Perhaps the first thing to note about a forum on the subject of 1919 in Asia is how awkwardly the spatial frame of “Asia” maps onto the international history of that moment. To be sure, the postwar international conjuncture, which I have elsewhere called the “Wilsonian Moment,” had a revolutionary impact across Asia, perhaps more so than in any other world region outside of Europe. As the three preceding essays in this forum note, that year was a waypoint, and sometimes a launching pad, for a rush of novel or renewed revolutionary discourses, connections, and mobilizations in China, India, and Korea, as it was in other parts of Asia and of the world. These were all propelled by the accumulated material and ideological transformations of the years of war, transformation that imbued the moment with revolutionary potential and gave contemporaries a sense that the international order, its power structures and its norms of legitimacy, were uniquely malleable, amenable to concerted action. Indeed, 1919 was a moment in which the very idea of “Asia”—its spaces, the identities they attached to, and the solidarities that ran across and beyond it—was reimagined in ways that at once stitched it together and rent it apart.
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