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The illusions of encounter: Muslim ‘minds’ and Hindu revolutionaries in First World War Germany and after

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 November 2006

Kris K. Manjapra
Center for European Studies, Harvard University, 27 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA E-mail:
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German political Orientalists in the era of the First World War thought that new ethnographic methods and insights would allow them to coax Muslim populations throughout the Middle East and South Asia into violent revolt against the British. The European imperial mindset insisted that non-Western peoples could be mastered and masterminded at whim. In fact, German pursuit of absolute control of Asian populations led to their loss of control, as their misrecognitions of the facts on the ground placed them in relationships of mutually-affecting lived encounter with Indian revolutionaries. While these interactions remained largely limited to the realm of military operations during the war, they opened up into ideological encounters on the radical fringes of Weimar society in the war’s aftermath. Yet far from a study of humanistic exchange or understanding, this essay seeks to historicize the meetings of Germans and Indian émigrés and show how misrepresentations and power asymmetries were endemic to the encounter between these groups.

2006 London School of Economics and Political Science