Syllabus blogging for Spring 2014-1

Today is October 10, which is both an important day in Chinese history and also means that I am late in getting in my book orders for Spring. In the past I have always been way too late with syllabus blogging, so that while I get some useful suggestions it is too late to act on them. So while it may  be too late to get my book orders in on time, I am going to ask if anyone has some advice on

1. Using (or replacing) these books

2. Things to go with them

This class is ASIA 200, Introduction to Asian Studies a class required for all of our 50-odd Asian Studies majors and one of our recruiting tools. The class is built around a series of readings that expose students to different disciplinary traditions and parts of Asia. The point is not to teach them the entire History, Anthropology,Literature etc. of China, Japan, Iran, Indonesia etc.1 but to expose them to a lot of stuff they they would enjoy reading2 and I would like teaching.

My current ideas are


Boo, Katherine. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press, 2013.

I always do a journalism book to start with, in part because they are supposed to be approachable and easy to get into, but also because as budding Asianists the students need to learn why they should be sceptical of books written by people who parachute into a society AND how much they can learn from a good journalist/travel book. I will probably pair this with some stuff from Luyendijk, Joris. People Like Us: Misrepresenting the Middle East. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2009. Or maybe dump this and go back to Speed Tribes?


Toer, Pramoedya Ananta, and Max Lane. This Earth of Mankind. New York: Penguin, 1996.
I always include a least one novel, as they are easy for students to get into, and this one (a classic colonialism novel) seems to fit.
Andrade, Tonio. Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011.
China is always the easiest for me, since I can always think of lots of thing that would fit in History/Anthro, etc. As a(n) historian I always insist on including at least one book that deals with the pre-modern world. This one is both a Ripping Yarn and something were there is enough other stuff to give them -including Andrade’s other work and also primary stuff- that you can do a lot with it. Still, China is a place where I can think of lots of other things. Maybe instead use

Harrison, Henrietta. The Missionary’s Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village University of California Press, 2013? Mann, Susan. The Talented Women of the Zhang Family. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. was a hit in this slot last time.
Oppenheim, Robert. Kyǒngju Things: Assembling Place. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.
This worries me a bit. I always include one really hard-core academic monograph, and this certainly counts, although I am a bit scared about leading them through it. Not sure at all what to do along with it. The book itself deals with creating a city of historic culture in Korea, and I would need some stuff on, I guess, modern Korean cultural politics to go with it.
We always do some films, and the students each do a presentation on an Asian film of their choosing. We usually do two as a group and I am thinking of Abu-Assad, Hany. Paradise Now, 2005, since it deals with Islamic radicalism, which they are always interested in (especially the vets.) and… a comedy. I always include one, since they all come in with the idea that Asia films are all about suffering peasants and star Gong Li. Last time I used Jiang, Wen. Let the Bullets Fly,  2010, which worked well, but I think ideally I would like a funny yet insightful film on being middle class in… I guess Thailand?
Barefoot Gen? It works, and there is a lot to go with it, (Maybe I will put Grave of the Fireflies in the movie section. It’s animated, it must be funny!) but I would like something more pre-modern, although I can’t think of anything.
The last book out was Suleri, Sara. Meatless Days. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. which is a good memoir on Pakistan that includes gender more explicitly than anything else on the list, (which is the most important gap at present)  and I guess would replace the Toer.
So, any suggestions?

  1. although I did have one student walk out on the first day when I explained we would not be doing that 

  2. Honestly, if you read and though about 4 good books in each undergraduate class, how well educated would you be? 


  1. Sam,
    Yes, I have used Toer before, and he works well. I have been on an Amitav Ghosh kick in the novel part of the class for the last few years, and while he worked well I am going to try Toer this time. What is your class? What else will you be doing? Usually when I do a contemporary India book I toss in a chapter or two from DeVotta, Neil. Understanding Contemporary India. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2010. or Stern, Robert W. Changing India: Bourgeois Revolution on the Subcontinent. 2 edition. Cambridge University Press, 1993.

