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Maura Elizabeth Cunningham's Articles

The Politics of Compassion: An Interview with Bin Xu

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 ...

Meet the Future JAS Editor: A Q&A with Vinayak Chaturvedi

Earlier this year, the Association for Asian Studies began the search for a new Journal of Asian Studies editor, as current editor Jeff Wasserstrom’s second five-year term will conclude in June 2018. The search committee interviewed several applicants and from the finalists selected Vinayak Chaturvedi, associate professor of South Asian history at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Chaturvedi earned his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in 2001. He is the author of Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India (University of California Press, 2007), as well as numerous academic articles, and editor of Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial (Verso, 2012). He is currently finishing a book on a history of ideas of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar—the intellectual founder of Hindu nationalism.  Dr. Chaturvedi will become “JAS editor-in-training” in early 2018 and will officially take the reins of the journal on July 1, 2018. A week later, he will chair a special JAS&nb ...

Shaken Authority: An Interview with Christian Sorace

In the early afternoon of May 12, 2008, a devastating 7.9-magnitude earthquake ruptured the countryside of China’s southwestern Sichuan Province. More than 85,000 people died, including at least 5,000 children killed when their schools collapsed—victims of corruption on the part of local officials and building contractors, who had skimmed from the top of building funds and erected shoddy “tofu-dregs schoolhouses” that stood no chance against the earthquake’s might. In the first weeks following the quake, parents staged protests and called on the government to punish those deemed responsible for their children’s deaths. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) quickly moved to silence the outcries and control the narrative about the earthquake. Government propaganda and news stories steered attention away from the manmade disaster (renhuo) caused by corruption and focused instead on the natural disaster (tianzai) of the earthquake and the CCP’s leadership in rescue and recon ...

#AsiaNow Speaks with Anna M. Shields

Anna M. Shields is Professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton University and the author of One Who Knows Me: Friendship and Literary Culture in Mid-Tang China, published by Harvard Asia Center (2015) and winner of the 2017 AAS Honorable Mention for the Levenson Book Prize (pre-1900).   To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. My book explores mid-Tang [Dynasty] literature in order to understand the complex value mid-Tang writers discovered in friendship―as a rewarding social practice, a rich literary topic, a way to negotiate literati identity, and a path toward self-understanding. I look at the evolution of the performance of friendship in a wide range of genres, including letters, prefaces, exchange poetry, and funerary texts, and I translate and explicate dozens of texts. The book follows the life-course of mid-Tang literati men, from youthful competition in the exams through career vicissitudes to death and commemoration.   What inspired you to research this topic? I was ...

Animals, Anniversaries, Archives, and Food: A Few AAS 2017 Panels I Wish I Could Catch

The following is a revised and expanded version of an article that first appeared in the December 2016 E-Newsletter.   This is my first year working for the AAS rather than being an attendee at the annual conference. Although there are plenty of good things about my job, the one downside is that I most likely won’t have time to catch many panels. Still, old habits die hard, and as soon as the conference program arrived in my office I sat down and read through it—impressed, as usual, by the breadth and depth of the Asian Studies field.   Panel topics at AAS always cover an enormous range of time periods, geographic places, and academic fields of study. Some topics are perennial ones, discussed anew each decade in light of the latest archival discoveries or turn in scholarly perspective. Others, however, are less common, representing entire new sub-specialties or a periodic focus on events that otherwise do not receive a great deal of attention.   In looking over the panel sessi ...

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