Episodes

  • China’s communist revolution has an intricate relationship with gender and religion. In Enchanted Revolution: Ghosts, Shamans, and Gender Politics in Chinese Communist Propaganda, 1942-1953 (Oxford UP, 2023), Xiaofei Kang moves the two themes to the center stage in the Chinese Revolution. It examines the Communist Party’s first anti-superstition campaign in its wartime headquarters of Yan’an, the holy land of the Maoist revolution. The book argues that religion was not a mere adversary for the revolution; it also served as a model with which the Party mobilized support and constructed legitimacy. In its rise from rural backwaters to national dominance, the Party attacked “superstitions” that had supported the foundations of Chinese religious life. At the same time, Party propaganda co-opted the same religious resources for its own political ends. In this parallel and often paradoxical process, the persuasive power of Party propaganda relied heavily on recasting the cosmic forces of yin and yang that sustained the traditional gender hierarchy and ritual order. Furthermore, revolutionary art and literature revamped old narratives of female ghosts and ritual exorcism to inject the people with a new hegemonic vision of the Party-state endowed with both scientific potency and the heavenly mandate. Gendered language and symbolism in Chinese religion thus remained central to inspiring pathos, ethos, and logos for the revolution. The interplay of religion, gender, and revolution holds historical and contemporary significance of the Maoist legacy in contemporary China. It also offers insights into the transformative power of propaganda in global politics.
    Xiaofei Kang is Professor in the Department of Religion at the George Washington University. Her research focuses on gender, ethnicity, and Chinese religions in traditional and modern China. She is the author of The Cult of the Fox: Power, Gender, and Popular Religion in Late Imperial and Modern China (Columbia University Press, 2006). She co-authored (with Donald S. Sutton) Contesting the Yellow Dragon: Ethnicity, Religion and the State in the Sino-Tibetan Borderland (Brill, 2016), and co-edited (with Jia Jinhua and Ping Yao) Gendering Chinese Religion: Subject, Identity and Body (SUNY Press, 2014).
    Yadong Li is a PhD student in anthropology at Tulane University. His research interests lie at the intersection of the anthropology of state, the anthropology of time, hope studies, and post-structuralist philosophy. More details about his scholarship and research interests can be found here.
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  • Dr Pierce Salguero sits down with Dominic Steavu, a historian of Chinese religion and healing from UC Santa Barbara. We discuss the central role of the body in medieval Daoist practices, and talk about the Daoist use of psychedelics to facilitate mystical experiences. Along the way, we touch on talismanic tattoos, internal alchemy, and embodied nonduality. Plus, Dominic reveals what he thinks about aliens and the Wu-Tang Clan.
    Enjoy the conversation! And remember that not all of our episodes are distributed by NBN, so be sure to subscribe to Blue Beryl!
    Resources related to this episode:

    Christine Mollier, Buddhism and Taoism Face to Face (2009)

    Pierce’s blog “In defense of a little romanticism… or, how Mr Miyagi inspired me to become a professor”

    Pierce Salguero, Buddhish: A Guide to the 20 Most Important Buddhist Ideas for the Curious and Skeptical (2022)

    Dominic Steavu, The Writ of the Three Sovereigns: From Local Lore to Institutional Daoism (2020)

    Dominic Steavu, Transforming the Void: Embryological Discourse and Reproductive Imagery in East Asian Religions (2015)

    Dominic’s Academia.edu page


    Dr. Pierce Salguero is a transdisciplinary scholar of health humanities who is fascinated by historical and contemporary intersections between Buddhism, medicine, and crosscultural exchange. He has a Ph.D. in History of Medicine from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (2010), and teaches Asian history, medicine, and religion at Penn State University’s Abington College, located near Philadelphia. www.piercesalguero.com.
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  • In 1911, as China was beset with challenges, a new generation of scholars considered a new problem: what to do with former imperial borders? How could China’s frontiers be considered part of the new nation? In Frontier Fieldwork: Building a Nation in China’s Borderlands 1919–45 (UBC Press, 2022), Andres Rodriguez looks at how students, travellers, social scientists, anthropologists, and missionaries contemplated these problems as they took to the Sino-Tibetan frontier to do fieldwork.
    Focusing on the intimately human stories of these ‘frontier workers,’ Rodriguez examines how these scholars approached the frontier, created new knowledge, and redefined what both ‘frontier’ and ‘fieldwork’ meant. Frontier Fieldwork does a particularly beautiful job of exploring the complex identities of these fascinating fieldworkers, highlighting how some worked with the state, some pushed back, and some were only anthropologists by pure accident. It is sure to be of interest to historians, scholars of borderland studies, anthropologists, and those interested in a model for how you can write a history of empire-shaping events while keeping individuals at the center.
    Over the course of our conversation, Andres also mentioned:

