2016 “郑和论坛” 主题发言(迪拜)

2016 Zhenghe Forum, 2016, Dubai

keynote speech

By John O. Voll, Georgetown University.

“World history emphasizes the interaction of the pieces (be they community, societal, or continental) in human history and… it seeks to assess the experience of the whole of humanity through study of those interactions.” Patrick Manning.[1]

The whole of humanity is the necessary basic unit of analysis for understanding human history. Scholars of world history like Patrick Manning, a president of the American Historical Association, emphasize the importance of a holistic vision. However, humanity also contains many diverse components. No human is simply human. Individual humans and human groups have distinctive identities and as individuals and groups they interact, shaping each other’s nature and experience. It is, as Manning affirms, through the study of these interactions that the whole human experience can be best assessed and understood.

China, the Indian Ocean, and Islam are among the important entities that interact in world history. However, understanding their interactive relationships is a challenge because each of these three elements is a different type of human-physical grouping. In common analytical identifications, China is a “civilization,” the Indian Ocean is a distinctive “ocean basin,” and Islam is a “religion.” Understanding how a “civilization,” an “ocean,” and a “religion” interact requires a framework that is conceptually inclusive and holistic. Such a framework involves a redefinition of the key identifying terms.

The most effective way to discover the mutual cultural heritages shared by China, the Indian Ocean, and Islam is to view these three major elements of world history as significantly interacting webs of human communication and interaction. Utilizing the usual concepts of “civilizations,” “oceans,” and “religions” involves conceptualizations that emphasize separateness and exclusivist identities, and makes it difficult to understand the profound shared experiences of both cooperation and conflict that are significant parts of the world historical mutual heritages of China, the Indian Ocean basin, and Islam. While each of these entities has a distinctive history, their interactions create influential syntheses that are part of those distinctive experiences.

When the terms “civilization,” “ocean,” and “religion” are applied to specific regions and societies, they usually are defined in exclusivist terms as entities with clear cultural and geographic boundaries. They are usually accepted as, using Arnold Toynbee’s terminology for “civilizations,” the “largest intelligible fields of study” for their type of grouping, meaning that such an entity “could be studied and understood in and by itself, without requiring constant allowance for the play of alien social forces.”[2] In this framework, civilizations, oceans, and religions are viewed as having relatively clearly-defined geographic spatial boundaries. Fernand Braudel’s description of civilizations, that they, “vast or otherwise, can always be located on a map,”[3] is often applied to oceans and religions as well. A quick review of reference works shows that “oceans” and “religions” are also usually conceived as being definitively locatable on a map with distinct geophysical boundaries.

In world historical analyses, the most common framework for examining relationships among the various historical agents is based on the history of analytical units identified as “civilizations.” Despite critiques of the “Civilizational Narrative” or the “Civilization Paradigm,” in many of the most important discussions of global relations, the concepts of “civilizations” and their interactions are consciously or unconsciously at the foundation of the approach. In the West, this conceptual base was influentially defined by the works of Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee, who studied world history utilizing the concept of civilizations as the largest intelligible units of historical analysis. Probably the best-known current articulation of a civilizational approach was presented by Samuel Huntington in his Foreign Affairs article, “The Clash of Civilizations?” in 1993, and his subsequent expanded version of the argument in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.[4] In viewing contemporary global affairs, he argued that “the principle conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics.”[5]

“Civilization” continues to provide an important framework for a broad range of discussions of interrelations among major human entities. When the United Nations initiated a global dialogue, as a way of countering the clash of civilizations, it continued the civilizational narrative by proclaiming 2001 as the “Year of Dialogue among Civilizations” and later establishing the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.

Global leaders often present their views on global affairs in civilizational terms. Mohammad Khatami, former president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for example, spoke of the rise and fall of civilizations and viewed that dynamic as a key to understanding relations between Islam and the West: “The give-and-take among civilizations is the norm of history.”[6] Many contemporary scholars of world politics continue to use a civilizational narrative, even while recognizing that modern globalization is creating a fusion of civilizations. Kishore Mahbubani and Lawrence Summers, for example, argue that “the great world civilizations, which used to have detached and separate identities, now have increasingly overlapping areas of commonality.”[7] However, as is often the case in discussions of modernizing globalization, they use the civilization narrative as a way of showing the triumph of so-called Western Civilization, asserting that “the fusion of civilizations has been driven primarily by the injection of Western DNA into other civilizations.”[8]

Huntington’s article was sharply criticized by many analysts, and his hypothesis continues to be controversial in the second decade of the twenty-first century. In the course of the debates, Huntington issued a challenge to his critics: “A civilizational approach explains much…Can any other paradigm do better? If not civilizations, what?”[9] This question can be generically applied to the challenge of examining the interactions between China, the Indian Ocean, and Islam.

