This is the #Menton2013 Summer School Blog. With the Summer School only a few days away, most papers have been submitted or are on their way. The range of topics is fascinating and a pleasure to read. Any comments and questions may be posted here will help us to facilitate the discussions and debates at Menton. For the Summer School programme see Menton Programme.
To access photos from the Summer School, visit the @Menton page.
(And yes: this IS the view from SciencesPo, Menton)
So please feel free to add to the virtual part of the Summer School.
Learning from the Reichsland . The Japanese Empire’s encounter with Alsace-Lorraine
Travelling to Europe from East Asia in the 1890s was a long way. But why, of all places, Alsace-Lorraine that had been annexed by the German Reich in 1871 and had become the Reichsland? This was the focus of Akiyoshi Nishiyama (Tokyo) in his witty and fascinating key note on “A Borderland seen from a ‘borderless’ country”.
After the Meji Restauration in 1868 and during the early decades of the expanding Japanese Empire, expeditions and individual experts were sent to Europe and Germany in particular. The German Reich was regarded as the country to study. It was here where the Japanese government and experts thought to learn how to do Empire.
Prussia was regarded as similar to Japan in recent history – from small and second-rank to European power. The borderlands of the Wilhelmine Empire, Alsace-Lorraine in particular but also the Posen region, were seen as ethnically mixed regions from which the ethnically homogenous Japan could learn during its phase of expansion into East and South-East Asia. This was the context in which missions and individuals were sent to the Reichsland to study language policies, education and administration in the border region. (Bernhard Struck)
Dervishes and Cricket: Transfers and Exchanges
I have read with great interest the papers by Tom Cunningham (Edinburgh) “Missionaries, Sport and the Kikuyu, 1907-1937” and Cem Kara (Munich/Prague) “Dervishes and ‘modern Europe’. Cultural Contact and Exchange through the Bektashi Order in the long 19th century”. It is interesting to see how two, in many ways different papers on disconnected topics – one on cultural and intellectual around a religious order, the other on sport in a British imperial context -, share issues both in terms of method, approach, questions and sources.
Both papers are well set-up, raise thought-provoking questions and navigate carefully through some historiographical and methodological issues even though they stem, as it seems, from PhD research topics in the making. What Cem seems to suggest is that encounters and “contact situations” with the Bektashi order, may this be through visitors and travellers, show a more complex and more subtle relationship than for instance Said’s “Orientalism” suggests. Individual actors, from both sides, sought connections and parallels in terms of intellectual agendas but also in terms of practices such as “cross-fertilisation” of masonic practices and rituals.
In a similar vein, the paper by Tom Cunningham on sports in the British Empire, with a focus on Kenya, seems to suggest that the “transfer” of sport practices war far from a uni-lateral and one-directional process from metropole to colony. While there might have been clear visions by the colonisers on the reasoning behind sport and the introduction of body practices (“civilising”, “modern”), the paper clearly argues for a more complex mutual relationship that allows for agency and initiative not only on the side of the “powerful colonisers” but also on the local or individual level in the colony.
To my reading these two papers, among many others submitted for the summer school, highlight the potential benefits of a broad perspective on European history under an “open umbrella” perspective of transnational history. I am very much looking forward to Menton learning more about the topics – and many others. (Bernhard Struck)
(Picture Roberto Zaugg, Basel, explaining (dancing?) transnational flows, left Johannes Kontny, Vienna #Menton2013)