• In 1990, the Japanese government introduced the Nikkei-jin (Japanese descendant) visa and since then it has attracted more than 190,000 Nikkei Brazilian nationals to Japan. In Jesus Loves Japan: Return Migration and Global Pentecostalism in a Brazilian Diaspora (Stanford UP, 2019), Dr. Ikeuchi points out that “Unlike Japanese migrants in early twentieth-century Brazil, Brazilian migrants in twenty-first-century Japan lack solid governmental support from their home country, sufficient socioeconomic capital, and birthright citizenship.” Trapped in a suspended time and space of the precariousness of unskilled labor, Dr. Ikeuchi argues that many Brazilian migrants turned to Pentecostalism, a religion that allowed these people who have been “putting aside living” and feeling “neither here nor there” in Japan to find temporal and cultural belonging.
    Suma Ikeuchi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages & Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara.
    Daigengna Duoer is a PhD student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation researches on transnational and transregional Buddhist networks connecting twentieth-century Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Republican China, Tibet, and the Japanese Empire.
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  • In the past decade alone, more than ten million corpses have been exhumed and reburied across the Chinese landscape. The campaign has transformed China's graveyards into sites of acute personal, social, political, and economic contestation.
    In The Chinese Deathscape. Grave Reform in Modern China, three historians of China, Jeffrey Snyder-Reinke, Christian Henriot, and Thomas S. Mullaney, chart out the history of China's rapidly shifting deathscape. Each essay grapples with a different dimension of grave relocation and burial reform in China over the past three centuries: from the phenomenon of "baby towers" in the Lower Yangzi region of late imperial China, to the histories of death in the city of Shanghai, and finally to the history of grave relocation during the contemporary period, examined by Mullaney, when both its scale and tempo increased dramatically. Rounding off these historical analyses, a colophon by platform developers David McClure and Glen Worthey speaks to new reading methodologies emerging from a format in which text and map move in concert to advance historical argumentation.
    The Chinese Deathscape is published as part of Stanford University Press’ digital project series which aims to confer the same level of academic credibility on digital projects as academic print books receive. Innovative yet unostentatious, this platform sets new standards for combining interactive, scalable spatial exhibits with academic long-form narrative.
    Thomas S. Mullaney is Professor of Chinese History at Stanford University and a Guggenheim Fellow. Among many other projects, he runs his own Youtube channel.
    Luca Scholz is Lecturer in Digital Humanities at the University of Manchester (UK). His research focuses on European and spatial history. He tweets at @DrLucaScholz.
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  • Studies on marriage migration often portray marriage migrants as victims of globalization and patriarchy. Although there are intersecting oppressions among female migrant workers, the tendency to conflate marriage migration with sex trafficking among humanitarian organizations and scholars lead to erasure of divergent experiences.
    In her book, Elusive Belonging: Marriage Immigrants and "Multiculturalism" in Rural South Korea (University of Hawai’i Press, 2018), Minjeong Kim challenges this narrative by showing how the feeling of belonging eludes a simple binary between authenticity of love [read as inclusion] and exclusion. Through in-depth interviews with thirty-five Filipinas, twenty-five Korean husbands, and eight Korean community members, Kim explores emotional citizenship created between couples, in-law families, as well as the transnational network of Filipina migrants. As scholarship on citizenship and migration highlights the importance of emotions in creating communities and identities for migrants in their host countries, Kim shows how Filipina’s social identities, along with their locations, intersect with multiplicity of emotions to shape their belonging within diverse national, familial, and co-ethnic spaces. Through her rich ethnography of international marriage couples in rural South Korea, Kim reminds us of the danger of victim narrative that can flatten marriage migrants’ experiences, and offers us a new way of thinking about citizenship that is shaped by migrants themselves through a multiplicity of emotions.
    Minjeong Kim is Associate Professor and Department Chair of Sociology at San Diego State University. Her research areas include gender, family and international migration, as well as Asian American studies and the media.