    His article in Asian Ethnicity, “A ‘weak and small’ race in China’s southwest: Yi elites and the struggle for recognition in Republican China”

    The work of Gray Tuttle, in particular Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China (Columbia University Press, 2005)

    Dane Kennedy’s book, The Last Blank Spaces: Exploring Africa and Australia (Harvard University Press, 2015)


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  • Glynne Walley, translator of classic Japanese novel Hakkenden, joins us on the podcast again to talk about his second translated volume: Hakkenden, Part 2: His Master’s Blade (Cornell East Asia Series: 2024).Unlike Part 1—which is all preamble!—in Part 2 we meet some of the fabled eight dog warriors and the Confucian virtues they represent: Shino, for filial piety; Gakuzo, for duty; Dosetsu, for loyalty. There’s betrayal, drama…and a lot of secret, intertwined family relationships.Glynne Walley is an Associate Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of Oregon and author of Good Dogs: Edification, Entertainment & Kyokutei Bakin's Nansō Satomi hakkenden (Cornell East Asia Series, 2017), the first monograph-length study of Hakkenden, a landmark of premodern Japanese fiction.Today, Glynne and I talk about Part 2, how the novel connected to readers at the time—and how Hakkenden ends up being a lot like our Marvel Cinematic Universe.Catch our first interview with Glynne on Part 1 here!You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books. Follow on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.Nicholas Gordon is an editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/east-asian-studies

