- To the Editors
It was with an odd yet vaguely flattering sensation that I read Norihiro Naganawa's "Transimperial Muslims, the Modernizing State, and Local Politics in the Late Imperial Volga-Ural Region," which discusses my book Turks across Empires: Marketing Muslim Identity in the Russian-Ottoman Borderlands alongside three other recent publications.1 Odd, because Dr. Naganawa's depiction of my book—while in some ways quite laudatory—ultimately devolves into a pickiness that is difficult to comprehend. But I also found this discussion to be somewhat flattering in a way, because Dr. Naganawa has clearly internalized several of the key arguments and ideas from my book, albeit only tacitly.
Concepts and arguments from Turks across Empires that Dr. Naganawa borrows include the following.
•. The idea of "transimperial Muslims." This is a concept that lies at the heart of Turks across Empires and is the title of the book's first chapter—indeed, my research has been discussing the idea of trans-imperial Muslims in one way or another for more than a decade. Dr. Naganawa employs this term in the title of his piece, as he is welcome to, and it is one of the primary lenses through which he investigates the four books under review (431). I'm glad to see that my work has influenced Dr. Naganawa's conceptual approach, but it seems a bit churlish to ignore this fact in a review that otherwise devotes so much space and energy to the airing of quibbles (432).
•. The instrumentalization of identity discourses. Dr. Naganawa states that I take one of these discourses (relating to jadids, or Muslim cultural reformers) "at face value" (431), even as unpacking the practical implications of employing these and other discourses constitutes one [End Page 684] of the central features of Turks across Empires. Here and elsewhere, Dr. Naganawa is not simply preaching to the choir but actually borrowing from the choir's own songbook in making his critique.
•. My argument that the "Islam" of the spiritual assemblies was a bureaucratic edifice that should not be taken at face value as a "religious" institution. Dr. Naganawa makes this same claim in describing my treatment of one of the figures in my book, while curiously implying (429) that I do not.
Turks across Empires deals with big issues pertaining to Russian-Ottoman interactions, Islam in late imperial Russia, and the role of identity invocations in public discourse, so it comes as no surprise that a specialist working on one of the regions covered in the book would take issue with arguments that strike him as "broad and sweeping" (432). Yes, my book is "ambitious," but chipping away at details while ignoring the provenance of bigger arguments that the reviewer himself adopts while critiquing the book is simply odd.
Imitation is, of course, a form of paying someone a compliment, so I'll take this opportunity to thank the reviewer and your journal for this publication.
Dept. of History
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717 USA
Norihiro Naganawa responds:
I fully acknowledge key arguments of Dr. Meyer's book to the extent that the author suspects that I "internalized" them, which I believe is a necessary part of writing a book review. Yet what I allegedly imitate and borrow from his book actually does not represent his achievements alone. My arguments and conceptualizations derive from broader currents of historical writing as well as an increasingly rich historiography of tsarist Russia's Islam; there is no doubt that Dr. Meyer's book contributes to this literature, both the general and the particular. [End Page 685]
Kita 9 Nishi 7 Kita-ku
Sapporo 060-0809, Japan
1. Norihiro Naganawa, "Transimperial Muslims, the Modernizing State, and Local Politics in the Late Imperial Volga-Ural Region," Kritika 18, 2 (2017): 417–36.