    Da In Choi is a PhD student at UCLA in the Gender Studies department. Her research interests include reproductive justice movement, care labor and migration, affect theory, citizenship, and critical empire studies. She can be reached at dainachoi@g.ucla.edu.
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  • The breathless pace of China’s economic reform has brought about deep ruptures in socioeconomic structures and people’s inner landscape. Faced with increasing market-driven competition and profound social changes, more and more middle-class urbanites are turning to Western-style psychological counseling to grapple with their mental distress. Anxious China: Inner Revolution and Politics of Psychotherapy (University of California Press, 2020) offers an in-depth ethnographic account of how an unfolding “inner revolution” is reconfiguring selfhood, psyche, family dynamics, sociality, and the mode of governing in post-socialist times. Li Zhang shows that anxiety—broadly construed in both medical and social terms—has become a powerful indicator for the general pulse of contemporary Chinese society. It is in this particular context that Zhang traces how a new psychotherapeutic culture takes root, thrives, and transforms itself across a wide range of personal, social, and political domains.
    Suvi Rautio is a Course Lecturer at the University of Helsinki. As an anthropologist, her research seeks to deconstruct the social orderings of marginalized populations living in China to reveal the layers of social difference that characterize the nation today. She can be reached at suviprautio@gmail.com
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  • When you mention Japanese War crimes in World War Two, you’ll often get different responses from different generations. The oldest among us will talk about the Bataan Death March. Younger people, coming of age in the 1990s, will mention the Rape of Nanking or the comfort women forced into service by the Japanese army. Occasionally, someone will mention biological warfare.
    Frank Jacob has offered a valuable service by surveying Japanese mistreatment of civilians and soldiers comprehensively. His book, Japanese War Crimes during World War II: Atrocity and the Psychology of Collective Violence (Praeger, 2018), is short and doesn’t treat any event or issue in depth. But he offers a lucid and thorough evaluation of the literature and nuggets of additional insight. And he frames it with a thoughtful attempt to explain the conduct about which he is writing.
    If you’re looking for a deep dive into a particular topic, you’re not the audience Jacob had in mind. But this is a good place to come to grips with the broad picture of Japanese misconduct during the war.
    Kelly McFall is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Newman University. He’s the author of four modules in the Reacting to the Past series, including The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994, published by W. W. Norton Press.
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  • Ye Shitao was a Taiwanese public intellectual who rose to prominence in the second half of the twentieth century. His encyclopedic A History of Taiwan Literature was published in 1987, the same year that the island’s decades-long period of martial law came to an end. The book provides a thorough overview of the major themes and representative works of each stage in the development of Taiwanese literature from the days of the Qing Dynasty through the Japanese colonial period and the postwar era up to the 1980s.
    Each chapter of the book discusses the historical context necessary to understand the concerns and influences shared by writers in each period, and Ye comments on both major and less prominent writers. Rather than a critical study driven by a particular theoretical approach or a central argument, the book is structured as a comprehensive reference work designed to be inclusive and accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike.
    Thanks to the skillful translation work of Christopher Lupke (Professor of Chinese Cultural Studies, University of Alberta) this valuable resource is now available in English for the first time. In addition to the main text, Lupke also includes voluminous footnotes contributed by two Japanese scholars who specialized in Ye Shitao’s work. Lupke’s introduction adds contextual information about Ye Shitao himself, and the translator’s epilogue traces developments in the literature of Taiwan from the time of the book’s publication in 1987 to the present.
    A History of Taiwan Literature (Cambria Press, 2020) is an important resource for anyone interested in the intellectual, cultural, and political history of East Asia.
    Steve Wills is Associate Professor of History at Nebraska Wesleyan University and one of the hosts of the New Books in East Asia series.
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  • Political scientists Alan Chong and Quang Min Pham bring with their edited volume, Critical Reflections on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (Palgrave MacMillan, 2020), originality as well as dimensions and perspectives to the discussion about the Belt and Road that are highly relevant but often either unrecognized or underemphasized.
