“Europe’s Angry Muslims” (2005), by Robert S. Leiken – Response Essay

In “Europe’s Angry Muslims” (2005), Robert S. Leiken analyzes the presence of Muslims in European countries from the perspective of international security, or specifically the security of the United States, which has visa-waiver agreements with the European Union. According to his article, Muslims are able to easily enter the European Union due to lax rules regarding who is allowed in. Islamic radicals are allowed to enter one European country and, because of the lack of border controls between European Union members, they are then able to travel to all European countries in the EU. Besides the risk to the European Union member states, Leiken sees this as a problem because these radicals are recruiting jihadis who are second generation immigrants and have European citizenship, allowing them to freely travel to the United States.

Leiken’s article emphasizes the role that being a minority in Europe plays in enabling the radicalization of Muslims. Across different contexts, Leiken finds a common thread of estrangement from the dominant culture that turns into disillusionment and anger in Muslims who are born in Europe and have European citizenship, but are socially excluded based on their ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Leiken’s use of statistics to demonstrate the threat of Europe-born Muslim jihadis is flawed. He states that the number of mujahideen who identified as European nationals in North America and Europe in a 1993-2004 survey was roughly 25% of the total, representing the largest demographic within the group. What does that prove, really? It would stand to reason that there would be more local-born Muslims than immigrants in a given time period. This does not, however, call into question the seriousness of the problem of radicalization of domestic Muslims.

Another problem with Leiken’s analysis is his Mecca vs. Medina analogy which, while illustrative, is historically incorrect and misrepresents the foundational period of Islamic history which is significant in terms of his topic: conflict between Muslims and Westerners. In his analogy, he states that Mohammed “pronounced an anathema on [Mecca’s] leaders and took his followers to Medina … [where] he built an army that conquered Mecca in AD 630…” (127). Mohammed fled Mecca in the face of persecution, and by all accounts was among the last to leave, having first sent a group of followers to Ethiopia and then having sent the remainder to Medina ahead of himself. In Medina, he did not “[build] and army” (127), he built a community and engaged in the common raiding practices of the Arabian Peninsula. He also built political alliances which were useful when hostilities did break out. Leiken’s misrepresentation of the situation and glossing over of the long hostilities, political treaties and eventual surrender of Mecca to Mohammed’s men paints Muslims as naturally violent from the beginning of their history, leading to the teleological conclusion that they must be dealt with in some way to make Europe and the United States safe from their barbarism.

Leiken discusses the ways that European countries have engaged with their Muslim populations, noting that all attempts to integrate them have failed, from Belgium’s active attempts to socially support and integrate all comers to Germany’s separation to Britain’s multiculturalism. He then herald’s the United States’ as being the most successful with a policy of toleration while allowing the maintenance of social distinctions. He does not describe how the policy in the US is really that different from the policies of Britain. What Leiken does do, however, is discuss boundaries created by geography that prevent the type of radicalism spreading throughout Europe from reaching the United States. He notes that Muslims in Europe can see radical speeches on satellite and the Internet, but fails to note that those same mediums are available in the United States. By claiming logistical difficulties, Leiken gives too little credit to terrorist organizations and too much credit to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in preventing terrorism.

The conflict between Muslims and Westerners is sometimes framed as a battle of civilizations, with the implication being that one must wipe out the other to survive. Leiken’s analysis posits Muslim minorities as unassimilable, even in the best case scenario of the United States, where they are “tolerated” but socially distinct (133). This, combined with Leiken’s presentation of Muslims as historically and uniquely violent through a distorted retelling of the religion’s foundational history perpetuates the notion that they are outside of Europe and cannot be brought inside; they must be contained because they cannot be European.

In War’s Wake: Europe’s Displaced Persons in the Postwar Order – Response Essay

*The image above is of a displaced person’s camp, possibly near Hallendorf, Germany. The image is from a blog about a family’s history. One of the members of the family, Janis, was a POW and later lived in a displaced persons camp. Click here for more information and more images.


