On the premise that words have the power to make worlds, each essay
in this book follows a word as it travels around the globe and
across time. Scholars from five disciplines address thirteen
societies to highlight the social and political life of words in
Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, from the mid-nineteenth century
to the present. The approach is consciously experimental, in that
rigorously tracking specific words in specific settings frequently
leads in unexpected directions and alters conventional depictions
of global modernity.
Such words as "security" in Brazil, "responsibility" in Japan,
"community" in Thailand, and "hijāb" in France changed the
societies in which they moved even as the words were changed by
them. Some words threatened to launch wars, as "injury" did in
imperial Britain's relations with China in the nineteenth century.
Others, such as "secularism," worked in silence to agitate for
political change in twentieth-century Morocco. Words imposed or
imported from abroad could be transformed by those who wielded them
to oppose the very powers that first introduced them, as happened
in Turkey, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Taken together, this
selection of fourteen essays reveals commonality as well as
distinctiveness across modern societies, making the world look
different from the interdisciplinary and transnational perspective
of "words in motion."
"Contributors." Mona Abaza, Itty Abraham, Partha Chatterjee,
Carol Gluck, Huri Islamoglu, Claudia Koonz, Lydia H. Liu, Driss
Maghraoui, Vicente L. Rafael, Craig J. Reynolds, Seteney Shami,
Alan Tansman, Kasian Tejapira, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
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