    The book is about much more than the material aspects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In fact, various chapter authors use the Belt and Road to look at perhaps the most fundamental issue of our times: how does one build a global world order and societies that are inclusive, cohesive and capable of managing interests of all stakeholders as well as political, cultural, ethnic and religious differences in ways that all are recognized without prejudice and/or discrimination?
    In doing so, the book introduces a moral category into policy and policy analysis. That is an important and commendable effort even if it may be a hard sell in an increasingly polarized world in which prejudice and bias and policies that flow from it have gained new legitimacy and become mainstream in various parts of the world.
    Nonetheless, it allows for the introduction of considerations that are fundamental to managing multiple current crises.
    One just has to look at the pandemic the world is trying to come to grips with, the need for a global health care governance that can confront future pandemics, and the world’s environmental crisis to realize the relevance of former Singaporean diplomat and public intellectual Kishore Mahbubani’s description of the nation state system as a boat with 193 cabins and cabin administrators but no captain at the helm.
    In his contributions to the book, Chong looks for answers in the experience of ancient Silk Road travellers. That may be a standard that a Belt and Road managed by an autocratic Chinese leadership that is anything but inclusive would at best struggle to meet.
    That does not detract from the book being an invaluable and unique contribution to a vast literature on the Belt and Road.
    Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. He is also a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, a globally syndicated column and blog.
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  • On July 1, 2020, China introduced a National Security Law into Hong Kong partly in an attempt to quell months of civil unrest, as a mechanism to safeguard China’s security. In this new book, China’s National Security: Endangering Hong Kong’s Rule of Law? (Hart, 2020), Cora Chan and Fiona de Londras bring together a host of internationally renowned authors who question whether a national security law will challenge Hong Kong’s rule of law, and the liberal ideals safeguarded in its legal system, which have become a mark of national identity and pride for many Hong Kongers.
    The book examines the question in three parts. Firstly, it considers whether national security poses a threat to Hong Kong’s rule of law, in particular, under the unique ‘One Country, Two Systems’ model. In the second part of the book, there is an examination of the sources of resilience in Hong Kong’s politico-legal culture, which may provide resistance to the erosion of the rule of law. In particular, authors examine administrative law, the judiciary, the legislature, and civil society. In the final section of the book, authors examine the limits and scope of national security legislation in Hong Kong, and consider how it should be interpreted in line with Hong Kong’s common law traditions.
    To understand the current political unrest in Hong Kong, this book is a must read. It is also essential for understanding China’s security concerns, and what this means for the rest of the world.
    Jane Richards is a doctoral candidate in Human Rights Law at the University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include disability, equality, criminal law and civil disobedience. You can find her on twitter @JaneRichardsHK where she avidly follows the Hong Kong’s protests and its politics.
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  • John W. Traphagan’s Cosmopolitan Rurality, Depopulation, and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in 21st-Century Japan (Cambria Press, 2020) presents a series of deeply contextualized ethnographies of small-business entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial ecosystem of contemporary rural Japan.
    Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, Japan has been experiencing an unprecedented decline in population that is expected to accelerate over the coming decades. Rural areas, in particular, have been at the cutting edge of this demographic transition as young people often out-migrate to urban areas to pursue education and career opportunities and to explore spaces and lifeways viewed as cosmopolitan and international. At the same time, some urbanites have decided to either return to the rural climes of their upbringing or move there for the first time to start small businesses. And rural communities have attempted to attract large projects, such as the International Linear Collider, that it is hoped will draw in new people, prevent younger people from out-migrating, and bolster local economies. A combination of individual and institutional entrepreneurial activities is changing the social and geographical landscape of rural Japan and reinventing that space as one that blends perceptions and experiences of the urban and rural, cosmopolitan and rustic.