Some alternatives to the civilization paradigm have been constructed with some success. The most important alternative global historical narrative builds on concepts of world-systems. The studies by Immanuel Wallerstein, beginning in the early 1970s, helped to define a non-civilizational framework for analysis which viewed the modern world as a broad system of economic and political networks. Andre Gunder Frank expanded the historical scope, using the world-system approach to cover 5,000 years of history.[10] As a result, “Civilizational analysis and world-system theory are today perhaps the two most significant general approaches to understanding the patterns of very long-term historical change.”[11]

These two approaches do not necessarily contradict each other, if the entities are defined in inclusive, dynamic, and synergetic terms. It is important that the concepts of the entities do not become reified and viewed as unchanging in essence. William McNeill published The Rise of the West[12]in 1963 and it shaped the development of the study of world history. It represented an effective world history framing of the civilization narrative. In an assessment of that approach twenty-five years later, McNeill stated that “the central methodological weakness of my book is that while it emphasizes interaction across civilizational boundaries, it pays inadequate attention to the emergence of the ecumenical world system…Somehow an appreciation of the autonomy of separate civilizations (and of all the other less massive and less skilled cultures of the earth) across the past two thousand years needs to be combined with the portrait of an emerging world system, connecting greater and greater numbers of people across civilized boundaries.”[13]

John McNeill, together with William McNeill, developed a conceptualization of units of human life that are dynamic and inclusive, recognizing interactions of peoples across and beyond the defined boundaries of “civilizations.” They identify distinctive units which are sets of “connections that link people to one another,” in which people communicate information and exchange goods, services, and ideas, and they call these units “webs.”[14] This framework combines the notion of networks with the broader world-system idea, creating an analytical unit identifying human interactive entities and groups that can include the whole of human experience from life in the small bands of early humans to contemporary global society. “The career of these webs of communication and interaction constitutes the overarching structure of human history.”[15]

Within this framework, the civilizations of the old-style narrative are reconceived as “metropolitan webs,” which involved sustained interactions among cities and hinterlands. These webs overlap and interact with each other, creating major historic units that transcend local and regional “civilizational” boundaries and their identification is not tied to a particular physical location. Such a broad concept of entities is important in helping to understand the relationships between China, the Indian Ocean, and Islam.

As long as the analyses are tied to the old-style civilization narrative, the interactions of China with Indian Ocean realities or with Islam become insignificant. A classic study of culture and history by Philip Bagby, for example, states: “We shall therefore use the term ‘civilization’ simply to mean the largest distinctive entities which we happen to find in our survey of the field. Thus the Chinese culture… will be called Chinese civilization, because there is no larger entity in which it can be included.”[16]

Such a definition of “China” means that discussing “China and the Indian Ocean: Discovering and Sharing Mutual Common Heritages” is analytically difficult, if not impossible, because a “mutual common heritage” involves a conception of an entity that is larger than “Chinese Civilization” as defined in the civilization narrative. The civilization narrative, for example, has no place for noting the vast metropolitan webs involving hundreds of Chinese Buddhist pilgrims who traveled to India over the centuries. “The spread of Buddhist doctrines from India to China beginning sometime in the first century CE triggered a profusion of cross-cultural exchanges that had a profound impact on Asian and world history… Indeed, the transmission of Buddhist doctrines from India to China was a complex process that involved multiple societies and a diverse group of people, including missionaries, itinerant traders, artisans, and medical professionals.”[17] These pilgrims show the existence of a vast metropolitan web that includes China, Southeast Asia, and India, involving exchanges of products and ideas. It is an entity that is larger and more inclusive than “Chinese civilization” and its existence makes necessary the utilization of a concept of a broader unit than “civilization,” if common heritages are to be identified and understood.

