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From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia [Kindle Edition]

Pankaj Mishra
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A surprising, gripping narrative depicting the thinkers whose ideas shaped contemporary China, India, and the Muslim world


A little more than a century ago, as the Japanese navy annihilated the giant Russian one at the Battle of Tsushima, original thinkers across Asia, working independently, sought to frame a distinctly Asian intellectual tradition that would inform and inspire the continent's anticipated rise to dominance.


Asian dominance did not come to pass, and those thinkers--Tagore, Gandhi, and later Nehru in India; Liang Qichao and Sun Yatsen in China; Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Abdurreshi al Ibrahim in the ruins of the Ottoman Empire--are seen as outriders from the main anticolonial tradition. But Pankaj Mishra shows that it was otherwise in this stereotype-shattering book. His enthralling group portrait of like minds scattered across a vast continent makes clear that modern Asia's revolt against the West is not the one led by faith-fired terrorists and thwarted peasants but one with deep roots in the work of thinkers who devised a view of life that was neither modern nor antimodern, neither colonialist nor anticolonialist. In broad, deep, dramatic chapters, Mishra tells the stories of these figures, unpacks their philosophies, and reveals their shared goal of a greater Asia.


Right now, when the emergence of a greater Asia seems possible as at no previous time in history, From the Ruins of Empire is as necessary as it is timely--a book essential to our understanding of the world and our place in it.



Editorial Reviews

Review

Reverses the long gaze of the West upon the East, showing modern history as it has been felt by the majority of the world's population, from Turkey to China...Amazing. (Orhan Pamuk)

Essential reading for everyone who is interested in the processes of change that have led to the emergence of today's Asia. (Amitav Ghosh, The Wall Street Journal)

"Timely and important...An astute and entertaining synthesis of these neglected histories." (Hari Kunzru, The New York Times Book Review)

From the Ruins of Empire retains the power to instruct and even to shock. It provides us with an exciting glimpse of the vast and still largely unexplored terrain of anticolonial thought that shaped so much of the post-Western world in which we now live. (Financial Times (London))

Subtle, erudite, and entertaining. (The Economist)

"History is sometimes a contest of narratives. Here Pankaj Mishra looks back on the 19th and 20th centuries through the work of three Asian thinkers: Jamal al-Din Afghani, Liang Qichao and Rabindranath Tagore. The story that emerges is quite different from that which most Western readers have come to accept. Enormously ambitious but thoroughly readable, this book is essential reading for everyone who is interested in the processes of change that have led to the emergence of today's Asia." (Amitav Ghosh, author of Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke)

With uncommon empathy, Mishra has excavated a range of ideas, existential debates, and spiritual struggles set in motion by Asia's rude collision with the West, leading to outcomes no one could have predicted but which, after his account, seem more comprehensible--and that is no mean achievement. Above all, Mishra sheds new light on an important part of our collective journey, the inner and outer turmoil we inhabited, the price we paid, and what we did to each other along the way. We might yet learn from it and redeem ourselves in some measure. (Namit Arora, 3 Quarks Daily)

After Edward Said's masterpiece Orientalism, From the Ruins of Empire offers another bracing view of the history of the modern world. Pankaj Mishra, a brilliant author of wide learning, takes us through, with his skillful and captivating narration, interlinked historical events across Japan, China, Turkey, Iran, India, Egypt, and Vietnam, opening up a fresh dialogue with and between such major Asian reformers, intellectuals, and revolutionaries as Liang Qichao, Tagore, Jamal al-din al-Afghani, and Sun Yatsen. (Wang Hui, author of China's New Order and The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought and Professor of Chinese Intellectual History at Tsinghua University, Beijing)

Pankaj Mishra has produced a riveting account that makes new and illuminating connections. He follows the intellectual trail of this contested history with both intelligence and moral clarity. In the end we realise that what we are holding in our hands is not only a deeply entertaining and deeply humane book, but a balance sheet of the nature and mentality of colonisation. (Hisham Matar)

Mishra's survey knowledgeably presents an intellectual history of anti-imperialism. (Booklist)

Meticulous scholarship…..History, as Mishra insists, has been glossed and distorted by the conqueror….[This] passionate account of the relentless subjugation of Asian empires by European, especially British, imperialism, is provocative, shaming and convincing. (Michael Binyon, Times (London))

"Superb and groundbreaking. Not just a brilliant history of Asia, but a vital history for Asians." (Mohsin Hamid, author of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia)