    While there has been considerable research on rural Japan and numerous studies that focus on entrepreneurs, only limited attention has been paid to the intersection of entrepreneurial activities in rural Japan and the ways in which entrepreneurs more generally are contributing to the re-formation of rural space and place. This ethnographic study develops the concept of cosmopolitan rurality as a social and geographical space that cannot be characterized as either urban or rural nor as specifically cosmopolitan or rustic. In the "rural" Japan of the early twenty-first, as in many other parts of the industrial world, we see the emergence of a new type of social context forming a hybrid space of neo-rurality that brings together people and ideas reflecting local, national, and global frames of experience. One of the key drivers behind this hybrid space is expressed in entrepreneurial activities by locals to generate an entrepreneurial ecosystem that it is hoped can attract new people and ideas while retaining ideational and geographical elements associated with traditional values and spaces.
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  • For seventeen years, Chris Fenton served as the president of DMG Entertainment Motion Picture Group, a multi-billion-dollar global media company headquartered in Beijing. He has produced or supervised twenty-one films, grossing $2 billion in worldwide box-office.
    In his new book, Feeding the Dragon: Inside the Trillion Dollar Dilemma Facing Hollywood, the NBA, & American Business (Post Hill Press, 2020), Fenton shares not only his journey from waiting tables at the Olive Garden to producing some of the most recognizable Hollywood blockbuster movies. And, in the process, he discovers his diplomatic mission: connecting the US and China through commerce and culture:
    I felt a sense of mission that went far beyond box-office numbers. US-China relations were on the line. We all knew it. We had to make it work. But as an American, something bigger was at stake. We were pulling a rival country’s culture into our own. We were doing more than opening a market or making nice with China. We were bridging a cultural gap, making the world smaller, more stable, less contentious, and much safer. Failure would surely result in the opposite effect.
    Fenton conveys not only the regulatory obstacles that U.S. movies face when entering the Chinese market but also the cultural barriers. For the media to be successful in China, it needs to be relevant to Chinese audiences. But, while facing challenges in Asia, DMG also found trouble in the U.S. when the Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation of their dealings in China
    Like the blockbuster movies Fenton produces (and talks of a cinematic adaption of Feeding the Dragon are underway), this book has broad appeal. It is a gripping page-turner, a glimpse into the regulatory complexity of the Chinese entertainment market, and an introduction into what Fenton calls “film diplomacy.” Punctuated by succinct chapters, the book is an easy read, mixing a compelling story with rich insights.
    Like the blockbuster movies Fenton produces (and talks of a cinematic adaption are underway), Feeding the Dragon has broad appeal. It is a gripping page-turner, a glimpse into the regulatory complexity of the Chinese entertainment market, and an introduction into what Fenton calls “film diplomacy.” Punctuated by succinct chapters, the book is an easy read, mixing a compelling story with rich insights.
    Nick Pozek is Assistant Director of the Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law at Columbia University and a host of New Books in Law.
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  • Faith and Reason in Continental and Japanese Philosophy (Bloomsbury, 2019) by Takeshi Morisato is a book that brings together the work of two significant figures in contemporary philosophy. By considering the work of Tanabe Hajime, the Japanese philosopher of the Kyoto School, and William Desmond, the contemporary Irish philosopher, Takeshi Morisato offers a clear presentation of contemporary comparative solutions to the problems of the philosophy of religion. Importantly, this is the first book-length English-language study of Tanabe Hajime’s philosophy of religion that consults the original Japanese texts.
    Considering the examples of Christianity and Buddhism, Faith and Reason in Continental and Japanese Philosophy focuses on finding the solution to the problem of philosophy of religion through comparative examinations of Tanabe’s metanoetics and Desmond’s metaxology. It aims to conclude that these contemporary thinkers - while they draw their inspiration from the different religious traditions of Christianity and Mahayana Buddhism - successfully reconfigure the relation of faith and reason.
    The book marks an important intervention into comparative philosophy by bringing into dialogue these thinkers, both major figures within their respective traditions yet rarely discussed in tandem.
