University of Sussex
Tüyloğlu, D. Yavuz.pdf (1.51 MB)

Eastern connections: uneven and combined origins of Iranian and Turkish nationalisms

Download (1.51 MB)
posted on 2023-06-20, 14:17 authored by Dursun Tuyloglu
This thesis uncovers the reasons behind, and offers a solution to, the disconnection between theories of nationalism and histories of Middle Eastern nationalisms. These two fields of research remain isolated from each other and rarely interact. The field of nationalism studies has little to offer to the study of Middle Eastern nationalisms as the leading theories of the field base their explanation on European historical experience. Histories of Middle Eastern nationalisms, on the other hand, generally eschew any theoretical elaboration and remain largely wedded to narrative explanation. Earlier chapters of the thesis trace the wellspring of this separation to an institutionally prevalent and rigid division of labour between disciplines and area studies. In Chapter 1, the thesis aims to clarify the causes of theoretical poverty in the histories of Middle Eastern nationalisms, with a specific focus on the cases of Iran and Turkey. The outcome of this poverty is a tendency to treat these nationalisms as unique, which ends up tacitly assuming the national unit of analysis and theoretically downplays the constitutive international dimension of their emergence. On the other side of the gulf, the dominant theories in the field of nationalism studies espouses a generalist thrust in their explanation, but only by abstracting from the historical conditions of Western Europe. This leads, argues Chapter 2, to the poverty of theory: as the historical conditions (and causal mechanisms) identified in the nationalism studies literature were absent in non-Western European cases, these nationalisms appear misshapen, or as theoretical externalities. This problem is termed variously as internalism, Eurocentrism or methodological nationalism. The problem itself has been identified before; yet previous diagnoses remained without a viable prescription. Chapter 3 lays out the main claim of this thesis: that the internalisms exposed in the previous chapters can be overcome by theoretically accounting for the causal significance of international relations for the emergence and development of Iranian and Turkish nationalisms The chapter then cumulatively pieces together a methodological solution by engaging available ways to bridge the gulf between theory and history. It starts with exploring the promises and pitfalls of a solution previously suggested in the literature: historical comparison. Historical comparison is found to be unsatisfactory on account of its obliviousness towards the fact that societies in contact do not only exist in a state of interrelationship but also reciprocally alter one another through their interaction. The chapter then reviews the recent debate in historiography between ‘comparativists and transnationalists,’ and takes a closer look at the calls for bringing transnational history and historical sociology into a fruitful exchange. This critical engagement culminates into the invoking of the theory of uneven and combined development (U&CD) as the most suitable candidate to bridge transnational history and historical sociology in order to overcome the problems of internalism in the study of Iranian and Turkish nationalisms. Specifically, U&CD is well suited to theoretically integrate the mediating effects on Qajar Iran and the Ottoman Empire of other ‘backward’ societies, which experienced similar pressures and pursued modernisation with similar goals. To substantiate these claims, Chapter 4 proposes an alternative periodisation to conventional Eurocentric historiography by demonstrating how the Ottoman Empire and the dynasties ruling over the Iranian plateau began to transform their external relations during the course of eighteenth century by way of bilateral international agreements, which marked a ‘conceptual turning point’ in sovereignty and citizenship. Then, rather than employing a sole focus on the state level strategies of backwardness, which draws a relational distinction between industrialised European powers and late developing states of the non-European world, the chapter identifies agents of ‘transmission and mediation’ located in another late developing society: the expatriate Qajar subjects resident in the Ottoman Empire. This community’s experience in the modernising empire and its convictions that the Ottomans could act as a model to reform the Qajar state and society adds a layer to our understanding of late development, which I call ‘mediated modernisation.’ This aspect of late development is largely overlooked in the accounts of Qajar modernisation and remained limited to specialised empirical studies. The final chapter advances the ‘mediated modernisation’ argument into the turn-of-thecentury emergence of Iranian and Turkish nationalisms – a period during which the first programmatic statements of these ideologies are formulated. The chapter starts by evaluating the impact of Japanese modernisation and the result of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 on Qajar Iran and the Ottoman Empire. The second section focuses on v the wave of constitutional revolutions that swept across the late developing world during early twentieth century. As truly trans-imperial phenomena, the mobility and ‘cosmopolitan nationalism’ of these constitutionalist movements frontally challenges the internalist histories. With a similar challenge in mind, the third section of the chapter traces a diverse group of intellectuals and reformists who carried ideas, agitated reform and conspired revolution across the Eurasian continent.


File Version

  • Published version



Department affiliated with

  • International Relations Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

Full text available

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Theses)


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager