Zhang Taiyan, Pan-Asianism and India as Method

27 Mar 2018

Viren Murthy

Venue: Conference Room II, India International Centre
Time: 3:00 PM


The early twentieth century revolutionary, Zhang Taiyan (1869-1936) is most famous for his role as a radical anti-Manchu propagandist; however, he was many things to different readers; a scholar, a revolutionary, a Buddhist and Pan-Asianist.  I argue that his writings on Pan-Asianism and India are significant because they allow us to think beyond a world of imperialist hegemony towards a world of radical difference. I examine his writings on India, which are often embedded in his works on anti-colonialism and then turn to his writings on Buddhism, through which he constructs Hegel’s idea of history as progress. India becomes a symbol for his critique of anti-colonialism and linear history.  In outlining my interpretation, I draw on two Japanese sinologists and their use of the “as method” formulation to bring out the postcolonial dimension of Zhang Taiyan’s thought. In short, Zhang sought to not only combat actual colonization, but to overcome colonialisms conceptual legacies, including ideas about time and history.

In the 1960s, the Japanese sinologist, Takeuchi Yoshimi (1910-1977) conjured the concept “Asia as method” to de-reify the concept of Asia and resist imperialism. Asia captures the struggles to create a world beyond global capitalist modernity and imperialism. In the 1980s, the historian, Mizoguchi Yūzō (1932-2010) formulated “China as method” to outline a world beyond Eurocentrism in which difference reigns supreme. Zhang Taiyan’s use of India and Buddhism in the early twentieth century, anticipated the above two gestures, positing a utopian vision in response to Hegel, where particularity and universality are no longer opposed.  Such as a vision has important implications for both domestic and international politics.


About the Speaker

Viren Murthy teaches transnational Asian History and researches Chinese and Japanese intellectual history in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He is the author of The Political Philosophy of Zhang Taiyan: The Resistance of Consciousness (Brill, 2011) and co-editor with Joyce Liu of Marxisms in East Asia (Routledge, 2017), co-editor with Fabian Schäfer and Max Ward, of Confronting Capital and Empire: Rethinking Kyoto School Philosophy (Brill, 2017) co-editor with Axel Schneider of The Challenge of Linear Time: Nationhood and the Politics of History in East Asia (Brill, 2013), and co-editor with Prasenjit Duara and Andrew Sartori of A Companion to Global Historical Thought (Blackwell, 2014).  He has published articles in Modern Intellectual History, Modern China, Frontiers of History in China and Positions: Asia Critique and is currently working on a project tentatively entitled: Pan-Asianism and the Conundrums of Post-colonial Modernity.


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