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The Material Spirit of the Chinese Lifeworld
For a thousand years across the length and breadth of China and beyond, people have burned paper replicas of valuable things—most often money—for the spirits of deceased family members, ancestors, and myriads of demons and divinities. Although frequently denigrated as wasteful and vulgar and at times prohibited by governing elites, today this venerable custom is as popular as ever. Burning Money explores the cultural logic of this common practice while addressing larger anthropological questions concerning the nature of value. The heart of the work integrates Chinese and Western thought and analytics to develop a theoretical framework that the author calls a “materialist aesthetics.” This includes consideration of how the burning of paper money meshes with other customs in China and around the world.
The work examines the custom in contemporary everyday life, its origins in folklore and history, as well as its role in common rituals, in the social formations of dynastic and modern times, and as a “sacrifice” in the act of consecrating the paper money before burning it. Here the author suggests a great divide between the modern means of cultural reproduction through ideology and reification, with its emphasis on nature and realism, and previous pre-capitalist means through ritual and mystification, with its emphasis on authenticity. The final chapters consider how the burning money custom has survived its encounter with the modern global system and internet technology.
Innovative and original in its interpretation of a common ritual in Chinese popular religion, Burning Money will be welcomed by scholars and students of Chinese religion as well as comparative religion specialists and anthropologists interested in contemporary social theory.
Moral Subjectivity, Selfhood, and Islam in Minangkabau, Indonesia
Caged in on the Outside is an intimate ethnographic exploration of the ways in which Minangkabau people understand human value. Minangkabau, an Islamic society in Indonesia that is also the largest matrilineal society in the world, has long fascinated anthropologists. Gregory Simon’s book, based on extended ethnographic research in the small city of Bukittinggi, shines new light on Minangkabau social life by delving into people’s interior lives, calling into question many assumptions about Southeast Asian values and the nature of Islamic practice. It offers a deeply human portrait that will engage readers interested in Indonesia, Islam, and psychological anthropology and those concerned with how human beings fashion and reflect on the moral meanings of their lives.
Simon focuses on the tension between the values of social integration and individual autonomy—both of which are celebrated in this Islamic trading society. The book explores a series of ethnographic themes, each one illustrating a facet of this tension and its management in contemporary Minangkabau society: the moral structure of the city and its economic life, the nature of Minangkabau ethnic identity, the etiquette of everyday interactions, conceptions of self and its boundaries, hidden spaces of personal identity, and engagements with Islamic traditions. Simon draws on interviews with Minangkabau men and women, demonstrating how individuals engage with cultural forms and refashion them in the process: forms of etiquette are transformed into a series of symbols tattooed on and then erased from a man’s skin; a woman shares a poem expressing an identity rooted in what cannot be directly revealed; a man puzzles over his neglect of Islamic prayers that have the power to bring him happiness.
Applying the lessons of the Minangkabau case more broadly to debates on moral life and subjectivity, Simon makes the case that a deep understanding of moral conceptions and practices, including those of Islam, can never be reached simply by delineating their abstract logics or the public messages they send. Instead, we must examine the subtle meanings these conceptions and practices have for the people who live them and how they interact with the enduring tensions of multidimensional human selves. Borrowing a Minangkabau saying, he maintains that whether emerging in moments of suffering or flourishing, moral subjectivity is always complex, organized by ambitions as elusive as being “caged in on the outside.”
Places Politics, and Aborigines in a North Australian Town
Caging the Rainbow explores the lives of Aborigines in the small regional town of Katherine, Northern Territory, Australia. Francesca Merlan combines ethnography and theory to grapple with issues surrounding the debate about the authenticity of contemporary cultural activity. Throughout, the vulnerability of Fourth World peoples to others' representations of them and the ethical problems this poses are kept in view.
A Memoir of a Woman at Sea
At 56, when hormone storms, career doubts and a failing marriage shattered Susan’s fairytale life, she took ownership of a neglected boat, and learned to repair, refit and sail it in Hawaii’s rough waters. Together with a young inexperienced sailor, Susan set sail from Honolulu to Palmyra Atoll, a National Wildlife Refuge 1,000 miles south of Hawaii. Storms and a catastrophic boat failure terrify the novice sailors, but they make it to Palmyra where Susan spends three months working as a volunteer biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While working with the marine animals that had been her life’s passion, Susan dives into fixing her disabled boat, resolving the conflicts in her marriage and coming to peace with her aging body. Merging adventure, biology, history and the complexities of human companionship to examine some of the big questions we all face in life, Scott recounts her venture into the daunting world of offshore sailing, baring her soul through struggles with life, marriage, and the remarkable Palmyra Atoll.