Fascinating…a rich and genuinely thought-provoking book. (Noel Malcolm, Telegraph)

One can only be thankful for writers like Mishra. From The Ruins Of Empire is erudite, provocative, inspiring and unremittingly complex; a model kind of non-fiction for our disordered days….May well be seen in years to come as a defining volume of its kind. (Stuart Kelly, Scotsman)

Deeply researched and arrestingly original…this penetrating and disquieting book should be on the reading list of anybody who wants to understand where we are today. (John Gray, Independent)

Mishra has no time at all for big, broad-brush accounts of western success contrasted with eastern hopelessness. Instead, he is preoccupied by the tragic moral ambivalence of his tale. . . From the Ruins of Empire gives eloquent voice to their curious, complex intellectual odysseys as they struggled to respond to the western challenge . . . Luminous details glimmer through these swaths of political and military history. (Julia Lovell, The Guardian)

[An] ambitious survey of the decline and fall of Western colonial empires and the rise of their successors. . . A highly readable and illuminating exploration of the way in which Asian, and Muslim countries in particular, have resented Western dominance and reacted against it with varying degrees of success. (The Tablet (UK))

From the Ruins of Empire jolts our historical imagination and suddenly places it on the right, though deeply repressed, axis. It is a book of vast and wondrous learning and delightful and surprising associations that will give a new meaning to a liberation geography. From close and careful readings of some mighty Asian intellectuals of the last two centuries who have rarely been placed in this creative and daring conversation with each other, Pankaj Mishra has discovered and revealed, against the grain of conventional and cliched bifurcations of 'The West and the Rest,' a continental shift in our historical consciousness that will define a whole new spectrum of critical thinking. (Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University)

Review

"Thoughtful, intelligent and rigorous."
—The Observer (UK) on Temptations of the West

Product Details

  • File Size: 2252 KB
  • Print Length: 369 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0374249598
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 4, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0071W4UH4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #300,678 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three Asian Intellectuals Present Their Side of the Story September 30, 2012
Format:Hardcover
"The West is becoming demoralized through being the exploiter, through tasting the fruits of exploitation. We must fight with our faith in the moral and spiritual power of men. We of the East have never reverenced death-dealing generals, nor lie-dealing diplomats, but spiritual leaders. Through them we shall be saved, or not at all. Physical power is not the strongest in the end... you are the most long lived race, because you have had centuries of wisdom nourished by your faith in goodness, not in mere strength." - Rabindranath Tagore, lecturing in Beijing in 1923

One of the ever-present scourges of expat life is arrogance. For many Westerners in Asian countries, even half a century after the collapse of colonialism, we retain a certain sense of moral superiority towards our hosts. We often feel their manners to be backwards; their habits of thought and social patterns keep them locked in a cycle of poverty; and that their own arrogance is holding them back from "truly" joining the modern (and by that we mean Western) world. Having lived nearly five years in Asia, I've often struggled to balance my own contrarian impulses, sympathy for Chinese (and other Asian) culture, and frustration with the less pleasant aspects of life here (as well as the ever-present temptation to make comparisons to my own place of origin) in the face of locals, both proud and self-hating, and other expatriates, both derisive and sympathetic. But until I read Pankaj Mishra's From the Ruins of Empire, I didn't realize just how deeply I'd failed to understand the Asian perspective on Western modernity, and just how that has skewed my entire outlook on the world.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Asian history and political philosophy January 2, 2013
By Gderf
Format:Hardcover
This is an excellent introduction to Asian history and political philosophy. It traces the decline of Muslim and Chinese political influence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mishra explains the background for the intellectual and political awakening of Asia after the declines of the nineteenth century. It features the careers and political philosophy of the Persian Muslim, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and the Chinese writer Liang Quichao. Also featured prominently is Indian poet and political philosopher, Rabindraneth Tagore. Mishra well describes how these protagonists influenced philosophical development of later principles Sun yat-sen, Gandhi, Nehru, Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi-min, Atatürk and others. A major theme is antipathy to the encroachments of Europeans in Asia, particularly the British. The book also depicts rising militant influence of Japan, starting with the Chino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars.

