I have two main questions regarding the primary sources we read this week. First, why would global feminism have taken such different forms in different places? Second, what are some of benefits and drawbacks of recent patterns of globalization? And when considering the drawbacks, is there a way imagine forms of global trade that would be less exploitive? Are there things we can do as individuals from one of the world’s richest nations to limit the exploitation of people and of the environment in the Global South?
The big question I see in the documents here is what is the relationship between Islam and modernity. Is it possible to make the two compatible? With regard to the images, they have left me thinking about nationalism and how efforts to encourage unity often lead to conflict with others. Is it possible to avoid such conflicts?
These documents underline an essential fact about revolutions: they don’t just happen by themselves. Making a revolution “successful” required, it seems, forcing social and economic change along with the political changes that the revolutions helped bring about. And such changes led to resentment among the populace, particularly among those who felt that the changes would make their lives worse. I am left thinking about hard it is to make real change stick. A kind of institutional and human inertia always provides a counter force to revolutionary ideas about creating a new and better world. These revolutionary governments used propaganda, violence, and even Terror to try to force change from above, and yet even with all that power, it was difficult to fight against that inertia.
The two documents here voice criticism about much of what the “modern” world seemed to stand for: individualism, talk about rights and freedom, and political movements focused on class. They offered another set of ideas, a kind of counter force to all that had seemed to go astray. Why did many people in the interwar era find fascism appealing? Perhaps the WWI posters help to shed light on that question, although I think the Depression needs to be considered when trying to understand how these regimes actually came to power. Many people felt frustrated with the apparent inability of the democratic regimes to solve problems and they put their hope into these radical solutions.
With regard to the documents on China, I think it is worth contemplating why it was so hard to introduce reforms in China. What made it so difficult to “change China”? On Japan, it’s interesting to consider how the Japanese seemed to develop a love/hate relationship with the west. I think these images present evidence that both of these attitudes could exist simultaneously, and it is worth trying to understand what they believed was worth copying, and what aspects of the western model seemed unsuitable and unappealing.
It is difficult to find a single comment or question about these various sources. To start with India, what seemed good or valuable about living under British domination, and what things seemed detrimental? With regard to Africa, I think we need to work through why the Europeans chose to divide the continent amongst themselves. Why did it suddenly seem so important to the Europeans to take control of Africa? They had been trading with Africans for hundreds of years. What made them take such a different approach during the last third of the nineteenth century?
Here are a few questions that I hope will inspire reflection as you consider this week’s primary sources.
How do these documents and images help you undertstand the experience of class during the early industrial age? What were the markers of class status? How might members of the working class have responded to Marx’s ideas? How might middle-class readers have responded to the Communist Manifesto?