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Abiding by Sri Lanka Cover

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Abiding by Sri Lanka

On Peace, Place, and Postcoloniality

Qadri Ismail

The lack of peace in Sri Lanka is commonly portrayed as a consequence of a violent, ethnonationalist conflict between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. Viewed in this light, resolution could be attained through conflict management. But, as Qadri Ismail reveals, this is too simplistic an understanding and cannot produce lasting peace. 

Abiding by Sri Lanka examines how the disciplines of anthropology, history, and literature treat the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. Anthropology, Ismail contends, approaches Sri Lanka as an object from an “outside” and western point of view. History, addressing the conflict from the “inside,” abides by the place and so promotes change that is nationalist and exclusive. Neither of these fields imagines an inclusive community. Literature, Ismail argues, can. 

With close readings of texts that “abide” by Sri Lanka, texts that have a commitment to it, Ismail demonstrates that the problems in Sri Lanka raise fundamental concerns for us all regarding the relationship between democracies and minorities. Recognizing the structural as well as political tendencies of representative democracies to suppress minorities, Ismail rethinks democracy by redefining the concept of the minority perspective, not as a subject-position of numerical insignificance, but as a conceptual space that opens up the possibility for distinction without domination and, ultimately, peace. 

Qadri Ismail is associate professor of English at the University of Minnesota. He has also been a journalist in Sri Lanka.

Absolute Delusion, Perfect Buddhahood Cover

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Absolute Delusion, Perfect Buddhahood

The Rise and Fall of a Chinese Heresy

Jamie Hubbard

In spite of the common view of Buddhism as nondogmatic and tolerant, the historical record preserves many examples of Buddhist thinkers and movements that were banned as heretical or subversive. The San-chieh (Three Levels) was a popular and influential Chinese Buddhist movement during the Sui and T’ang periods, counting powerful statesmen, imperial princes, and even an empress, Empress Wu, among its patrons. In spite, or perhaps precisely because, of its proximity to power, the San-chieh movement ran afoul of the authorities and its teachings and texts were officially proscribed numerous times over a several-hundred-year history. Because of these suppressions San-chieh texts were lost and little information about its teachings or history is available. The present work, the first English study of the San-chieh movement, uses manuscripts discovered at Tun-huang to examine the doctrine and institutional practices of this movement in the larger context of Mahayana doctrine and practice. By viewing San-chieh in the context of Mahayana Buddhism, Hubbard reveals it to be far from heretical and thereby raises important questions about orthodoxy and canon in Buddhism. He shows that many of the hallmark ideas and practices of Chinese Buddhism find an early and unique expression in the San-chieh texts.

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Academies and Society in Southern Sung China

Linda Walton

Academies belonged to a broad constellation of educational institutions that flourished in the Sung (960-1279), an era marked by profound changes in economy, technology, thought, and social and political order. This study, the first comprehensive look at the Sung academy movement, explains the phenomenon not only as a uh_product of intellectual changes, but also as part of broader social, economic, political, and cultural transformations taking place in Sung China. Academies and Society in Southern Sung China makes extensive use of commemorative inscriptions and other documentation on nearly 500 academies and thus provides a crucial historical perspective on the origins of this key institution.

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Acting the Right Part

Political Theater and Popular Drama in Contemporary China

Xiaomei Chen

Acting the Right Part is a cultural history of huaju (modern Chinese drama) from 1966 to 1996. Xiaomei Chen situates her study both in the context of Chinese literary and cultural history and in the context of comparative drama and theater, cultural studies, and critical issues relevant to national theater worldwide. Following a discussion of the marginality of modern Chinese drama in relation to other genres, periods, and cultures, early chapters focus on the dynamic relationship between theater and revolution. Chosen during the Cultural Revolution as the exclusive artistic vehicle to promote proletariat art, "model theater" raises important questions about the complex relationships between women, memory, nation/state, revolution, and visual culture. Throughout this study, Chen argues that dramatic norms inform both theatrical performance and everyday political behavior in contemporary China.

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Admonitions on Governing the People

Manual for All Administrators

Yagyong Chong

This is the first English translation of one of Korea’s most celebrated historical works, a pre-modern classic so well known to Koreans that it has inspired contemporary literature and television. Written in 1821 by Chong Yagyong (Tasan), Admonitions on Governing the People (Mongmin simso) is a detailed manual for district magistrates on how to govern better. In encyclopedic fashion, Chong Yagyong addresses the administration, social and economic life, criminal justice, the military, and the Confucian ritual system. He provides examples of past corrupt officials and discusses topics of the day such as famine relief and social welfare. A general call for overhauling the Korean ruling system, the book also makes the radical proposition that the purpose of government is to serve the interests of the people. This long-awaited translation opens a new window on early-nineteenth century Korea and makes available to a wide audience a work whose main concerns simultaneously transcend national and cultural boundaries.

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The Aesthetics of Strangeness

Eccentricity and Madness in Early Modern Japan

W. Puck Brecher

Eccentric artists are “the vagaries of humanity” that inhabit the deviant underside of Japanese society: This was the conclusion drawn by pre–World War II commentators on most early modern Japanese artists. Postwar scholarship, as it searched for evidence of Japan’s modern roots, concluded the opposite: The eccentric, mad, and strange are moral exemplars, paragons of virtue, and shining hallmarks of modern consciousness. In recent years, the pendulum has swung again, this time in favor of viewing these oddballs as failures and dropouts without lasting cultural significance. This work corrects the disciplinary (and exclusionary) nature of such interpretations by reconsidering the sudden and dramatic emergence of aesthetic eccentricity during the Edo period (1600–1868). It explains how, throughout the period, eccentricity (ki) and madness (kyo) developed and proliferated as subcultural aesthetics. By excavating several generations of early modern Japan’s eccentric artists, it demonstrates that individualism and strangeness carried considerable moral and cultural value. Indeed, Edo society fetishized various marginal personae—the recluse, the loser, the depraved, the outsider, the saint, the mad genius—as local heroes and paragons of moral virtue. This book concludes that a confluence of intellectual, aesthetic, and social conditions enabled multiple concurrent heterodoxies to crystallize around strangeness as a prominent cultural force in Japanese society.

