Asia: Local Studies / Global Themes

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Asia: Local Studies / Global Themes

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After the Massacre

Commemoration and Consolation in Ha My and My Lai

Heonik Kwon

Though a generation has passed since the massacre of civilians at My Lai, the legacy of this tragedy continues to reverberate throughout Vietnam and the rest of the world. This engrossing study considers how Vietnamese villagers in My Lai and Ha My—a village where South Korean troops committed an equally appalling, though less well-known, massacre of unarmed civilians—assimilate the catastrophe of these mass deaths into their everyday ritual life.

Based on a detailed study of local history and moral practices, After the Massacre focuses on the particular context of domestic life in which the Vietnamese villagers interact with their ancestors on one hand and the ghosts of tragic death on the other. Heonik Kwon explains what intimate ritual actions can tell us about the history of mass violence and the global bipolar politics that caused it. He highlights the aesthetics of Vietnamese commemorative rituals and the morality of their practical actions to liberate the spirits from their grievous history of death. The author brings these important practices into a critical dialogue with dominant sociological theories of death and symbolic transformation.

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Anyuan

Mining China's Revolutionary Tradition

Elizabeth Perry

How do we explain the surprising trajectory of the Chinese Communist revolution? Why has it taken such a different route from its Russian prototype? An answer, Elizabeth Perry suggests, lies in the Chinese Communists’ creative development and deployment of cultural resources – during their revolutionary rise to power and afterwards. Skillful "cultural positioning" and "cultural patronage," on the part of Mao Zedong, his comrades and successors, helped to construct a polity in which a once alien Communist system came to be accepted as familiarly "Chinese." Perry traces this process through a case study of the Anyuan coal mine, a place where Mao and other early leaders of the Chinese Communist Party mobilized an influential labor movement at the beginning of their revolution, and whose history later became a touchstone of "political correctness" in the People’s Republic of China. Once known as "China’s Little Moscow," Anyuan came over time to symbolize a distinctively Chinese revolutionary tradition. Yet the meanings of that tradition remain highly contested, as contemporary Chinese debate their revolutionary past in search of a new political future.

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Chinese Visions of Family and State, 1915-1953

Susan L. Glosser

At the dawn of the twentieth century, China's sovereignty was fragile at best. In the face of international pressure and domestic upheaval, young urban radicals—desperate for reforms that would save their nation—clamored for change, championing Western-inspired family reform and promoting free marriage choice and economic and emotional independence. But what came to be known as the New Culture Movement had the unwitting effect of fostering totalitarianism. In this wide-reaching, engrossing book, Susan Glosser examines how the link between family order and national salvation affected state-building and explores its lasting consequences.

Glosser effectively argues that the replacement of the authoritarian, patriarchal, extended family structure with an egalitarian, conjugal family was a way for the nation to preserve crucial elements of its traditional culture. Her comprehensive research shows that in the end, family reform paved the way for the Chinese Communist Party to establish a deeply intrusive state that undermined the legitimacy of individual rights.

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Fabricating Consumers

The Sewing Machine in Modern Japan

Andrew Gordon

Since its early days of mass production in the 1850s, the sewing machine has been intricately connected with the global development of capitalism. Andrew Gordon traces the machine’s remarkable journey into and throughout Japan, where it not only transformed manners of dress, but also helped change patterns of daily life, class structure, and the role of women. As he explores the selling, buying, and use of the sewing machine in the early to mid-twentieth century, Gordon finds that its history is a lens through which we can examine the modern transformation of daily life in Japan. Both as a tool of production and as an object of consumer desire, the sewing machine is entwined with the emergence and ascendance of the middle class, of the female consumer, and of the professional home manager as defining elements of Japanese modernity.

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Hygienic Modernity

Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China

Ruth Rogaski

Placing meanings of health and disease at the center of modern Chinese consciousness, Ruth Rogaski reveals how hygiene became a crucial element in the formulation of Chinese modernity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Rogaski focuses on multiple manifestations across time of a single Chinese concept, weisheng—which has been rendered into English as "hygiene," "sanitary," "health," or "public health"—as it emerged in the complex treaty-port environment of Tianjin. Before the late nineteenth century, weisheng was associated with diverse regimens of diet, meditation, and self-medication. Hygienic Modernity reveals how meanings of weisheng, with the arrival of violent imperialism, shifted from Chinese cosmology to encompass such ideas as national sovereignty, laboratory knowledge, the cleanliness of bodies, and the fitness of races: categories in which the Chinese were often deemed lacking by foreign observers and Chinese elites alike.

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Japan in Print

Information and Nation in the Early Modern Period

Mary Elizabeth Berry

A quiet revolution in knowledge separated the early modern period in Japan from all previous time. After 1600, self-appointed investigators used the model of the land and cartographic surveys of the newly unified state to observe and order subjects such as agronomy, medicine, gastronomy, commerce, travel, and entertainment. They subsequently circulated their findings through a variety of commercially printed texts: maps, gazetteers, family encyclopedias, urban directories, travel guides, official personnel rosters, and instruction manuals for everything from farming to lovemaking. In this original and gracefully written book, Mary Elizabeth Berry considers the social processes that drove the information explosion of the 1600s. Inviting readers to examine the contours and meanings of this transformation, Berry provides a fascinating account of the conversion of the public from an object of state surveillance into a subject of self-knowledge.