From a broader global perspective, the civilization narrative, as it is usually understood, provides a misleading framework for understanding the relationships between China, Islam, and the Indian Ocean. One can speak of “Chinese civilization,” “Islamic civilization,” and “Indian civilization.” However, their historic relationships require that they be understood as interactive webs of human activity rather than separate reified culture-boxes that may “borrow” cultural elements from each other but can be understood (using Toynbee’s words) “without requiring constant allowance for the play of alien social forces.”

A similar conceptual problem is created by the term “religion.” Just as much of the thinking about world history is shaped by the civilization narrative, the study of human religious life and experience tends to be shaped by what some have called the World Religions Paradigm. Within this framework, separate and distinct “religions” are viewed as the “largest intelligible fields of study.” This paradigm has come under strong scholarly criticism,[18] but it remains the dominant framing narrative for religious studies and especially for the general popular understanding of “religious” life.[19] Within this paradigm, “religions” are defined by a set of characteristics like having scriptures and rituals, with doctrines and institutions. These concepts become reified, and “religions” are understood as separate historic entities that can be physically located in a “geospatial mapping of the world in religions.”[20] It needs to be emphasized that this is a framework for studying religions and religious experiences as historic phenomena and does not deal with theological questions of ultimate truth. Religions as manifestations of ultimate truth are the subject of study in theology, not history or the social sciences.

In the world religions framework, Islam is identified as a “world religion” with distinctive characteristics and a relatively fixed set of institutions and doctrines. As is characteristic of the approach of the world religions paradigm, the intellectual construct of “world religions” creates an essentialized entity that becomes reified. Such entities are described as expanding and contracting, converting new peoples to the fixed faith. Richard Eaton describes this long-established conceptualization of the phenomenon of conversion as being articulated “in terms of the ‘spread’ of an essentialized tradition from point A to point B… as though it were a substance, like molasses or lava, flowing outward from some central point, engulfing and incorporating all that it passes over while itself remaining unchanged.”[21]

The world religions perspective tends to shape the most common understanding of the history of Islam in interaction with the Indian Ocean world. Discussions focus on the “spread” of Islam and then the subsequent processes of Islamization as local peoples “convert” to Islam. From this perspective, as Richard Eaton describes its conceptualization of conversion to Islam in India, Islam is viewed “as a monolithic and pure essence that somehow ‘spread’ to India” and the Indian convert is seen “as a passive recipient of a foreign creed carried to and within the subcontinent by some mediating agency.”[22] The essentialized definition of Islam posited a stable “orthodoxy” and any deviation from this presumed orthodoxy resulting from local adaptations was viewed as heterodoxy and a departure from “pure” Islam. An influential presentation of this view is the analysis of Islam in Indonesia by Clifford Geertz. Geertz argued, for example, “As a confession, Islam was virtually universal in Indonesia by the end of the nineteenth century, but as a body of even sporadically observed canonical doctrine, it was not. Orthodox Islam, or more accurately, Islam which strove to be orthodox, was (and still is) a minority creed.”[23]

This sharp division between local culture and the “foreign religion” reflects the importance, in the World Religions Paradigm, of Western Protestant concepts of conversion as a result of missionary activities in non-Western societies. V. S. Naipaul, in his best-selling book, Beyond Belief, starkly articulated this view as it relates to conversion to Islam in the Indian Ocean world: “Everyone who is not an Arab who is a Muslim is a convert. Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief. It makes imperial demands. A convert’s worldview alters… The convert has to turn away from everything that is his.”[24]

The dramatically essentialist views of Geertz and Naipaul fit well within the World Religions Paradigm but they do not reflect the dynamic realities of Islamic life in the Indian Ocean world, or in China. The processes of Islamization involve complex interactions between local and Islamic traditions and modes of religious expression. The results of these interactions are not simply heterodox departures from an established orthodoxy. Most Muslims in the region (and elsewhere throughout the global community of believing Muslims – the ummah), believe that expressions of their Islamic faith in local idioms are authentically valid and not “unorthodox.” The inclusive cultural diversity of mosque architecture, for example, shows that Islamization involves a synthesis of traditions, not just a rejection of previous expressions of faith. The minaret of the Great Mosque of Xi’an in China is both part of an Islamic institution and clearly Chinese in architectural expression, while the Great Demak Mosque in Java similarly is both Islamic and Javanese.

