Episodes

  • Manga historian Ryan Holmberg introduces the influential alternative manga artist Murasaki Yamada (1948-2009) to English readers through a scholarly translation of Talk to My Back (1981-1984), Yamada’s feminist examination of the fraying of Japan's suburban middle-class dreams. The manga is paired with an extensive essay by Dr. Holmberg, in which he positions Yamada’s oeuvre within the history of alternative manga and Yamada’s manga within her life. Alternative manga is primarily associated with male artists in the United States, but Holmberg illuminates why that came to be and how that image varies from reality through his examination of Yamada’s oeuvre.
    Talk to My Back (Drawn & Quarterly, 2022) portrays a woman's relationship with her two daughters as they mature and assert their independence, and with her husband, who works late and sees his wife as little more than a domestic servant. While engaging frankly with the compromises of marriage and motherhood, Yamada saves her harshest criticisms for society at large, particularly its false promises of eternal satisfaction within the nuclear family.
    Ryan Holmberg is a comics historian and translator. He is the author of The Translator Without Talent (2020) and Garo Manga: The First Decade, 1964-1973 (2010). He has edited and translated over two dozen manga, including the 2014 Eisner Award-winning edition of Tezuka Osamu’s The Mysterious Underground Men. His many essays and reviews can be found in such venues as The Comics Journal, Artforum International, and The New York Review. He has advised on exhibitions at the British Museum and the Honolulu Museum of Art, and is currently Senior Lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He can be found on social media @mangaberg.
    Amanda Kennell is an Assistant Teaching Professor of International Studies at North Carolina State University who researches Japanese culture and contemporary media. Her book, Alice in Japanese Wonderlands: Translation, Adaptation, Mediation, is forthcoming in 2023 from the University of Hawai’i Press. She consulted on the British Museum’s exhibition on manga, and her work has appeared in the Journal of Adaptation in Film & Performance, the Journal of Popular Culture, Film Criticism, and the Washington Post, among other publications.
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  • From the fourteenth through the nineteenth centuries Japanese monks created hundreds of maps to construct and locate their place in a Buddhist world. Expansively illustrated with multiple maps and illustrations, The Japanese Buddhist World Map: Religious Vision and the Cartographic Imagination (University of Hawai’i Press, 2021) by D. Max Moerman is the first monograph of its kind to explore the largely unknown archive of Japanese Buddhist world maps and analyze their production, reproduction, and reception. In examining these fascinating sources of visual and material culture, Moerman argues for an alternative history of Japanese Buddhism—one that compels us to recognize the role of the Buddhist geographic imaginary in a culture that encompassed multiple cartographic and cosmological world views.
    The contents and contexts of Japanese Buddhist world maps reveal the ambivalent and shifting position of Japan in the Buddhist world, its encounter and negotiation with foreign ideas and technologies, and the possibilities for a global history of Buddhism and science. Moerman’s visual and intellectual history traces the multiple trajectories of Japanese Buddhist world maps, beginning with the earliest extant Japanese map of the world: a painting by a fourteenth-century Japanese monk charting the cosmology and geography of India and Central Asia based on an account written by a seventh-century Chinese pilgrim-monk. He goes on to discuss the cartographic inclusion and marginal position of Japan, the culture of the copy and the power of replication in Japanese Buddhism, and the transcultural processes of engagement and response to new visions of the world produced by Iberian Christians, Chinese Buddhists, and the Japanese maritime trade. Later chapters explore the transformations in the media and messages of Buddhist cartography in the age of print culture and in intellectual debates during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries over cosmology and epistemology and the polemics of Buddhist science.
    The Japanese Buddhist World Map offers a wholly innovative picture of Japanese Buddhism that acknowledges the possibility of multiple and heterogeneous modernities and alternative visions of Japan and the world.
    D. Max Moerman is a Professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Barnard College of Columbia University. His research interests lie in the visual and material culture of Japanese religions.
    Shatrunjay Mall is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He works on transnational Asian history, and his dissertation explores intellectual, political, and cultural intersections and affinities that emerged between Indian anti-colonialism and imperial Japan in the twentieth century.
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  • What is the oral tradition of Chinese storytelling about and what is the connection to the great Chinese novels?
