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  • Editors’ Note
  • Timothy Mitchell and Anupama Rao

In this issue we return to a debate launched in the previous volume of CSSAAME. In “Nationalism, Internationalism, and Cosmopolitanism: Some Observations from Modern Indian History,” published in volume 36, number 2, Partha Chatterjee examined the intersecting, if discrepant, legacies of this triad of political ideas and movements in twentieth-century India. Compared to the historical legacy of anticolonial nationalism, he argued, the appeal of cosmopolitanism today is limited. While global movements that call for transnational political arrangements are an important new development, they do not yet offer a program for a cosmopolitical order. In the following issue, Christine Philliou responded to Chatterjee’s essay by asking how the three ideas played out in the more indeterminate world of the Ottoman political space. She proposed a new kind of comparison for areas that were not formally colonized but were critical to the formation of modern relations of power.

Here we publish a further set of responses to Chatterjee’s provocation. Essays by David Gilmartin, Tomaž Mastnak, Yasmin Saikia, Kama Maclean, Manu Bhagavan, and Siba Grovogui expand the debate on the Indian case and take up contrasting positions on the problem of cosmopolitics in relation to European and African political thought. We close the “Provocations” section—for now—with a response to these contributions from Partha Chatterjee.

The next section of the journal, “Histories of the Night,” begins with a group of articles exploring how new technologies of sound and light transformed public space and social interaction in late Ottoman history. Avner Wishnitzer’s essay on literary representations of the neighborhood of Beyoğlu shows that new ways of “seeing through darkness” devised by the Ottoman state engendered concerns about the moral order and set forth new norms of navigating the modern night. Adam Mestyan’s article focuses on the relationship between power and sound during Ramadan in the Ottoman Arab provinces in the second half of the nineteenth century, when new technologies synchronized collective action. Nurçin İleri explores the practice of lighting as a means of developing new spectacles, as well as the rise of surveillance in fin-de-siècle Istanbul. In a new world of enhanced exposure and spectacle, she argues, darkness took on a greater importance because it limited visibility. Finally, Daniel-Joseph MacArthur-Seal portrays the dynamic nature of nightlife in Allied-occupied Istanbul and imperial efforts to control it. Together and separately, the essays explore how global technologies for mediating sound and light also served to clarify distinctive aspects of Ottoman urbanity.

As Julia Verne and Markus Verne note in their introduction, the special section “The Indian Ocean as Aesthetic Space” considers the impact of the circulation of aesthetic forms on the Swahili coast, as well as the sensory and material experiences that result from diffusion and mimesis. Clarissa Vierke’s article [End Page 183] on poetic links across the Indian Ocean focuses on the appropriation of Arabic historiographic text into the precolonial Swahili poetic genre of the utendi. Using the concept of mimesis, Vierke makes a case for the aesthetic relationship between the Swahili “translations” and the original Arabic texts as “not merely discursive” and appropriative, but “palpable and sensuous.” Set between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, Prita Meier’s essay on oceanic objects in eastern Africa explores the creation of tactile and embodied experiences of diaspora, migration, trade, and imperial formations. Meier argues that monsoons, networks of commerce, and distant locales are not just symbolic imaginaries but very much the physical matter of life on the Swahili coast. Andrew J. Eisenberg attends to the ethnic and vocal resonances of Indian taraab, a genre of Swahili song on the Kenyan coast. Through an ethnographic exploration of Indian taraab “clowning,” Eisenberg argues that this genre constitutes a vehicle for public reflection on Swahili ethnicity. The section closes with an essay by Paola Ivanov on the trade of luxury and aesthetic goods and the resulting creation of space and social ties within the Indian Ocean region through practices of mimetic appropriation; this aesthetic constitution is at once imaginative as well as material and bodily.

As current politics in Europe witness struggles over national diversity and the continent’s...


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