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  • As far back as we can see in the historical record, Buddhist monks and nuns have offered services including healing, divination, rain making, aggressive magic, and love magic to local clients. Studying this history, scholar Sam van Schaik concludes that magic and healing have played a key role in Buddhism’s flourishing, yet they have rarely been studied in academic circles or by Western practitioners. The exclusion of magical practices and powers from most discussions of Buddhism in the modern era can be seen as part of the appropriation of Buddhism by Westerners, as well as an effect of modernization movements within Asian Buddhism. However, if we are to understand the way Buddhism has worked in the past, the way it still works now in many societies, and the way it can work in the future, we need to examine these overlooked aspects of Buddhist practice.
    In Buddhist Magic: Divination, Healing, and Enchantment through the Ages (Shambala Publications, 2020), van Schaik takes a book of spells and rituals–one of the earliest that has survived–from the Silk Road site of Dunhuang as the key reference point for discussing Buddhist magic in Tibet and beyond. After situating Buddhist magic within a cross-cultural history of world magic, he discusses sources of magic in Buddhist scripture, early Buddhist rituals of protection, medicine and the spread of Buddhism, and magic users. Including material from across the vast array of Buddhist traditions, van Schaik offers readers a fascinating, nuanced view of a topic that has too long been ignored.
    Olivia Porter is a PhD candidate at Kings College London. Her research focuses on Tai Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar and its borders. She can be contacted at: olivia.c.porter@kcl.ac.uk
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  • In Japan, a country popularly perceived as highly secularized and technologically advanced, ontological assumptions about spirits (tama or tamashii) seem to be quite deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric. From ancestor cults to anime, spirits, ghosts, and other invisible dimensions of reality appear to be pervasive. In Spirits and Animism in Contemporary Japan (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), international scholars from various backgrounds consider together this “invisible empire” and highlight the “agency of the intangible.”
    The contributors of this edited volume approach spirits and animism in contemporary Japan from diverse perspectives. Satō Hiroo opens the book with a chapter on the transformation in Japanese visions of the afterlife, the status of the dead, and regional traditions of memorialization. Andrea De Antoni looks further into the ontology of spirits via an investigation into recent cases of spirit possession (tsuki, hyōi) that is treated at the Kenmi Shrine in Shikoku.
    Jason Josephson-Storm traces both the European and Japanese genealogies of theorizing “primitive” civilizations and their beliefs in spirits, magic, and an animated nature. In Fabio Rambelli’s chapter, a unique type of epistemological system for understanding the existence of spirits is introduced: Minataka Kumagusu’s “Minakata mandala,” which involves Buddhist philosophy, Western science, and an awareness of the Japanese folk tradition all at the same time.
    In Ellen Van Goethem’s chapter, she explores how and why there were widespread assumptions about how the city of Kyoto was animated by invisible agencies such as guardian spirits and the flow of qi (Jp. Ki). Carina Roth continues the discussion on enchanted landscapes by drawing our attention to “power spots” (pawā supotto) and “healing” forests as recent developments in contemporary Japanese religiosity.
    Focusing on the role of media in the public perceptions of new religious movements (NRMs) and their animistic positions, Ioannis Gaitanidis shows how the media paradoxically both helps to normalize animism as part of “traditional” Japanese culture while chastising animistic NRM’s egregious behaviors. Concerning spirits in modern Japanese fiction, another type of powerful media in contemporary Japanese society, Rebecca Suter identifies in her chapter a “fantastic hesitation” that authors take on, which opens doors to the “undecidability of reality” that seems to be a main gateway to the spirit world. Centering on the media arts scene in Japan, Mauro Arrighi in his chapter highlights how animism serves as one of the main creative sources for contemporary artists. Then, Jolyon Thomas turns our focus to anime and their depictions of humanity’s connection with nature. In doing so, he invites us to reflect on the term “animism” and how the spirits of anime are really rooted in late capitalist modernity with its attendant pleasures and woes. In the closing chapter, Andrea Castiglioni points out a growing tendency in recent Japanese films to focus on violent spirit entities (araburugami), rather than benign figures. He argues that this perhaps is related to the emergence of a new kind of national identity for Japan as a country that is uniquely able to control the unpredictability of nature and malignant invisible agencies.
