Asian History Carnival #3

Welcome to the third Asian History Carnival!

It’s traditional for blog carnivals to have some kind of internal organization…. Heh.

Media and Popular Culture
We’ve got a particularly high profile today, because an Asian History Film just won three Oscars, though being the awards for Art Direction, Cinematography, and Costume, we might as well still be laboring in obscurity. Memoirs of a Geisha was long on style, but Emma in Sydney sums up the movie in verse and suggests why the movie won no awards for content. I still haven’t seen a review of the film by an historian, and I’m not volunteering.

Speaking of movies, J. Otto Pohl (who seems to have finished up his Human Cost of Communism series for now) got the coveted call from Hollywood: Historical Consultant! Perhaps there’ll be more work for historical consultants now that China’s outlawing historical liberties in film? Well, judging by Sam Crane’s analysis of historical writing in China, only historical materialists need apply, in that case.

In the days of the US Occupation of Japan, as Konrad Lawson relates, media outlets had to be careful particularly if they were going to persist with nationalistic tropes.

segue — Japanese Nationalism
Japanese, on the other hand, are taking more liberties than they used to: Japanese historical movies seem to be getting more nationalistic, or at least more sympathetic to militarists.

Japan and Korea: Identity and Legality
How hard is it to determine identity and nationality? Well, it seems like a pretty cut-and-dry category most of the time, but check out the story of this Korean-German (or Japanese-Dutch) playwright in the US who gets investigated as Japanese during WWII The comments are very interesting, too, as people try to work out how to tell who’s what with regard to Annexation-era documents. Much clearer, but also a fantastic source for classroom discussion, here’s a link to an archive of photographs [slow loading, but worth it!] by Korean art photographer Jeong Hae-chang taken in the 1930s.

In spite of the elegance of the images, it’s not like the Japanese occupation was friendly or gentle. One Korean scholar killed himself on the eve of Annexation in 1910, leaving behind a powerful statement in poetry and prose. Less than ten years later the Koreans rose up only to have their activists killed and aspirations crushed.

Another “identity issue” which rambles on forever, it seems, is the Dokdo/Takeshima dispute. The Flying Yangban has a very detailed analysis of the controversy in three parts: Japan’s claims, Korea’s claims, and post-WWII agreements; there’s a fourth post coming, he says, focusing on the post-1951 legal situation. The best comment was from Bunklehatch on the “Cyprus Solution”: divide the island in half, and presumably split the difference on economic zones, too. Practical, but thoroughly unacceptable, it seems.

segue — Korean Nationalism
There are dividing lines that run through Korea still, and not just the DMZ. Owen Miller discussed some of the current debates about Korean history, the strain of nationalism and ideology that runs through them and the ongoing struggle to define the issues.

Historiography: How We Write
In response to Duara’s argument about Manchukuo’s modernity, I proposed a new umbrella term for studies of Imperialism, colonialism and post-colonialism: Colonialogy (also here), trying to tie together the many strains of critical and ideological writing on these issues. The particular tension here is over the question of whether colonial control could be developmentally positive, and Owen Miller again took up the Korean side of the issue, with his usual vigor and intelligence.

Konrad Lawson took up the question of whether we — anglophone historians, mostly — are sufficiently engaged with Asian language scholarship, by way of an article — which Konrad did not endorse — arguing that non-natives can’t have the intuitive understanding of natives…. Alan Baumler responds to a discussion of whether the rest of us are sufficiently engaged with military history via Mary Elizabeth Berry’s AAS Presidential address

The anthropologists have made deep inroads into the question of perspective and engagement: Kerim comments on a Japan Focus article by Scott Simon about Taiwanese aboriginal histories of Japanese occupation, raising all sorts of issues about the perspective from which we write and the sources we use.

Segue — Debunking
The Gavin Menzies “Did Zheng He discover America” controversy erupted anew with the release of a purported 1418 map. Nobody here was buying it, and if you follow some of the links in the comments you’ll find really good reasons why.

When Truth Matters: Pride
The debate over the origins of Indian culture and the Indian people took an interesting twist with recent DNA studies, and this post also contains an interesting meditation on the difference between a “theory” and a plausible story. Sometimes the stories aren’t so plausible: Did you know that Chinese — at least Altays — invented Skiing? Also golf.

Because nobody likes to be forgotten, Sheilax has been blogging the history of the Malays of Tumasik and their rise to power

When Truth Matters: War and Guilt
Penal history is an interesting field, as Frank Dik├Âtter makes clear when he introduces the IIAS issue featuring articles on the history of prisons in Burma, India, and Hokkaido, Japan

HK Dave has some thoughts on the French expedition to Beijing against the Boxer seige: a farce he calls it, and points out that missionary activity was a critical issue in the uprising.

