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Hong Kong Noir

I’ve just landed in Hong Kong to do several different things, most of which fit into one of the three standard academic categories of activities. I’ll participate in an experimental class session connecting Hong Kong and American students via Skype (teaching); visit a local site associated with the topic of protest that I write about a lot (research); and speak about censorship at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club, drawing on my experiences as Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies during what some are calling the “China Quarterly Affair” (service). As I prepared for the trip, I pondered questions relating to these teaching, research, and service events, as well as the session of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival I’ll moderate, at which Ian Johnson will present material from his new book on the religious revival in China after Mao. Even more, though, I thought about two queries linked to a Literary Festival event that I’ll attend not as a teacher, ...

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Okinoshima, Japan’s Newly Minted UNESCO World Heritage Site

By Lindsey E. DeWitt On July 9, 2017, Japan received its twenty-first UNESCO World Heritage inscription, making a total of seventeen cultural sites and four natural sites (the full list can be accessed here). The newly designated UNESCO World Heritage site, “Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region,” features a solitary islet just four kilometers in circumference in the middle of the Genkai Sea, some sixty kilometers from the northern part of Kyushu Island. The decision marks the culmination of a nearly decade-long effort and puts a spotlight on the rich religious and cultural landscapes of Kyushu and the broader maritime sphere of the Korean peninsula and the continent. The island’s tiny size and remote location belies its great cultural and historical significance. Japan’s eighth-century chronicles Nihon shoki and Kojiki note Okinoshima as the abode of one of three female deities who descend from the sun goddess Amaterasu (the central deity of Jap ...

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The Cold War Never Ended: Historical Roots of the Current North Korea Crisis

By Suzy Kim With tensions at an all-time high between the United States and North Korea, the New York Times headlined its recent digital newsletter with Lies Your High School History Teacher Told You About Nukes. The basic point was to debunk the theory of “mutually assured destruction” that is often used to explain why the Cold War remained cold and did not result in a nuclear holocaust. The article argues that despite possessing a nuclear arsenal that guaranteed “mutually assured destruction,” both the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a costly arms race that attempted to outmaneuver the other with more numerous and powerful warheads, delivered with more precise and faster missiles. This happened not because they wanted to engage in actual nuclear warfare, but because of the threat that the other could “escape” mutually assured destruction, fight back, and win. This justified pursuing weaponry that could, in theory, take out the other side before it could ...

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Smartphone Baraka: Technological Transference

By James Edmonds Indonesians reach to touch Habib Syech’s hand, drink from his cup, and interact with his presence. I had already sat for several hours, gently sweating, as thousands of people arrived at an open-air building in Solo, Indonesia. The streets outside were full of pedestrians, cars, motorbikes, buses, and the smell of fried tofu. People pressed into the building; some took seats close to the front, while others went to the second level to rest after a long twelve-hour trek, and some stood, impatiently awaiting the arrival of the man they had come to see. Unceremoniously, Habib Syech bin Abdul Qodir Assegaf appeared. He began to walk through the crowds of people, heading toward the front of the building. Along the way, Habib Syech passed out small amounts of cash to the children, shook some hands, and slipped through the many others reaching to touch him. He eventually made it to the front of the building and sat down, immediately stoking the incense coals prepared for his arrival. Hab ...

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Typewriters, Slogans, and Sewing Machines—From SFO to Seoul and Back with the Journal of Asian Studies on My Mind

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom As Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies, as I prepare to go to the AAS Annual Conference (when our editorial board meets) or AAS-in-ASIA (where I hold “meet-the-editor” sessions), I spend some time thinking about the articles we have published recently and have in the pipeline. I did this before heading to Asia last month on a trip that began with a short stopover in Hong Kong and ended in Seoul at the AAS-in-ASIA meetings that Korea University did so well in hosting.   One thing that was different this time, though, was how often during the trip I saw things that made me think of JAS articles. In five dissimilar places, I was reminded of the following: an article from last year on the Umbrella Movement; two “Asia Beyond the Headlines” commentaries on recent events in South Korea that are coming out in November; and the two lead pieces in a forum on machines in East Asia that appeared in the same August 2016 issue as the essay on Hong Kong. Here’s ...

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