    In this podcast episode, I spoke with the editor of this edited volume, Dr. Fabio Rambelli.
    Fabio Rambelli is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
    Daigengna Duoer is a PhD student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation researches on transnational and transregional Buddhist networks connecting twentieth-century Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Republican China, Tibet, and the Japanese Empire.
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  • What was the Cold War that shook world politics for the second half of the twentieth century? Standard narratives focus on Soviet-American rivalry as if the superpowers were the exclusive driving forces of the international system. Lorenz M. Lüthi, Associate Professor of History at McGill University in his new book Cold Wars: Asia, the Middle East, Europe (Cambridge UP, 2020), offers a radically different account, restoring agency to regional powers in Asia, the Middle East and Europe and revealing how regional and national developments shaped the course of the global Cold War. Despite their elevated position in 1945, the United States, Soviet Union and United Kingdom quickly realized that their political, economic, and military power had surprisingly tight limits given the challenges of decolonization, Asian-African internationalism, pan-Arabism, pan-Islamism, Arab–Israeli antagonism, and European economic developments. A series of Cold Wars ebbed and flowed as the three world regions underwent structural changes that weakened or even severed their links to the global ideological clash, leaving the superpower Cold War as the only major conflict that remained by the 1980s. While not everyone will necessarily agree with all aspects of this at times hyper-revisionist account of the conflict that we call the Cold War, scholars and lay person alike will be ultra-impressed by the wide range of this narrative history, as well as the breath of research displayed by Professor Luthi. In short this is a book that is required reading for anyone interested in, or specializing in the Cold War.
    Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for Chatham House’s International Affairs.
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  • Karl Gerth’s new book, Unending Capitalism: How Consumerism Negated China's Communist Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2020) details how the state created brands, promoted and advertised particular products, set up department stores, and facilitated the promotion of certain luxury consumer products (notably wristwatches, bicycles, and sewing machines)—all in the Mao era. Though not typically considered to be a period of Chinese history driven by consumerism, Gerth’s beautifully researched book shows how, in the early People’s Republic, the Communist Party expanded consumerism and built ‘state capitalism’, and the ferocity of consumer impulses and behaviors that followed.
    Challenging, provocative, and precisely written, Unending Capitalism is sure to appeal to anyone interested in modern Chinese history and histories of capitalism, as well as any readers looking for a book that uses some really fascinating sources to complicate the dominant narrative of China’s ‘socialist’ history.
    Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate at Harvard University. She works on Manchu language books and book history and loves anything with a good kesike in it. She can be reached at sbramaoramos@g.harvard.edu  
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  • While Tibetan Buddhism continues to face restrictions and challenges imposed by the state in contemporary China, it has in fact entered mainstream Chinese society with a growing middle-class and even celebrity following at the same time. In Tibetan Buddhism among Han Chinese: Mediation and Superscription of the Tibetan Tradition in Contemporary Chinese Society (Lexington Books, 2020), Dr. Joshua Esler sheds light on this recent development in Sino-Tibetan Buddhism that is gaining increasing momentum in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Drawing from more than eighty interviews with diverse interlocutors such as Tibetan Buddhist teachers, Han practitioners, and lay Tibetans, Dr. Esler shows how Tibetan Buddhism has been “superscribed” with new religious meanings and “re-mandalized” to include regions outside of geographical Tibet.
    Joshua Esler is a lecturer and researcher in Asian Studies at Sheridan College, Perth, Australia.
    Daigengna Duoer is a PhD student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation researches on transnational and transregional Buddhist networks connecting twentieth-century Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Republican China, Tibet, and the Japanese Empire.
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  • In China, chiles are everywhere. From dried peppers hanging from eaves to Mao’s boast that revolution would be impossible without chiles, Chinese culture and the chile pepper have been intertwined for centuries. Yet, this was not always the case.