    Edit -Comment by Alan

  2. Anon., send me an email and I’ll send you the old syllabus I am revising. Or, if it is OK with Alan, I will cut and paste it here, if it fits…

  3. Here you go, my syllabus for “Asia and the World,” which is designed as a first class in Asian politics and history. All is subject to revision. I welcome your comments and criticisms:

    Imperialism, Nationalism, Modernity

    PSCI 100/ASST 201 01/INST 101
    Sam Crane
    Spring 2010

    …Study as if you’ll never know enough, as if you’re afraid of losing it all.
    – Confucius

    Is there really such a thing as “Asia”? There are many ideas, myriad myths and stories, and various histories and politics, but no singular thing stands as an unambiguous referent for the term “Asia.” How, then, can we undertake a course entitled “Asia and the World?” We will do so by unpacking, historically and geographically, a variety of subjects that fall within the conventional understanding of “Asia.” The purpose of the course is twofold: to examine the history, politics and political economy of several Asian countries; and to question the assumption of essential similarity that underlies the term “Asia.”

    “Asia” is, from the start, a term steeped in historical conflict. The word itself, and the geo-political problematique that goes along with it, is not indigenous to those places we call Asia. It is derived from a Greek term, asu – sunrise, and was the word used by conquerors, from Christian crusaders to American military strategists, to describe everything east of Europe; hence: “Asia Minor,” “South Asia,” “Southeast Asia,” “Northeast Asia.” To get at Asia, therefore, we must consider how Western imperialism was imposed upon peoples east of Europe. This we will do, first, by considering the problems of bias inherent in any study of cultures and countries other than our own and, then, by focusing on life before and after imperialism in China, India and Japan, with a brief fictional detour to Indonesia as well. One point that emerges from this historical survey is that the past is still very much a part of the present of Asian politics: the rise of Hindu nationalism in India; Chinese claims to Taiwan; Japanese aversion to a more assertive global role – all of these are rooted in the imperialist past.

    In post-colonial fashion, Asians have come to use the language of the imperialists to assert cultural uniqueness and political independence. This begins in earnest with the rise of various Asian nationalisms in the late 19th and early 20th century, which we will analyze for several class sessions, and continues on, at times with a vengeance, in the post World War II era. The last weeks of the class will focus on the contemporary period and a final reflection on the conceptual integrity of “Asia” as an analytic category.

    There is something impossible in this syllabus: over 200 years of history in three countries in twelve weeks. By necessity, we will not delve into great historical detail, but will seek out more general themes that will help us enter into on-going debates about the meaning of Asia, its pluralities and transformations.

    Course Requirements
    Course requirements include two short (5 page) papers and a final examination. The final examination can be replaced by a final research paper with prior approval of the instructor before October 24th. In addition, regular attendance is required. Students are expected to complete reading assignments before each class meeting. An estimation of the weight of each aspect of the course is:

    paper I 25% final 40%
    paper II 25% attendance 10%

    Policy on late papers: I do not grant extensions but accept late papers. No grade reduction will be assessed if a late paper is accompanied by a legitimate, documented (e.g. note from the Dean’s Office) excuse. Time management problems and conflicting extracurricular activities are not, in and of themselves, legitimate excuses. If you are heavily committed outside of the classroom you must plan ahead accordingly. Late papers without legitimate excuses will be subject to grade reduction at the discretion of the instructor. Failure to complete any one written assignment will result in failure of the course.

    Four required books are available for purchase at Water Street Books:

    June Grasso, et al. Modernization and Revolution in China
    (M.E. Sharpe, 2004, 3rd edition);
    Gordon, Andrew, A Modern History of Japan, (Oxford, 2003);
    Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy
    (Routledge, 2004).
    Pramoedya Ananta Toer, This Earth of Mankind (Penguin, 1996).

    Other class readings are included in a required course packet, which can be purchased in North Academic Building (NAB), room 026.

    Course Outline and Required Readings

    Feb. 5 Introduction

    How Can We Know Others?

    Feb. 8 Perspective and Power
    Edward Said, Orientalism, Introduction. Jonathan Spence, The Chan’s Great
    Continent, chapters 10-11.

    Asia Before Imperialism

    Feb. 10 States before the West
    Max Weber, Economy and Society, chapter 9, “Political Communities,” pp.
    901-910; Ted C. Lewellen, Political Anthropology: An Introduction, chapter 3.