  • As an ethnography of a Japanese dairy farm while having theoretical values going beyond the specific context, Hokkaido Dairy Farm: Cosmopolitics of Otherness and Security on the Frontiers of Japan (SUNY Press, 2024) offers a historical and ethnographic examination of the rapid industrialization of the dairy industry in Tokachi, Hokkaido. The book begins with a history of dairy farming and consumption in Hokkaido from a macro perspective, mapping the transition from survival to subsistence and then from mixed family farms to monoculture and “mega” industrial operations. It then narrows the focus to examine concrete changes in a Tokachi-area dairying community that has undergone rapid sociocultural upheaval over the last three decades, with shifts in human relationships alongside changes in human and cow connections through new technologies. In the final chapters, the scope is further narrowed to a detailed history and ethnography of a single industrializing dairy farm and the morphing cast of individuals attached to it, centering on their idiosyncratic searches for economic, social, and even ontological security in what is popularly considered a peripheral region and industry. The culmination of over fifteen years of ethnographic, policy, and historical research, Hokkaido Dairy Farm argues that the dairy industry in Japan has always been entwined with notions of Otherness and security seeking, notably in terms of frontiers.
    Paul Hansen is professor in the Department of International Resource Sciences at Akita University in Japan. He is a socio-cultural anthropologist with a focus on Japan and Jamaica, social theory in relation to identity, affect, embodiment, posthumanism, cosmopolitan studies, ecology and animal-human-technology relationships. He is also interested in food and musicology. He is co-editor (with Blai Guarné) of Escaping Japan: Reflections on Estrangement and Exile in the Twenty-First Century (2018, Routledge).
    Yadong Li is a PhD student in anthropology at Tulane University. His research interests lie at the intersection of the anthropology of state, the anthropology of time, hope studies, and post-structuralist philosophy. More details about his scholarship and research interests can be found here.
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  • Since the mid-2000s, the Chinese state has increasingly shifted away from labor-intensive, export-oriented manufacturing to a process of socioeconomic development centered on science and technology. In The Gilded Cage: Technology, Development, and State Capitalism in China (Princeton University Press, 2023) Ya-Wen Lei traces the contours of this techno-developmental regime and its resulting form of techno-state capitalism, telling the stories of those whose lives have been transformed—for better and worse—by China’s rapid rise to economic and technological dominance. 
    Drawing on groundbreaking fieldwork and a wealth of in-depth interviews with managers, business owners, workers, software engineers, and local government officials, Lei describes the vastly unequal values assigned to economic sectors deemed “high-end” versus “low-end,” and the massive expansion of technical and legal instruments used to measure and control workers and capital. She shows how China’s rise has been uniquely shaped by its time-compressed development, the complex relationship between the nation’s authoritarian state and its increasingly powerful but unruly tech companies, and an ideology that fuses nationalism with high modernism, technological fetishism, and meritocracy. Some have compared China’s extraordinary transformation to America’s Gilded Age. This provocative book reveals how it is more like a gilded cage, one in which the Chinese state and tech capital are producing rising inequality and new forms of social exclusion.
    Ya-Wen Lei is professor of sociology at Harvard University, where she is affiliated with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.
    Caleb Zakarin is Editor at the New Books Network.
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  • The fascinating, untold story of how the Chinese language overcame unparalleled challenges and revolutionized the world of computing. A standard QWERTY keyboard has a few dozen keys. How can Chinese—a language with tens of thousands of characters and no alphabet—be input on such a device? 
    In The Chinese Computer: A Global History of the Information Age (MIT Press, 2024), Thomas Mullaney sets out to resolve this paradox, and in doing so, discovers that the key to this seemingly impossible riddle has given rise to a new epoch in the history of writing—a form of writing he calls “hypography.” Based on fifteen years of research, this pathbreaking history of the Chinese language charts the beginnings of electronic Chinese technology in the wake of World War II up through to its many iterations in the present day. Mullaney takes the reader back through the history and evolution of Chinese language computing technology, showing the development of electronic Chinese input methods—software programs that enable Chinese characters to be produced using alphanumeric symbols—and the profound impact they have had on the way Chinese is written. Along the way, Mullaney introduces a cast of brilliant and eccentric personalities drawn from the ranks of IBM, MIT, the CIA, the Pentagon, the Taiwanese military, and the highest rungs of mainland Chinese establishment, to name a few, and the unexpected roles they played in developing Chinese language computing. Finally, he shows how China and the non-Western world—because of the hypographic technologies they had to invent in order to join the personal computing revolution—“saved” the Western computer from its deep biases, enabling it to achieve a meaningful presence in markets outside of the Americas and Europe. An eminently engaging and artfully told history, The Chinese Computer is a must-read for anyone interested in how culture informs computing and how computing, in turn, shapes culture.