 

In In War’s Wake: Europe’s Displaced Persons in the Postwar Order, Gerard Cohen analyzes the creation and evolution of the concept of a “displaced person.” He shows that the term arose in a specific context to describe a specific set of people and, because of the role that Europe and America played in post-World War II international politics, the definition of what it meant to be displaced was applied universally. He also shows how the term was politicized and evolved based on the strategic needs of competing world powers during the Cold War, leading to the commodification of displaced persons. The most important contribution of the book, however, is the development of the idea of what it means to be a citizen of a state.

One of the most interesting, though perhaps least clearly explained, ideas in the book is that people underwent a commodification. Conceptually, they stopped being actors receiving aid and became statistics that had to be managed, from counting caloric intake to disposing of displaced persons in the most expeditious fashion possible. Cohen shows that the way people in dire circumstances were thought of underwent a conceptual shift during the period between the World Wars and again after World War II. Initially people were recipients of “Victorian charity,” a concept that Cohen fails to adequately explain. One can infer from the text that it had little to do with attempting to give the poor the means by which they could advance themselves economically. Food or money was provided, but there was no intent to actually eradicate poverty. The new form of care provided after World War I by UNRRA was designed to elevate people by providing them the means to support themselves and become productive and economically successful members of society. This new conception of relief was adopted later by the IRO and informed later definitions of humanitarian relief work. It wasn’t enough to simply “throw” resources at populations in need of relief. To truly alleviate the situation, one had to give people the means to reestablish a sense of community, of dignity, and the means to become economically self-sufficient.

This new form of help required new forms of monitoring and categorizing people. Cohen cites Foucalt’s theory of “governmentality,” which posits government intrusion into people’s lives as a form of violence. While there was a great deal of intimidation, I’m not sure Foucalt really applies in this situation. According to Cohen, displaced persons were able to forge a history if necessary and still receive benefits. One could argue that requiring detailed information and the history of a person is a form of violence, but in the case of providing that information to receive benefits, it becomes a transaction, albeit an uneven one, with the government, or in this case the IRO, holding all of the power in the situation. Additionally, as the situation evolved, a person’s history was not necessarily as important as where he came from, or what his religion was.

The most pressing issue addressed in Cohen’s work is the conflict and debate revolving around where people belong. It is obvious that by the time World War II ended, the idea of nationalities had become firmly entrenched in people’s minds, but that the exact definition of nationality was still in flux. This is no surprise, since the idea of nationality is still hotly debated today. Nation and state were becoming synonymous in people’s minds. Poland’s demands that all Polish displaced persons be returned while simultaneously working to prevent the return of Jews to Poland is evidence of this. Was there a place for minorities in a state? Do people have to become assimilated to the culture and language of the dominant nation in a state to truly belong? Given the current situation in Europe with Muslim and/or North African minorities being targeted, especially in France, it would seem that people in general still see nation and state as essentially the same. Myths about the ideals and values that a state stands for are typically based on the values and ideals of a particular nation within the state, so expecting people to adhere to them is an expectation of assimilation. Is there room for difference?

Cohen’s book raises many other issues, especially moral issues about the rights of displaced persons in migration, what it means to form an international community, and the hegemonic role of the West in defining what it means to be displaced, a refugee, or entitled to special consideration. The way that the West has defined displaced persons has implications for the internal operations of all states. However, in showing that the definition of a nation was still in flux, and that nationality and belonging can be decided and changed with mere paperwork, Cohen undermines the immutability of nationhood or belonging.

Policing Paris: The origins of modern immigration… – Reaction Essay

In Policing Paris: The origins of modern immigration control between the wars, Clifford Rosenberg looks at the creation of a complex policing apparatus in Paris and how this institution helped to define the roles of citizenship and nationality in the French public’s mind. He does this by analyzing the context in which the institution was created and how social controls were adapted to changing ideas of who belonged and who was a foreigner.

Rosenberg’s book opens up questions about the nature of belonging to a state. There is an assumption that there is something intrinsic to belonging to a state. France was historically defined as being a nation state constituted by and from the French nation, but Rosenberg’s work calls into question the very Frenchness of the state. He lists the numbers of immigrants that arrived in France from various countries, mostly European but also some Asians and North Africans. If all of these people became French, then what is “French”? Why were certain groups, like the Russians, assumed to be capable of assimilating into the society while others were not? One politician quoted by Rosenberg says that being French is not a matter of blood, but rather one of education, so why were North Africans considered unable to be educated? It seems that targeted surveillance of North Africans had more to do with the need to keep them subjugated to the French state than it had to do with security.