A study of impressive historical and disciplinary breadth, The Aesthetics of Strangeness also makes extensive use of primary sources, many previously overlooked in existing English scholarship. Its coverage of the entire Edo period and engagement with both Chinese and native Japanese traditions reinterprets Edo-period tastes and perceptions of normalcy. By wedding art history to intellectual history, literature, aesthetics, and cultural practice, W. Puck Brecher strives for a broadly interdisciplinary perspective on this topic. Readers will discover that the individuals that form the backbone of his study lend credence to a new interpretation of Edo-period culture: a growing valuation of eccentricity within artistic and intellectual circles that exerted indelible impacts on mainstream society. The Aesthetics of Strangeness demystifies this emergent paradigm by illuminating the conditions and tensions under which certain rubrics of strangeness— ki and kyo particularly—were appointed as aesthetic criteria. Its revision of early modern Japanese culture constitutes an important contribution to the field.

W. Puck Brecher is assistant professor of Japanese at Washington State University.

An Affair with Korea Cover

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An Affair with Korea

by Vincent S. R. Brandt

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After Colonialism

Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacements

Gyan Prakash

After Colonialism offers a fresh look at the history of colonialism and the changes in knowledge, disciplines, and identities produced by the imperial experience. Ranging across disciplines--from history to anthropology to literary studies--and across regions--from India to Palestine to Latin America to Europe--the essays in this volume reexamine colonialism and its aftermath. Leading literary scholars, historians, and anthropologists engage with recent theories and perspectives in their specific studies, showing the centrality of colonialism in the making of the modern world and offering postcolonial reflections on the effects and experience of empire.

The contributions cross historical analysis of texts with textual examination of historical records and situate metropolitan cultural practices in engagements with non-metropolitan locations. Interdisciplinarity here means exploring and realigning disciplinary boundaries. Contributors to After Colonialism include Edward Said, Steven Feierman, Joan Dayan, Ruth Phillips, Anthony Pagden, Leonard Blussé, Gauri Viswanathan, Zachary Lockman, Jorge Klor de Alva, Irene Silverblatt, Emily Apter, and Homi Bhabha.

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After the New Order

Space, Politics, and Jakarta

Abidin Kusno

After the New Order follows up Abidin Kusno’s well-received Behind the Postcolonial and The Appearances of Memory. This new work explores the formation of populist urban programs in post-Suharto Jakarta and the cultural and political contradictions that have arisen as a result of the continuing influence of the Suharto-era’s neoliberal ideology of development. Analyzing a spectrum of urban agendas from waterfront city to green environment and housing for the poor, Kusno deepens our understanding of the spatial mediation of power, the interaction between elite and populist urban imaginings, and how past ideologies are integral to the present even as they are newly reconfigured.

The book brings together eight chapters that examine the anxiety over the destiny of Jakarta in its efforts to resolve the crisis of the city. In the first group of chapters Kusno considers the fate and fortune of two building types, namely the city hall and the shop house, over a longue duree as a metonymy for the culture, politics, and society of the city and the nation. Other chapters focus on the intellectual legacies of the Sukarno and Suharto eras and the influence of their spatial paradigms. The final three chapters look at social and ecological consciousness in the post-Suharto era. One reflects on citizens’ responses to the waterfront city project, another on the efforts to “green” the city as it is overrun by capitalism and reaching its ecological limits. The third discusses a recent low-income housing program by exploring the two central issues of land and financing; it illuminates the interaction between the politics of urban space and that of global financial capitalism. The epilogue, consisting of an interview with the author, discusses Kusno’s writings on contemporary Jakarta, his approach to history, and how his work is shaped by concerns over the injustices, violence, and environmental degradation that continue to accompany the city’s democratic transition.

After the New Order will be essential reading for anyone—including Asianists, urban historians, social scientists, architects, and planners—concerned with the interplay of space, power, and identity.

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After the Taliban

Nation-Building in Afghanistan

Dobbins, Amb. James F.

In October 2001, the Bush administration sent Amb. James F. Dobbins, who had overseen nation-building efforts in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, to war-torn Afghanistan to help the Afghans assemble a successor government to the Taliban. From warlords to exiled royalty, from turbaned tribal chieftains to elegant émigré intellectuals, Ambassador Dobbins introduces a range of colorful Afghan figures competing for dominance in the new Afghanistan. His firsthand account of the post–9/11 American diplomacy also reveals how collaboration within Bush’s war cabinet began to break down almost as soon as major combat in Afghanistan ceased. His insider’s memoir recounts how the administration reluctantly adjusted to its new role as nation-builder, refused to allow American soldiers to conduct peacekeeping operations, opposed dispatching international troops, and shortchanged Afghan reconstruction as its attention shifted to Iraq.

In After the Taliban, Dobbins probes the relationship between the Afghan and Iraqi ventures. He demonstrates how each damaged the other, with deceptively easy success in Afghanistan breeding overconfidence and then the latter draining essential resources away from the initial effort. Written by America’s most experienced diplomatic troubleshooter, this important new book is for readers looking for insights into how government really works, how diplomacy is actually conducted, and most important why the United States has failed to stabilize either Afghanistan or Iraq.

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