    Thomas S. Mullaney is Professor of Chinese History at Stanford University and a Guggenheim Fellow.
    Caleb Zakarin is Editor at the New Books Network.
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  • "What happened in Hong Kong is not an anomaly but a warning" - Hong Kong Human Rights defender Chow Hang Tung, speech written from prison upon receiving a human rights award.
    In our interview today, I spoke with Professor Michael C. Davis, author of Freedom Undone: The Assault on Liberal Values and Institutions in Hong Kong (AAS and Columbia UP, 2024). In his latest book, he writes about how one of the world's most free-wheeling cities has transitioned from a vibrant global center of culture and finance into an illiberal regime. We spoke about the progressive shifts towards authoritarian governance in Hong Kong's post-colonial period, leading up to the introduction of the National Security Law of 2020, and the rapid erosion of human rights and liberal freedoms since. Professor Davis explained the significance of Hong Kong's new domestic National Security Law, introduced last week, and its implications for the erosion of global democratic institutions globally. 
    Professor Michael C. Davis is a former long-time professor at the University of Hong Kong and prior to that at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he taught course on human rights and constitutional development. He is currently a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, a Senior Research Associate at the Weatherhead East Asia Institute at Columbia University, and a Professor of Law and International Affairs at O.P. Jindal Global University in India. He also enjoys research affiliations at New York University and the University of Notre Dame. 
    You can listen to our earlier interview, about Professor Davis' book, Making Hong Kong China: The Rollback of Human Rights and the Rule of Law (Columbia UP, 2020) here.
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  • The pursuit of antiquity was important for scholarly artists in constructing their knowledge of history and cultural identity in late imperial China. By examining versatile trends within paintings in modern China, this book questions the extent to which historical relics have been used to represent the ethnic identity of modern Chinese art. In doing so, this book asks: did the antiquarian movements ultimately serve as a deliberate tool for re-writing Chinese art history in modern China? 
    In searching for the public meaning of inventive private collecting activity, Appropriating Antiquity in Modern Chinese Painting (Bloomsbury, 2023) draws on various modes of artistic creation to address how the use of antiquities in early 20th-century Chinese art both produced and reinforced the imaginative links between ancient civilization and modern lives in the late Qing dynasty. Further exploring how these social and cultural transformations were related to the artistic exchanges happening at the time between China, Japan and the West, the book successfully analyses how modernity was translated and appropriated at the turn of the 20th century, throughout Asia and further afield.
    Prof. Chia-Ling Yang is the Personal Chair of Chinese Art and Programme Director of PhD and MScR in History of Art at The University of Edinburgh. 
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  • Missionary Diplomacy: Religion and Nineteenth-Century American Foreign Relations (Cornell University Press, 2024) illuminates the crucial place of religion in nineteenth-century American diplomacy. From the 1810s through the 1920s, Protestant missionaries positioned themselves as key experts in the development of American relations in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and the Middle East. Missionaries served as consuls, translators, and occasional trouble-makers who forced the State Department to take actions it otherwise would have avoided. Yet as decades passed, more Americans began to question the propriety of missionaries' power. Were missionaries serving the interests of American diplomacy? Or were they creating unnecessary problems?
    As Dr. Emily Conroy-Krutz demonstrates, they were doing both. Across the century, missionaries forced the government to articulate new conceptions of the rights of US citizens abroad and of the role of the US as an engine of humanitarianism and religious freedom. By the time the US entered the first world war, missionary diplomacy had for nearly a century created the conditions for some Americans to embrace a vision of their country as an internationally engaged world power. Missionary Diplomacy exposes the longstanding influence of evangelical missions on the shape of American foreign relations.