To understand the place of Islam in discovering the mutual common heritages involved in the interactions of China, the Indian Ocean, and Islam, it is necessary to change the way religion is defined and to look again at the processes of “conversion.” It is important to “see conversion not as a passive acceptance of a monolithic, outside essence, but as ‘creative adaptation’ of the unfamiliar to what is already familiar, a process in which the former may change to suit the latter.”[25] The processes of conversion are dynamic so that both elements in the process are interacting, to create a mutual common heritage that is not a reaffirmation of static pre-existing entities. This creative adaptation is not simply a process of cultural “borrowing” and creating a syncretistic collection of mixed cultural elements. It involves the emergence of a synthesis that creates a new common heritage.

In the Indian Ocean world, as “growing numbers of people identified themselves as Muslims, incorporating their perspectives and practices into the religion, not only did the Indian Ocean world become increasingly Islamized, but Islam – in its context, character, and composition – became both increasingly Africanized and Asianized.”[26] Current scholarship tends to confirm this departure from old-style anthropological and Orientalist study of religions within the World Religions Paradigm. However, this understanding of the processes of synthesis creation in the Indian Ocean world (and elsewhere) requires a definition of “religion” that goes beyond the static and essentialist definition involved in the World Religions Paradigm. This redefinition is of the empirical phenomenon of religion as an historic entity, not a new definition of religion as ultimate truth.

In the mid-twentieth century, Wilfred Cantwell Smith suggested that the historic entities that are called religions in the World Religions Paradigm are better thought of as cumulative traditions of faith, piety, and institutions of the community of believers. The religious tradition “is the historical construct, in continuous and continuing construction, of those who participate in it.”[27] More recently Talal Asad and others have emphasized the discursive dimension of tradition. Asad says that a “tradition consists essentially of discourses that seek to instruct practitioners regarding the correct form and purpose of a given practice that, precisely because it is established, has a history.”[28]

In this approach, “religions” can be viewed as cumulative discursive traditions, and these traditions provide the basic identification for the communities of believers. In this way, historic Islam can be thought of as a “community of discourse” in which there are “networks of scholars, Sufis, and commercial people who interact across the vast territorial reaches of the Islamic world, operating in a nonterritorial realm of shared discourse. Historic Islam (as opposed to theological Islam) is a global community of discourse.”[29]

This approach provides an alternative to the World Religions Paradigm by viewing “religions” as distinctive dimensions of the webs of human interaction. In terms of the religious dimensions of the huge metropolitan web of China-Indian Ocean-Islam, it provides a basis, for example, for seeing a more shared cultural holism as part of a common heritage of inclusive religious experience. The complex pluralism of “Chinese religion” has been seen as being in sharp contrast to other religions. Xinzhong Yao and Yanxia Zhao provide an excellent analysis of Chinese religion that transcends the World Religions Paradigm, but they see Chinese pluralism as distinctive: “Unlike in other cultures, where different religious traditions are exclusively independent of each other, in Chinese culture following one religion does not necessarily mean the rejection or denial of others. The Chinese way of dealing with different cultural and religious tenets and practices is consistently inclusive.”[30]

When religions are viewed as cumulative discursive traditions rather than fixed bodies of rituals and doctrines, it is possible to see “Asianized Islam” as sharing at least some of the characteristics of Chinese religion(s). The important interactions between Sufi teachers and local religious traditions, for example, created discursive syntheses that were different in mode from the Chinese religious syntheses but both were and are part of a shared heritage of discursive inclusion. Marshall Hodgson described this process in Java, noting the “naturalization of Islam in Malaysia and Indochina,” observing that “perhaps nowhere else in Islamdom did the earlier heroic legendary retain so active a religious valuation as in eastern Javanese aristocratic circles. When the gentry adopted Islam, these traditions were woven into Sufism, which they enriched and endowed with a distinctively Javanese beauty.”[31]

Going beyond the civilization narrative and the world religions paradigm which viewed “civilizations” and “religions” as closed boxes or fixed historic entities becomes a key to discovering important dimensions of mutual common heritages in China, in Islamic life, and in the Indian Ocean world.