In the ever-popular WWII field, Curzon relates the recollections of a Tokyo Catholic woman about the Firebombing of Tokyo and Scott Evensen (aka Plunge), outlines a brief in favor of the atomic bombings. After that, the war was over, right? Not quite, as Operation August Storm, the Soviet entry into Manchuria lasted well after surrender and added another list of atrocities to an already long ledger of pain.

Japan’s wartime history is still being litigated, particularly with regard to forced labor from China and Korea. Hcpen contrasts German and Japanese post-war actions and concludes that the apology issue isn’t over.

Iraq’s history is on trial as well: A roundup of links and stories related to the 148 deaths for which Saddam Hussein is currently on trial (disturbing images).

Most people who don’t study Korea don’t realize that there was a Korean guerilla War, 1966-69, sparked by North Korean incursions. The South Korean response was aborted, resulting in a recently recounted atrocity of South Korea against its own soldiers.

Segue – War, Memory and Religion
Davesgonechina found A civil dialogue on Yasukuni. It’s extremely long, detailed and ought to be fodder for someone’s senior thesis.

Religion and Culture
Curzon describes some of Japan’s more martial Buddhist figures, and speculates about their connection to samurai culture. Remco Breuker describes a Korean insect extermination ritual and discourses on rituals, science and naturalism. Alan Baumler tries to contextualize male tears. Put all this together and you’ve got more questions than answers, but it’s great fun!

Things change: The last Jewish synagogue in Tashkent to be destroyed. Things persist: Alexandra Moss, visited a traditional paper-making operation: neat pictures, too!

Sometimes the Old can be New again: A Hindu temple in Singapore is attracting Buddhists and Daoists and Confucianism is on the rise.

segue: Blogging for Education
Morgan Pitelka of Occidental College has his whole Premodern Japan seminar blogging. It’s an interesting mix of recent scholarship on Japan with methodological material about museums and physical culture. Pitelka’s got a ringer in the class, Tim Anderson, who’s doubling as a Museum liason and who posts incredibly useful stuff like this discussion of Yoshitoshi prints and these tips for writing about museum exhibits. The rest of the class seems to be mostly posting reading summaries, which are quite good. In an e-mail to me, he said that he’s not sure what’s to become of the blog after the semester’s done: Count me as one vote for keeping it up, or converting it to some more organized archival form.

Blogging to Win: Politics and Historical Analogies
Katie McKy’s column isn’t technically blogging, but her analogy between Bush and Hirohito is so blogworthy that I’m surprised I haven’t seen bloggers take it up. I’m not sure that the analogy is terribly apt — there are other monarchies besides Japan’s in the world — but given my own analogy between Iraq and Manchuria, I’m not discounting it out of hand, with the usual caveats about historical analogies.

Though you wouldn’t know it in the Chinese press, the 1989 Tiananmen massacre continues to have implications in Chinese politics, and the example of Tiananmen 1989 seems surprisingly relevant to recent Philipine politics. Going back further, Mao’s birthday inspired ESWN to translate an article about Mao nostalgia, an attitude he doesn’t share (there are links there for anti-Mao commentaries, as well).

Sepia Mutiny tracked South Asian references in State of the Unions back to Truman and discovered that it only comes up when there’s trouble. Speaking of trouble, Ian Lamont is analyzing Chinese news reports and finds that Vietnam only gets mentioned when it’s a problem for the Chinese.

The End: Food and Clothing
Now, I take food history pretty seriously, so I don’t want anyone thinking that this is the “comic relief” at the end. That said, it’s hard not to wonder whether to laugh at the Japanese bakudandon, or Bomb Bowl Lunch, that Alan Christy came across.

People are creative, adaptable and eager to consume! India Pale Ale was a response to the problem of shipping beer, and hcpen is “really passionate about the Chinese dress called the QiPao or Cheongsam.”

And that’s the lot! Many thanks to those who sent submissions, suggestions and who helped publicize the call for posts including, but not limited to: Simon World, Roy Berman, Adam Richards, Sharon Howard, Ralph Luker, Abigail Schweber, Sam Crane, Morgan Pitelka, and especially Konrad Lawson. All errors of fact, spelling, interpretation or tone are entirely my fault. Unless they’re not…..

The next AHC should be in two months: the position of host is open for now, but speak up soon, or you’ll miss it and have to wait! Until then, you can still submit articles to the Blog Carnival folks and we’ll make sure they get to the right person.

Until then, there’s a bunch of great carnivals coming up next week: the ancient/medieval Carnivalesque, the Carnival of Bad History and the grand old flagship History Carnival at History:Other


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