- Gendered Encounters between Germany and Asia: Transnational Perspectives since 1800 eds. by Joanne Miyang Cho and Douglas T. McGetchin
The subfield of Asian German studies continues to grow, and what was once perhaps an esoteric outcropping has become a veritable field of its own—as evidenced not only by this volume that is the second in the Palgrave Series in Asian German Studies but also by the staple of panels and seminars under the same moniker at every German Studies Association meeting since 2009. This field is becoming unwieldy and troubled by similar questions of categorization that put area studies to task. This volume thus attends to the ever-expanding field by introducing the sociocritical limit of gender to scholarship from disciplines as varied as anthropology, sociology, history and intellectual history, literature and literary history. Such a limit on the widely interdisciplinary project of Asian German studies, as the commendable literature review in the introduction states, has not until now been systematically engaged. This volume thus seeks not merely to fill a gap, but to "set an exemplary tone for future developments" (v). It is, then, a very successful, important beginning, but as such, lacks the quicksilver vocabulary around "gender" offered by recent developments within queer and trans discourses. This is, after all, Gender studies under the umbrella of Asian German studies and not vice versa. This volume reluctantly relies on binaries it wishes to overcome, which, to be clear, is not a fault. The inclusion of binaries is a necessary reflection of the long historical correlations between the "masculine West" and the "feminine East" that are appropriately problematized here in multifarious ways. Nevertheless, it would have been radical to include at least one chapter that overtly explored gender according to role rejections rather than role reversals. For example, is anyone working on the recent judicial rulings in support of a third gender option and the right to self-determination in India and Germany? Such a theoretical, comparative line of inquiry, however, may be beyond the scope of this volume that explicitly takes as its point of departure the physical or cultural "encounter" between Germany and Asia.
Consequently, the historical moment emerges as the organizing principle, which is in line with the editors' expertise: Joanne Miyang Cho and Douglas T. McGetchin, who also contribute chapters, are historians. The first part of this book focuses on the nineteenth century, the second on the period between 1900–1945, and the third on postwar Germany. In this way, the ordinary linearity of a knowable timeline (for [End Page 611] German scholars at least) acts as the stable backdrop for the extraordinary complexity of these transnational, gendered encounters. The editors have prudently ensured that the chapters provide contextualized crash-courses in germane histories of China, India, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as these histories' relationships to gender. The focus on gender at historical, political, and societal junctures between Germany and various regions of Asia generate uniquely glocal arguments. Gender, negotiated within and between both local and global contexts, thereby duly emerges as an unfixed, elusive construct. Given the breadth and variety of methodologies, I turn my attention here to a chapter whose argument best reflects the productively disturbing quality of this volume. In other words, this chapter offers a controversial argument that runs contrary to established critiques of gendered encounters between East and West.
In "Picturing Labor: Gender, German Ethnography, and Anticolonial Reforms in the Philippines," Marissa H. Petrou sets out to distinguish A.B. Meyer's and Alexander Schadenberg's late nineteenth-century ethnographic portraits of people of the Philippines from the distorted colonial projects of Spanish ethnographers. Meyer and Schadenberg, according to Petrou, sought through their tableaux—many of which are reproduced in this chapter—to correct Spanish colonial misrepresentation by eradicating colonial impositions of gender and class distinctions, by providing the names of those photographed, by rejecting the characteristic visual...