    Feb. 15 China: The Confucian-Bureaucratic State
    Grasso, et al. chapters 1 & 2.

    Feb. 17 Japan: Centralized Feudalism
    Gordon, chapters 1-3.

    Feb. 22 India: Feudalistic Diversity
    Bose and Jalal, chapters 1-4; Start reading This Earth of Mankind.

    Imperialism in Asia

    Feb. 24 Imperialism: Why It Came and What it Did
    Harry Magdoff, “European Expansion since 1763.” Continue reading This Earth
    of Mankind.

    March 1 The Cultural Impact of Imperialism
    Pramoedya, This Earth of Mankind, entire

    March 3 India: Britain’s Pride
    Bose and Jalal, chapters 5 – 10

    March 8 China: Quasi-Colonialism
    Grasso, chap 3 and 4.

    March 10 Japan: Keeping the Barbarians at Bay
    Gordon, chapters 4 – 7.

    Nationalism in Asia

    March 15 National Identity and Nationalism
    Anthony Smith, National Identity, chapter 1 (“National and Other Identities”);
    Ernst Renan, “What is a Nation?”

    March 17 Japan: From Meiji Transformation to Militarist Expansion
    Gordon, chapters 8-12.

    Spring Break

    April 5 China: From Nationalism to Communism
    Grasso, et al., chapters 5 and 6.

    April 7 India: Nationalism and Independence
    Bose and Jalal, chapters 11 – 17

    Asian Modernities

    April 12 Modern, Modernity, Modernization
    Stuart Hall, “Introduction,” in Hall and Gieben, eds. Formations of Modernity, (Polity, 1992);
    David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, pp.10-39.

    April 14 The Rise of Japanese Capitalism
    Gordon, chapters 13-16.

    April 19 The Practice of Indian Democracy
    Bose and Jalal, chapters 18 – 19; Christophe Jaffrelot, “Caste and the Rise of Marginalized
    Groups,” in Ganguly, et al., eds. The State of Indian Democracy (JHU Press, 2007),
    pp, 67-85.

    April 21 The Tragedies of Chinese Socialism
    Grasso, et al., chapters 7 – 9.

    April 26 Reform and Economic Power in China
    Grasso, et al, chapters 10 – 13; Sam Crane, “Pop Culture Leads – Freedom Follows,” Los Angeles
    Times, August 3, 2003; Sam Crane, “China’s Engines of Change,” Los Angeles Times, October 19, 2003.

    April 28 Economic Dynamism and Hindu Nationalism in India
    Gurcharan Das, India Unbound, chapters 15-23.

    May 3 The Fall…and Resilience…of Japan
    Gordon, chapter 17; Masaru Tamamoto, “The Uncertainty of the Self: Japan at Century’s End,” World
    Policy Journal (Summer, 1999); Masaru Tamamoto, “How Japan Imagines China and Sees Itself,” World
    Policy Journal (Winter 2006/2006).

    May 5 A Unique Asia? The Asian Values Debates
    Randall Peerenboom, “Beyond Universalism and Relativism: The Evolving Debates about ‘Values in
    Asia’,” UCLA School of Law (2003)

    May 10 Asian Economies: Crisis, Rise and Divergence
    Karl D. Jackson, “Introduction: The Roots of the Crisis,” in Jackson, ed. Asian Contagion: The
    Causes and Consequences of a Financial Crisis (Westview, 1999); Parag Khana, “From Outside In to
    Inside Out,” in Khana, The Second World (Random House, 2008); Yasheng Huang, “The Next Asian
    Miracle,” Foreign Policy (July/August 2008).

    May 12 The Myth of Continents
    Martin W. Lewis and Karen E. Wigen, The Myth of Continents, chapters 2-3.

  4. Sam,
    Looks like a good class. I am sort of struggling with some of the same problems you may have had with this for my upcoming Asian History class for freshman, which is supposed to go from the India to Japan and the Sepoy rebellion to the present. One big one is what to use for a text. How does the using three books thing work for you? I am a little reluctant to do that both because of the price and because it is a freshman class and if I actually did manage to get freshmen to read that much I would have to cut out… pretty much everything else. How does it work for you?