    How to translate a Chinese classic such as the famed and defamed “Jin Ping Mei”? And how to handle the dilemma of steering one’s boat between enormous amounts of scholarship on the novel without drowning, and keeping up the tempo of translation day after day?
    NIAS senior researcher Vibeke Børdahl joined NIAS Press Student Assistant, Julia Heinle, to discuss her upcoming publications “Jin Ping Mei i vers og prosa”, I-X (Vandkunsten, 2011-2022) and “Jin Ping Mei – A Wild Horse in Chinese Literature” (ed. by Vibeke Børdahl and Lintao Qi) (NIAS Press 2022).
    Dr. Vibeke Børdahl is a senior researcher at NIAS and is generally recognized as one of the most accomplished scholars in the study of Chinese oral literature. As well as doing much research on the interplay of oral and written traditions in Chinese popular literature and performance culture, over the past decade she has translated the full work of Jin Ping Mei into Danish. The publication is celebrated with a symposium 26-28 October supported by the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, the Carlsberg Academy and NIAS.
    Find the NIAS Press book here.
    Translation editions by Vandkunsten are here.
    The Nordic Asia Podcast is a collaboration sharing expertise on Asia across the Nordic region, brought to you by the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) based at the University of Copenhagen, along with our academic partners: the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku, and Asianettverket at the University of Oslo.
    We aim to produce timely, topical and well-edited discussions of new research and developments about Asia.
    About NIAS: www.nias.ku.dk
    Transcripts of the Nordic Asia Podcasts: http://www.nias.ku.dk/nordic-asia-podcast
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  • A young sake bar owner, Yusuke Shimoki, arrives on the doorstep of Hannah Kirshner’s Brooklyn apartment “with a suitcase full of Ishikawa sake,” in Hannah’s words. That visit sparked a years-long connection between Hannah and the rural Japanese community of Yamanaka, a home for artisans and artists, hunters and farmers, and other ordinary Japanese trying to live in the countryside.
    Those visits are the subject of Hannah’s book, Water Wood and Wild Things: Learning Craft and Cultivation in a Japanese Mountain Town, published in hardcover by Viking in 2021, and in paperback by Penguin this year. Hannah learns how to make sake, craft wooden trays, hunt ducks, farm vegetables, and several other activities common in this part of rural Japan.
    And, as an added bonus, readers get to see recipes garnered from Hannah’s time in Yamanaka!
    In this interview, Hannah and I talk about rural Japan, duck hunting, drinking sake and growing vegetables, as well as some of her favorite recipes in the book!
    Hannah Kirshner is a writer, artist, and food stylist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, T Magazine, Vogue, Saveur, Taste, Food 52, Atlas Obscura, and Food & Wine, among others. Trained at the Rhode Island School of Design, Kirshner grew up on a small farm outside Seattle and divides her time between Brooklyn and rural Japan.
    You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of Water, Wood and Wild Things. Follow on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
    Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
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  • In The Concrete Plateau: Urban Tibetans and the Chinese Civilizing Machine (Cornell UP, 2022), Grant examines how China’s urban development policies of frontier cities like Xining (Tib. zi ling) accompanied civilizational projects that deployed various discursive and non-discursive practices aimed at creating ideologically homogeneous and modern places. Xining or Ziling is the capital of Qinghai (Tib. mtsho sngon) province and it is the largest city on the Tibetan Plateau and home to over 200, 000 Tibetans.
    Dr. Grant shows how specific processes complicate the rural/urban divide and allow for the emergence of a “regional modernity” where Tibetan urbanites develop tools for the “remediation of the Chinese Dream,” and subtly challenge and subvert the social and ethnic hierarchies promoted through urban development policies. Despite the idea of the city or Trungcher (grong 'khyer) as a place of moral decay and social disintegration, instead of rejecting and retreating from it, Tibetans view the city as a site of social and political possibility; where they can assert their social existence and cultural identity through creative forms of cultural expression and entrepreneurial endeavor. 
    Palden Gyal is a Ph.D. candidate in Modern Tibetan and Late Imperial Chinese history at Columbia University.