The Indian Ocean appears to be a qualitatively different entity from civilizations and religions. An ocean is usually viewed as a geophysical unit while religions and civilizations are seen as units of human activity. However, significant recent scholarship argues that human perceptions of large physical spaces involve metageographical constructs that aid in human understandings of the world in which they live. In this framework, “continents” and “oceans” are understood as conceptual frameworks and social constructs.[32] It is argued by Philip Steinberg, for example, that “the ocean should be studied as a space of society,” and that although this has long been recognized, it is an understudied subject.[33] However, an understanding of the Indian Ocean as social space, not just a physical phenomenon, is necessary for seeing how the Indian Ocean participates in the discovery of common heritages. It also requires utilizing a redefinition of ocean and ocean-space.

Concepts of oceans as separate entities have taken different forms depending upon the nature of their involvements in human social space. Steinberg notes different “ideal-type constructions of ocean-space:” “a highly territorial ‘Micronesian’ construction in which the sea is perceived and managed as an extension of land-space, and a complex ‘Mediterranean’ construction.” In this framework, there is “a non-territorial ‘Indian Ocean’ construction in which the sea is constructed as an asocial space between societies.”[34]

In recent years scholars have increasingly spoken of the Indian Ocean basin or Indian Ocean world, recognizing the ocean region as a broadly based set of economic, political, and religious networks, despite the great diversity of societal and political forms in the area. The concept of the Indian Ocean world goes beyond the construct of an asocial space between societies to a notion of a complex and vast cultural network. This shift is reflected in the establishment of educational programs like “Indian Ocean in World History” as a part of the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center in Oman. This program notes the necessity of going beyond the civilization narrative in understanding the Indian Ocean basin: “Approaches to world history that emphasize a series of discrete civilizations make it difficult even to cover a terrestrial region like Central Asia, much less to find room for a maritime region.”[35] The mission statement of the recently established Indian Ocean World Centre in McGill University in Montreal, Canada, defines the Islamic Ocean world as extending “from China to Southeast and South Asia, the Middle East and Africa,” and notes that this “macro-region witnessed the early emergence of major centres of production and a monsoon-based system of trans-oceanic trade that led to the emergence by at least the tenth century of a sophisticated and durable system of long-distance exchange of commodities, monies, technology, ideas and people.”[36]

There is increasing recognition that in the Indian Ocean world “there have been major economic and cultural exchanges across its waters and around its coasts that date back at least seven thousand years and that these were greatly accelerated following the rise and expansion of Islam.”[37] This history creates a vast culture-world. “A zone of encounters and contacts, crossed in all directions by the axes of circulation, centre for all types of exchanges and sensitive to the most diverse and distant influences, the Indian Ocean…is a privileged crossroads of culture.”[38]

In this framework, the Indian Ocean is not simply a physically-defined sea-space and in socio-cultural terms, it cannot be called a civilization. It is a set of interacting economic, political, and religious networks that is part of a vast metropolitan web of human groups. It is within this framework that the Indian Ocean world becomes a vital part of the shared heritages of the vast region of China, Indian Ocean, and Islam.

To explore the mutual cultural heritages, it is necessary to redefine the concepts of “civilizations,” “religions,” and “oceans. In usual usage, these terms apply to separate and distinct entities which are considered the largest intelligible units in their type of human group or category. Also, in the most common usages, these entities are conceived as being relatively complete and stable, with certain fixed cores of identity, and changes are only gradual and marginal. When, for example, major changes take place within a civilization, it tends to be described as being in decline. Similarly, when a religion engages in creative adaptationism, incorporating new symbols and themes, it is often seen as becoming sectarian or cultish or emerging as a “new religion.”

When civilizations, religions, and oceans are conceived in this way, the search for any sense of a mutual cultural heritage is very restricted. Interactions among civilizations, religions, and oceanic worlds are described and analyzed in terms of cultural “borrowing.” This usually involves a process labeled “diffusion,” by which ideas and technologies are spread from one entity to another – with relatively little change. In the Mahbubani-Summers terminology, this historically involves the injection of one civilization’s DNA into another society. The result is usually described as creating a syncretistic cultural mixture. Such mixing is usually said to create contradictions and paradoxes, and the result is creating people who, in the terms Geertz used to describe Moroccans and Indonesians who syncretistically try to mix traditional Islam with Western modernity, are “rather thoroughly mixed up.”[39]

The change in conceptualization requires a change in the way the basic units of analysis are defined. Whether one calls those units civilizations or religions or oceans – or networks or world systems or webs – the units need to be different from the older conceptual modes in which the units were viewed as being basically fixed entities and their interrelations were seen as involving diffusion, borrowing, and syncretism. Cultural interrelations are viewed in this old conceptualization as a kind of zero sum game.