    This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose forthcoming book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.
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  • In an era where states and politicians regularly weaponize moral emotions to foment intergroup conflict and violence, understanding the dynamics of violent mobilization and state authority are more relevant than ever before. 
    In Righteous Revolutionaries: Morality, Mobilization, and Violence in the Making of the Chinese State (U Michigan Press, 2022), Javed illustrates how states appeal to popular morality—shared understandings of right and wrong—to forge new group identities and mobilize violence against perceived threats to their authority. Javed examines the Chinese Communist Party’s mass mobilization of violence during its land reform campaign in the early 1950s, one of the most violent and successful state-building efforts in history. Using an array of novel archival, documentary, and quantitative historical data, this book illustrates that China’s land reform campaign was not just about economic redistribution but rather part of a larger, brutally violent state-building effort to delegitimize the new party-state’s internal rivals and establish its moral authority. 
    Righteous Revolutionaries argues that the Chinese Party-state simultaneously removed perceived threats to its authority at the grassroots and bolstered its legitimacy through a process called moral mobilization. This mobilization process created a moral boundary that designated a virtuous ingroup of “the masses” and a demonized outgroup of “class enemies,” mobilized the masses to participate in violence against this broadly defined outgroup, and strengthened this symbolic boundary by making the masses complicit in state violence. This book shows how we can find traces of moral mobilization in China today under Xi’s rule.
    Jeffrey Javed received his PhD from the Department of Government at Harvard University. Before moving to tech, he was a Research Fellow and Research Director at the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan, where he studied mobilization, violence, and the role of morality in politics. He is currently a Staff Product Growth Researcher at Apollo.io.
    Yadong Li is a PhD student in anthropology at Tulane University. His research interests lie at the intersection of the anthropology of state, the anthropology of time, hope studies, and post-structuralist philosophy. More details about his scholarship and research interests can be found here.
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  • As Taiwan gains prominence on international headlines, often framed in terms of conflict with China, it’s easy to neglect the island nation’s human stories and nuances. Niki Alsford’s book Taiwan Lives: A Social and Political History (University of Washington Press, March 2024) aims to provide a more nuanced counterweight to the sensationalism and soundbites that come up in Anglophone discourse about Taiwan today.
    Through a carefully curated selection of 24 biographies — stretching across social divides and time periods, featuring everyone from priests to pop stars to presidents — Taiwan Lives tries to make Taiwan’s multilayered colonial history more accessible to English-language readers. Alsford, who’s a Professor in Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Central Lancashire, draws upon his background in historical anthropology and extensive Taiwan-related experience to highlight the shifts and shades of Taiwanese identity across the past few centuries. 
    Anthony Kao is a writer who intersects international affairs and cultural criticism. He founded/edits Cinema Escapist—a publication exploring the sociopolitical context behind global film and television—and also writes for outlets like The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The Diplomat, and Eater.
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  • In the sixteenth century, members of the Ouchi family were kings in all but name in much of Japan. Immensely wealthy, they controlled sea lanes stretching to Korea and China, as well as the Japanese city of Yamaguchi, which functioned as an important regional port with a growing population and a host of temples and shrines. The family was unique in claiming ethnic descent from Korean kings, and-remarkably for this time-such claims were recognized in both Korea and Japan. Their position, coupled with dominance over strategic ports and mines, allowed them to facilitate trade throughout East and Southeast Asia. They also played a key cultural role in disseminating Confucian texts, Buddhist sutras, ink paintings, and pottery, and in creating a distinctive, hybrid culture that fused Japanese, Korean, and Chinese beliefs, objects, and customs.
    Kings in All But Name: The Lost History of Ouchi Rule in Japan, 1350-1569 (Oxford UP, 2024) illustrates how Japan was an ethnically diverse state from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries, closely bound by trading ties to Korea and China. It reveals new archaeological and textual evidence proving that East Asia had integrated trading networks long before the arrival of European explorers and includes an analysis of ores and slag that shows how mining techniques improved and propelled East Asian trade. The story of the Ouchi rulers argues for the existence of a segmented polity, with one center located in Kyoto, and the other in the Ouchi city of Yamaguchi. It also contradicts the belief that Japan collapsed into centuries of turmoil and rather proves that Japan was a stable and prosperous trading state where rituals, policies, politics, and economics were interwoven and diverse.
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  • A brief stay in France was, for many Chinese workers and Chinese Communist Party leaders, a vital stepping stone for their careers during the cultural and political push to modernize China after World War I. For the Chinese students who went abroad specifically to study Western art and literature, these trips meant something else entirely. Set against the backdrop of interwar Paris, Paris and the Art of Transposition: Early Twentieth Century Sino-French Encounters (U Michigan Press, 2023) uncovers previously marginalized archives to reveal the artistic strategies employed by Chinese artists and writers in the early twentieth-century transnational imaginary and to explain why Paris played such a central role in the global reception of modern Chinese literature and art.
    While previous studies of Chinese modernism have focused on how Western modernist aesthetics were adapted or translated to the Chinese context, Angie Chau does the opposite by turning to Paris in the Chinese imaginary and discussing the literary and visual artwork of five artists who moved between France and China: the painter Chang Yu, the poet Li Jinfa, the art critic Fu Lei, the painter Pan Yuliang, and the writer Xu Xu. Chau draws the idea of transposition from music theory where it refers to shifting music from one key or clef to another, or to adapting a song originally composed for one instrument to be played by another. Transposing transposition to the study of art and literature, Chau uses the term to describe a fluid and strategic art practice that depends on the tension between foreign and familiar, new and old, celebrating both novelty and recognition—a process that occurs when a text gets placed into a fresh context.
    Angie Chau is Assistant Professor of Chinese Literature and Film at the University of Victoria.
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  • Between 1565 and 1815, the so-called Manila galleons enjoyed a near-complete monopoly on transpacific trade between Spain’s Asian and American colonies. Sailing from the Philippines to Mexico and back, these Spanish trading ships also facilitated the earliest migrations and displacements of Asian peoples to the Americas. Hailing from Gujarat, Nagasaki, and many places in between, both free and enslaved Asians boarded the galleons and made the treacherous transpacific journey each year. Once in Mexico, they became “chinos” within the New Spanish caste system.
    Dr. Diego Javier Luis chronicles this first sustained wave of Asian mobility to the early Americas. Uncovering how and why Asian peoples crossed the Pacific, he sheds new light on the daily lives of those who disembarked at Acapulco. There, the term “chino” officially racialized diverse ethnolinguistic populations into a single caste, vulnerable to New Spanish policies of colonial control. Yet Asians resisted these strictures, often by forging new connections across ethnic groups. Social adaptation and cultural convergence, Luis argues, defined Asian experiences in the Spanish Americas from the colonial invasions of the sixteenth century to the first cries for Mexican independence in the nineteenth.
    The First Asians in the Americas: A Transpacific History (Harvard University Press, 2024) speaks to an important era in the construction of race, vividly unfolding what it meant to be “chino” in the early modern Spanish empire. In so doing, it demonstrates the significance of colonial Latin America to Asian diasporic history and reveals the fundamental role of transpacific connections to the development of colonial societies in the Americas.