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  • Can spiritually and religiously inspired environmental movements in Asia help reach the global goal of environmental sustainability? This question lies at the heart of the research project “Transcendence and Sustainability: Asian Visions with Global Promise” that we focus on in this episode. Also known as TRANSSUSTAIN, the project builds on the observation that scholars, activists, and even politicians in many Asian countries have found inspiration in traditional knowledge and in the premodern texts and practices of, for instance, Daoist, Buddhist, Hindu, and Confucian traditions to envision more ecologically sustainable futures. Exploring the mobilization and recalibration of such traditional Asian religio-philosophical ideas in response to the global environmental crisis, the project seeks to assess the potential of Asian environmental movements for helping us build sustainable global futures.
    Mette Halskov Hansen is professor of China Studies at the University of Oslo.
    Amita Baviskar is professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology and Anthropology at Ashoka University.
    Lu Chen is a Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oslo.
    Kenneth Bo Nielsen is an Associate Professor at the dept. of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo and one of the leaders of the Norwegian Network for Asian Studies.
    The Nordic Asia Podcast is a collaboration sharing expertise on Asia across the Nordic region, brought to you by the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) based at the University of Copenhagen, along with our academic partners: the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku, and Asianettverket at the University of Oslo.
    We aim to produce timely, topical and well-edited discussions of new research and developments about Asia.
    About NIAS: www.nias.ku.dk
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  • Since the early days of Buddhism in China, monastics and laity alike have expressed a profound concern with the past. In voluminous historical works, they attempted to determine as precisely as possible the dates of events in the Buddha's life, seeking to iron out discrepancies in varying accounts and pinpoint when he delivered which sermons. Buddhist writers chronicled the history of the Dharma in China as well, compiling biographies of eminent monks and nuns and detailing the rise and decline in the religion's fortunes under various rulers. They searched for evidence of karma in the historical record and drew on prophecy to explain the past. John Kieschnick provides an innovative, expansive account of how Chinese Buddhists have sought to understand their history through a Buddhist lens. Exploring a series of themes in mainstream Buddhist historiographical works from the fifth to the twentieth century, he looks not so much for what they reveal about the people and events they describe as for what they tell us about their compilers' understanding of history. Kieschnick examines how Buddhist doctrines influenced the search for the underlying principles driving history, the significance of genealogy in Buddhist writing, and the transformation of Buddhist historiography in the twentieth century. This book casts new light on the intellectual history of Chinese Buddhism and on Buddhists' understanding of the past.
    As I say in the interview, Buddhist Historiography in China (Columbia University Press, 2022) is one of those that you hope exists out there somewhere, and are delighted when you find out it does! This book is highly recommended not only for those with a keen interest in Buddhism and Chinese history, but also those fascinated by questions of historiography and temporarily more broadly. 
    Lance Pursey is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Aberdeen where they work on the history and archaeology of the Liao dynasty. They are interested in questions of identity, and the complexities of working with different kinds of sources textually and materially.
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  • Often represented as a tradition of ancient origins, Shugendō has retained a quality of mystery and nostalgia in the public imagination and scholars as the “original” champions of mountain asceticism. 
    In his monograph, A Path Into the Mountains: Shugendō and Mount Togakushi (U Hawaii Press, 2022), Caleb Carter challenges this conceptualization by examining historical documents of Mount Togakushi. By focusing on themes of narratives, institution, and ritual, Carter explores how the transmission of this complex religious system at Togakushi was not a natural phenomenon, but a conscious act by a practitioner from Mount Hiko. Using a variety of textual sources including origin stories (engi) and temple records, Carter demonstrates how the practitioners of Mount Togakushi utilize storytelling, institutional support, and ritual processes to not only provide legitimacy but also establish a foundation for Shugendō at Togakushi. With discussions on Shinto and women’s exclusion (nyonin kekkai), staple topics in Japanese religions, A Path Into the Mountains offers something for those interested in not just Shugendō but also Buddhism, mountain religions, and religious history.
    Raditya Nuradi is a Phd candidate at Kyushu University. He works on religion and popular culture, particularly anime pilgrimages. His research explores pilgrims' experiences through space and materiality.
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  • How did Chinese tourism grow from almost non-existent to being the largest outbound travel source market in the world over a couple of decades? Is the word “weaponization” a fair description of how Beijing uses tourism strategically in their foreign policy? And will the Chinese tourists ever travel internationally again after several years of pandemic? In this episode, Philip Kyhl is joined by Dr. Matias Thuen Jørgensen to discuss his and co-author Anders Ellemann Kristensen’s contribution to the recently published book Chinese Outbound Tourist Behaviour (Routledge, 2022). The chapter explores the evolution of the Chinese outbound tourism industry, the behaviour of Chinese tourists abroad and how the industry is continuously affected by regulations and policy-making.
