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From category archives: #AsiaNow

The Other Milk: A Q&A with Historian Jia-Chen Fu

In the 1980s, American children were subject to a deluge of advertising punctuated by the tagline “Milk: It Does a Body Good.” The campaign, funded by the dairy industry, encouraged kids to drink milk by emphasizing its contributions to physical development—the calcium and protein contained in the beverage, the ads stated, would help youths grow into big, strong, healthy adults. This ad campaign could have just as easily been dreamed up by nutritional activists in 1920s China, though they would have put a patriotic twist on the slogan: “Milk: It Does a National Body Good.” As Emory University historian Jia-Chen Fu shows in her new book, The Other Milk: Reinventing Soy in Republican China (University of Washington Press, 2018), Chinese nutritional scientists and child welfare advocates held a fervent belief in the power of milk. Worried that the country’s children lagged behind those of the United States and Europe in respect to physical growth and strength, nutrition sci ...

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Q&A with Jennifer Altehenger, Author of Legal Lessons

Jennifer Altehenger is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Chinese History at King’s College London (Associate Professor in Chinese History at the University of Oxford from September 2019) and author of Legal Lessons: Popularizing Laws in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1989 (Harvard University Asia Center, 2018). In Legal Lessons, Altehenger surveys how knowledge about the law was disseminated among ordinary people in Beijing and Shanghai between the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 and the mass demonstrations and brutal crackdown of 1989. In the early 1950s, she explains, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) quickly implemented a new legal regime for the PRC, one of many ways that it sought to establish a definitive break between the “New China” and the “old society” that had come before. Though China’s leadership asserted that the country’s new laws were created by and for its citizens, most people in fact knew very little ab ...

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“The Invention of Madness”: A Q&A with Historian Emily Baum

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 ...

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Excerpt – “Indonesia: History, Heritage, Culture”

The newest volume in the AAS “Key Issues in Asian Studies” series of short texts for the undergraduate classroom is Indonesia: History, Heritage, Culture, by Kathleen M. Adams (Loyola University Chicago). In this book, Adams offers readers an overview of Indonesia’s history from 1.5 million years ago through the present day, examining how trade, colonialism, religion, and nationalism have affected and shaped the archipelago over millennia. In pointing out moments of uncertainty and contingency, Adams draws students’ attention to the unexpected ways in which a group of islands has cohered into the world’s fourth most-populous nation. Adams opens each chapter of Indonesia: History, Heritage, Culture with a focal image or artifact from which the chapter’s narrative flows. In the excerpt below, a photograph of one of Indonesia’s oldest mosques offers a starting point for a discussion of the arrival and spread of Islam across the islands. Today we know Indonesia ...

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Excerpt: “A Friend in Deed”

AAS Publications is pleased to announce the release of A Friend in Deed: Lu Xun, Uchiyama Kanzō, and the Intellectual World of Shanghai on the Eve of War, by Joshua A. Fogel. In this volume from our “Asia Shorts” series, Fogel, a professor of history at York University (Toronto) and specialist in Sino-Japanese relations, examines the friendship between leading Chinese author Lu Xun (1881–1936) and Uchiyama Kanzō (1885–1959), a prominent Japanese bookstore owner in Shanghai. The two men met at Uchiyama’s store in 1927, and Lu Xun quickly became a near-daily visitor; on days when he didn’t show up to sit and chat with others in the bookstore, Uchiyama would visit Lu Xun’s residence to check on the writer. Over the nine years of their friendship, Uchiyama assisted Lu Xun in finding safe houses numerous times as he evaded arrest warrants and the threat of assassination from both the Nationalists and Japanese authorities in Shanghai. The pair collaborated on exhibitions of ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Lisandro E. Claudio

Lisandro E. Claudio is Associate Professor at the College of Liberal Arts, De La Salle University, Manila and author of Liberalism and the Postcolony: Thinking the State in 20th-Century Philippines, published by NUS, Kyoto and Ateneo de Manila University Presses and winner of the 2019 AAS George McT. Kahin Prize. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. It’s a history of liberalism in 20th-century Philippines told through the lives of four scholar-bureaucrats. Through these biographies, I examine liberal thought in various fields from literary theory, pedagogy, economics, and diplomacy. What inspired you to research this topic? There had never been a history of liberalism in the Philippines, and I felt it was about time. Also, while it is important to write histories of Southeast Asia from below, it is also important to look at how elites shape national and political discourse. What obstacles did you face in this project? What turned out better and/or easier than you expec ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with James Rush

James Rush is Professor of History at Arizona State University and author of Hamka’s Great Story: A Master Writer’s Vision of Islam for Modern Indonesia, published by the University of Wisconsin Press and awarded Honorable Mention for the 2019 AAS George McT. Kahin Book Prize. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. The book is about the discourse of Islam and modernity in the formative years of Indonesia. From the 1930s through the 1970s, Hamka, aka Haji Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah, engaged actively (one might say hyperactively) in public discussions about the role of Islam in shaping the new society then emerging in late-colonial Indonesia and the early years of independence. An autodidact writing in multiple popular genres and an avowed Islamic modernist, Hamka envisioned a society that simultaneously embraced modern Western learning, the nation of Indonesia, and the abiding Truth and guiding moral compass of Islam—to him a liberating religion that embraced human agenc ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Jonathan Schlesinger

Jonathan Schlesinger is Associate Professor of History at Indiana University and author of A World Trimmed with Fur: Wild Things, Pristine Places, and the Natural Fringes of Qing Rule, published by Stanford University Press and winner of the 2019 AAS Joseph Levenson Pre-1900 Book Prize. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. The book examines the environmental history of Qing Manchuria and Mongolia during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Using Chinese-, Manchu-, and Mongolian-language archives, I show that unprecedented commercial expansion and a rush for natural resources not only transformed the Qing empire’s frontiers in this period, but generated new anxieties at court about the environment. The book focuses in particular on the rushes for furs, freshwater pearls, and steppe mushrooms. In each case, the court responded to environmental pressures with attempts to repatriate undocumented migrants accused of destroying the land; investigate their Manchu and Mon ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Bryan D. Lowe

Bryan D. Lowe is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University and author of Ritualized Writing: Buddhist Practice and Scriptural Cultures in Ancient Japan, published by University of Hawai’i Press and the Kuroda Institute for the Study of Buddhism and winner of the 2019 AAS John Whitney Hall Book Prize. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. The book studies how and why people transcribe Buddhist scripture in ritualized ways. I trace how scribes often engaged in purification practices prior to and while copying texts and how patrons sponsored dedication ceremonies upon completion. They did this based on an idea that reproducing Buddhist texts could create merit capable of saving the damned and bringing benefits to the living. I argue that ritual practice represents one way that humans transform a particular body of texts into scripture—works set apart as uniquely special, venerable, and powerful. But the book is also a rethinking ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Stuart Robson

Stuart Robson is an Adjunct Professor in Indonesian Studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and is author of The Old Javanese Ramayana; A New English Translation, published by the Institute of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA) within the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Tokyo, in 2015, and winner of the AAS A.L. Becker Southeast Asian Literature in Translation Prize for 2019. What is the book about? As you will know, the Ramayana is a famous classic of world literature, originating from India and existing in a number of different versions. The present version is a literary one (that is, as distinct from folk), written in the Old Javanese language and dating from the second half of the 9th century and the early decades of the 10th century, and composed in Java. It follows the plot of the Sanskrit Valmiki version, but is an independent work of literature, with its own special qualities. Unfortunately the name of the author is unknown. Being an epic, it is hundreds o ...

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