World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010

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Beyond Orientalism: Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840~1922) and His Networks (229) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel
 

· NOT_DEFINED date: WED 21, 2.30-4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: University of Chiba (Japan)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Yoshiko Kurita

· NOT_DEFINED sponsor: International Association of Middle Eastern Studies (IAMES)

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Although Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840~1922) is famous as the author of Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt ( an essential reference for the study of the ‘Urabist Revolution in Egypt), his life and works have not been properly located in the history of the Middle Eastern studies. Blunt was a Western intellectual who succeeded in gaining an exceptionally deep insight into the cultures and the aspirations of the peoples in the Middle East. Born as a member of the Victorian establishment, his sympathy with the peoples in the Middle East and hence his criticism of the British policy in the area eventually led him to turn into a champion of anti-colonialism. Considering the impact of Blunt’s writings about Egypt on Hobson, for example, we can safely argue that Blunt contributed, in his own way, to the crystallization of the concept of ‘imperialism’ itself. What is more important is that all this was not a product of mere individual efforts on Blunt’s part but was rather a result of rich intellectual interaction and dialogue which took place between him and his Middle Eastern friends, such as Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad ‘Abduh. This panel aims at re-examining the life and achievements of Blunt, and exploring, through this process, the possibilities of developing a ‘non-orientalistic’, democratic sort of Middle Eastern studies on our part in the future.

Chair: Riad Nourallah, Yoshiko Kurita, IAMES

Paper presenter: Riad Nourallah, IAMES, Presenting Islam to the West : the Case of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt
Paper presenter: Roger Owen, IAMES, Wilfird Scawen Blunt and Evelyn Baring ( Lord Cromer) : same class, same intellectual formation but growing differences over empire
Paper presenter: Yoshiko Kurita, IAMES, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, His Middle Eastern Friends, and the Discovery of ''Imperialism''
Paper presenter: Mansour Bonakdarian, IAMES, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and Global Networks of Anti-Colonial Resistance

Riad Nourallah’s paper, ‘Presenting Islam to the West’, will explore the ‘strategies’ and ‘tools’ used by Blunt, with varying degrees of success, to present Islam to a largely uninformed or hostile contemporary environment. It will be demonstrated that some of these strategies presaged a range of diplomatic and information tools used and debated today in the Islam and the West context but more generally in diplomatic theory and practice.

Roger Owen’s paper, ‘Wilfrid Blunt and Evelyn Baring (Lord Cromer)’, will analyze the meaning of Blunt’s criticism of the British Empire by comparing his life and career to those of another member of English establishment, Lord Cromer. The paper will examine how the sometimes close relationship between two Englishman of the same class, background, and imperial experience fell into bitter opposition over the conduct of the British Occupation in Egypt. Particular reference will be made to the Denshawai incident of 1906.

Yoshiko Kurita’s paper, ‘Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, His Middle Eastern Friends, and the Discovery of ‘Imperialism’’, will show how Blunt’s intellectual life was transformed as a result of his encounter with the Middle Eastern intellectuals such as Malkom Khan, al-Afgani, and ‘Abduh. Then it will proceed to examine the impact of the ‘Urabist Revolution and the subsequent British occupation of Egypt on Blunt and his friends, and show how they tried, jointly, to grasp the actual state of things, analyze it, criticize it, and overcome it. The paper will also demonstrate how Blunt’s ( and his Middle Eastern friends?) experiences were transmitted to and interwoven into the ideas of European progressive thinkers and activists such as William Morris and Theodore Rothstein.

Finally, Mansour Bonakdarian’s paper, ‘Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and Global Networks of Anti-Colonial Resistance’ will focus on Blunt’s participation in, and contributions to, global networks of anti-colonial/anti-imperialist nationalist resistance before the outbreak of the First World War. It will combine Blunt’s many anti-colonial nationalist commitments (Ireland, Egypt, India, etc.), which are generally treated in isolation from one another by scholars. The paper will highlight Blunt’s significant role in fostering and facilitating greater cross-national interest in, and direct collaborations between, nationalist groups and individuals from different parts of the British Empire and beyond. In particular, the paper will bring together Blunt’s ‘Oriental’ political concerns and his simultaneous interest in the Irish Question. In the process, the paper will also examine some of the outcomes and limitations of these cross-nationalist cooperations and expressions of solidarity, as well as the ways in which Blunt’s engagement with the multifarious and multi-vocal anti-colonial global networks impacted his historical assessment of ‘nationalism’ and the ‘Orient’ (e.g., apropos the categories of ‘race,’ class, religion, and gender). It is noteworthy that this paper is meant to challenge essentialist critiques of ‘Western Orientalism’, as well, and hence is expected to contribute to the development and enrichment of the discussion on the concept of ‘orientalism’ itself.