1DEFINING “GLOBAL” PARAMETERSAt the end of the twentieth century, the term globalizationentered both the social science lexicon and the popular imagination. While it has become a commonplace to say that we live in an era of globalization, there is little agreement on the exact parameters and processes that define this era.1The fundamental assumption of this book is that, however defined, the current age of globalization did not begin with the fall of the Berlin Wall or the invention of the microchip. Rather, this era was made possible and in many ways was defined by earlier globalizing events, such as those of “the Age of Steam and Print.”2In using this phrase in the title of this book, we do not seek to add another vague abstraction to debates about globalization. For if in its cultural, commercial, or even epidemiological aspects, globalization is an outcome of intensified and accelerated interactions, then the basic enablers of such interaction must be placed at the center of analysis.3During much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the two most fundamental—and indeed, most global—of these enablers were the technologies of steam and print. Whether through quickening the production and distribution of commodities, facilitating mass migrations and private pilgrimages, or disseminating learned tracts and pro-letarian newspapers worldwide, these technologies were prime movers that set in motion further cycles of human interaction. By focusing on steam and print, we are better able to discern a specific phase of global history that is set apart from the more nebulous periods of “modernity/early modernity” on the one hand and unqualified “globalization” on the other.In relation to what came before, what was distinctive about this period was the sheer scale of interaction that technology enabled, in terms of both the numbers of IntroductionGlobal Muslims in the Age of Steam and PrintJames L. Gelvin and Nile GreenGelvin - 9780520275010.indd 126/08/13 9:30 PM
2 Introductionpeople moving across land and sea and the range of ethnic, religious, and language groups now able to print, publicize and exchange their ideas. Because the defining technologies emerged from European and American societies (albeit with precur-sors elsewhere), the notion of an Age of Steam and Print by necessity connects the history of Euro-American societies to that of other (in this case, Muslim) societies. If the Age of Steam and Print was therefore an intrinsically global age, for Muslims it was also an age of discovery and differentiation, creativity and crisis. Muslims discovered both other Muslim and non-Muslim societies, defined themselves in relation to these contacts, and synthesized new ideologies and rethought older doctrines. The Age of Steam and Print was the foundational sine qua non of the contemporary Islamic world.
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