Japan in Print shows how, as investigators collected and disseminated richly diverse data, they came to presume in their audience a standard of cultural literacy that changed anonymous consumers into an "us" bound by common frames of reference. This shared space of knowledge made society visible to itself and in the process subverted notions of status hierarchy. Berry demonstrates that the new public texts projected a national collectivity characterized by universal access to markets, mobility, sociability, and self-fashioning.

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Mabiki

Infanticide and Population Growth in Eastern Japan, 1660-1950

Fabian Drixler

This book tells the story of a society reversing deeply held worldviews and revolutionizing its demography. In parts of eighteenth-century Japan, couples raised only two or three children. As villages shrank and domain headcounts dwindled, posters of child-murdering she-devils began to appear, and governments offered to pay their subjects to have more children. In these pages, the long conflict over the meaning of infanticide comes to life once again. Those who killed babies saw themselves as responsible parents to their chosen children. Those who opposed infanticide redrew the boundaries of humanity so as to encompass newborn infants and exclude those who would not raise them. In Eastern Japan, the focus of this book, population growth resumed in the nineteenth century. According to its village registers, more and more parents reared all their children. Others persisted in the old ways, leaving traces of hundreds of thousands of infanticides in the statistics of the modern Japanese state. Nonetheless, by 1925, total fertility rates approached six children per women in the very lands where raising four had once been considered profligate. This reverse fertility transition suggests that the demographic history of the world is more interesting than paradigms of unidirectional change would have us believe, and that the future of fertility and population growth may yet hold many surprises.

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Mapping Early Modern Japan

Space, Place, and Culture in the Tokugawa Period, 1603-1868

Marcia Yonemoto

This elegant history considers a fascinating array of texts, cultural practices, and intellectual processes—including maps and mapmaking, poetry, travel writing, popular fiction, and encyclopedias—to chart the emergence of a new geographical consciousness in early modern Japan. Marcia Yonemoto's wide-ranging history of ideas traces changing conceptions and representations of space by looking at the roles played by writers, artists, commercial publishers, and the Shogunal government in helping to fashion a new awareness of space and place in this period. Her impressively researched study shows how spatial and geographical knowledge confined to elites in early Japan became more generalized, flexible, and widespread in the Tokugawa period. In the broadest sense, her book grasps the elusive processes through which people came to name, to know, and to interpret their worlds in narrative and visual forms.

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The Missionary's Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village

Henrietta Harrison

The Missionary’s Curse tells the story of a Chinese village that has been Catholic since the seventeenth century, drawing direct connections between its history, the globalizing church, and the nation. Harrison recounts the popular folk tales of merchants and peasants who once adopted Catholic rituals and teachings for their own purposes, only to find themselves in conflict with the orthodoxy of Franciscan missionaries arriving from Italy. The village’s long religious history, combined with the similarities between Chinese folk religion and Italian Catholicism, forces us to rethink the extreme violence committed in the area during the Boxer Uprising. The author also follows nineteenth century Chinese priests who campaigned against missionary control, up through the founding of the official church by the Communist Party in the 1950s. Harrison’s in-depth study provides a rare insight into villager experiences during the Socialist Education Movement and Cultural Revolution, as well as the growth of Christianity in China in recent years. She makes the compelling argument that Catholic practice in the village, rather than adopting Chinese forms in a gradual process of acculturation, has in fact become increasingly similar to those of Catholics in other parts of the world.

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The Nature of the Beasts

Empire and Exhibition at the Tokyo Imperial Zoo

Ian Jared Miller

It is widely known that such Western institutions as the museum, the university, and the penitentiary shaped Japan’s emergence as a modern nation-state. Less commonly recognized is the role played by the distinctly hybrid institution—at once museum, laboratory, and prison—of the zoological garden. In this eye-opening study of Japan’s first modern zoo, Tokyo’s Ueno Imperial Zoological Gardens, opened in 1882, Ian Jared Miller offers a refreshingly unconventional narrative of Japan’s rapid modernization and changing relationship with the natural world. As the first zoological garden in the world not built under the sway of a Western imperial regime, the Ueno Zoo served not only as a staple attraction in the nation’s capital—an institutional marker of national accomplishment—but also as a site for the propagation of a new "natural" order that was scientifically verifiable and evolutionarily foreordained. As the Japanese empire grew, Ueno became one of the primary sites of imperialist spectacle, a microcosm of the empire that could be traveled in the course of a single day. The meaning of the zoo would change over the course of Imperial Japan’s unraveling and subsequent Allied occupation. Today it remains one of Japan’s most frequently visited places. But instead of empire in its classic political sense, it now bespeaks the ambivalent dominion of the human species over the natural environment, harkening back to its imperial roots even as it asks us to question our exploitation of the planet’s resources.

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