................................. 1
2. The ‘Return of the Turks’: The Campaigns of 1871–73 and the Context of Tanẓīmāt Imperialism ............. 31
3. Imperial Visions: Knowledge Production, Empire, and the Creation of Difference, 1849–75 .................. 53
4. ‘According to Their Customs and Dispositions’: Elaborating Politics of Difference in Ottoman Yemen, 1874–91 .............. 91
5. Struggling for a Righteous Order: The Rise of the Zaydī imāms and the Reconfiguration of Difference, 1890–1908 .... 147
6. An Imperial Borderland as Colony? The Daʿʿān Agreement and the Reaffirmation of Colonial Ottomanism, 1905–19 .... 201

Conclusion .......................................................................................... 247
Bibliography ........................................................................................ 253
Index .................................................................................................... 271
Readership
All those interested in the history of the Ottoman Empire, the history of the Modern Middle East, the history of Yemen, and the history of empire and colonialism.
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