  5. I struggle with this. The three texts idea assumes that most students will not have very much depth in Asian history coming into the class, so I cannot presume that when I say “Meiji Restoration” they understand its wider historical significance. But I think they see it as a chore. Most of them do not share my excitement in working through the great Asian historical dramas of the 19th and 20th centuries. This is one thing I am reconsidering now: how much should I follow through on making sure they have a fairly secure grasp on the narrative dynamic of, say, Indian history from 1700 onwards versus a more focused approach on specific topics that might allow for more in-depth analysis and discussion. I have generally opted for historical breadth over focus, but…. Overall, I am most happy with the Gordon book. It is well written, covers the ground admirably, and takes an analytic approach that fits well with my own sensibilities. It is hard to find a good “first book” on India. I’m not sure if I will keep Bose and Jalal (happily, we have a new historian of India here who can help me out…). Grasso, et al., is adequate though I’m open to suggestions.
    Not sure what I would do if I needed to rely on a single text for all of this. For the earlier historical period, I am looking at these two: David C. Kang, East Asia Before the West (Columbia 2010) and Stewart Gordon, When Asia Was the World (DeCapo, 2008). Do you have any experience with these?

  6. Sam,

    Ah the joys of history surveys. I have been tending more in the roll-your own direction with readings, but like everyone I oscillate back and forth on building around a text or not. I like teaching classes like Modern China where there are good mostly traditional textbooks like Schoppa, or more personal ones like Crossley. I did a Nomadic Empires and China class specifically because Mote’s Imperial China had come out and made it easy to lead them through the things I wanted them to do. I probably would not have dared to do the class without that book. Unfortunately we are at the wrong end of the profession for the textbook industry to help us out much. If you do the U.S. or Europe they offer you all sorts of options, but for Asia you are stuck with the (modern) national histories or “East Asia” or duct-taping together some national histories. There was an old trend to do histories of all Asia, but all that is left of that is the Ramon Myers book, which I am not a fan of.

    I think I am going to try some really short things next time I do an Asian survey, (maybe from the Oxford series) since that gives me more room to have them do other stuff. By more room I mean that I feel I have to limit how much money they spend on books (possibly less than you have to worry about that) and also that I am going to have to help some of them quite a bit with the readings, (among other things if you don’t make them write about something a lot of them will not read it) and if I am going to use up that much time on it I want it to be a good book. Nobody remembers a textbook ten years after they read it, but everybody remembers Musui’s Story or Meatless Days if you actually get them to think about it.

    Still, I do use textbooks when there is a good one out there and they are helpful. I have tried reserving the appropriate pages from a good World History text, McKay or Kishlansky (now dead) or something like that. I think we may be getting close to the point where you could put something together with Wikipedia and other readings and entirely roll your own. I have not dared to do that yet, but I am getting closer, in part because for a lot of my students Google/Wikipedia are their first source even if you do give them a textbook.

    As for you specific question, the Kang is good, but very foreign relations based, which may be what you want. Maybe pair it with some stuff from Holcombe Genesis of East Asia and maybe Davis Global India? How far back does your early class go?

    Crossley, Pamela Kyle. The Wobbling Pivot, China Since 1800: An Interpretive History. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
    Davis, Richard H. Global India Circa 100 CE: South Asia in Early World History. Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Asian Studies, 2009.
    Goto-Jones, Christopher S. Modern Japan a Very Short Introduction. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
    Holcombe, Charles. The Genesis of East Asia, 221 B.C.-A.D. 907. Honolulu: Association for Asian Studies and University of Hawai’i Press, 2001.
    Katsu, Kokichi. Musui’s Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1995.
    Kishlansky, Mark A. Societies and Cultures in World History. New York: HarperCollinsCollegePublishers, 1995.
    McKay, John P, Hill, Buckler, Patricia Buckley Ebrey, Roger B Beck, Crowston, and Merry E Wiesner. A History of World Societies, 2012.
    Mote, Frederick W. Imperial China 900-1800. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003.
    Murphey, Rhoads. East Asia: a New History. Boston, [Mass.]: Longman, 2010.
    Schoppa, R. Keith. Revolution and Its Past: Identities and Change in Modern Chinese History. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall/Pearson, 2011.
    Suleri, Sara. Meatless Days. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

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