The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Seminars, Symposia, and Academic Conferences

Monday, January 15, 2018
11th Minpaku Lecture Series in Modern Middle East Studies

  • Date: 15:00-17:00 on 15 January 2018
  • Venue: Conference Room 3, 4th floor at the National Museum of Ethnology
  • Title: Second Degree Asianism: The Russo-Japanese War, Japanese Imperialism and Muslim Visions of Japan
  • Lecturer: Dr. Ulrich Brandenburg (University of Zurich)
  • Language: English
  • Inquiry: kenjikuroda● (please replace ● with @)


The emergence of Asianism ? the discourse of Asian unity ? since the late 19th century has usually been tied to a sense of common Asian identity which was constructed against the Western-dominated world order. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904/05 is regarded as having been particularly important in this respect: For the first time in modern history an Asian power had won a war against a European one, raising hopes for an end of European dominance in Asia. Historians cite statements by contemporary intellectuals from throughout Asia who identified with Japan and praised it as a model of non-Western modernization. Conspicuously, the interpretation of the war as a moment of Asian unity draws not only on voices from Asian countries but also on those of European observers who were often admonitory about Japanese imperialism and expansionism in Asia. In this lecture I will problematize the entanglements between different positionalities when talking about Asian unity. In order to question the notion of Asian solidarity and identification with Japan against Western imperialism, I will discuss assessments by contemporary Muslim intellectuals of Japan's future role in Asia, which were written under consideration of competing Middle Eastern, European and Japanese interests. In doing so, I will explore the points of contact between different expressions of Asian unity and introduce the concept of “second degree Asianism” to better understand the role of varying subject positions. Thinking about second degree Asianism in this sense is a way of grasping how contemporaries, Asians and non-Asians alike, articulated their position towards Asianism based on what they perceived to be a specifically Japanese ambition to unite Asia under its leadership.


Ulrich Brandenburg is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. His academic background is in Islamic as well as in Japanese Studies. In his PhD thesis, which he intends to publish in 2018, he explored connections between Japan and Middle Eastern Muslims at the turn of the 20th century and in particular the imagination of Japan becoming a Muslim country, which was discussed at that time.