    In The Chile Pepper in China: A Cultural Biography (Columbia University Press, 2020), Brian Dott explores the evolution of the chile pepper from an obscure foreign import to a ubiquitous plant regarded by most Chinese as native to the land. He details the myriad uses of chile peppers in late imperial China, not just as a central ingredient in Sichuanese cuisine, but also as a miraculous cure for (get this…) hemorrhoids. By the turn of the 20th century, the chile pepper had transformed itself into a powerful symbol of prosperity, virility, and passion.
    Brian joins us to discuss, among other things, the challenges of translating classical Chinese, the difficulty of locating primary sources and what the chile pepper meant to Mao Ze Dong.
    Brian R. Dott is associate professor of history at Whitman College. He is the author of Identity Reflections: Pilgrimages to Mount Tai in Late Imperial China (2004).
    Joshua Tham is an undergraduate reading History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His interests include economic history, sociolinguistics, and the "linguistic turn" in historiography.
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  • Shanghai’s status as a bustling, international place both now and in the past hardly needs much introduction, although the centrality of horse racing to the earlier incarnation of the city’s cosmopolitanism is less known. Taking activities at the erstwhile Shanghai Race Club as a lens through which to examine life in the city, Jay Carter’s Champions Day: The End of Old Shanghai (W W Norton) offers a rich and revealing portrait of multiple colourful lives lived in ‘Old Shanghai’, and their demises.
    Carter’s narrative moves elegantly between trackside life and events and characters in the wider city, depicting the colourful lives of Shanghai’s colonial settlers, Chinese residents and the dynamics of racism and exclusion as well as hybridisation which existed between them.
    The Champions Day races, it turns out are also not the only landmark event to transport us into worlds of these people, and by focusing our attention on a single day –12 November 1941 – Carter also gleans a wealth of detail from a posthumous birthday celebration for the founding father of Chinese nationalism, and a funeral procession for china’s wealthiest woman. Occurring on the same day as the marquee races, all these events in the author’s deft hands are windows into a world soon to disappear in a maelstrom of global events.
    James Carter, professor of history at Saint Joseph’s University, is the author of two previous books on Chinese history and is a Fellow of the National Committee on US-China Relations.
    Ed Pulford is a Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Manchester. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and northeast Asian indigenous groups.
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  • In June of 2019, a proposed amendment to Hong Kong’s Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, sparked widespread protests across the region. Protestors saw in the bill a threat to the judicial independence that Hong Kong has enjoyed since its return to China from the United Kingdom in 1997.
    The Special Administrative Region plunged into turmoil as disaffected youth combined the ideology the Arab Spring with their fluency in emerging digital tools to organize and mobilize a seemingly leaderless movement. The demonstrations which continue into 2020 have challenged the city’s government, universities, and communities and even test families and friendships.
    On the first anniversary of the beginning of this wave of anti-government protests, South China Morning Post released a new book Rebel City: Hong Kong's Year of Water and Fire (World Scientific, 2020) Rebel City presents some of the most comprehensive coverage of Hong Kong’s political unrest. Editors Zuraidah Ibrahim and Jeffie Lam masterfully weave together the perspectives gathered by the intrepid reporters of Hong Kong’s newspaper of record. The book is not only a carefully curated selection of contemporaneous news coverage, but it also offers thoughtful reflections and penetrating insight into a pivotal moment for Hong Kong.
    Nick Pozek is the Assistant Director of the Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law at Columbia University in the City of New York and a host of New Books in Law.
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  • The Mekong River is one of the world’s great rivers. From its source in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau it snakes down through southern China and then borders or runs through all the countries of mainland Southeast Asia: Myanmar, Thailand, Lao, Cambodia and Vietnam. Almost 70 million people depend either directly or indirectly on the Mekong for their livelihoods. It is the world’s largest inland freshwater fishery. It’s also a place of great ecological and human diversity. Until recently, the Mekong was one of the world’s least tamed rivers, but that has rapidly changed. In Last Days of the Mighty Mekong (Zed Book, 2019), Bryan Eyler documents the huge disruption, both to the Mekong’s ecosystem and to the lives of the people who depend on it, caused by rampant dam construction, tourism development, pollution, not to mention climate change.
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