    This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose forthcoming book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.
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  • Japan's Holocaust: History of Imperial Japan's Mass Murder and Rape During World War II (Knox Press, 2024) combines research conducted in over eighteen research facilities in five nations to explore Imperial Japan's atrocities from 1927 to 1945 during its military expansions and reckless campaigns throughout Asia and the Pacific. This book brings together the most recent scholarship and new primary research to ascertain that Japan claimed a minimum of thirty million lives, slaughtering far more than Hitler's Nazi Germany. Japan's Holocaust shows that Emperor Hirohito not only knew about the atrocities his legions committed, but actually ordered them. He did nothing to stop them when they exceeded even the most depraved person's imagination, as illustrated during the Rape of Nanking as well as many other events. Japan's Holocaust will document in painful detail that the Rape of Nanking was not an isolated event during the Asian War but rather representative of how Japan behaved for all its campaigns throughout Asia and the Pacific from 1927 to 1945.
    Mass murder, rape, and economic exploitation was Japan's modus operandi during this time period, and whereas Hitler's SS Death's Head outfits attempted to hide their atrocities, Hirohito's legions committed their atrocities out in the open with fanfare and enthusiasm. Moreover, whereas Germany has done much since World War II to atone for its crimes and to document them, Japan has been absolutely disgraceful with its reparations for its crimes and in its efforts to educate its population about its wartime past. Shockingly, Japan continues, in general, to glorify is criminals and its wartime past.
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  • The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw the turbulent end of China’s imperial system, violent revolutionary movements, and the fraught establishment of a republican government. During these decades of reform and revolution, millions of far-flung “overseas Chinese” remained connected to Chinese domestic movements.
    Transpacific Reform and Revolution: The Chinese in North America, 1898-1918 (Stanford UP, 2023) uses rich archival sources and a new network approach to examine how reform and revolution in North American Chinatowns influenced political change in ChinaPo and the transpacific Chinese diaspora from 1898 to 1918. Historian Zhongping Chen focuses on the transnational activities of Kang Youwei, Sun Yat-sen, and other politicians, especially their mobilization of the Chinese in North America to join reformist or revolutionary parties in patriotic fights for a Western-style constitutional monarchy or republic in China. These new reformist and revolutionary parties, including the first Chinese women’s political organization, led transpacific movements against American anti-Chinese racism in 1905 and supported constitutional reform and the Republican Revolution in China around 1911, achieving transpacific expansion through innovative use of cross-cultural political ideologies and intertwined institutional and interpersonal networks. Through network analysis of the origins, interrelations, and influences of Chinese reform and revolution in North America, this book makes a significant contribution to modern Chinese history, Asian American and Asian Canadian history, and Chinese diasporic scholarship.
    Zhongping Chen is Professor of History at the University of Victoria. He is also the author of Modern China’s Network Revolution: Chambers of Commerce and Sociopolitical Change in the Early Twentieth Century (Stanford University Press, 2011). He has been working on several digital projects such as “Victoria’s Chinatown: A Gateway to the Past and Present of Chinese Canadians” and “Chinese Canadian Artifacts Project."
    Li-Ping Chen is a teaching fellow in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California. Her research interests include literary translingualism, diaspora, and nativism in Sinophone, inter-Asian, and transpacific contexts.
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  • With comics franchises getting turned into multi-billion dollar revenue opportunities and consumer technology companies dominating daily headlines — the trappings of “geekdom” have made their way into the global mainstream over the past few days. As part of this trend, Japanese-style anime has also gained immense transnational popularity, arguably becoming part of the “new cool”.