It becomes possible to discern mutual cultural heritages if the basic analytical units are defined in open and inclusive ways, much like the way that Yao and Zhao describe “Chinese religion.” If religions are viewed as cumulative discursive traditions rather than as closed boxes defined by some sense of orthodoxy, it becomes possible to see that, for example, Muslim life in Java may reflect Hindu and Buddhist legacies as well as Islamic experiences. What Omar Ali called Asianized Islam and Islamized Asia are both products of the historic mutual cultural heritage. Similarly, the networks bringing people together in the Indian Ocean world create new identities and entities of action but do not inevitably create hegemonic identities or syncretistic mixtures. Instead, from East Africa to China, webs of human activity create pluralistic syntheses. In these processes, mutual interaction is at least as common as simple diffusion. Creative adaptation that influences all agents in interaction is at least as common as basic one-sided borrowing. Finally, often the results are a productive synthesis rather than a “mixed up” syncretism. Concepts like webs, networks, and cumulative traditions seem more useful in discovering mutual cultural heritages than the old closed categories of civilizations, religions, and oceans.

Southeast Asia provides an illuminating set of examples to summarize these conclusions. It is a fluidly defined region in both cultural and geographical terms. It is frequently viewed as a border region between the geographic worlds of the Indian and Pacific Oceans and between the Indian and Chinese cultural worlds. Some scholars recognize that Southeast Asia is “long known as an intermediate zone between the ancient civilisations of China and India,” but argue that “it would be far more insightful, and historically more accurate… to treat Southeast Asia and southern China as part of one region, in the same way that Fernand Braudel approached the history of the Mediterranean.”[40]

This Southeast Asian web of relations can be seen in the networks that comprise the thirteenth century world-system described and examined by Janet Abu-Lughod. By the thirteenth century a vast hemispheric web with interconnected networks was a framework within which cultural heritages were shared. It is also a multicultural metropolitan web within which new shared cultural syntheses are developed. There were conflicts and tensions within this region, just as there were and are wars between constituent parts of world civilizations and world religions. However, in addition to syncretistic mixtures resulting from interactions, new cultural syntheses were and continue to be created. The great maritime polity of Srivijaya in late antiquity brought together Hindu, Buddhist, and Chinese elements and it represents a powerful socio-cultural synthesis, creating a new common heritage (not the “thoroughly mixed-up” syncretism expected by Geertz).

The discovery of a shared mutual cultural heritage involving China, the Indian Ocean, and Islam requires a reconceptualization of key concepts. This involves developing analytical concepts like the webs of the McNeills that recognize the inclusive dynamism of major human units of historical experience. What gets called “civilizations,” “religions,” and “Ocean worlds” are dynamic human entities, that do not fit into the rigid boxes of the old-style analyses.

Transcending the old rigid conceptual categories is not just important for scholars and theoreticians. As David Christian reminds us:

“In a world with nuclear weapons and ecological problems that cross all national borders, we desperately need to see humanity as a whole. Accounts of the past that focus primarily on the divisions between nations, religions, and cultures are beginning to look parochial and anachronistic – even dangerous.” David Christian.[41]


[1] Patrick Manning, “The Problem of Interactions in World History,” American Historical Review 101, No. 3 (June 1996): 772. Emphasis added.

[2] Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, (Abridgement of volumes I-VI by D. C. Somervell). New York: Oxford University Press, 1947, 420.

[3] Fernand Braudel, A History of Civilizations. Trans. Richard Mayne. New York: Penguin Press, 1994, 9.

[4] Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72, No. 3 (Summer 1993): 22-49 and Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.

[5] Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?,” 22.

[6] Mohammad Khatami, Hope and Challenge: The Iranian President Speaks. Binghamton: Institute of Global Studies, Binghamton University, 1997, 1.

[7] Kishore Mahbubani and Lawrence H. Summers, “The Fusion of Civilizations: The Case for Global Optimism,” Foreign Affairs 95, No. 3 (May/June 2016): 126.

