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Excerpt: Opening to China, by Charlotte Furth

Charlotte Furth is Professor Emerita of History at the University of Southern California and previously taught at California State University, Long Beach. She is author of numerous academic articles and books, including A Flourishing Yin: Gender in China’s Medical History, 960-1665 (University of California Press, 1999), for which she received the “Women in Science” award from the History of Science Society. In 2012, the AAS honored Furth with its “Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies” award in recognition of her decades of service to the field. Furth earned her Ph.D. in Chinese history at Stanford University in 1965—an era when it was virtually impossible for Americans to travel to the People’s Republic. With the establishment of relations between the United States and PRC over the course of the 1970s, Furth and other scholars finally had the opportunity to spend time in the country they studied. She visited the PRC for the first time in 1976 on a two-week d ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Christopher Rea

Christopher Rea is Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature at the University of British Columbia and author of The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China, published by University of California Press and winner of the 2017 AAS Joseph Levenson Book Prize (Post-1900 China). To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. The book’s about how Chinese humor changed (and how it didn’t) in the modern age. It reconstructs the emergence of several comic cultures over about forty years, from the 1890s to 1933, the “Year of Humor.” Part of the story is about language, about how people started talking about what’s funny in new ways. It tries to convey how you can be funny in Chinese—and how people were, using modern technologies like cinema. Another part of the story is about cultural values, about how people in a tumultuous age used laughter as a barometer for what matters to the individual, to the group, and to humanity at large. I argue that irrev ...

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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 ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Hyun Ok Park

Hyun Ok Park is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at York University and author of The Capitalist Unconscious: From Korean Unification to Transnational Korea, published by Columbia University Press and recipient of the 2017 AAS James Palais Award Honorable Mention. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. This book presents a paradigm shift on Korean unification, which is an unresolved and volatile matter for the global order. Regime change in North Korea and economic engagement with it have developed into showdowns in national and international relations whenever the security of the Korean peninsula is threatened by North Korea’s missile tests and nuclear development or by the trail of its refugees. Based on extensive archival and ethnographic research, I argue, instead, that Korea is already unified by capital in a transnational form. The hegemonic democratic politics of the post-Cold War era (reparation, peace, and human rights) have consigned the rights of migrant l ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Sonal Khullar

Sonal Khullar is associate professor of art history at the University of Washington and author of Worldly Affiliations: Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930-1990, published by the University of California Press and winner of the 2017 AAS Bernard S. Cohn Prize. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. Worldly Affiliations traces the emergence of a national art world in twentieth-century India and emphasizes its cosmopolitan ambitions and orientations in contrast to previous studies that have highlighted postcolonial difference or deviation from Western norms. I focus on four Indian artists—Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941), Maqbool Fida Husain (1915-2011), K. G. Subramanyan (1924-2016), and Bhupen Khakhar (1934-2003)—and situate their careers within national and global histories of modernism and modernity. These artists challenged the canons, disciplines, schools, and institutions of British colonialism and Indian nationalism, thereby modeling what Edward Sai ...

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