An idea that features prominently in Rosenberg’s work is Foucault’s theory of “governmentality” as a form of violence by the state against a population. Rosenberg spends much of the first half of the book praising the card catalogues and indexing systems created by the French to monitor population subsets and showing that they were models that were emulated by the rest of the world. It is unclear whether or not Rosenberg subscribes to Foucault’s theory. He both criticizes the use of surveillance against specific groups (the North Africans) and also praises the ability of these identification systems to allow for the creation of welfare systems. Rosenberg probably has socialist leanings, which influenced his analysis. However, his work does raise the question of whether or not identification systems are useful, or even good. Should the state know everything about everyone? Are the benefits of social welfare programs worth the cost of giving up one’s identity to the state?

Rosenberg shows that prior to modern immigration control, borders were much more fluid. Attaining what we think of as citizenship today was much easier and the flow of people around the world followed a much more natural process of migrating to areas where labor was needed, contrary to the assumption that rural residents were tied to the land. The changing nature of the labor market seems to have had the biggest impact on how and why states control the flow of people. Rosenberg emphasizes this by showing that immigration control was initially meant to protect the domestic French labor market from foreign competition that entered French territory. With the state of the world today, including outsourcing and a global economy, it calls into question the necessity or relevance of borders, which greatly illuminates modern debate surrounding illegal immigration into the United States from South America.

While not conclusively taking a stance on the rightness or morality of modern identification systems, Rosenberg opens up many question about citizenship, nationality and what it means to belong to a sovereign political body. He uses the Paris specifically and France generally to illustrate how the idea of borders and belonging have changed over time, making it easier to understand the nature of labor migration and the process of naturalization, as well as shedding light on why current debates call into question the very nature of political borders.

Tsirk – 1936 USSR Film – Reaction Essay

 

The film “Tsirk” was produced in the USSR in 1936. The film contains a large amount of propaganda that is presented in the format of a comedy. The film deals primarily with issues of race and nationalism and how citizenship is defined. The producers were implicitly comparing the way that minorities are treated in the USSR to how they are treated in the United States and Europe. The main character, Marion Dixon, has a relationship with an unnamed black man which results in a child. In the United States, this is treated as a major scandal and Marion is chased by a mob. In the beginning of the film, Marion’s manager is identified as German. He also has a negative view of Marion’s previous relationship and uses the existence of her child to control her. These views are sharply contrasted with the Soviet ideal, which is inclusive and does not discriminate based on race.

While the film may not accurately depict the status of minorities in the USSR, it provides the viewer with an opportunity to understand early Soviet views on race relations in two ways. First, the film presents the Soviet view of being inclusive as both positive and better than views on race held by Europeans, represented by the German manager, and Americans, represented by the mob in the opening sequence and Marion’s feelings of shame and fear in respect to her child. Race was not something that should be used to differentiate or exclude people from society. Second, the film provides the viewer with a glimpse of how the Soviets attempted to shape their national narrative, to create a cohesive whole from a mix of racial and ethnic groups that fell under the sovereignty of the USSR.

During the French revolution, French nationality was defined as being contingent upon being ethnically French. Putting aside the ambiguity and arbitrariness of how the standard for “Frenchness” was defined, the state was built on the foundation of the nation. Italy, England and Germany are also similarly built on the idea of a cultural, racial or ethnic group that compose a nation banding together to form a state. The USSR, on the other hand, was composed of many different ethnic and racial groups. This is similar to how the United States was formed, but the difference was in how minorities were (theoretically) treated. At the time, being American meant being white. Racial boundaries outside of the USSR in general were firm, represented by the German manager’s declaration near the end of the film that Marion’s sexual relationship with a “Negro” was a “racial crime”.

Soviet ideology, represented by the closing sequence in the Circus, is racially and ethnically inclusive. The Soviet Union is represented as being composed of many racial and ethnic groups, without racial boundaries or divisions. Each person is considered based on merit, rather than simply skin color. Whether or not this view of racial inclusiveness had any substance beyond this and similar films is questionable, but it was the image that the Soviets wanted to present to the world and to their own public. “Tsirk” represents the Soviet attempt to bring nations of people together in a common cause.