    Dr. Matias Thuen Jørgensen is Associate Professor and head of the Centre for Tourism Research (cftr.ruc.dk) at Roskilde University, Denmark. Matias aims to publish research that introduces novel conceptual and theoretical ideas and perspectives, but also resonate in practice. His research interests include tourism development, distribution, sustainability, entrepreneurship and experience. Empirically, his work has focused on the Chinese market and destinations in the Nordics. His work has been published in journals such as Tourism Management, Annals of Tourism Research, Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing, Tourist Studies and International Journal of Tourism Research.
    You can contact Matias directly for a free copy of the specific chapter in the book on [email protected]
    Philip Kyhl is the assistant Director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies in Copenhagen. Philip has worked with Chinese Outbound tourism for more than a decade and experienced the rise and development of the Chinese tourism industry from several years living and working in China and later as an advisor for European companies.
    The Nordic Asia Podcast is a collaboration sharing expertise on Asia across the Nordic region, brought to you by the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) based at the University of Copenhagen, along with our academic partners: the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku, and Asianettverket at the University of Oslo.
    We aim to produce timely, topical and well-edited discussions of new research and developments about Asia.
    About NIAS: www.nias.ku.dk
    Transcripts of the Nordic Asia Podcasts: http://www.nias.ku.dk/nordic-a...
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  • As we build the AI-powered digital economy, how far do we want to go? Surveillance State: Inside China's Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control (St. Martin's Press, 2022) explores how China’s Communist Party is harnessing new technologies in an effort to achieve an unprecedented level of social control. The authors outline the most brutal and extreme applications of these technologies to the Uighur people of western China. They contrast this with the relatively benign-seeming applications to traffic control, crime, and public order in the prosperous Han Chinese heartland, where a little loss of privacy can feel like a small price to pay.
    They also make clear that these developments are not isolated to China. They show how America faces similar tradeoffs between using the benefits these tools can bring for crime fighting and other goals, against the risks of losing privacy and potentially making our criminal justice system even less fair. They examine the role of US companies in selling crucial elements of the technology package to Chinese firms and government agencies and challenge their defense that they had no way of knowing how or where these technologies would be used. And they examine China’s export of surveillance technologies to other countries around the world.
    This book is essential reading for anyone thinking about how the digitization of the economy and our lives can benefit us or be turned against us.
    Authors Josh Chin and Liza Lin are award-winning journalists with the Wall Street Journal. The book grows out of years of reporting on these developments within China, as well as an extensive investigation into the roots of these trends and their connections around the world.
    Host Peter Lorentzen is the Chair of the Economics Department at the University of San Francisco, where he leads a new Master's program in Applied Economics focused on the digital economy. His research focus is the political economy of governance in China.
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  • How did the Cold War shape culture and political power in decolonizing countries and give rise to authoritarian regimes in the so-called free world? Cold War Reckonings: Authoritarianism and the Genres of Decolonization (Fordham UP, 2021) tells a new story about the Cold War and the global shift from colonialism to independent nation-states. Assembling a body of transpacific cultural works that speak to this historical conjuncture, Jini Kim Watson reveals autocracy to be not a deficient form of liberal democracy, but rather the result of Cold War entanglements with decolonization.
    Focusing on East and Southeast Asia, the book scrutinizes cultural texts ranging from dissident poetry, fiction, and writers’ conference proceedings of the Cold War period, to more recent literature, graphic novels, and films that retrospectively look back to these decades with a critical eye. Paying particular attention to anti-communist repression and state infrastructures of violence, the book provides a richaccount of several U.S.–allied Cold War regimes in the Asia Pacific, including the South Korean military dictatorship, Marcos’ rule in the Philippines, illiberal Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew, and Suharto’s Indonesia.
    Watson’s book argues that the cultural forms and narrative techniques that emerged from the Cold War-decolonizing matrix offer new ways of comprehending these histories and connecting them to our present. The book advances our understanding of the global reverberations of the Cold War and its enduring influence on cultural and political formations in the Asia Pacific.
    Cold War Reckonings earned Honorable Mention for the 2022 René Wellek Prize.
