In his first book, The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia (1882–1945), Aydin focused specifically on the interrelationship among globalization, decolonization, and transnational identities through a study of alternative visions of world order in the Muslim Middle East and non-Muslim East Asia. Through a rich intellectual history, the book challenges the notion that anti-Westernism in the Muslim world is a political and religious reaction to the liberal and democratic values of the West. Nor is anti-Westernism, as the book argues, a natural response to Western imperialism. Instead, by focusing on the agency and achievements of non-Western intellectuals, he demonstrates that modern anti-Western discourse grew out of the legitimacy crisis of a single, Eurocentric global polity in the age of high imperialism. Moreover, his study also illustrates why anti-Western visions contributed to the decolonization process and shows their influence on the international relations of both the Ottoman and Japanese Empires during WWI and WWII.
The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia offers a rare, global perspective on how religious tradition and the experience of European colonialism interacted with Muslim and non-Muslim discontent with globalization, the international order, and modernization. In moving beyond essentialist readings of this history, the book provides a fresh understanding of the history of contemporary anti-Americanism as well as the ongoing struggle to establish a legitimate and inclusive international society.
His next book, The Idea of the Muslim World: A Modern History, will describe the intellectual, conceptual and ideological roots of contemporary debates around the geopolitical fears of an Islam–West clash. This book aims to challenge the deep seated assumption at the core of international discourses on East–West relations about the reality of two geopolitical entities, namely the “Islamic World” and the “West.” While various strands of Islamism and Islamophobic ideologies today have turned the idea of the Muslim world, and the associated notion of a conflict between the Muslim world and the West into one of their arguments, his new book will argue that civilizational thinking is not a monopoly of these two groups. Ranging from Orientalist scholars, modernization theorists, world historians and observers of international affairs to secular Muslim nationalists and humanist thinkers, many have contributed to the elusive persistence of the idea of the Muslim world, and the civilizational paradigm of Islam versus the West, and have laid the foundations of contemporary Islamic thought in both its religious revivalist and secular varieties. Thus, civilizational discourses on the “Muslim world” are neither just a legacy of pre-nineteenth century Muslim thought, nor an invention of Cold War era Islamism. Its complex genealogy in global intellectual history and international politics, shaped not only by the experiences of colonialism, decolonization and cold war, but also the challenge of Islamism and crisis of modernist thought, has yet to be written.