International Journal of Middle East Studies


Printing, Publishing, and Reform in Tsarist Central Asia

Adeeb Khalida1

a1 Department of History, Carleton College, Northfield, Minn. 55057, U.S.A.

Scholars have long noted, often with disapproval, the tardiness of the introduction of printing to the Muslim world, but the consequences of that introduction on the production, reproduction, and transmission of knowledge in Muslim societies are only now beginning to be understood. For instance, the numerous movements for modernist reform that arose in the Muslim world in the 19th century were all propagated through the medium of print, yet the connection between those movements and the availability of printing seldom has been investigated. This neglect is all the more surprising in view of the fact that historians of early modern Europe have long emphasized the signal role played by printing in Europe's transition to modernity. In her influential work, Elizabeth Eisenstein has written of a “printing revolution” unleashed by the invention and rapid dissemination of the technology in 15th-century Europe. There is, for Eisenstein, something inherent in the very nature of printing that revolutionizes the intellectual outlook of individuals and cultures with which it comes in contact. In a different vein, Benedict Anderson has pointed to the importance of “print capitalism” in creating a sense of shared community in the 19th century that made possible the rise of national ism in many parts of the world.