    Jini Kim Watson is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at New York University. She is the author of The New Asian City: Three-dimensional Fictions of Space and Urban Form and editor, with Gary Wilder, of The Postcolonial Contemporary: Political Imaginaries for the Global Present.
    Victoria Oana Lupașcu is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Asian Studies at University of Montréal. Her areas of interest include medical humanities, visual art, 20th and 21st Chinese, Brazilian and Romanian literature and Global South studies.
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  • Cultural historians Morgan Pitelka and Reiko Tanimura partner with one of Japan’s premier experts in calligraphy and letter writing, Takashi Masuda, to translate and annotate twenty-three unique letters alongside images of the hand-brushed originals. Each letter is presented first in its original format as a brushed piece of calligraphy. The authors provide a transcription of the letter into Japanese, followed by an English translation. Next is a commentary with the biography of the letter’s author and in some cases the addressee, the context for its writing, and brief descriptions of relevant locations, individuals, and historical events mentioned therein. Letters from Japan's Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (IEAS, 2021) offers readers rare access in English to the voices of renowned historical figures from Japan’s Age of Unification and early Edo period.
    Jingyi Li is a PhD Candidate in Japanese History at the University of Arizona. She researches about early modern Japan, literati, and commercial publishing.
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  • Unfortunately, one takeaway for readers of this book should be the difficulty that not only outside analysts but even party insiders face when trying to understand elite politics in Leninist regimes. Sinologists have always struggled to see inside the “black box,” and the track record is not strong. Yet getting history right is immensely important, as the past is one of the few places that allow us to understand structural features that might persist.
    – Joseph Torigian, Prestige, Manipulation, and Coercion (2022)
    The political successions in the Soviet Union and China after Stalin and Mao, respectively, are often explained as triumphs of inner‑party democracy, leading to a victory of “reformers” over “conservatives” or “radicals.” In traditional thinking, Leninist institutions provide competitors a mechanism for debating policy and making promises, stipulate rules for leadership selection, and prevent the military and secret police from playing a coercive role. Here, Joseph Torigian argues that the post-cult of personality power struggles in history’s two greatest Leninist regimes were instead shaped by the politics of personal prestige, historical antagonisms, backhanded political maneuvering, and violence. Mining newly discovered material from Russia and China, Torigian challenges the established historiography and suggests a new way of thinking about the nature of power in authoritarian regimes.
    Professor Torigian’s insightful and accessible journal articles with hyperlinks and book recommendations from this interview for listeners interested in exploring related concepts and ideas:

    Open Access Global Studies Quarterly article ‘A New Case for the Study of individual Events in Political Science’ as mentioned regarding influence of historical institutionalism in his approach;

    Open Access Journal of Cold War Studies article which serves as a sequel to his book – ‘You Don’t Know Khrushchev Well: The Ouster of the Soviet Leader as a Challenge to Recent Scholarship on Authoritarian Politics’;

    Robert Caro’s Working : Researching, Interviewing, Writing;


    David Halloway’s Stalin and The Bomb;


    Chinese University of Hong Kong’s 中华人民共和国史 (Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guoshi)

    Theda Skopol’s States and Social Revolutions – A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China which is required reading for students in his masters-level class on China and Russia.

    See also Joseph’s illuminating ‘War on the Rocks’ post-doc blog post of January 2017 in which, among other things, he correctly anticipates the PRC’s top leadership succession as non-event.
    Joseph Torigian is assistant professor in the School of International Service at American University in Washington D.C. His research focuses on the study of the politics of authoritarian regimes with a specific focus on elite power struggles, civil-military relations, and grand strategy. His research agenda draws upon comparative politics, historical institutionalism and international relations with a focus on relevant questions about the long-term political trajectories of both China and Russia.
    Keith Krueger lectures part-time in the Sydney Business School at Shanghai University.
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  • Celebrating Sorrow: Medieval Tributes to the Tale of Sagoromo (Cornell UP, 2022) explores the medieval Japanese fascination with grief in tributes to The Tale of Sagoromo, the classic story of a young man whose unrequited love for his foster sister leads him into a succession of romantic tragedies as he rises to the imperial throne. Charo B. D'Etcheverry translates a selection of Sagoromo-themed works, highlighting the diversity of medieval Japanese creative practice and the persistent and varied influence of a beloved court tale.
