Posted on 4/30/2019 10:00 AM By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
When did “madness” become transformed into “mental illness”? How did this affect the treatment of those afflicted by such conditions? And how did it change the way those deemed mad—or mentally ill—were viewed by their families, as well as by the state, society, and medical professionals around them? Historian Emily Baum, associate professor at the University of California, Irvine, considers these questions in her recent book, The Invention of Madness: State, Society, and the Insane in Modern China (University of Chicago Press, 2018). In her work, Baum examines how people’s understandings of madness and mental illness changed in early 20th-century China and how treatment of those afflicted with such conditions moved from the home to different types of institutions.
Focusing on the city of Beijing, Baum explores how doctors, government officials, social workers, and ordinary people all participated in the transformation of ideas about madness during the first decades ...
Posted on 10/30/2018 9:00 AM By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
James L. Huffman is Professor Emeritus of Japanese history at Wittenberg University and the 2017 recipient of the AAS Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies award. A journalist-turned-scholar, Huffman is author of several studies of the history of journalism in Japan, as well as Japan in World History (Oxford University Press, 2010), Modern Japan: A History in Documents (Oxford University Press, second edition 2010), and Japan and Imperialism: 1853–1945 (AAS “Key Issues in Asian Studies” series, second edition 2017).
Huffman’s latest book, Down and Out in Late Meiji Japan, was published earlier this year by University of Hawai’i Press. In this wide-ranging work, Huffman examines the lived experiences of the hinmin (urban poor) during the last decades of the Meiji Era (1868–1912), a time when Japan saw enormous growth in both wealth and poverty as the country industrialized. Near the end of the 19th century, hundreds of thousands of rural residents fled rising taxes ...
Posted on 7/5/2018 11:00 AM By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
Political scientists Lee Morgenbesser (Griffith University, Australia) and Meredith L. Weiss (University at Albany, SUNY) have collaborated on a new article for Asian Studies Review, “Survive and Thrive: Field Research in Authoritarian Southeast Asia.” In this helpful survey, Morgenbesser and Weiss provide an overview of the challenges that researchers—particularly those new to the field, such as graduate students—can encounter as they conduct fieldwork in countries under authoritarian regimes where civil liberties and political rights are not guaranteed. Offering useful advice and examples from their own time in the field, Morgenbesser and Weiss have prepared a guide that should be read by all new researchers who anticipate similar constraints, regardless of their academic field or country of specialization.
To learn more about their work, I interviewed Lee Morgenbesser and Meredith L. Weiss by email for #AsiaNow.
MEC: You note at the outset of your article that scholarship ...
Posted on 5/29/2018 9:00 AM By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
Denise Y. Ho is assistant professor of history at Yale University and a specialist in modern China. She recently published her first book, Curating Revolution: Politics on Display in Mao’s China (Cambridge University Press, 2018), an examination of the exhibitionary culture of the People’s Republic between 1949 and 1976. In Curating Revolution, Ho explores different ways that exhibitions brought revolution to the masses and taught Chinese Communist Party (CCP) narratives about the past, present, and future to them.
The six case studies of Curating Revolution are all located in Shanghai—itself a living exhibition, a former treaty port undergoing a socialist transformation under CCP oversight, and thus the embodiment of the contrast between the pre-1949 Old Society and Mao’s New China. Visitors to Zhabei District’s Fangua Lane, for example, toured both thatch huts that had provided shelter to the area’s dwellers in the late 1940s and modern five-story apartment buildings c ...
Posted on 5/10/2018 9:00 AM By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
Since joining the AAS staff in late 2016, I’ve noticed that the question I hear most frequently from association members is “When are we going back to Hawaii?” The 2011 conference in Honolulu, a joint meeting with the International Convention of Asia Scholars, attracted over 5,000 participants and exhibitors and remains an AAS highlight for both attendees and staff.
Trust me—my Secretariat colleagues and I are just as eager to return to the Waikiki beaches as you are. But the decision of where to hold our annual conference is a complicated one and involves weighing multiple variables, not all of them obvious. For a future AAS conference to be held in Hawaii—or New York, or Austin, or any of the other locations our members ask for—a lot of stars need to come into alignment.