Also interested was the focus on technology and advancement. The acts in the circus revolved around cannons, space flight and reaching for the stars. This was perhaps symbolic of industrialism and was meant to inspire people to conform to Soviet industrialization policies. This ties in with the idea of all racial groups working together in the Soviet Union, because of the ways that local economies were reoriented to encourage industrial growth in the Russian Metropole. Of course, that also contradicts the ideal presented by the film, since these economic policies negatively impacted local non-Russian economies and would later lead to famine and impoverishment.

Whether or not “Tsirk” was an attempt to accurately reflect Soviet ideas or purely propaganda, it reveals quite a bit about the nature of race relations in the world at the time. It shows that ideas of citizenship and belonging were still very much tied to ideas of belonging to the same race or ethnic group. The Soviets understood this and, in this state sponsored film, were simultaneously criticizing other state’s treatment of their ethnic minorities while constructing a standard of belonging for Soviet citizens that contradicted prevailing norms.

Creating the “Other” in Colonial Taiwan: Comparative Article Review

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Paul D. Barclay’s “Peddling Postcards and Selling Empire: Image Making in Taiwan under Japanese Colonial Rule” and Leo Ching’s “Savage Construction and Civility Making: The Musha Incident and Aboriginal Representations in Colonial Taiwan” are both articles that deal with the creation and distribution of propaganda in and about Taiwan. Specifically they both focus on how the aboriginal population was represented to the outside world to suit the needs of the colonial government. Paul Barclay focuses on the use of visual imagery through commercial postcards as propaganda, produced and distributed by the colonial government to generate a specific image of the aboriginal population. Leo Ching writes about the use of stories as propaganda, both to reinforce an image of the noble untamed savage and later as an attempt to generate feelings of loyalty in the Taiwanese population. Both authors make strong cases to support arguments while also touching on deeper issues concerning modernity and colonialism itself.

In “Peddling Postcards and Selling Empire: Image-Making in Taiwan under Japanese Colonial Rule,” Barclay examines the role that picture postcards played in promoting Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan. Specifically, he argues that picture postcards were used to promote a particular view of the Han Taiwanese and the aborigine Taiwanese populations that legitimated Japanese colonial rule. The vast majority of the available postcards depicted aborigine populations even though they were a small fraction of the population and depicted those aborigines as untouched by modernity, savage, and isolated. In other words, aborigines were presented to the world as the true Taiwanese and as backward, pre-modern people they were used as justification for Japan’s supposed civilizing mission.

Barclay’s main sources of primary material are postcards and personal photographs collected by US Consul Gerald Warner during his tenure in Taiwan from 1937 to 1941. Warner possessed both commercial postcards and personal snapshots that were placed together in the same collection, sometimes side-by-side. This collection was later donated to the Special Collections library at Lafayette College. The author argues that given the quantity of material provided by Warner, the collection “constitutes a body of ‘related and contextualized’ visual documents” that he believes can be used to understand the difference between reality and the official narrative of indigenous life in Taiwan.[1]

Barclay’s examination of the images in the Warner collection is broken down into three general categories: images of martial masculinity, images of “savage beauty,” and images that reinforce stereotypical beliefs about the division of labor in indigenous societies. Barclay argues that in the first two of these categories, the subjects of the photos were anonymized. The subjects were also presented in traditional or prestige garments that did not accurately depict what they actually wore on a day-to-day basis in an attempt to make them appear exotic. Warner’s personal snapshots showed a much more integrated and modern indigenous population, but images of mixed dress or use of modern items was absent from the commercial images, all of which were derived from official outlets or government sources.

The colonial government was preventing people from taking photographs of their own while handing out postcards that perpetuated the narrative of the timeless native. Why would the colonial government be interested in presenting the aborigines as timeless and pre-modern? How would images showing the successful modernization efforts of Japan’s colonial government not have served Japan’s purposes? Would it not have validated their position as bringers of civilization? The answer can perhaps be found in Leo Ching’s analysis of “The Savage,” in which Ching attempts to set the psychological backdrop for his later analysis of Japanese propaganda stories.