    Medieval Japanese readers, fascinated by Sagoromo's sorrows and success, were inspired to retell his tale in stories, songs, poetry, and drama. By recontextualizing the tale's poems and writing new libretti, stories, and commentaries about the tale, these medieval aristocrats, warriors, and commoners expressed their competing concerns and ambitions during a chaotic period in Japanese history, as well as their shifting understandings of the tale itself. By translating these creative responses from an era of uncertainty and turmoil, Celebrating Sorrow shows the richness and enduring relevance of Japanese classical and medieval literature.
    Jingyi Li is a PhD Candidate in Japanese History at the University of Arizona. She researches about early modern Japan, literati, and commercial publishing.
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  • Today Julia Keblinska and I had the pleasure of talking to Assistant Professor Jerry Zee about his book, Continent in Dust: Experiments in a Chinese Weather System, published by University of California Press in 2022.
    Continent in Dust offers a political anthropological account of strange weather. It is an ethnography of China’s meteorological contemporary - the transformed weather patterns whose formations and fallouts have accompanied decades of breakneck economic development. Focusing on intersections among statecraft, landscape, atmosphere and society, Jerry Zee’s research is beautifully articulated taking the reader on a journey from state engineering programs that attempt to choreograph the movement of mobile dunes in the interior, to newly reconfigured bodies and airspace in Beijing, and beyond. Timely and original, Continent in Dust considers contemporary China as a weather system to reconsider how we can better understand “the rise of China” literally, as the country itself rises into the air.
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  • As the Asia-Pacific becomes the central stage of the US-China rivalry, Vietnam has emerged as one of the key countries to watch. While Vietnam has positioned itself as a critical player in the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy, and Hanoi’s distrust of China has grown in response to Beijing’s increasingly aggressive stance in the South China Sea, the Vietnam-China relationship transcends mere geopolitical binaries.
    Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Nguyen Khac Giang discusses Vietnam and China’s complex relationship, reflecting on the intimate ideological links, economic dependency, and security concerns that link the two countries. He discusses some of the key strategic challenges faced by Vietnam, how they can be negotiated, and whether it is possible for Hanoi to leverage relations with both China and the United States to minimise the potential geo-political risks associated with great power competition.
    About Nguyen Khac Giang:
    Nguyen Khac Giang is a research fellow at Vietnam Centre for Economic and Strategic Studies (VESS). Giang is currently a PhD candidate at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, where he compares the Vietnamese and Chinese political developments. His academic work appears in, among others, the Asian Journal of Political Science, Contemporary Southeast Asia, the Constitutional Political Economy, and the Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies. Giang is a frequent commentator on Vietnamese affairs and writes extensively for major Vietnamese and English news outlets such as the Saigon Times, The Diplomat, VnExpress, and the East Asia Forum.
    For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website: www.sydney.edu.au/sseac.
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  • In addition to providing excerpts from classic tales of Japan’s warrior past, Samurai and the Warrior Culture of Japan, 471-1877: A Sourcebook (Hackett, 2022) draws on a wide range of lesser-known but revealing sources—including sword inscriptions, edicts, orders, petitions, and letters—to expand and deepen our understanding of the samurai, from the order’s origins in the fifth century to its abolition in the nineteenth. Taken together with Thomas Donald Conlan's contextualizing introductions and notes, these sources provide a rare window into the experiences, ideals, and daily lives of these now-sentimentalized warriors. Numerous illustrations, a glossary of terms, and a substantial bibliography further enhance the value of this book to students, scholars, and anyone interested in learning more about the samurai.
    Jingyi Li is a PhD Candidate in Japanese History at the University of Arizona. She researches about early modern Japan, literati, and commercial publishing.
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  • Using rare grassroots archives, Tiger, Tyrant, Bandit, Businessman: Echoes of Counterrevolution from New China (Stanford UP, 2022) dives deep into four true criminal cases during the political campaign to suppress counterrevolutionaries of the People’s Republic of China from 1949 to 1953. The first casefile recounted a story of a Confucian scholar who found himself allied with bandits and secret society members. The second casefile was on an assassination of a Communist cadre by a farmer, who was condemned as a landlord and an evil tyrant by the Party. The third casefile was about how the two runaway landlords avoided prosecution of the Party-state by exploiting relative and religious networks in local community. The fourth casefile was on a hapless merchant who accused of a crime he did not commit. Read collectively, the book shows how the newly-established Party-state brought its power to village society. More importantly, the book persuasively demonstrates that the rural revolution could only be understood within its specific local context. In addition, the book also does a model work in showing the historians’ craft of critically reading, analyzing, and using archival documents. 
