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The Affect of Difference

Representations of Race in East Asian Empire

Edited by Christopher P. Hanscom and Dennis Washburn

The Affect of Difference is a collection of essays offering a new perspective on the history of race and racial ideologies in modern East Asia. Contributors approach this subject through the exploration of everyday culture from a range of academic disciplines, each working to show how race was made visible and present as a potential means of identification. By analyzing artifacts from diverse media including travelogues, records of speech, photographs, radio broadcasts, surgical techniques, tattoos, anthropometric postcards, fiction, the popular press, film and soundtracks—an archive that chronicles the quotidian experiences of the colonized—their essays shed light on the politics of inclusion and exclusion that underpinned Japanese empire.


One way this volume sets itself apart is in its use of affect as a key analytical category. Colonial politics depended heavily on the sentiments and moods aroused by media representations of race, and authorities promoted strategies that included the colonized as imperial subjects while simultaneously excluding them on the basis of "natural" differences. Chapters demonstrate how this dynamic operated by showing the close attention of empire to intimate matters including language, dress, sexuality, family, and hygiene.


The focus on affect elucidates the representational logic of both imperialist and racist discourses by providing a way to talk about inequalities that are not clear cut, to show gradations of power or shifts in definitions of normality that are otherwise difficult to discern, and to present a finely grained perspective on everyday life under racist empire. It also alerts us to the subtle, often unseen ways in which imperial or racist affects may operate beyond the reach of our methodologies.


Taken together, the essays in this volume bring the case of Japanese empire into comparative proximity with other imperial situations and contribute to a deeper, more sophisticated understanding of the role that race has played in East Asian empire.

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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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Afterimage of Empire

Photography in Nineteenth-Century India

Zahid R. Chaudhary

Afterimage of Empire provides a philosophical and historical account of early photography in India that focuses on how aesthetic experiments in colonial photography changed the nature of perception. Considering photographs from the Sepoy Revolt of 1857 along with landscape, portraiture, and famine photography, Zahid R. Chaudhary explores larger issues of truth, memory, and embodiment.

Chaudhary scrutinizes the colonial context to understand the production of sense itself, proposing a new theory of interpreting the historical difference of aesthetic forms. In rereading colonial photographic images, he shows how the histories of colonialism became aesthetically, mimetically, and perceptually generative. He suggests that photography arrived in India not only as a technology of the colonial state but also as an instrument that eventually extended and transformed sight for photographers and the body politic, both British and Indian.

Ultimately, Afterimage of Empire uncovers what the colonial history of the medium of photography can teach us about the making of the modern perceptual apparatus, the transformation of aesthetic experience, and the linkages between perception and meaning.

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The Afterlife of Sai Baba

Competing Visions of a Global Saint

Karline McLain

Nearly a century after his death, the image of Sai Baba, the serene old man with the white beard from Shirdi village in Maharashtra, India, is instantly recognizable to most South Asians (and many Westerners) as a guru for all faiths—Hindus, Muslims, and others. During his lifetime Sai Baba accepted all followers who came to him, regardless of religious or caste background, and preached a path of spiritual enlightenment and mutual tolerance. These days, tens of thousands of Indians and foreigners make the pilgrimage to Shirdi each year, and Sai Baba temples have sprung up in unlikely places around the world, such as Munich, Seattle, and Austin.

Tracing his rise from small village guru to global phenomenon, religious studies scholar Karline McLain uses a wide range of sources to investigate the different ways that Sai Baba has been understood in South Asia and beyond and the reasons behind his skyrocketing popularity among Hindus in particular. Shining a spotlight on an incredibly forceful devotional movement that avoids fundamental politics and emphasizes unity, service, and peace, The Afterlife of Sai Baba is an entertaining—and enlightening—look at one of South Asia’s most popular spiritual gurus.

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The Age of Irreverence

A New History of Laughter in China

Christopher Rea

The Age of Irreverence tells the story of why China’s entry into the modern age was not just traumatic, but uproarious. As the Qing dynasty slumped toward extinction, prominent writers compiled jokes into collections they called "histories of laughter." In the first years of the Republic, novelists, essayists and illustrators alike used humorous allegories to make veiled critiques of the new government. But, again and again, political and cultural discussion erupted into invective, as critics gleefully jeered and derided rivals in public. Farceurs drew followings in the popular press, promoting a culture of practical joking and buffoonery. Eventually, these various expressions of hilarity proved so offensive to high-brow writers that they launched a concerted campaign to transform the tone of public discourse, hoping to displace the old forms of mirth with a new one they called youmo (humor).

Christopher Rea argues that this period—from the 1890s to the 1930s—transformed how Chinese people thought and talked about what is funny. Focusing on five cultural expressions of laughter—jokes, play, mockery, farce, and humor—he reveals the textures of comedy that were a part of everyday life during modern China’s first "age of irreverence." This new history of laughter not only offers an unprecedented and up-close look at a neglected facet of Chinese cultural modernity, but also reveals its lasting legacy in the Chinese language of the comic today and its implications for our understanding of humor as a part of human culture.

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Age of Openness, The

China before Mao

Frank Dikotter

This short book moves away from the hostile assessment of republican China common in mainstream history to portray the era instead as a diverse and cosmopolitan one, documenting the country's impulse to join the world and open its borders, markets and minds before closure under communism.

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The Agent in the Margin

Nayantara Sahgal’s Gandhian Fiction

The Agent in the Margin: Nayantara Sahgal’s Gandhian Fiction is a comprehensive study of the literary works of Nayantara Sahgal, daughter of Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit—the first woman president of the United Nations General Assembly—and niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister. Clara A.B. Joseph introduces Mahatma Gandhi’s political and philosophical to literary analysis and utilizes non-structuralist aspects of Louis Althusser’s theories of ideology to trace how characters marginalized by gender, class, race, and language in Sahgal’s work assume agency, challenging poststructuralist theories of cultural and ideological determinism. She considers how gender complicates autobiography and how the roles of daughter, virgin, wife, widow, and alien serve (often ironically) to highlight human dignity.

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Agents of Apocalypse

Epidemic Disease in the Colonial Philippines

Ken De Bevoise

As waves of epidemic disease swept the Philippines in the late nineteenth century, some colonial physicians began to fear that the indigenous population would be wiped out. Many Filipinos interpreted the contagions as a harbinger of the Biblical Apocalypse. Though the direct forebodings went unfulfilled, Philippine morbidity and mortality rates were the world's highest during the period 1883-1903. In Agents of Apocalypse, Ken De Bevoise shows that those "mourning years" resulted from a conjunction of demographic, economic, technological, cultural, and political processes that had been building for centuries. The story is one of unintended consequences, fraught with tragic irony.

De Bevoise uses the Philippine case study to explore the extent to which humans participate in creating their epidemics. Interpreting the archival record with conceptual guidance from the health sciences, he sets tropical disease in a historical framework that views people as interacting with, rather than acting within, their total environment. The complexity of cause-effect and agency-structure relationships is thereby highlighted. Readers from fields as diverse as Spanish, American, and Philippine history, medical anthropology, colonialism, international relations, Asian studies, and ecology will benefit from De Bevoise's insights into the interdynamics of historical processes that connect humans and their diseases.

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