The Cultivation of a Nation, 18601945
This strikingly original study of Cambodian nationalism brings to life eight turbulent decades of cultural change and sheds new light on the colonial ancestry of Pol Pot’s murderous dystopia. Penny Edwards recreates the intellectual milieux and cultural traffic linking Europe and empire, interweaving analysis of key movements and ideas in the French Protectorate of Cambodge with contemporary developments in the Métropole. From the naturalist Henri Mouhot’s expedition to Angkor in 1860 to the nationalist Son Ngoc Thanh’s short-lived premiership in 1945, this history of ideas tracks the talented Cambodian and French men and women who shaped the contours of the modern Khmer nation. Their visions and ambitions played out within a shifting landscape of Angkorean temples, Parisian museums, Khmer printing presses, world’s fairs, Buddhist monasteries, and Cambodian youth hostels. This is cross-cultural history at its best. With its fresh take on the dynamics of colonialism and nationalism, Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation will become essential reading for scholars of history, politics, and society in Southeast Asia. Edwards’ nuanced analysis of Buddhism and her consideration of Angkor’s emergence as a national monument will be of particular interest to students of Asian and European religion, museology, heritage studies, and art history. As a highly readable guide to Cambodia’s recent past, it will also appeal to specialists in modern French history, cultural studies, and colonialism, as well as readers with a general interest in Cambodia.
History and Practice
The study of Cambodian religion has long been hampered by a lack of easily accessible scholarship. This impressive new work by Ian Harris thus fills a major gap and offers English-language scholars a booklength, up-to-date treatment of the religious aspects of Cambodian culture. Beginning with a coherent history of the presence of religion in the country from its inception to the present day, the book goes on to furnish insights into the distinctive nature of Cambodia's important yet overlooked manifestation of Theravada Buddhist tradition and to show how it reestablished itself following almost total annihilation during the Pol Pot period. Historical sections cover the dominant role of tantric Mahayana concepts and rituals under the last great king of Angkor, Jayavarman VII (1181–c. 1220); the rise of Theravada traditions after the collapse of the Angkorian civilization; the impact of foreign influences on the development of the nineteenth-century monastic order; and politicized Buddhism and the Buddhist contribution to an emerging sense of Khmer nationhood. The Buddhism practiced in Cambodia has much in common with parallel traditions in Thailand and Sri Lanka, yet there are also significant differences. The book concentrates on these and illustrates how a distinctly Cambodian Theravada developed by accommodating itself to premodern Khmer modes of thought. Following the overthrow of Prince Sihanouk in 1970, Cambodia slid rapidly into disorder and violence. Later chapters chart the elimination of institutional Buddhism under the Khmer Rouge and its gradual reemergence after Pol Pot, the restoration of the monastic order's prerevolutionary institutional forms, and the emergence of contemporary Buddhist groupings.
Following the destruction of Kyoto during the civil wars of the late fifteenth century, large-scale panoramic paintings of the city began to emerge. These enormous and intricately detailed depictions of the ancient imperial capital were unprecedented in the history of Japanese painting and remain unmatched as representations of urban life in any artistic tradition. Capitalscapes, the first book-length study of the Kyoto screens, examines their inception in the sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries, focusing on the political motivations that sparked their creation. Close readings of the Kyoto screens reveal that they were initially commissioned by or for members of the Ashikaga shogunate and that urban panoramas reflecting the interests of both prevailing and moribund political elites were created to underscore the legitimacy of the newly ascendant Tokugawa regime. Matthew McKelway’s analysis of the screens exposes their creators’ masterful exploitation of ostensibly accurate depictions to convey politically biased images of Japan’s capital. His overarching methodology combines a historical approach, which considers the paintings in light of contemporary reports (diaries, chronicles, ritual accounts), with a thematic one, isolating individual motifs, deciphering their visual language, and comparing them with depictions in other works. McKelway’s combined approach allows him to argue that the Kyoto screens were conceived and perpetuated as a painting genre that conveyed specific political meanings to viewers even as it provided textured details of city life. Students and scholars of Japanese art will find this lavishly illustrated work especially valuable for its insights into the cityscape painting genre, while those interested in urban and political history will appreciate its bold exploration of Kyoto’s past and the city’s late-medieval martial elite.