    Yi Ren is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania.
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  • France and Germany in the South China Sea, c. 1840-1930 Maritime Competition and Imperial Power (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021) explores imperial power and the transnational encounters of shipowners and merchants in the South China Sea from 1840 to 1930. With British Hong Kong and French Indochina on its northern and western shores, the ‘Asian Mediterranean’ was for almost a century a crucible of power and an axis of economic struggle for coastal shipping companies from various nations. Merchant steamers shipped cargoes and passengers between ports of the region. Hong Kong, the global port city, and the colonial ports of Saigon and Haiphong developed into major hubs for the flow of goods and people, while Guangzhouwan survived as an almost forgotten outpost of Indochina. While previous research in this field has largely remained within the confines of colonial history, this book uses the examples of French and German companies operating in the South China Sea to demonstrate the extent to which transnational actors and business networks interacted with imperial power and the process of globalisation.
    Bert Becker is Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong. He is the author, amongst other publications, of biographies of Georg Michaelis and Michael Jebsen. His work has also appeared in a range of academic journals, including Cross-Currents and Modern Asian Studies.
    Ghassan Moazzin is an Assistant Professor at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of History at the University of Hong Kong. He works on the economic and business history of 19th and 20th century China, with a particular focus on the history of foreign banking, international finance and electricity in modern China. His first book, Foreign Banks and Global Finance in Modern China: Banking on the Chinese Frontier, 1870–1919, is was recently published by Cambridge University Press.
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  • Haruki Murakami has often been accused of being a feckless, merely popular writer, but in The Existentialist Vision of Haruki Murakami (Cambria Press, 2022) Michael Ackland demonstrates that this is not the case, arguing that Murakami has not only assimilated the existentialist heritage but innovatively changed and revitalized it, thereby placing exciting personal possibilities within the reach of his worldwide readership.
    Ackland’s study begins by tracing the troubled introduction of such alien conceptions as individualism, democracy and citizens’ rights, and self-interested autonomy into Japan. It argues that Haruki Murakami was seminally exposed to these ideas, and to their modern reconfiguration in French existentialism, during the student protests of the late 1960s, and that the dissent and radicalism of this period has been rechanneled into his fiction.
    The first two chapters introduce readers to this formative period and to major, recurring concerns in Murakami’s fiction. Then modern existentialism itself is discussed in terms of its philosophical roots in the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, and of its fictional dramatization in the works of such authors as Fyodor Dostoevsky and Franz Kafka, and finally as it was received in Japan. Usually foreign conceptions undergo considerable recasting in Japan to heighten their relevance and innovative potential. This, too, is a hallmark of Murakami’s adaptations, and part of his virulent critique of Japanese socialization and conformity, which is traced initially in such important short fiction as “The Elephant Vanishes” and “Sleep.”
    The bulk of this monograph focuses on the place of existentialism in Murakami’s major novels. It argues that much-maligned “Murakami man” actually represents a carefully calculated case of failed or partial socialization, which leaves him ripe for unconventional personal developments, and eventually to become an exemplary existentialist figure. In Japan, according to Murakami, the individual typically becomes a regimented, exhaustively worked foot-soldier of contemporary capitalism, or archetypal salaryman, with the potential for terrible excesses underscored by telling allusions to war atrocities and the holocaust. Or the individual can become a free-thinking agent and vibrant alternative to the Japanese consensual norm. Independent decision-making and action are all important, for as Sartre famously stated, “human freedom precedes essence.” In other words, we make ourselves—how this is possible is explored in three chapters, which examine in succession Murakami’s vision of childhood and formative years, his use of the supernatural and metaphor to disrupt social norms and to radically expand the challenges confronting individuals, and his evolving conception of what constitutes meaningful, accessible existentialist action.
    Jingyi Li is a PhD Candidate in Japanese History at the University of Arizona. She researches about early modern Japan, literati, and commercial publishing.
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