[8] Mahbubani and Summers, 2016, 135.

[9] Samuel P. Huntington, “If Not Civilizations, What? Paradigms of the Post-Cold War World,” Foreign Affairs 72, No. 5 (November/December 1993): 191.

[10] Andre Gunder Frank, “A Theoretical Introduction to 5,000 Years of World System History,” Review 13, No. 2 (Spring 1990): 155-248.

[11] Stephen K. Sanderson and Thomas D. Hall, “Civilizations and World Systems: Dialogue and Interplay,” in Civilizations and World Systems: Studying World Historical Change. Stephen K. Sanderson, ed. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press, 1995, 229.

[12] William H. McNeill, The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963.

[13] William H. McNeill, “The Rise of the West after Twenty-Five Years,” Journal of World History 1, 1 (1990): 9-10.

[14] J. R. McNeill and William H. McNeill, The Human Web: A Bird’s-eye View of World History New York: W. W. Norton, 2003, 3-4.

[15] McNeill and McNeill, 5.

[16] Philip Bagby, Culture and History: Prolegomena to the Comparative Study of Civilizations. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959, 164-165.

[17] Tansen Sen, “The Travel Records of Chinese Pilrims Faxian, Xuanzang, and Yijing: Sources for Cross-Cultural Encounters between Ancient China and Ancient India,” Education About Asia 11, No. 1 (Winter 2006): 24.

[18] See, for example, the influential study, Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

[19] Christopher R. Cotter and David G. Robertson, “Introduction: The World Religions Paradigm in Contemporary Religious Studies,” in After World Religions: Reconstructing Religious Studies, ed. Christopherr R. Cotter and David G. Robertson. London: Routledge, 2016, 10-13.

[20] Masuzawa, 6.

[21] Richard M. Eaton, “Comparative History as World History: Religious Conversion in Modern India,” Journal of World History 8, No. 2 (1997): 244. Eaton takes the term “creative adaptation” from John R. W. Smail, “On the Possibility of an Autonomous History of Modern Southeast Asia,” _Journal of Southeast Asian History 2, _no. 2 (July 1961): 91.

[22] Richard M. Eaton, “Introduction,” in India’s Islamic Traditins, 711-1750, ed. Richard M. Eaton. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003, 18.

[23] Clifford Geertz, Islam Observed: Religious Developments in Morocco and Indonesia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968. 66. Emphasis added.

[24] V. S. Naipaul, Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples. New York: Random House, 1998. xi.

[25] Eaton, “Comparative History,” 244,

[26] Omar H. Ali, Islam in the Indian Ocean World. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martins, 2016, 2.

[27] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, The Meaninf and End of Religion. New York: Harper & Row, 1978 Reprint of 1962), 165.

[28] Talal Asad, The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam. Washington: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, 1986, 14.

[29] John Obert Voll, “Islam and a Community of Discourse and a World-System,” in The Sage Handbook of Islamic Studies, ed. Akbar S. Ahmed and Tamara Sonn. Los Angeles: Sage, 2010, 14.

[30] Xinzhong Yao and Yanxia Zhao, Chinese Religion: A Contextual Approach. London: Continuum, 2010, 10.

[31] Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974, 2: 551.

[32] Influential studies defining this line of analysis are Martin W. Lewis and Kären E. Wigen, The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997, and Philip E. Steinberg, The Social Construction of the Ocean. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

[33] Steinberg, 2001, 9-10.

[34] Steinberg, 2001, 207.

[35] See the Website of the program:

[36] See the Website of the Centre:

[37] Edward A. Alpers, The Indian Ocean in World History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, 1.

[38] M. Mollat, “The Importance of maritime traffic to cultural contacts in the Indian Ocean,” Diogenes 111 (1980): 2, quoted in Abdul Sheriff, “Globalisation with a Difference,” in The Indian Ocean: Oceanic Connections and the Creation of New Societies, ed. Abdul Sheriff and Engseng Ho. London: Hurst, 2014, 12.

[39] Geertz, Islam Observed, 18.

[40] Denys Lombard, “Another ‘Mediterranean’ in Southeast Asia,” The Asia-Pacific Journal 5, 3 (March 1, 2007). Abstract.

[41] David Christian, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004, 8.