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#AsiaNow Speaks with Cynthia Talbot

Cynthia Talbot is Professor of History & Asian Studies at the University Of Texas at Austin and author of The Last Hindu Emperor: Prithviraj Chauhan And The Indian Past, 1200-2000, published by Cambridge University Press and winner of the 2018 AAS Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. My book traces how, and by whom, the Indian ruler Prithviraj Chauhan has been remembered since his death in the late twelfth century. Because he was defeated in battle by an Afghan king whose generals went on to establish the Delhi Sultanate, in modern times Prithviraj Chauhan has often been called “the last Hindu emperor” of North India. Even earlier, Indo-Persian historians regarded the conquest of Prithviraj Chauhan as a milestone in the rise of “Muslim” dynasties—polities led by men of Central Asian or Afghan descent and Islamic faith—in the subcontinent. The majority of the book focuses on a few key texts and critical moments ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Tom Cliff

Tom Cliff is an Australian Research Council DECRA Research Fellow at the Australian National University and author of Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang, published by the University of Chicago Press and winner of the 2018 AAS E. Gene Smith Book Prize (Inner Asia). To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. Oil and Water is about the experience of being Han in Xinjiang. It is about the experience of being a second-generation colonial settler in the 20th and 21st centuries—in a world that is supposedly post-colonial. It is about being born, living your whole life, and feeling at home in a place that is not “home” to your forebears or “home” to the political and cultural institutions that shape your life. The book, therefore, is also about those political and cultural institutions, and the way that they are shaped by the people who make them up and their location on the quintessential frontier of modern China. What inspired you to research this topic? I formed thi ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Walter Hakala

Walter Hakala is Associate Professor in the Asian Studies Program and Department of English at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, and author of Negotiating Languages: Urdu, Hindi, and the Definition of Modern South Asia, published by Columbia University Press. He is the recipient of an Honorable Mention for the 2018 AAS Bernard Cohn Book Prize for a first book on South Asia. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. Negotiating Languages explores the role of lexicographers (those who compile dictionaries) in the emergence of Urdu as a language of literature and state in South Asia. Modern Standard Hindi and Urdu are unusual in that they share the same grammar and, in ordinary spoken language, a common vocabulary. I argue that dictionaries were an important means through which elites were able to articulate and, occasionally, resist, the bifurcation of this single language on the basis of script (Arabic and Devanagari), vocabulary (Perso-Arabic and Sanskrit), and, increasingly, religion (Muslim an ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Nathaniel Roberts

Nate Roberts is Research Fellow at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies, University of Göttingen, and author of To Be Cared For: The Power of Conversion and Foreignness of Belonging in an Indian Slum, published by University of California Press and winner of the 2018 AAS Bernard S. Cohn Prize for a first book on South Asia. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. The book is about a community of women and men living under conditions of profound poverty and exclusion from the dominant national society. They were called Paraiyars (“Pariahs”), but they said this was just a label others had put on them, and that in reality that had no caste. I begin with their experience of rejection by their own countrymen, and the moral sense they try to make of it. For them, caste is the denial of common humanity and the refusal of care; against it they posed an alternative moral vision based on human vulnerability and the obligation to care for those in need. Yet even within the slum communit ...

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The Social Network: Lisu Use Digital Media to Find Each Other and Preserve Their Culture

Lisu (identified by patchwork bags, and man wearing blue shirt) wait in line for the bank to open on a very chilly morning in Fugong, China. Photo: Mark Goldschmidt By Michele Zack In the mid-1980s, I was a budget tourist on a hill tribe trek far from roads or electricity in Northern Thailand. There, I first encountered the Lisu—adaptable, egalitarian highlanders scattered in corners of China, Myanmar, and Thailand (tiny populations also live in India and Laos). I picked up with the group again in the 1990s when—by then based in Thailand—I wrote a popular ethnography of Lisu living in three nation-states with three different political systems. That book never saw print, but a new publisher 15 years later agreed to take up the project when still no book about Lisu had been published. I proposed to update the original work with a new longitudinal angle. Thirty years after first meeting members of the Lisu community, I have finally published The Lisu: Far from the Ruler (University Press of ...

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