Differentiation and Uncertainty
What are people’s life experiences in present-day Japan? This timely volume addresses fundamental questions vital to understanding Japan in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Its chapters collectively reveal a questioning of middle-class ideals once considered the essence of Japaneseness. In the postwar model household a man was expected to obtain a job at a major firm that offered life-long employment; his counterpart, the “professional” housewife, managed the domestic sphere and the children, who were educated in a system that provided a path to mainstream success. In the past twenty years, however, Japanese society has seen a sharp increase in precarious forms of employment, higher divorce rates, and a widening gap between haves and have-nots.
Contributors draw on rich, nuanced fieldwork data collected during the 2000s to examine work, schooling, family and marital relations, child rearing, entertainment, lifestyle choices, community support, consumption and waste, material culture, well-being, aging, death and memorial rites, and sexuality. The voices in these pages vary widely: They include schoolchildren, teenagers, career women, unmarried women, young mothers, people with disabilities, small business owners, organic farmers, retirees, and the elderly.
New Religions, Media, and Authority in Occupied Japan
Celebrity Gods explores the interaction of new religions and the media in postwar Japan. It focuses on the leaders and founders (kyōsō) of Jiu and Tenshō Kōtai Jingū Kyō, two new religions of Japan’s immediate postwar period that received substantial press attention. Jiu was linked to the popular prewar group Ōmotokyō, and its activities were based on the millennial visions of its leader, a woman called Jikōson. When Jiu attracted the legendary sumo champion Futabayama to its cause, Jikōson and her activities became a widely-covered cause célèbre in the press. Tenshō Kōtai Jingū Kyō (labeled odoru shūkyō, “the dancing religion,” by the press) was led by a farmer’s wife, Kitamura Sayo. Her uncompromising vision and actions toward creating a new society—one that was far removed from what she described as the “maggot world” of postwar Japan—drew harsh and often mocking criticism from the print media.
Looking back for precursors to the postwar relationship of new religions and media, Benjamin Dorman explores the significant role that the Japanese media traditionally played in defining appropriate and acceptable social behavior, acting at times as mouthpieces for government and religious authorities. Using the cases of Renmonkyō in the Meiji era and Ōmotokyō in the Taishō and Shōwa eras, Dorman shows how accumulated images of new religions in pre-1945 Japan became absorbed into those of the immediate postwar period. Given the lack of formal religious education in Japan, the media played an important role in transmitting notions of acceptable behavior to the public. He goes on to characterize the leaders of these groups as “celebrity gods,” demonstrating that the media, which were generally untrained in religious history or ideas, chose to fashion them as “celebrities” whose antics deserved derision. While the prewar media had presented other kyōsō as the antithesis of decent, moral citizens who stood in opposition to the aims of the state, postwar media reports presented them primarily as unfit for democratic society.
Celebrity Gods delves into an under-studied era of religious history: the Allied Occupation and the postwar period up to the early 1950s. It is an important interdisciplinary work that considers relations between Japanese and Occupation bureaucracies and the groups in question, and uses primary source documents from Occupation archives and interviews with media workers and members of religious groups. For observers of postwar Japan, this research provides a roadmap to help understand issues relating to the Aum Shinrikyō affair of the 1990s.
Celluloid Comrades offers a cogent analytical introduction to the representation of male homosexuality in Chinese cinemas within the last decade. It posits that representations of male homosexuality in Chinese film have been polyphonic and multifarious, posing a challenge to monolithic and essentialized constructions of both ‘Chineseness’ and ‘homosexuality.’ Given the artistic achievement and popularity of the films discussed here, the position of ‘celluloid comrades’ can no longer be ignored within both transnational Chinese and global queer cinemas. The book also challenges readers to reconceptualize these works in relation to global issues such as homosexuality and gay and lesbian politics, and their interaction with local conditions, agents, and audiences. Tracing the engendering conditions within the film industries of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, Song Hwee Lim argues that the emergence of Chinese cinemas in the international scene since the 1980s created a public sphere in which representations of marginal sexualities could flourish in its interstices. Examining the politics of representation in the age of multiculturalism through debates about the films, Lim calls for a rethinking of the limits and hegemony of gay liberationist discourse prevalent in current scholarship and film criticism. He provides in-depth analyses of key films and auteurs, reading them within contexts as varied as premodern, transgender practice in Chinese theater to postmodern, diasporic forms of sexualities. Informed by cultural and postcolonial studies and critical theory, this acutely observed and theoretically sophisticated work will be of interest to a wide range of scholars and students as well as general readers looking for a deeper understanding of contemporary Chinese cultural politics, cinematic representations, and queer culture.