Like Barclay, in “Savage Construction and Civility Making: The Musha Incident and Aboriginal Representations in Colonial Taiwan,” Leo Ching analyzes media to uncover the propaganda narrative being promoted by the colonial government. Rather than examining images and postcards, Ching focuses primarily on two popular representations of aborigines from the 1910s and 1930s, “The Story of Goho” and “The Bell of Sayon.” First, however, he tries to explain the Japanese mentality towards colonialism through an analysis of “The Savage,” a story that shows the Japanese understood the inherent contradictions in using colonialism to become part of the civilized world.

The main character, Takawa, strives to become more savage because in savagery he sees an inherent nobility. He finds himself repulsed by the indigenous woman who is mimicking Japanese civility, because in her, he sees a reflection of the colonial Japanese, civilized on the outside, savage on the inside. This story helps to explain why so many Japanese visitors to aboriginal areas, like those mentioned in the travel accounts analyzed by Naoko Shimazu in “Colonial Encounters: Japanese Travel Writing on Colonial Taiwan,” found it so deeply unsettling to see the aborigines becoming assimilated into Japanese culture. Without the stereotypical savage as a counterpoint to Japanese civility, the Japanese were forced to confront the savage nature of subjugating another people. Perhaps this is why the image of a timeless savage was so popular as a postcard motif, or why it was used so prolifically by the colonial administration to maintain that distinction between Japanese and Other.

Ching argues that ‘The Story of Goho” represents the initial colonial construction of the martial savage, like those represented in the Warner collection’s pre-1930s postcards. “The Bell of Sayon” represents the tendency after the Musha (Wushe) uprising to idealize the primitive nature of the aborigines and emphasize their potential for a transformation into loyal imperial subjects. The postcards that Barclay examined show a similar trend. However, he attributes the disappearance of martial scenes and the inclusion of Japanese, but not Chinese, garments in images of indigenous peoples to official anti-Chinese paranoia. After reading Ching’s explanation of the meaning of “The Bell of Sayon,” it seems more likely that these postcards reflected the administration’s new goal of building loyalty to the empire, assimilation and eventual conscription into the military.

One point not addressed by Ching is how these stories were distributed and how well they were received. The story about Goho was produced during campaigns by the colonial government to subdue the aborigines. They were simultaneously attempting to get financial backing from local Han Taiwanese. Neither audience was likely to be receptive to a propaganda folk story produced by the Japanese. Similarly, “The Bell of Sayon” was meant to inspire loyalty to the Japanese empire. Was it successful? By what measure? Ching writes that Sayon was targeted at Japanese as well as aborigines, so was the purpose of the story more to reassure Japanese that aborigines could be trusted to serve a military purpose?

Though Barclay’s argument could have been strengthened by using more personal snapshot sources, through careful art analysis he reveals how a romanticized image of Taiwanese aborigines was created, packaged and sold. The impact of these images on world public opinion was meant to legitimize Japanese colonial rule by emphasizing the need for a civilizing mission, but he misses the mark when interpreting post-1930s postcards which are better understood in light of Leo Ching’s analysis of “The Savage.”  Leo Ching’s analysis of propaganda stories reveals how the Taiwanese aborigines’ image was manipulated to reflect the changing needs of the Japanese empire, first to maintain difference in order to legitimize colonization and later to instill loyalty to bolster the empire’s military forces.

 

References

Barclay, Paul D. 2010. “Peddling Postcards and Selling Empire: Image-Making in Taiwan Under Japanese Colonial Rule.” Japanese Studies 30 (1): 81-110.

Ching, Leo. 2000. “Savage Construction and Civility Making: The Musha Incident and Aboriginal Representations in Colonial Taiwan.” Positions 8 (3): 795-816.

Naoko, Shimazu. 2007. “Colonial Encounters: Japanese Travel Writing on Colonial Taiwan,” in Refracted Modernity: Visual Culture and Identity in Colonial Taiwan: 21-38.

Footnotes:

[1] Paul D. Barclay, “Peddling Postcards and Selling Empire: Image Making in Taiwan Under Japanese Colonial Rule,” Japanese Studies 30:1 (2010): 85.