(I should note that the process described below only applies to our North American conference; the site selection for AAS-in-Asia depends far more on finding a strong local university to serve a ...
Posted on 3/15/2018 5:00 PM By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
My first time attending an AAS conference was in 2010, when I was a second-year PhD student, and I’ve only missed two since then. Even before I began working for the association, I frequently told people that AAS is my favorite scholarly meeting: it’s my intellectual home and also gives me the chance to catch up with friends whom I might only see once every few years.
But much as I enjoy AAS, I’ve also found that it’s easy to burn out before the conference is half over (this is especially true if, like me, you’re an introvert—four days of social interactions can be wearing). There are plenty of guides out there that offer advice on conference networking, presenting, and other professionalization topics, so I won’t duplicate those recommendations here. Instead, I’m sharing a few tips and strategies that I’ve developed over the years to keep my energy levels high throughout the weekend and thus have the best AAS experience possible:
1. Pack lots of snac ...
Posted on 3/6/2018 11:00 AM By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
For scholars of Asian Studies, no trip to Washington, D.C. is complete without a visit to the Freer|Sackler, the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art. We anticipate that many AAS 2018 conference attendees will make time to hop on the Metro and ride down to the National Mall, where they will find a newly renovated Freer|Sackler and a number of special exhibits.
The Smithsonian Metro stop is practically on the doorstep of the Freer Gallery of Art, which houses a permanent collection assembled by Detroit industrialist Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919). Freer had diverse artistic interests, and the Freer Gallery displays works from China, Korea, Japan, the Islamic World, and South Asia. The Freer is also home to the spectacular Peacock Room, designed for a London mansion in the 1870s by James McNeill Whistler and later transported to the United States by Freer.
A connecting passage links the Freer Gallery with the below-ground Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (entrance to the Sackler is also possible via the pavi ...
Posted on 12/18/2017 10:38 AM By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
Michael Meyer’s 2008 debut book, The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed, recounted his time spent living in the crowded hutong alleyways of China’s capital during the run-up to that year’s Olympics. In 2015, he published In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, which picked up Meyer’s story as he moved to his wife’s hometown in the countryside and immersed himself in the history of the country’s northeast region. In a new book, The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up, Meyer circles back to his first days in China, when he arrived in 1995 as a 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer who couldn’t use chopsticks, spoke no Chinese, and “knew little about the country beyond the Great Wall, pandas, one billion people, fortune cookies, and the indelible image of a man standing in front of a tank.”
The Road to Sleeping Dragon follows Meyer as he finds his footi ...
Posted on 11/9/2017 9:00 AM By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
Official state media reports in China frequently speak of how the Communist Party-led government has “lifted 700 million people out of poverty” since implementing economic reforms in the late 1970s. Yet there are still millions of people in the country who struggle to maintain long-term employment and constantly teeter on the edge of a financial cliff.
Dibao, or the Minimum Livelihood Guarantee, is a government program intended to help its recipients step back from the edge of that cliff. By distributing cash payments to those who qualify, Dibao is meant to provide China’s poorest citizens with the funds to cover their basic expenses during periods of un- or under-employment. First implemented in Shanghai in 1993, Dibao was expanded to all urban areas in 1999 but has only been available to rural residents since 2007; there are now approximately 60 million people receiving welfare payments through the program.
AAS Member Qin Gao, a professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work ...
Posted on 9/28/2017 12:00 PM By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
After a devastating earthquake hit China’s southwestern Sichuan Province on May 12, 2008, thousands of volunteers left their homes in other parts of the country and traveled to Sichuan to help victims of the quake. This outpouring of assistance surprised many Chinese, who for years had lamented about a perceived moral vacuum and lack of compassion in their society. As Emory University sociologist Bin Xu explains in his new book, The Politics of Compassion: The Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China (Stanford University Press), the 2008 earthquake threw a spotlight on civic engagement in the country, bringing non-governmental organizations and social networks that had previously been little-known onto the national stage.
Xu has spent years investigating the dimensions of this civic engagement, first joining the volunteers as a participant-observer and subsequently conducting interviews with those who stepped forward to assist in Sichuan’s recovery from the earthquake. In The Politi ...
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