The book starts with a somewhat puzzling reference to battle of Tsushima Bay as inciting Western awareness of Asiatic power. W.E.B. Dubois announced a world wide eruption of colored pride. That idea is not adequately explained, but doesn't detract from the book's interest. We see the Muslim viewpoint in politics of Egypt, Persia, India and Turkey through the career and philosophy of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani. Missing is the 19th century Muslim view of modern trouble spots Bosnia and Palestine. Although al-Afghani is not classified as a terrorist his influence on Bin Laden and others is evidenced and it would have been interesting to see his views on early Arab reactions in what later became Palestine.
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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book of historical research and analysis September 28, 2012
By C. Bohl
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
George Bush famously asked after 9/11, "why do they hate us"? This book answers that question and answers it brillantly, with passion and overwhelming examples of the human carnage inflicted by western imperialism throughout Asia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. If you want to truly understand why the world is in its current state this book is essential. It will forever change your understanding of history and of your country's place in the world. A great work of history.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Need A Powerful Read? This Is It! September 21, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The author of this book,FROM THE RUINS OF EMPIRE: THE INTELLECTUALS WHO REMADE ASIA, has written a very important and powerful work. Just the bibliography alone is worth the price of the book.

Well written, intellectually provocative and connected to present and future global trends this book is a must read for all those who want to understand and influence where the world is going in the 21st Century.

The only challenge I had with the book is the fact that Egypt is on the African continent. The references he makes to books about the Bandung Conference in the 1950's shows that there was and is a tie between the Asian and African freedom movements. He also helps us understand why the movements have diverged and why Asian nations like China have progressed since they took their freedom and why many African nations have regressed. The issue of culture is VIP in this book and in the shaping of our world.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Look at the Ruins of Empire January 20, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectual of Who Made Asia, by Pankaj Mishra presents an important world history as seen through the eyes of a number of internationally acclaimed Asian writers as well as the thoughts of some lesser known figures and events. This book is timely, thought provoking and a must read for anyone desiring a better understanding of events in today's Middle and Far East . The author is well informed and balanced, abstaining from any attempt to replace a Euro-centric view, with an Asia-centric one.
Opening with the story of the first non-European country to vanquish a European power since the Middle Ages (the 1905 Japanese victory over the Russian navy) the awakening and reverberations of which provided the theme of this book.
An introductory quote of a world famous philosopher serves as a front piece warning of a dated but arrogant grand Western historical speculation: wherein Hegel declared China and India of no concern to world history.
Reflecting changes in world perspective, this books focus is on this very area -- Asia. Since that part of the globe was once the object of Western Imperial adventures, the author, through the thoughts and comments of various Asian intellectuals, expands his interest as he probes the political, economic, thoughts and ideologies, underlying Western colonial attitudes.
It is here, that one witnesses the working out through adaptation and copying of the Western concept of "modernity:" the arrogant and racist bias of the occupiers and the concomitant resentment, envy and quiescent arrogance of the colonized The result is the social, political conflict and confusion emerging from decolonization and the rise of independent nation states.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Very educational book.
Published 15 days ago by Marcos Beltran
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read- original and brilliant volume
A brilliant, original and well researched volume. Other reviewers have provided detailed descriptions of the content of this book. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Carlos
4.0 out of 5 stars The Story of Power Told as Subaltern History
Let me caveat the rest of what I write by saying that I've only gotten about a third through the book. Much of my critique might be found in the final chapters. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Trey Menefee
5.0 out of 5 stars The real founders of the modern world
For Mishra, the modern world is primarily the post-colonial world, and the greatest minds in shaping that world have been leading thinkers in the great Asian anti-colonial... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Brian Griffith
4.0 out of 5 stars Very well written book.
Great resource for study in Asian history, however, it's on the dry side if you aren't fanatical about the subject.
Published 2 months ago by Theo
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
Brilliant. Absolutely fascinating. Should be required reading for everyone in the State Department, for Obama and anyone on his staff advising on foreign policy, and all of... Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars A great collection of voices from the nonwestern world about how ...
A great collection of voices from the nonwestern world about how it felt to experience of western colonialism from the receiving end. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ronald P. Loftus
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent description and explanation of much of the current...
An excellent description and explanation of much of the current political, social, and religious extremist actions in the Islamic predominant countries. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Gerson Bernhard
5.0 out of 5 stars must read for the world historian
History from an Asian perspective.
Published 4 months ago by Ernest Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Review of Asia and the Middle East
This the best book on Asia and the Middle East that I have read to date. Anyone who would like to have a fundamental basis for trying to understand what is going on now and how it... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Robert G Mrotek Gondek
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