    It’s against this backdrop that Jinying Li dives into the sociocultural landscape of anime with her book Anime’s Knowledge Cultures: Geek, Otaku, Zhai (University of Minnesota Press, March 2024). However, instead of diving into the “Japaneseness” of anime and otaku culture, Anime’s Knowledge Cultures helps frame anime within a more globalized sense of “geekdom” — especially with the rise of post-80s millennial zhai in China’s cultural and economic spheres.
    Li is an Assistant Professor of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. Her research and teaching focuses on media theory, animation, and digital culture in East Asia. She is also a filmmaker who’s worked on various animations, features, and documentaries, including the noted Chinese 2016 animation feature Big Fish and Begonia.
    With this academic and domain expertise, Li’s book illuminates phenomena like fansubs, danmaku “bullet-style” subtitles, and geek “complexes” to audiences who are interested in the theoretical and practical implications of anime’s global popularity. Tune into this episode about Anime’s Knowledge Cultures to learn more—listen to the end for some special anime and movie recommendations.
    Anthony Kao is a writer who intersects international affairs and cultural criticism. He founded/edits Cinema Escapist—a publication exploring the sociopolitical context behind global film and television—and also writes for outlets like The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The Diplomat, and Eater.
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  • Japan is often imagined as a nation with a long history of whaling. In The Gods of the Sea: Whales and Coastal Communities in Northeast Japan, c.1600-2019 (Cambridge UP, 2023), Fynn Holm argues that for centuries some regions in early modern Japan did not engage in whaling. In fact, they were actively opposed to it, even resorting to violence when whales were killed. Resistance against whaling was widespread especially in the Northeast among the Japanese fishermen who worshiped whales as the incarnation of Ebisu, the god of the sea. Holm argues that human interactions with whales were much more diverse than the basic hunter-prey relationship, as cetaceans played a pivotal role in proto-industrial fisheries. The advent of industrial whaling in the early twentieth century, however, destroyed this centuries-long equilibrium between humans and whales. In its place, communities in Northeast Japan invented a new whaling tradition, which has almost completely eclipsed older forms of human-whale interactions. This title is also available as Open Access.
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  • In December 1937, the Chinese capital, Nanjing, falls and the Japanese army unleash an orgy of torture, murder, and rape. Over the course of six weeks, hundreds of thousands of civilians and prisoners of war are killed. At the very onset of the atrocities, the Danish supervisor at a cement plant just outside the city, 26-year-old Bernhard Arp Sindberg, opens the factory gates and welcomes in 10,000 Chinese civilians to safety, beyond the reach of the blood-thirsty Japanese. He becomes an Asian equivalent of Oskar Schindler, the savior of Jews in the European Holocaust.
    Bernhard Sindberg: The Schindler of Nanjing (Casemate, 2024) follows Sindberg from his childhood in the old Viking city of Aarhus and on his first adventures as a sailor and a Foreign Legionnaire to the dramatic 104 days as a rescuer of thousands of helpless men, women, and children in the darkest hour of the Sino-Japanese War. It describes how after his remarkable achievement, he receded back into obscurity, spending decades more at sea and becoming a naturalized American citizen, before dying of old age in Los Angeles in 1983, completely unrecognized. In this respect, too, there is an obvious parallel with Schindler, who only attained posthumous fame.
    The book sets the record straight by providing the first complete account of Sindberg's life in English, based on archival sources hitherto unutilized by any historian as well as interviews with surviving relatives. What emerges is the surprising tale of a person who was average in every respect but rose to the occasion when faced with unimaginable brutality, discovering an inner strength and courage that transformed him into one of the great humanitarian figures of the 20th century and an inspiration for our modern age, demonstrating that the determined actions of one person--any person--can make a huge difference.
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