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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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#AsiaNow Speaks with Anna Stirr

Anna Stirr is Associate Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii, and author of Singing Across Divides: Music and Intimate Politics in Nepal, published by Oxford University Press and winner of the 2019 AAS Bernard S. Cohn prize for a first book on South Asia. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. My book is about the importance of a genre of Nepali sung poetry called dohori in the everyday social relations among different groups in Nepal today. Dohori is improvised, dialogic singing, in which a witty repartee of exchanges is based on poetic couplets with a fixed rhyme scheme, often backed by instrumental music and accompanying dance, performed between men and women, with a primary focus on romantic love. It has roots in multiple indigenous traditions of social exchange. It’s transgressive of dominant social norms, because it promotes love relationships that cross social divides—caste, class, ethnicity, religion. Despite this transgressiveness, it’s also ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Craig Clunas

Craig Clunas is Professor Emeritus of the History of Art, University of Oxford and author of Chinese Painting and its Audiences, published by Princeton University Press and winner of the 2019 AAS Joseph Levenson Pre-1900 Book Prize—Honorable Mention. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. The book is about the ways in which viewers, both inside and outside China, have acted over centuries to create the category now universally known as “Chinese painting.” So it’s about what was looked at, who got to do the looking, and how looking was understood as a cultural and social practice. It covers the period from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) to the 1970s, and it proceeds chronologically through a number of ideal “types” of viewer—The Gentleman, The Emperor, The Merchant, the Nation, The People. Of course in pre-1900 China itself what artists did was not called “Chinese painting,” it was just “painting,” so the long span tries to ...

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AAS 2019 Book Prizes

The AAS is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s book prize competitions and offer congratulations to the authors and presses. We encourage everyone to attend the Awards Ceremony at the upcoming AAS annual conference in Denver, CO on Friday, March 22, where the authors will be recognized and receive citations. Joseph Levenson Pre-1900 Book Prize (China) Jonathan Schlesinger, A World Trimmed with Fur: Wild Things, Pristine Places, and the Natural Fringes of Qing Rule, Stanford University Press Honorable Mention: Craig Clunas, Chinese Painting and Its Audiences, Princeton University Press Joseph Levenson Post-1900 Book Prize (China) Ching Kwan Lee, The Specter of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa, University of Chicago Press Honorable Mention: Thomas Mullaney, The Chinese Typewriter: A History, MIT Press John Whitney Hall Book Prize (Japan) Bryan D. Lowe, Ritualized Writing: Buddhist Practice and Scriptural Cultures in Ancient Japan, Unive ...

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Q&A with James L. Huffman, Author of “Down and Out in Late Meiji Japan”

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 ...

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Lhasa’s Departed Past

By David G. Atwill At dusk one evening in June 2012, I found myself staring up at the imposing main gate of Lhasa’s Grand Mosque. I had waited four years to procure the proper travel permit necessary for me to visit Lhasa and witness firsthand the people, places, and spaces I’d previously only been able to read about in my research on Tibetan Muslims (in Tibetan known as Khache). However, I was not the typical tourist and I had not requested the typical itinerary. My local Tibetan guide—a requirement for foreign visitors—was less than impressed. Rolling his eyes and not bothering to conceal his disdain, he asked, “Why are you even interested in Tibetan Muslims?” He went on to explain that in Tibet there were only Chinese Muslims, never Tibetan Muslims. I knew from my research that Lhasa in fact had been home to a Muslim community for over three hundred years and had multiple mosques, and that the Tibetan Muslims had influenced Tibetan literature, culture, and pol ...

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Excerpt: The Dream of East Asia

We are pleased to announce the publication of the second book in our new “Asia Shorts” series, The Dream of East Asia: The Rise of China, Nationalism, Popular Memory, and Regional Dynamics in Northeast Asia, by John Lie, C.K. Cho Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley. In this concise and engaging volume, Lie analyzes the standard sound-bite narratives that have come to dominate American and European ideas about East Asia and discusses how to move beyond these and arrive at a more historically informed and culturally nuanced understanding of the region. Below is the book’s “Overture,” in which Lie provides an overview of the argument he makes in the pages that follow. What do we talk about when we talk about East Asia? Breaking news and newspaper headlines, or blogs and tweets, transmit sensational stories of a turbulent region full of storm and stress. But the same stories appear and reappear in these scripts, with surprising uniformity. We are worried about China’s emer ...

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Q&A with Denise Y. Ho, Author of Curating Revolution: Politics on Display in Mao’s China

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 ...

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After 50 Years, “Marketing and Social Structure in Rural China” Remains a China Studies Classic

By Daniel Knorr G. William Skinner (1925-2008) was an anthropologist of China who taught at Cornell, Columbia, Stanford, and the University of California, Davis during his long and impressive career. President of the AAS in 1983, among Skinner’s many contributions to the field is a trio of articles that appeared in the Journal of Asian Studies in 1964-65, in which he set out his analysis of the social and economic networks connecting marketing towns in rural China. Skinner’s insights attracted such attention among China specialists that in 1974 the AAS published his JAS articles in a single volume, Marketing and Social Structure in Rural China. The book proved so popular that the association reprinted it five times over the next three decades. As Daniel Knorr explains in the short essay below, Skinner’s work remains one of the foundational texts for China studies and should be read (and re-read) by all scholars in the field. We are currently offering copies of the sixth reprint of Mark ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with the Translators of Zuo Tradition/Zuozhuan

Stephen Durrant, Wai-yee Li, and David Schaberg are translators of Zuo Tradition/Zuozhuan: Commentary on the “Spring and Autumn Annals,” published by the University of Washington Press and winner of the 2018 AAS Patrick D. Hanan Book Prize for Translation. Stephen Durrant is Professor of Chinese and Vice Provost for International Affairs at the University of Oregon; Wai-yee Li is Professor of Chinese Literature at Harvard University; and David Schaberg is Dean of Humanities and Professor of Asian Languages & Cultures at UCLA. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. This is an annotated translation of Zuozhuan (ca. 4th century BCE), a chronologically arranged text that tells of events spanning 255 years (722-468 BCE). Zuozhuan, the largest text to come to us from pre-imperial China, is a foundational text in the Chinese historical and literary tradition. Our translation includes a long introduction, extensive notes, and exegetical comments that explain how each passage s ...

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